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:
Processor – Intel 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!
Graphics Card – EVGA 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.
Motherboard – MSI 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.
Memory – Kingston 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.
Storage – Samsung 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.
Case – Corsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice clean case that is solid and inexpensive. Beautiful with plenty of quiet cooling.
Power Supply – Rosewill 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 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.
Here is the complete list with totals:
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.