We’re reaching that remarkable point of time in the console life-cycle where the PC space democratizes—a point where almost any modern hardware configuration is about good enough to deliver a console-worthy experience. In the previous generation, we reached this point in 2012. That was the year that the GTX 650 and the Radeon HD 7750—from Nvidia and AMD respectively—released. Both were bargain-priced GPUs in the 100-dollar range which offered the opportunity to run just about every seventh-gen title at high/ultra at at least 720p, a qualitative step up from the console experience.
For $100, you could suddenly make all those titles like Far Cry 3 that chugged on Xbox 360 and PS3, completely playable and a feast for the eyes. As far as the base eighth-gen platforms—and the Xbox One in particular—are concerned, we’ve already reached that point this gen, with Ryzen-based APUs providing very compelling integrated performance on the one hand, and the likes of the GTX 1050 raising the bar where entry-level discrete graphics performance is concerned. But there is a slight issue with this narrative: The mid-cycle refreshes, and specifically, the Xbox One X. Priced higher than any other console on the market and built with native 4K gaming in mind, the One X packs considerable hardware heft, above and beyond what’s possible with entry-level PC kit.
Nevertheless, between competitively priced Raven Ridge quad-core processors and prices coming down on Polaris parts, it is possible to build a system from scratch that’s competitive with the Xbox One X.
RAM: 16 GB Patriot DDR4 at 2666 MHz
Price at the time of writing this feature: $99.99
RAM speed doesn’t have a tremendous impact on performance as long your other pieces of hardware are adequate. 2666 MHz is the sweetspot as far as squeezing in a few extra frames per second without breaking teh bank. Moreover, the 16 GB capacity is greater than the One X’s 12 GB shared memory pool.
GPU: XFX 580 XXX Edition
Price at the time of writing this feature: $199
Though the RX 590 came out recently, its greater performance is accompanied by higher pricing. Our aim here is to match the Xbox One X’s performance. The 6.2 TFFLOP RX 580 is the closest analogue to the One X’s 6 TFLOP Vega-based GPU. While the RX 580’s memory bandwidth is nominally lower at 256 GB/S, keep in mind that the One X’s memory is shared, with the CPU also needing access. Having actually had an RX 580 for some time—and looking at benchmark figures—the card hands in 4K performance that’s roughly in line with the One X, allowing for 4K/30 FPS gameplay with console-quality settings. Don’t let ads and listicles fool you into thinking that you need a GTX 1080 Ti to game in 4K: 580-class hardware—even the venerable GTX 970—can give you reasonable, console-quality experiences.
CPU: Ryzen R3 2200G
Price at the time of writing this feature: $95
From about 2011 onwards, the CPU space was incredibly boring: AMD’s anaemic, powerhungry Bulldozer and Piledriver-based parts fared worse than Core i3’s in gaming and for year after year, Intel, with no compelling reason to innovate, stretched out its “tick-tock” cycle to such an extent that even today, a Sandy Bridge 2500k from 8 years ago can tackle modern games just fine. 2011’s the year Battlefield 3 came out. Now imagine running that on a 2003-vintage processor. That is how stagnant the CPU market was until AMD got its act together and outed the Ryzen architecture in 2016. Ryzen parts offer single-threaded performance that’s broadly comparable to their Intel counterparts at lower pricepoints. And significantly for us, they’re a lot faster than the eight-core Jaguar processor in the One X. A combination of 50 percent higher IPC and higher clockspeeds mean that this Raven Ridge R3 hands in decisively better single and multithreaded performance compared to the One X, while remaining well within our budget.
Storage: WD Blue 1 TB 7200 RPM HDD
Price at the time of writing this feature: $48
Sure, an SSD would be a qualitative step up in expereince, but this is all about matching the One X, and as storage options get cheaper, the reliable default—the 7200 RPM HDD becomes even more affordable. You get what you pay for here. Overall performance and load times are neither spectacular nor awful. Thanks to the faster processor in our build, games will load somewhat faster than on the One X.
Motherboard: Asus Prime A320M-K
Price at the time of writing this feature: $59
The motherboard is a part that says a lot about your builds. As a rule of thumb, I opt for entry-level no-frills mobos that get the job done. With a processor that already runs circles around the One X’s, there’s no need for an “extreme” motherboard with OC options and an appropriately “extreme” price tag. We just need something that’ll fit our processor, GPU, and RAM module without going up in flames. Asrock is a reliable brand for that.
PSU: Seasonic S12II
Price at the time of writing this feature: $55
The S12II is the standby PSU for midrange builds. The bronze-rated 520W piece offers more than adequate juice to power the (relatively) efficient RX 580 and Ryzen R3 combo with some headroom for OC’ing the 580 a little. Backed by a 10 year warranty, the S12II has a solid record of not exploding violently.
Keyboard and mouse: Logitech MK550
Price at the time of writing this feature: $44
We are most definitely not in the “Lookit the shiny lights!” school of thought when it comes to peripherals. In all honesty, who actually wants randomly coloured lights to impinge on what’s happening onscreen? The one thing in your build that should be emitting bright shiny lighting is your monitor. With that being said, this Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse duo is more than adequate: the lack of wiring will also reduce some clutter on your desk.
Controller: Xbox Wireless Controller
Price at the time of writing this feature: $40
While keyboard and mouse input is how you’re likely going to use this system, there are plenty of console ports (the Dark Souls games for starters), that benefit immensely from having a controller. And let’s admit it here: it’s just more comfortable to have your paws around a controller. As this is a build to offer direct parity with Xbox One X, the controller we’ve included is (unsurprisingly) the Xbox controller, a simple plug and play affair on PC.
Operating System: Windows 10 Home Edition
Price at the time of writing this feature: $139
Ah, here’s an unavoidable extra: the operating system. A Windows 10 Home Edition license will cost you an extra $139 dollars.
Wifi Dongle: TP-Link
Price at the time of writing this feature: $10
It goes without saying that you’ll be needing an internet connection and while our motherboard pick does (obviously) have an ethernet port, you’ll want to pick up a cheap USB Wifi dongle for wireless connectivity. This no-frills TP-Link dongle gets the job done—though there’s not much more to say about it.
Case: Thermaltake Versa
Price at the time of writing this feature: $39
A case holds your parts together and, unless you’re literally using a sealed wooden box, most entry level cases will have adequate airflow for acceptable CPU and GPU temps. If space isn’t an issue, a smart idea is to buy a relatively large case like the Versa for enhanced air circulation.
Final price: $827.99
Well, that’s a wrap. Our final price point is a bit higher than what the Xbox One X goes for sale for. However, do keep in mind that we’re factoring in the cost of peripherals and the OS as well—take those out of the picture and suddenly, you’re within spitting distance of the One X and, of course, you retain all the flexibility of PC as a platform. The official Microsoft website is selling the console anywhere from $449 to $499, so, in short, the Xbox One X from a purely technical perspective is much cheaper than a similarly powerful PC.