When should I choose a console over a graphics card upgrade? | Ask an expert

For some people, it can make sense to switch platforms for gaming.

Credit: IDG / Hayden Dingman

Q: When should I choose a console over a graphics card upgrade? I’m having a horrible time getting my hands on a new graphics card.

A: This very question can set off firestorms of debate among PC gamers. But sometimes, it does make sense to choose a console as an alternative—or at least, a short-term response to current component shortages.

Choosing a console works best for people who have a GPU so old or underpowered it can’t play new blockbuster games, live in an area with spotty or slow internet connections, find Microsoft or Sony’s catalogs of games satisfactory, and don’t mind switching (or at least adapting) to a whole new ecosystem. You’ll also need to be comfortable paying extra for access to online multiplayer, as applicable.

We recommend Microsoft’s $300 Xbox Series S if you need the absolute cheapest entry. It also enables access to Xbox Game Pass, a paid service which works like Netflix but for game rentals—depending on your gaming tastes, that can work out to be cheaper than paying outright for the games you want to play. Sony’s $400 Digital Edition PlayStation 5 is the next-best option, and offers better graphics fidelity as well.

xbox series s image official Twitter / Microsoft

Microsoft’s Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, along with Sony’s PlayStation 5, are hard to come by right now too, though the situation’s not nearly as bad as graphics cards. 

Still, next-gen consoles are also hard to come by these days. While the situation isn’t as rough as with RTX 30-series or Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards, you still have to keep an eye out for fresh stock to come in and jump quickly on the opportunities. So for most PC gamers, GeForce Now is the best stopgap measure. This free streaming service allows you to play games you already own on Nvidia’s servers, taking the load off your own machine. (You can even get a taste of ray-tracing if you decided to opt for the paid tier of service.) More importantly, GeForce Now can run on all kinds of low-end machines (including Chromebooks!), with very generous system requirements for older Windows computers. Many PCs built in the last decade will work.

That said, not all games are part of the GeForce Now catalog. The service also requires a broadband connection with a download speed of at least 15Mbps, and that your PC connect to your router via wired ethernet cable or 5GHz Wi-Fi. So if both consoles and GFN won’t work for you, you may have to hold out just a little bit longer—which may sadly not be until late spring or summer, at this rate. It’s painful times right now.

Welcome to Ask an Expert, where we tackle your questions about PC building. Have your own burning concern? Shoot us an email at thefullnerd@pcworld.com.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Cate Bacon

Aruba Instant On AP11D

The strength of the Aruba Instant On AP11D is that the design and feature set support the modern, flexible, and mobile way of working.

Dr Prabigya Shiwakoti

Aruba Instant On AP11D

Aruba backs the AP11D up with a two-year warranty and 24/7 phone support.

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?