Hardware manufacturers are tripping over themselves to build flashy virtual reality head mounted displays but the PCs to power these devices receive little attention. HMDs such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are only one half of the VR equation.
As VR awareness becomes more mainstream the big question for most people is,
“Can my PC handle it?”
The answer is likely “No.” VR content requires a powerful gaming PC to pump out the high frame rate required to make the experience fluid and enjoyable. Many people will have to upgrade their graphics card or invest in a new PC to meet the minimum specs required. What are those specs?
HTC has released official recommendations that will help guide our build.
- Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
- CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 or greater
- RAM: 4GB or more
- Video port: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, or better
- USB port: 1 USB 2.0 or faster port
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
The recommended specs are a good starting point for the build. One of the main goals for a VR PC build should be flexibility. If you’re going to invest the money in a PC now it’s a good idea to make sure the hardware will still be relevant 12 to 18 months from now. At the same time you should resist the urge to purchase today’s top of the line components. You’ll be paying a premium for a slight performance edge that will be eroded when VR optimized GPUs arrive in the next generation. Save that money and upgrade later.
After doing some research I knew I was interested in building what could be described as a budget performance PC. I wanted my overall build to be inexpensive, have flexibility for future upgrades, and have the power to meet and exceed the HTC recommended specs. I wanted to invest some money upfront in the processor and motherboard so they wouldn’t have to be upgraded later.
Here’s what I put together:
Graphics Card – ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 – This is a great card for the money from a quality manufacturer. This will be the engine for your VR PC. You can consider higher performing cards like a 1080 but things get very expensive, very quickly.
Motherboard – MSI B360 Gaming Plus – An excellent foundation for the PC, I’m a big fan of MSI and their BIOS. Support for the 9th gen CPU and DDR4 RAM. Has everything you need.
CPU – Intel Core i5-9400F – A great performance CPU that will be perfect out of the box. 6 cores and newer 9th gen version of the i5-8400. A cost effective option that nixes on-board graphics and includes a heat sink with fan. Consider something else if you want to overclock.
RAM – Kingston DDR4 Hyper X 16GB – Nothing too special here, 2 sticks of 8GB RAM to get you started. The motherboard has 4 slots so you’ll have 2 open for future expansion.
SSD – Samsung 860 EVO – This is my default recommendation for an SSD. I’ve had bad experiences going with cheaper options. You’re going to need to pair this with a traditional hard disk for game storage, hopefully you have one laying around you can scavenge.
Case – Corsair Carbide 200R – A very nice and clean case. Solid platform for your build. A lot of options here but this is my favorite.
PSU – EVGA 500W – Nothing too special but a cost effective supply with enough power for the GPU and CPU. Plug and play.
The Vive – HTC Vive – Available directly from Amazon
This should be everything you need to put together the perfect Vive PC with upgrade potential. Budget versions of this are possible but this PC is a quality build for the Vive. I included Amazon links for everything and recommend them for their Prime shipping and ease of exchanges.
Never built a PC before? It’s easier than you think – everything snaps together. I recommend the step-by-step guide at Tom’s Hardware.