The very first decision a new sim racer must make is whether to set up on a console or PC. With both platforms offering positives and negatives it can leave those starting their sim racing journey wondering which platform will offer them the best possible sim racing experience.
PC is regarded as the dominant platform for sim racing even though console games such as Gran Turismo and Forza offer a great introduction to the genre. This is because PC has a larger selection of dedicated sim racing titles, a better selection of hardware, and more powerful in-game physics.
Sim racing on PC does have its negatives, especially for someone who doesn’t want to spend a great deal of money on their setup. In this article, we will discuss the differences between the two platforms, as well as look further into which console is best for sim racing.
PC vs Console For Sim Racing
To fully determine which of the two comes out on top, we will have to break the argument down into categories. These are price, performance, sim racing titles available, and hardware available.
PC vs Console – The Price
Now, this is the first of, potentially a few, sticking points in the contest that is PC vs Console. For a start, it is impossible to put an exact number on the price of a gaming PC as there are so many to choose from. It is even possible to make your own, should you possess the time and the patience.
Gaming PCs can start at around $500 for a new model but may feel slightly limited with their capabilities. For a PC that is capable of handling 4k gaming, you’ll be looking at spending over $1,000, and in some cases considerably more as there is no visible ceiling to the price of a high-end gaming PC.
Obviously, the price you’ll be willing to pay for a PC depends on your budget and demands, but for the best experience, a mid to high-end PC is recommended. With consoles it’s a little clearer cut, with only two serious options on the market, PlayStation and Xbox. The disk version of the PS5 digital version is cheaper than the disk version if you can manage to get hold of one.
The Xbox Series X is about the same price as the PS5, depending on the retailer. There is no doubt that it’s cheaper to start with a console, but in terms of performance, consoles are a lot more limited than a high-end gaming PC.
PC vs Console – Performance Levels
The next round in the battle for the best platform lies within the performance of the two. One of the key aspects of a great sim racing experience is a good frame rate. This is the speed that snapshots appear on the screen to create the moving image and is measured in frames per second (fps). High fps will mean you will see a more accurate representation of where your car is on the track.
The average frame rate for a console lies within the 30-60fps range, with certain games on the latest generation of consoles able to reach 120fps. This is where the power of the PC shines through, as a good quality computer will be able to reach up to 240fps, producing super smooth gameplay, handing you more control of the car you are driving.
However, not all PCs will be able to pull in these sorts of numbers. Lower-end PCs will likely hover around the 60fps mark, which isn’t too bad at all. Any lower than that and you can notice major differences in the quality of your sim racing experience.
It is also possible for gamers to build their own PCs, which means hardware such as graphics cards and processing units will be constantly upgradeable, as well as the aesthetics of the PC itself. While going down this route may be for the more technically savvy, it allows you to pick and choose the price and quality of every bit of tech that goes into your PC.
PC vs Console – Sim Racing Titles
Forza and Gran Turismo are incredibly beautiful games and offer a great introduction to virtual racing with their wide range of cars and tracks, as well as free roam on Forza Horizon 5 if that’s your thing. The one drawback of them is that they are not dedicated sim racing titles.
What I mean by this is that they are both aimed at a mass audience who may not necessarily be too fussed by the levels of detail that sim titles like iRacing delve into when it comes to the technical dynamics of the cars and the levels of realism in the game’s physics. They have a more arcade style of controls, which is still very fun, but may not satisfy the needs of a hardcore sim racer.
There are dedicated sim racing titles such as Assetto Corsa that are available on console, but the inability to use mods on console dampens the experience of the game. Popular sim titles that are PC exclusive include rFactor 2, Raceroom Racing Experience, and of course iRacing, the Godfather of the sim racing titles.
iRacing is one of the PC’s most popular dedicated sim racing titles. It runs on a subscription basis, rather than a one-time payment and is seen as the market leader when it comes to realism and immersion. It also has a protest system that helps to filter out any nonsensical driving, meaning races are clean, fair, and exciting.
PC also has backwards compatibility, so if you wanted to play a game that came out 15 years ago just for a bit of a nostalgia trip, the chances are you probably could. This isn’t currently the case for consoles, as they require regular updating. For example, it is still not possible to play PS2 games on a PS5, although this could be subject to change in the future.
PC vs Console – Hardware Options
The multiple ports on a PC very much lend themselves to the addition of extra hardware to your sim racing rig. They offer you the opportunity to mix different brands and accessories such as a Logitech wheel with Thrustmaster pedals and maybe even a shiny new Heusinkveld gear shifter if you’re feeling experimental.
With a limited number of USB ports, this is still but a distant dream for console players, unless they purchase an unofficial USB adapter. As these adapters are from third-party sources, they often present no evidence that they will work until after you’ve bought one and given it a try yourself.
The range of accessories that are available on PC is far wider than on console. Extra accessories such as handbrakes can’t be used on a console, so if you don’t want to see your virtual car rolling backwards down a hill, I would recommend going for a PC. However, some sim racers may not want all the added accessories and instead feel like having just a wheel is enough.
If this is the case, there are plenty of great quality wheels that are compatible with consoles, for example, the Logitech G92 which is compatible with the PlayStation or the G920 which is compatible with Xbox. For those who want to spend a bit more, the exceptional Fanatec DD1 is fully compatible with both PlayStation and Xbox.
Lastly, the PC offers racers the opportunity to use a triple screen setup, an ultra-wide screen, or Virtual Reality should they choose to do so. Yes, PlayStation has its own VR headset, but that is the only option for PS users, and there are far fewer games in which it is compatible. Being granted a peripheral vision is a huge performance boost for PC racers, as well as adding to the immersion.
Which Console Is Best For Sim Racing?
The Xbox vs PlayStation debate is an argument as old as time, with both consoles being more similar to each other than they are ever likely to admit. The deciding factor will ultimately be which exclusive racing title you prefer the look of, with the choice being either Gran Turismo or Forza.
Xbox vs PlayStation – The Exclusive Games
Forza is known for its breath-taking scenery, and this is further developed in their latest offering, Forza Horizon 5. FH5 is an open-world racer set across Mexico, allowing players to explore the gorgeous coastlines and speed through the dust of the Sonora. At its core, FH5 remains a racing game, with off-road tracks, street circuits and fully functioning racetracks all available.
There are over 580 cars available for players to choose from in Forza Horizon 5, with multiple racetracks to race on, so the options in-game are far from limited. However, it is a game that is aimed at casual players rather than serious sim racers, with its arcade-style physics and controls. This could very well lean a few players over to the PlayStation side.
Gran Turismo 7 is more of a traditional sim racing title, as its developers decided against adding a free roam option. It contains over 400 cars, with more likely to be added as downloadable content. There are more tuning and modification options in GT7 than in FH5, which may well appeal to those looking for a more serious racing experience.
As the ever-popular official F1 game by Codemasters is almost identical on both consoles, it will do very little to swing anyone’s verdict on which console is the better of the two for sim racing games.
Xbox vs PlayStation – The Hardware Options
The hardware options for both consoles are very similar, with most of the popular options compatible for both PlayStation and Xbox. For example, Logitech’s most popular wheel, the G92 (PlayStation) and the G920 (Xbox), is available on both consoles.
One of the best racing wheel/pedal options on the market is the Thrustmaster T300RS which is only available on PlayStation. The force feedback on the T300RS is incredibly immersive and definitely worth a try. It is also optimized for Gran Turismo, which is a nice touch. Overall, most sim racing equipment is aimed at players of both consoles, meaning neither really stands out on that front.
Overall, whichever console one might choose for sim racing is purely down to the individual. There are of course the finer details of whether you prefer one console’s interface over the other, or like the smaller size of the PlayStation controller compared to the Xbox, but in terms of sim racing, it mainly comes down to having a preference for either Forza or Gran Turismo.
PC is the better platform for immersive, high-performance sim racing. This isn’t to say that console racing doesn’t have its perks, but it’s just not as realistic. Although PC sim racing costs more if you were to utilize the high-end options, it is adaptable, with a wider selection of titles.