You already have read, listened and seen a lot about virtual reality. Now is the time to take action and experience the virtual reality yourself. This guide will help you create the virtual reality ready environment and help you design your first Virtual Reality ready PC.
Virtual Reality is finally going mainstream. With so many VR headsets coming out this year, 2016 is justly named the year of VR. These days anyone can get a taste of VR if one is dead set on it. Headsets like the Google Cardboard and its variation have made VR quite accessible. Then there are the ones powered by smartphones like Samsung’s Gear VR. Sony has also released its console based VR headset that is powered by the PS4 recently. PlayStation VR provides a rich VR experience. But, if you are looking to experience true virtual reality,Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are as close as it gets for now. Both of these fetch quite a hefty sum. But, before you spend all of your savings on either one, make sure that you have a virtual reality ready PC.
How to check if your PC is VR Ready:
You might think checking your PC to see if its VR ready or not isn’t a big deal. Perhaps your PC already runs heavy games perfectly well and without any lag. But virtual reality games can tax a PC far more than PC games. Virtual reality games need to be rendered at a higher frame rate than normal. Furthermore, there can’t be any lag or delay. Fail on these counts, and you will be experiencing staggered movements that don’t react in time with your motions. This tends to make people nauseous. The images also need to be rendered twice, once for each eye. That is a tremendous amount of processing, and if your hardware isn’t compatible, then you are going to be left behind.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to test if your systems are VR ready or not. Compatibility tools are available online for both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets.
If you are planning to buy the Oculus Rift, the manufacturers of the VR headset have launched a simple software utility that checks if you PC is compatible or not. The utility is freely available and you don’t even need to pre-order the Rift to use it.
First of all, you will need to download the Oculus Rift compatibility tool for Windows, the tool is available on the Oculus site. The compatibility tool doesn’t have a separate web page. It is situated on the Oculus Rift order page. This is to make sure that the customers can test their PCs and check if it is compatible before spending $599 on the virtual reality headset. After downloading the tools run it. Uncheck the box above the start button if you don’t want your system specifications sent to Oculus. After that just click start and the program will run and analyze your system. The results of the test will be displayed in a simple format indicating whether your PC is compatible or not. The result will also tell you which components of your PC are falling behind.
Similar to Oculus, HTC Vive has also released a compatibility tool. The good thing about this tool is that it check for both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The test is available at the Steam site for download. The Valve Performance Test tool needs to be downloaded and then installed on your PC. After that, the tool will evaluate your system. Once the Performance test is done, it’ll give you a breakdown of your operating system, GPU, and CPU. Furthermore, the result will also tell you which components you need to upgrade.
Below is the image of the SteamVR Performance Test running on a PC.
System Requirements For a Virtual Reality Ready PC:
Minimum system requirements for a VR ready PC are listed below.
How to prepare your room for Virtual Reality:
If you already have a giant empty room in your house, just waiting to be transformed into your personal virtual reality room, then you are in good luck. But, if not then you have some work to do before you are properly prepared to welcome the VR headsets into your house. The space requirements of the Rift and Vive differ a lot from each other. Not a lot of space is required for the Oculus Rift. But, the HTC Vive, on the other hand, is a room-scale VR experience so it requires a lot more space.
How to Prepare Your Room For Oculus Rift:
Rift uses external IR LED tracking sensor for head tracking. The small sensor is mounted on an elegant metal stand. The sensor resembles a minimalist microphone stand with a cylindrical webcam mounted on top. The head tracking works by detecting infrared LEDs. The rays are emitted from beneath the fabric covering of the Oculus Rift headset.
You will need to prepare a small area of around 1.5×1.5 meters. This amount of space will be VR safe if you are using a single sensor. The Oculus Rift ships with only one sensor but you can also order more to cover a larger space. To make the room VR safe remove all tripping hazards. Keep the desk area around your computer free of stuff that can get easily knocked down.
Place the sensors on a desk or a table. The Rift headset should be in the field of view of the stand when you are operating it. But, the field of view of the motion sensor is wide enough that you don’t need to sit directly in front of it.
Make sure to clear the desk or table on which you place your VR accessories. Be careful when handling the headset and place it in a clear space. All of the launch games for Oculus are designed for a sitting experience. But if you are considering using the Rift while standing, buying an anti-fatigue mat designed for standing desks will be helpful. Plenty of Oculus Rift games are offering 360-degree experience, so consider getting a swivel chair for the seated experience. Also, make sure that the cables are out of the way and will not trip you. And clear a path between your PC and where you play your virtual reality games.
How to Prepare Your Room For HTC Vive:
The HTC Vive is a full-scale room VR experience. Valve wants you to walk around when experiencing virtual reality. The Vive uses SteamVR’s Lighthouse tracking system. The tracker covers the room in safe lasers. It tracks your positions pretty accurately using those lasers.
The Vive comes with two base stations. The base stations can cover an area of 4×3 meters. They need to be positioned above head height for proper tracking. They can be placed on bookshelves, or on a tall piece of furniture in you room.
Alternatively, you could mount them on the wall. The sensors will require a proper camera mount to be mounted on the wall. They are too heavy to mount by using an adhesive. The sensors use a standard 1/4-20 thread same as your average tripod.
Vive Lighthouse sensors should be placed in opposite corners for perfect tracking. Mounting the sensors in a perfect diagonal will ensure there is no occlusion.
You will have to completely free the space of furniture and other tripping hazards. If you don’t have a 4×3 meter free space available you can just place the sensors closer to track a smaller space area. Same as for Oculus Rift, it is best if you keep an empty desk or table to place all you VR accessories.
Remove all things that might be easily spilled or broken from the room as a precaution. Consider buying an anti-fatigue mat designed for standing desks to make the VR experience more comfortable. You can use the edges of the pad to center yourself as you start to wander around in VR. The pad will prevent you from stumbling too far. Also, clear a path between the PC and your play area. Make sure to get all the cables out of the way to so you don’t trip on them.
Best Available PCs for Virtual Reality:
You took the above compatibility tests and the results showed that your PC doesn’t fit the bill. So, you decide to look for a good VR PC to buy for you VR headset. Well, look no further because we are here to help you out with that. There are a lot of good PCs out there but picking the right one can be a tough job. A rock bottom VR-ready PC will fetch you a hefty price of $999 and that is only with the bundled discount from Oculus.
There is no need to be disappointed if your PC isn’t VR compatible. The PC you have today probably won’t run either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. There is a small chance that it will, and the chances increase if it’s a fairly recent tricked-out gaming desktop. The system specifications required for VR include a recent Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU. When it comes to the graphics card, you will need at least Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD R9 290.
The PCs discussed in this article are highly configurable. Here we have selected PC configurations across the whole price spectrum. We will cover from best PCs with minimum specifications required for VR to highly specialized systems intended for virtual reality developers. You will also find some laptops from top brands in our review.
The best price range to spend on your VR ready PC is $2000. With that amount, you can easily get a current generation Core i7-6700K processor and a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics card, along with a decent amount of hard-drive space for heavy game files.
Without further ado, here are the best VR ready PCs currently available in the market:
The Dell XPS 8900 SE is one of the most popular VR ready systems. This PC is lauded by Oculus as one of the company’s handpicked VR ready system. You can get this for $999 after Oculus bundle discount. Dell XPS 8900 comes with Core i5 CPU and it includes Nvidia 970 graphics card.
Other specifications all meet the minimum requirements for a VR compatible system. It works perfectly with first generation virtual reality games. The outer casing of the CPU isn’t very attractive and the system also doesn’t offer liquid cooling or other special top shelf features.
But, if you are on a budget and looking for a PC that will sufficiently power your headset this system is the one to go for. The $200 discount that Oculus offers if you purchase the bundle with the Rift headset makes it a good budget buy.
The Alienware X51 mini tower PC has a similar configuration as the Dell XPS 8900. Both systems cost the same. This PC is also chosen by Oculus as one of the company’s handpicked VR ready system. You can get this for $999 after Oculus bundle discount same as the Dell XPS 8900. The chassis of this system is more stylish and sleeker than the Dell PC. But, Alienware X51 is less upgradable.
Chronos is great-looking small desktop PC that is a lot smaller than big tower PC models. The system is also highly customizable. The key hot component is its liquid cooling system. The tower PC has some very clever magnetic rubber feet that make it easy to switch it between horizontal and vertical orientations.
It comes with a lower-end GeForce 970 graphics card. But, it also comes overclocked for an extra performance boost. The Chronos VR is an original Origin PC . The system is made of steel and measuring a compact 11.75 inches high by 4 inches wide by 13.75 inches deep. It’s big enough to fit in a full-size graphics card such as a Nvidia 980. But, it is also small enough to be squeezed into a large backpack for occasional travel.
Lenovo has been building a reputation for making brilliant gaming systems for quite a few years now. The reasonably priced Y-series laptops have been quite popular. This desktop is massive, so there is room for a lot of upgrades. The outer casing comes with some red accent lights and a clear side panel. This configuration comes with the Core i7 and Nvidia GeForce 980 graphics card. It also includes a hefty keyboard-and-mouse along with plenty of macro keys.
The Predator G6 is similar in configuration to the Lenovo Ideacentre Y900. It also has the same price. This Acer desktop goes off the reservation in design. It looks similar to an armored tank tread. The PC includes a front-accessible hard drive bay. But, the side panel of the system needs a screwdriver to remove. It comes with Steel Series keyboard and mouse, which are excellent. The system also includes a software overclocking the CPU. It can be activated by pressing a big red turbo button which is on the CPU casing.
Velocity Micro is known as the maker of excellent custom gaming PCs with an understated, simplistic look. Only a clear side window and some blue accent lights indicate that this is a gaming desktop. There are two key selling points of this gaming configuration. First, one is the VR-ready panel on the front, which offers access to the HDMI and USB ports required to hook up a VR headset. Other is the inclusion of the Nvidia 980ti graphics card, which is a step up from the standard 980 card.
Origin PC Eon17-SLX
Eon17-SLX is one of the only laptops that can run virtual reality headsets. It is a massive overclocked 17-inch laptop from Origin PC. This laptop manages to squeeze in a desktop Core i7 processor and a version of the desktop 980 graphics card designed by Nvidia to fit into oversized laptop cases. This is the first time a desktop GPU is embedded inside a laptop. You are paying for all the extra engineering, but this is the only way to run VR on a laptop right now, and it’s also one of the fastest systems in this roundup. Origin PC has labeled this system as VR-Ready.
Falcon Northwest Tiki
This VR-ready PC is smaller than most system out there. But, it is also more powerful and quite expensive. The Tiki is created by Falcon Northwest, and it is one of the main machines virtual reality developers, including those at Oculus, use to develop content. This very high-end configuration has an Extreme Edition Intel Core i7-5960X CPU, the faster Nvidia 980ti graphics card, and 6TB of storage on top of a super-fast PCI-Express 512GB SSD. It is one of the most expensive VR-ready PC, but it is also the fastest.
Titan SLI is the best choice if unbridled, untamed power is what you’re looking for. MSI GT80 Titan SLI is a massive 18-inch notebook. It houses not one, but two desktop graphics chips in SLI configuration, which should translate into smooth VR graphics available in this gaming laptop.
G700v0 showed that water cooling is not just for desktops anymore. The Asus G700v0 is the first gaming laptop to feature a water-cooling system. This feature is something normally left to the realm of desktop enthusiasts. Because of the innovative cooling system, gamers can push their laptops with overclocking even further, squeezing out every bit of performance. The laptop performs optimally while staying cool under pressure. It is a feature that will come in handy when it is time to suit up for virtual reality.
How To Build A Virtual Reality Ready PC Yourself:
Now if you are an experienced gamer and have built personal gaming PCs before you may decide to take the hard but budget-friendly road, and build your own VR ready PC. To run the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive your PCs have to be very powerful. If your current PC lacks in performance there are two things that you can do. You could buy a VR-ready PC, we have created a complete list of recommended VR-ready PCs above that you can choose from.
Alternatively, you can decide to build a VR ready PC yourself. And if you do we are here to guide you through the process. Hopefully, this guide will help you build a PC capable of high-quality VR gaming. You can also refer this guide if you are looking to upgrade your current PC to VR-gaming standards. Our primary focus will be the hardware demands of the virtual reality headsets.
How to begin:
Building a PC is a lot simpler than you may think, it may seem daunting at first but once you decide what kind of PC you want, it is just a matter of choosing the right components and putting them together. Arguably, the hardest part of building a PC is selecting the right components. To begin here is an outline of what you will need to do:
- Decide what type of PC you want.
- Select the proper components according to you budget and needs.
- Insert the components into the CPU casing, in their respective slots.
- Install the operating system.
What you will need:
Here we will discuss all the components that will be required to build a VR ready PC. For each component there will be three options; the bare minimum, the mini, and the future ready. If you are looking to build a budget PC that will properly play VR titles of today the bare minimum will suit your needs.
The future-ready PC will be expensive, large and have all the very best components available and will be ready for all future virtual reality titles. But, if you are looking for something compact and small that won’t occupy much space, you could go for the smaller components to build a mini PC.
If you have built gaming PCs before you will have a bit of an idea on how to proceed, if you haven’t, try consulting someone who has, just to be on the safe side. When we talk about building a VR ready PC, you will have to pick out your components very careful. The components we have listed here have been thoroughly researched and they will run VR headsets without difficulty. So without further ado here are the components that you will need:
The Graphics card is the main component of a VR-ready gaming system. Unless you have a recently tricked out gaming PC chances are that you would have to upgrade. Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive recommended minimum is AMD’s Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970. Both this cards will run the VR titles comfortably at the bare minimum.
It’s all about the frames when it comes to graphics in gaming. For a satisfying gameplay on a PC 60 frames per second is the right choice. When it comes to VR what you need for a smooth and comfortable gameplay is 90 frames per second. Any less will lead to staggered movement. And when it comes to VR if your actions don’t react in time with your motions then it will lead to nausea and disorientation.
A single GTX 970 or Radeon R9 290 should be enough for a comfortable VR experience. But if you have got money to spend and are looking for something more you could go for two GPUs, or the GTX 980. It is better to save the extra money and wait for future GPUs instead of spending money on two GPUs right now. In case you are looking to go overboard and future proof, you PC, two of Nvidia’s GeForce GTC 980 Ti graphic cards will do the trick.
For the bare minimum VR-ready PC:
For a mini VR-ready PC:
For a future proof VR-ready PC:
The CPU is the brain of the PC. The GPU will be the main star of your PC but you need a strong enough processor that will keep up with virtual reality rendering. Oculus and HTC recommend Core i5-4590 to run virtual reality smoothly. For the future proof PC, we suggest Intel’s Core i7-6700k. To install this one you will need a new motherboard.
The Core-i7 also supports DDR4 RAM. Core i7-6700k is an unlocked processor, so you will be able to overclock it. For a mini VR-ready PC build the good old Core i5-4690k processor will be sufficient. It will easily fit in small motherboards, unlike Intel’s latest Skylake processors. It would be best to go for liquid cooling to keep the PC performance optimal.
AMD CPU’s aren’t yet up to the task of rendering virtual reality, according to experts. This is because of it is lacking in single-threaded performance, which is how fast a processor can work on any single small task.
For the bare minimum VR-ready PC:
For a mini VR-ready PC:
For a future proof VR-ready PC:
Memory these days is quite affordable mostly because of how fast its technology is progressing. Compared to other components RAM is fairly cheap but still quite crucial to any PC. More RAM means your PC can run faster, and perform more tasks before hanging.
With virtual reality, it is very important to make sure that your computer doesn’t hang, or experience the slightest lag. So it is important to get the right amount of RAM for you VR ready PC. VR experts suggest 8GB of RAM as a suitable choice. 8GB worth of DDR3 RAM will be more that sufficient for a bare minimum PC. For future proofed PC build 16 GB of DDR4 RAM should be best. The DDR4 is quite new and hence expensive. If you are going for a mini PC, go for 16 GB DDR3 RAM.
For the bare minimum VR-ready PC:
For a mini VR-ready PC:
For a future proof VR-ready PC:
Next up is Power Supply. You will need a suitable power supply to power your VR ready PC. Power Supplies are available in a wide range of wattages, it will be important to select one that will properly power your PC. You can use PCPartPicker to keep track of all the hardware components that you have selected for your virtual reality compatible PC. The tool will help you estimate what wattage of Power supply you will need.
If you are going for the bare minimum PC build, Corsair’s 500-watt CX500M power supply is a great choice. The massive 12,000-watt SeaSonic power supply will be better suited for future proof VR compatible PCs. This amount of power is most definitely a bit over the top for most users, but it will give you the opportunity to use three huge graphics cards if future VR games wind up requiring them.
It also provides an incredibly stable source of power for overclocking. Moreover, power supplies tend to outlive every other PC component, so a good power supply is an investment.
You’ll need sufficient hard drive space to store your heavy VR games and the operating system. A $50 magnetic hard drive will be suitable for a bare minimum PC. It will be best to use SSDs (solid state drives) for all PC builds. The traditional hard drive will give you a lot of space but an SSD will make your entire system feel faster.
A speedy 500GB SSD, along with with a reliable 2TB 7200RPM standard hard drive for storage will be more than enough storage space for now.
Other Hardware Components:
The components listed above are the main ones that directly affect your virtual reality experience. There are still several crucial components left that are required to build a PC but they don’t affect the VR experience directly like the motherboard, CPU case, peripherals etc. Still we are not going to leave them out.
You are going to need a motherboard that will support your CPU and all other upgraded components. Gigabyte GA-Z170X Gaming 7 ($200) has space for three graphics cards, supports DDR4 RAM. It also has a Thunderbolt 3 port for external graphics.
Then come the CPU case, you will need to carefully pick one that has enough but not too much space. It should also allow proper airflow so your system is kept cool at all times. You can pick the case that suits you best. You could go for a cool flashy design or something simplistic and light. The case we suggest is Corsair 760T, it has plenty of space and easily accessed dust filters. Other good cases include the Raidmax Super Hurricane, Cooler Master HAF 912 and the Rosewill Galaxy 02.
For keyboard and mouse, you can easily use the ones lying around or opt for a gaming pad. For an operating system, it is best to go with Windows 10.
Building a PC is a tough job, there are plenty of ways that you can mess up, but that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try. We hope that this article will help with your PC building process. Here are all the components for respective VR-ready systems in an easily readable format:
Things to look out for in VR gaming:
Now that you have setup everything for experience the next frontier of gaming i.e. Virtual Reality. You should do some research for games as well as virtual reality is still just in its initial stage, so we can safely say there is a lot to learn . You can read about the best VR games being released in 2016 as well. As more and more people use the headsets, we learn more tricks and tips about each of the platforms. There aren’t a lot known at present time but here are the few tips and general tricks we would like to pass along:
- Add a patterned tactile surface to crucial buttons on your gaming keyboard or controller. This will let you know if your hands are in the right position, without having to take off your VR headset.
- It is important to stay organized. Like we discussed above in how to prepare your room for virtual reality, there will be a lot of cables and other VR components accompanying whatever headset you choose. That, along with all of the loose components and cables that come with building a PC means that you will have a lot to organize. Try to keep all of your cables managed to avoid tripping and get obstacles out of the way when gaming.
- Keeping your VR headset clean is also very important regardless of which VR platform you have chosen. Sweat and oil from your hair will accumulate on the headset over time. Be sure to periodically wipe everything down to keep the “The Future of Gaming” hygienic.
Experiencing the virtual reality in its fullest is much expensive in terms of headsets and compatible PC. But if you have decided to dive into the complete new world of VR, we hope this guide will help you design your first virtual reality ready PC yourslef.
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