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PC or Console?

Let's say you received a nice rebate check from the government. Or, perhaps you just have a little extra money lying around and you want to enter the fray of video gaming. Sure, there might be a Wii downstairs in the kids' playroom, and as fun as that might be, it didn't feel like gaming. You want something serious. Something with horsepower. But, there's a big dilemma. Should someone buy a PC or a gaming console? Well, that really depends. Let's see.

Gaming PC's have been around for quite some time and I personally have been a fan for 25 years. I've owned several computers, all of them purchased with gaming in mind. For the longest time, the sweet spot on price for a good gaming system was $2500. The lifespan of the computer was maybe 2 years, three or four with a few upgrades. That's changed a little. You can now buy a PC that will handle today's games for about $1500, though you won't be at the cutting edge by any stretch of the imagination.

Consoles have come a long way. Unlike their PC counterparts, however, their price point has gone up. Back in the 70's, the Atari 2600 sold for $249. Now, you're looking at $400-500 for a good console. You've got two choices; the Sony Playstation 3 or Microsoft's XBox 360. The Sony console is more expensive but it has a Blu-Ray DVD player included, so you can watch Hi-Def movies on it right out of the box. The XBox has an add on for the competing HD-DVD format, but we have just learned HD-DVD is all but dead. If movies are your thing, the PS3 is the most affordable gaming/Hi-Def DVD system around, by leaps and bounds.

Debating over XBox or PS3 is a matter for a different article. Here, we are trying to see which is better, a gaming PC or a console. This really depends on what sort of games you will play and what your current situation is on teh technology front. Here are some questions you need to ask, which should help you make a decision.

1. Do you have an HDTV? Is it in a place where you can play games regularly?

2. How old is your current PC?

3. How serious will you be about gaming? How many days a week will you play?

4. Are you interested in Hi-Def DVDs?

If you already have an HDTV and it is accessible for games, then more than likely you are better off with a console. For around $400, you can enter the world of gaming with ease. If not, there is no sense in buying a new console and playing it on a standard definition TV. It would be like watching a movie with only one eye open.

If your current PC is old and you were thinking about replacing it, and you don't have an HDTV, then a gaming PC might be the way to go. Essentially, buying a faster PC will cost you a couple of hundred dollars more, and you kill two birds with one stone on this deal. Companies like Dell and HP are making mass-marketed gaming PCs affordable. Be sure to get an advanced video card and at least 2GB of RAM.

How serious you are about gaming will really decide how much you want to spend. If you see this as a semi-serious hobby, then it's worth the investment for a console even if you don't have an HDTV. You can get a large LCD monitor or HDTV for under $400 these days, still putting you under the price of a PC when you add in the console.

Like I said earlier, if you are interested in Hi-Def DVDs (make sure you either have or get an HDTV or you won't see a difference) then the PS3 is your choice. the XBox has a bigger library of games and some can be had for cheap because they are older, but the PS3 is the king of DVD right now. This might make the purchase justifiable to your significant other or your parents or whomever.

There are pros and cons for every platform out there. Some are obvious, some are not. Here are a few for each to give you an idea what to expect.

PC: Pros- Nothing can touch the graphical beauty of a game running on a top-notch PC. Also, the PC has a wide variety of games, from casual to advanced. You don't need to make room for the PC because you likely have one already. The same game on the PC is roughly $10 cheaper than its console version. Usually, there is no added expense to play a PC game online. Cons- Gaming PCs are expensive. They become obsolete fast. There are compatibility issues with PC games, and there will be many times where you will have to tweak settings and update drivers. The PC is open to hacking and viruses and you can lose saved games and the like when you have to reformat.

Console: Pros- Buy game, turn on console, put in game, play. It's that simple. More than one person can play the console at a time. There are more titles on consoles. Sports games translate better on the console and can make for fun with friends. There is no extra equipment to buy. They are cheap and have a lifespan of roughly 6 years, almost double of the PC. Cons- Online play costs money and you sometimes have to deal with brats and jerks online, more so than with a PC. The games are more expensive. If you don't have one, you need an HDTV to get the most out of a console.

Well, that about does it. You can't go wrong either way if you want to take a step into the world of gaming. Go down to your local Best Buy or other store and try games out on both platforms. If you want to go the console route, check out the game libraries to see which one tickles your fancy more. Either way, I hope your path is a pleasant one.

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