OPINION: This week we saw the arrival of the Nvidia RTX 3050, a new graphics card that’s currently the cheapest option in the 30-Series line-up.
It’s these Full HD targeting GPUs that are often the most popular with fans, since they provide high-end features such as DLSS and ray tracing for a bargain price.
But despite the RTX 3050 being the cheapest in Nvidia’s latest range, calling it a ‘bargain’ would be a stretch. Nvidia’s recommended retail price is £239/€279, but in reality, it’s going to be very difficult to find the card at that price.
Box is currently listing two RTX 3050 cards for £359.99 and £475.37, which are considerably higher than the recommended price. And with stock likely to dry up quickly, the price may be driven up even higher in the future.
Those prices are ridiculously high for a graphics card that targets a 1080p performance. And then factor in that this is just one component of several required to build a gaming PC, and the total cost spirals worryingly high, especially when you compare it to the price of a console.
While the PS5 is experiencing stock issues of its own, it is still possible to nab it for the £450 RRP if you’re patient enough. Retailers are releasing new stock in dribs and drabs, but at least they’re (mostly) not inflating the price to exploit the high demand.
The PS5 can play games in 4K with ray tracing activated, and while it struggles to run games at a high frame rate, it’s still plenty smooth enough for the majority of gamers. It’s also important to remember that the PS5 is rocking an AMD Zen 2-based CPU and an SSD with read and write speed of 5,500 MB/s, with the latter helping games to load in a blink of an eye.
With the current prices of graphics cards, it’s near impossible to build a modern gaming PC with the same budget needed to purchase a PS5. In fact, if you’ve already got a PC and just want to upgrade it, an RTX 30-Series graphics card could end up being just as pricey as Sony’s console.
It’s worth mentioning that the situation isn’t much better with AMD’s budget graphics cards. The recently launched Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card can currently be bought for as little as £199.99, making it noticeably cheaper than the RTX 3050. But reviews from the likes of PC Gamer indicate that it struggles to hit 60fps (and sometimes even 30fps) for the vast majority of modern AAA games when set to a 1080p resolution – don’t even think about 4K.
It’s a massive shame that PC gaming has become so expensive, as there’s a great deal of exciting games launching exclusively on the platform in the near future. Total War: Warhammer 3 is just a few weeks away from launch, while The Settlers is getting a reboot in March. I’m also expecting (and hoping) that Sims 5 finally gets announced this year.
Fortunately, there are still ways to play PC games without building a new rig. The likes of Nvidia GeForce Now and PC Game Pass allow you to play games through the Cloud if your internet connection is fast enough, eradicating the need for expensive hardware. The Steam Deck could also be a worthwhile option – it may not be cheap with a £349 base price, but it’s still less expensive than building a new PC.
And while gaming laptops aren’t exactly cheap (costing upwards of £1000) the likes of the ROG Zephyrus G14 and the Razer Blade 14 (2021) are portable enough to double up as a laptop for office/university work, so you’ll be getting better value in the long run.
But my biggest recommendation is opting for the PS5 instead. It may feel blasphemous ditching PC gaming for a console, but you’ll probably be able to play the majority of your most anticipated games on Sony’s console. The likes of Dying Light 2, Elden Ring and Gotham Knights are all coming to PS5, while there’s also some exciting exclusives coming out in 2022 such as Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok.
With so many options available to play games without depleting your savings, I’m finding it very difficult to recommend anyone to build their own gaming PC. And with AMD and Nvidia showing no signs of reducing the cost of their ‘budget’ graphics cards while still offering a competent 1080p performance, there’s no better time to jump ship to a console.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.