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Building a PC for the Valve Index

The newly announced Valve Index will require a powerful gaming PC based on recently leaked specifications and requirements. The good news is that your last generation VR PC may still fit the bill and meet the minimum requirements. The bad news is that it may not meet the recommended requirements and could use a tune up or a new graphics card.

We recommend you buy an off the shelf PC if building one sounds overwhelming.

The Valve Index minimum requirements:

  • Dual core processor with hyper-threading
  • 8GB of RAM
  • NVIDIA 970 or AMD RX480

The Valve Index recommended requirements:

If you’re starting a new build from scratch we would suggest targeting the recommended requirements or above to ensure you have the best experience and that you’ll be somewhat future proof.

The recommended requirements for the original Vive and Rift were an excellent guideline and held strong since their release in 2016. If you target the new Index recommended requirements you should have a bullet proof build for years to come.

If you’re upgrading your existing gaming PC you may only need a new graphics card to meet the recommended requirements. Check out your current specs and start shopping for a new GPU.

For a new build we’re going to be targeting the recommended requirements to make things slightly future proof. If you’re going to invest some money in a new PC it’s not going to be cost effective or make sense to target the minimum requirements.

Graphics CardASUS 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.

MotherboardMSI 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.

CPUIntel 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.

RAMKingston 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.

SSDSamsung 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.

CaseCorsair Carbide 200R – A very nice and clean case. Solid platform for your build. A lot of options here but this is my favorite.

PSUEVGA 500W – Nothing too special but a cost effective supply with enough power for the GPU and CPU. Plug and play.

Building a PC for the HTC Vive

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.

 

The Requirements

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.

 

HTC Vive

  • 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 PC

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 CardASUS 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.

MotherboardMSI 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.

CPUIntel 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.

RAMKingston 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.

SSDSamsung 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.

CaseCorsair Carbide 200R – A very nice and clean case. Solid platform for your build. A lot of options here but this is my favorite.

PSUEVGA 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.

Building the Rift PC

If you were waiting months and months to build a Rift PC now is the time to start ordering parts.  CV1 is officially on the horizon! 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.

Surprisingly my generic VR PC build was very close to the recommended specs.  This build will focus on the recommended Oculus requirements and provide you with the exact parts you need.  The goal was to build a capable PC with quality components that would meet the specs without greatly exceeding them.  I also made some decisions in order to make future expansion or upgrades easier.

The big question for most people will be, “What specific components are best for the Rift?” It can be hard to mix and match parts to find the right combination.  Here is what I would recommend:

Intel i5 CPU

ProcessorIntel Core i5-4590K – Haswell processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  Also consider the  Intel Core i5-4690K which slightly exceeds the recommended spec.  Note that this includes its own cooler and fan, nothing else is required here!

PNY GTX 960 GPU

Graphics CardEVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 – Good performance for the price, EVGA makes a great card.   It’s great that Oculus set a fixed GPU bar for the Rift, just keep in mind that one day this may need to get replaced.

MSI Motherboard

MotherboardMSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 – supports Z97, modern and inexpensive.  (2) 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.

Kingston RAM

MemoryKingston HyperX Blu 8GB 1600MHz 240-pin DDR3 – A single stick of 8GB will leave room for expansion.  I would recommend two sticks right off the bat for 16GB but this is an easy upgrade in the future.

Samsung SSD

StorageSamsung SSD 840 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III – Solid state drive for the OS. Also consider a  3.5 SATA disk for game storage.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

Corsair Case

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice clean case that is solid and inexpensive. Beautiful with plenty of quiet cooling.

Power SupplyRosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550 – Decent power supply to support future upgrades

OS Windows 7 64-bit OEM – The old standard here, I prefer it over Windows 8

The RiftOculus Rift – Available directly from Amazon

This should be everything you need to put together the perfect Rift PC with upgrade potential.  Budget versions of this are possible but this PC is a quality build for the Rift.  I included Amazon links for everything and recommend them for their Prime shipping and ease of exchanges.

Here is the complete list with totals:

Component Link Price
Processor Intel Core i5-4590K $199
Graphics Card PNY NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 $320
Motherboard MSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 $85
Memory Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB 240-pin DDR3 $104
Storage Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch $78
Case Corsair Carbide Series 200R $66
Power Supply  Rosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550 $70
OS Windows 7 64-bit OEM $135
Total  $1057

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.