Is Your Computer Ready For Virtual Reality?

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Is Your Computer Ready For Virtual Reality?
December 29, 2016

Growpo VR-Ready Computers and Battlestations

 

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are here. But your PC has to be pretty powerful to use these cutting-edge virtual reality headsets. If your PC is lacking performance, there’s never been a better time to upgrade.

 

When it comes to building a VR-ready PC, not any old component will do. We’ve spent hours piecing together parts, quizzing hardware manufacturers and speaking to VR developers to figure out the best parts for you — both today and into the future.

Ladies enjoying their first virtual reality experience.

 

Before I started writing this post, I went to Oculus’s website and checked out their recommended PC specs for virtual reality.

Recommended PC Specs for Oculus Rift

 

I also browsed HTC Vive’s website and took a screenshot of their recommended computer specs for virtual reality.

Recommended Computer Specs for HTC Vive

 

Although this might seem expensive to someone unfamiliar with high performance computing, cutting corners will result in a mediocre virtual reality experience.

 

If you follow Growpo’s guide, you should be well-equipped for next year’s titles and beyond.

 

Let’s get started.

Growpo builds the best VR ready computers and battle stations.

 

Here’s what you need to power virtual reality.

 

Graphics Card

 

The graphics card is the heart and soul of any VR-ready gaming PC, and unless you’ve picked up new hardware recently, yours might not be up to snuff.

 

The right graphics card will keep you from feeling sick, so it’s important to go with a powerful one. If at all possible, you want to avoid going bare-minimum here.

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080

 

According to the complete list of VR ready graphics cards listed on Vive’s website, the following list of GPUs are approved by Vive.

HTC Vive Approved VR-Ready Graphics Cards

 

The major compromise here is graphical fidelity. A less powerful graphics card will give you a lower frame rate, lower resolution graphics, and might cause images to chug and stutter at points. While this usually isn’t a major problem with traditional PC games, remember that any problems with your framerate in VR can cause motion sickness.

Child enjoying virtual reality experience with Oculus Rift.

 

Luckily, if you are on a budget and do want to get the bare minimum, graphics cards are much easier to upgrade than processors are. Just note that you’ll end up spending more money in the long run.

 

Processor

 

The CPU or central processing unit is your gaming rig’s brain, and while the graphics card will be doing most of the heavy lifting in virtual reality, you’ll still need a CPU that’s up to the task.

Corsair H100i Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler in Growpo VR-Ready Computer

 

Minimum recommendations for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive start at Intel’s Core i5–4590. While the i5–4590 is workable, there is a good chance that your computer will be outpaced in the not-too-distant future.

 

For a very small increased investment you can upgrade to one of Intel’s Skylake-based processors. The Intel Core i5–6500 is a good medium-range processor that should upgrade your speed and stability.

 

If you want to dump even more money into future proofing your computer, consider the Core i7–6700K.

Intel Core i7–6700k Processor

 

That will up your processor price and will require some extra cost in a compatible motherboard, but it upgrades your build out of the budget PC category and guarantees you’ll have enough power to keep playing new VR titles for a longer time.

 

Memory (RAM)

 

The good news, RAM is cheap. The bad news, it won’t do that much to improve your VR experience. More RAM generally means your PC can do more things at once before it bogs down.

Corsair Vengeance Blue DDR3 RAM in Growpo VR-Ready Computer

 

You’ll want a bare minimum of 8GB of DDR3 (~$40). VR game developers tell us that more than 8GB is probably overkill for now.

 

If your board supports DDR4 RAM, at the very least you should upgrade to that. DDR4 RAM is fairly new, and costs a few dollars more than DDR3, but it’s required for newer processors.

 

Power Supply

 

Power supplies are the unsung heroes of most PC builds, and getting a great one will save you a lot of headaches down the road. Power supplies are available in a wide range of wattages: you’re going to have to pick the one that will provide ample power for the components you’ve settled on.

 

If you need a specific pick we’d suggest Corsair’s 500-watt CX550M power supply as the bare minimum.

Corsair CX550M Power Supply

 

In our build, we used a massive 1,000 watt power supply. This amount of power will be overkill for most people, but it gives us the opportunity to use three giant graphics cards if future VR games wind up using them, and it provides an incredibly stable source of power if we decide to do any overclocking in the future.

 

Besides, power supplies tend to outlive every other PC component. A good power supply is an investment.

 

Motherboard

 

It’s actually somewhat hard to suggest a motherboard because your minimum required board will change depending on the rest of your chosen components.

Motherboard inside of one Growpo’s virtual reality high performance computers.

 

You’ll want a motherboard that will support your processor and your upgrade goals — our Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI motherboard has room for three graphics cards, supports DDR4 RAM and has a 32Gb/s M.2 for future proof storage.

Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI Motherboard

 

Believe it or not, we’d recommend a bare-minimum graphics cards before a bare-minimum mother board. A good motherboard makes it easy to upgrade other components at a later date

 

Hard Drive

 

Once again, there really isn’t any minimum hard drive required for VR. You just need a drive with enough space on it for your VR games and your operating system.

 

A $50 magnetic hard drive will be fine as a bare minimum, but we stick to speedy solid state drives (SSDs) on all of our PC builds. You’ll get much more storage space out of a traditional hard drive, but an SSD will make your entire system feel faster.

 

We used a speedy 500GB SSD, paired with a reliable 2TB 7,200 rpm standard hard drive for storage. That’s more than enough space for now.

Woman experiencing virtual reality for the first time using the Oculus Rift.

 

Case

 

Pick a case that works for you. Maybe it makes allowances for airflow, or quiet performance, or one that just looks cool.

Growpo VR-Ready Computer Inside of Corsair 760T Case

 

Our Corsair 760T has loads of space to work inside, and a full actual window to look through — what’s the point of getting sweet hardware if you can’t look at it from time to time? Here are some popular cheaper options.

Growpo VR-Ready Computer

 

Monitor, Mouse and Keyboard

 

For this build, we just used monitors, mice and keyboards that were lying around because they’re no good to us while in VR. However, you shouldn’t overlook these components when pricing out your VR-ready computer.

Growpo builds the best VR-ready computers and battle stations.

 

The Final Product

 

If you stick to the bare minimum this build will cost around $800 (at current, December 2016 price levels) and will play VR games reliably, though not at the greatest possible quality.

Woman enjoying her first virtual reality experience at Growpo’s immersive virtual reality studio.

 

What’s best for you? Once again this will come down to personal preference. One of the major mis-steps computer buyers make is the assumption that they can go cheap but also get a computer that is powerful and reliable. Unfortunately, this is one of those “choose two” scenarios.

 

Your computer can be cheap and powerful, but you’ll have to deal with overclocking, hardware incompatibilities, and limited ability to upgrade. Your computer can be cheap and reliable, allowing you upgrade freedom and a stable system, but you’ll find yourself running games at low specs.

 

If you really want your computer to be powerful and reliable, you’ll have to invest more money in it.

Growpo virtual reality computer with GeForce GTX 980TI graphics card.

 

If you made it this far, I want to personally thank you for reading this post. I truly appreciate it! It means the world to me. If there is anything I can do for you to return the favor, please leave a comment below. Thank you again :)

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