Soapbox: Building VS Renting

One of the biggest draws of Cloud Gaming is it’s affordability. The sales pitch is that you could spend hundreds on building a gaming computer, or pay a small monthly fee for a Cloud Gaming system. Are you really better off renting a Cloud Computer instead of just building one?

To answer this question we need to crunch some numbers. $30 per month for a Cloud Gaming system equals $360 a year for the service. So can we build a Gaming-capable computer for $360 or less? Challenge accepted.

We headed over to Amazon to see exactly what we could put together for $360. It turns out that you can indeed build a complete Gaming Tower for $360. Here is a link to the project that we came up with.

Our Budget Gaming Tower features an AMD FX-4300 3.8 Ghz Quad Core Processor. We chose an Asrock N68-GS4 Motherboard and a Nvidia GTX 1050 Graphics Card with 3 GB of VRAM. Combine these with 8 GB of DDR3-1066 RAM, 400 Watt Evga Power Supply, a 500 GB Hard Drive, and a basic Computer Case from Rosewill. The Total comes to $360.

It can be done

Ok, so it’s physically possible to build a Gaming-capable PC Tower for less than $360. I’m sure that you’re about to point out that this isn’t really a complete system. It doesn’t include an OS, Keyboard/Mouse, Speakers, or Monitor. For the sake of argument, remember that you still need similar items in order to utilize the Cloud Gaming system. And those accessories are not included in the $30 monthly cost. So this is a pretty fair comparison, all things considered.

How does this sub-$360 computer perform in Gaming? It’s running an entry-level processor and the graphics card is extremely basic. With these specifications, you can expect to be able to play modern games at low to medium graphics quality. Most titles should be playable at 1080p. It should be able to maintain framerates of 30-60 fps depending on the title. While most games will run, there are some that have higher minimum requirements. These titles won’t work at all on this system.

If we were to summarize all of that, it would be to say that this system will just squeak by as a Gaming computer. It doesn’t at all compare to the quality of a Cloud Gaming PC that runs a system that is equivalent to an i7 Processor and a GTX 1080 Graphics Card. Cloud Gaming servers often provide as much as 32 GB of RAM, and they’re almost all powered by SSD storage.

This leads us into the semantics of value. How do you quantify the return that you’re getting for your money? It becomes a question of the quality of your experience versus ownership. The Cloud Computer subscription will allow you to play at a substantially higher quality level compared to the Budget Computer. But at the end of the day, you’re investing your money into something that you’ll never end up owning. Your control over the Cloud System is always going to be limited.

With the Budget Computer you end up acquiring something that you can put your hands on. You can do whatever you want on that system for as much time as you want. One could ultimately sell it and get some money back out of it.

It’s a personal choice

This is one of those questions that is going to come down to personal choice. We all value different things. It’s part of what makes us unique people. Some of you may be quality fanatics, and some of you may value your investment more. The bottom line is that both answers are right. What do you think? Let us know which group you fall into in the comments below.

Also published on Medium.

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