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Building a PC for the Oculus Rift

One of the most common questions asked about the Oculus Rift is “what type of PC will I need?”

The answer may not please you.  The Oculus Rift will require a powerful gaming PC to pump out the high frame rate required to make the VR experience enjoyable.  Many people will have to upgrade their graphics card or invest in a new PC to meet the minimum specs required.

Don’t want to build a PC?   Buy one.

Oculus has released the official recommended specs for the PC hardware to power the Rift.  This is a smart move as it standardizes the experience for developers and end users.  The official recommended specs are:

…an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM. This configuration will be held for the lifetime of the Rift and should drop in price over time.

UPDATE (10/5/16): Oculus has developed Asynchronous Spacewarp (ASW) to lower requirements even further.  The new minimum requirement is a i3-6100 CPU with a GTX 960 GPU or AMD FX-4350 with a Radeon RX 470.  This is huge!  The barrier for entry to VR has been lowered significantly!

The required frame rate, while not extreme, is pretty demanding for any system.  I knew my current PC wouldn’t come close to achieving 90fps for even the simplest VR demo. I would need something new to run my Rift when it arrived, otherwise I would have purchased some very expensive ski goggles. This was the start of my quest to build a PC for the Oculus Rift.

The recommended specs are a good starting point for the build.  One of the main goals for a Rift 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 a new generation of graphics cards arrive.

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 Oculus recommended specs. I wanted to invest some money upfront in the processor and motherboard so they wouldn’t have to be upgraded later.

The PC Build

i5

ProcessorIntel I5-6500- New Skylake processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  This more than meets the recommended specs.  The new minimum spec with ASW is a  i3-6100 CPU.

msi

MotherboardMSI Intel Skylake B150 LGA 1151 - Modern and inexpensive.  More than enough USB 3.0 ports for the Rift.  This is a great foundation for a new PC and will support upgrades over the life of the PC.  Great BIOS screen for easy setup.

1070

Graphics CardEVGA GeForce GTX 1070 – The new generation of GTX cards.  Great performance at a slight premium, this will hold you over for quite awhile.  If you’re looking to save some money consider the GTX 970 or the new ASW minimum spec GTX 960 GPU.

ram

MemoryKingston HyperX FURY Black 8GB – Nothing too special here, starting off with one stick, it’s easy to drop in a second down the road.

evo

StorageSamsung 850 EVO – 250GB – Solid state drive for the OS.  Note that this is on the small side, you may want to spend a little more money upfront here and buy a larger drive  I plan to add in a 3.5 SATA disk in a few months for game storage.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

cooler

CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO – A best seller for a reason.  Inexpensive, quiet, and enough cooling if you want to overclock.

case

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice budget case for the money with plenty of cooling.  The case adds two additional USB 3.0 ports in addition to the motherboard, just make sure you install the correct drivers after you land the cable.

psu

Power SupplyRosewill 650W ATX12V – Nice power supply to support future upgrades, the modularity of cables helps keep things clean.

win10

OS - Windows 10 Pro USB – While I still prefer Windows 7, I can’t recommend it for new builds.  Windows 10 is the future and it comes on a USB stick for easy installation.

rift

The RiftOculus Rift – Available directly from Amazon with Prime

touch

TouchOculus Touch – Unless you want to use a controller

This should be everything you need to put together a nice gaming PC with upgrade potential.  I included Amazon links for everything but I recommend you shop around.  I was able to save some money on the processor and motherboard with a combo deal through Newegg.

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.