Tag Archives: PC

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Building a PC for Virtual Reality

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?

Oculus and HTC have both released official recommendations for  PC system requirements and interestingly the specs are almost identical.

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

Oculus Rift

  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or greater
  • RAM: 8GB or more
  • Video port: HDMI 1.3
  • USB port: 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

The main difference between the two requirements is the amount of RAM and the number of USB ports.  The Rift requires more of both. The good news is RAM is cheap and any modern motherboard should have the correct number of USB ports.

The PC Build

If building your own PC seems too daunting don’t worry, you can buy an Oculus Ready PC bundled with the Rift and save yourself some stress.

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 the next generation of GPUs arrive. 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 Oculus and 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:

i5

ProcessorIntel I5-6500- New Skylake processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  This more than meets the recommended specs.

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.

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.

VR System – Pick your poison here, the Rift and Vive are both available through Amazon with Prime shipping.  Don’t forget Oculus Touch either.

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.

Rift Banner

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.

riftback

Building the Ultimate Rift PC

When was the last time the time you just met the minimum requirements?  You want your VR experience to be better than the minimum.  Forget about optimization. You want power.  You want performance.

I wanted to build something bigger and better.  This is the quest for the best Oculus Rift VR PC build.

Get that credit card out, here we go.

Processor – Intel Boxed Core I7-6700K – Powwwwer.  Doesn’t come with a cooler so you know it’s serious.

Cooler – Corsair Hydro Series H115i Liquid Cooler – Maximum cool. Radiator with dual fans.  You may need to tweak the fan speeds or just wear headphones all the time.

Motherboard – MSI ATX DDR4 Motherboard Z170A XPOWER – Overclock as much as you want.  Rock solid board with a great BIOS. Unnecessary amount of USB ports.

Graphics Card – GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 980Ti 6GB WATERFORCE – This is where the rubber meets the road.  Stable even when overclocked.  Spring for the water cooled version and grab updated drivers when installed.

Memory – Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB – DDR4 memory that can shed the heat.  16GB or 32GB, your choice.

Storage – Samsung 850 EVO 2TB 2.5-Inch SSD – Everyone loves a SSD.  Make sure you don’t run out of room.

Case – NZXT H440 Mid Tower – Sleek case with excellent cable management and sound deadening.  Display this proudly.

Power Supply – Corsair HXi Series, HX750i, 750 Watt – Make sure your components get nothing but the finest electricity.  Powwwer for all that overclocking.

OS Windows 10 USB Drive – About as exciting as Windows can get.  On a USB stick for easy installation.

The RiftOculus Rift – Available directly from Amazon

That’s it.  Buy it, build it, and get ready to do this all again in 12 months.

Rift Banner

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.

 

rift_fox

Building a Budget Rift PC

As the release of the Rift draws closer I thought it would be a good idea to put together a budget Rift build.  There is a lot talk online about the steep price to buy into VR since many people will need to purchase a new PC in addition to  the Rift headset.  Oculus has published a set of official recommended specs as a guide map for any PC build but the question still remains:

“What is the cheapest PC I can build for the Rift?”

I thought it would be possible to build an Oculus PC under $1000 and cheaper than a premade “Oculus Ready” PC. It can be hard to mix and match parts to find the right combination. but here is what I would recommend:

Component Link Price
Processor  Intel Core i5-4590K $199
Graphics Card  EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 $335
Motherboard  MSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 $95
Memory  Crucial Ballistix Sport XT 8GB Kit $38
Storage  ADATA SP600 2.5-Inch 64 GB SATA III $35
Case  Rosewill ATX Galaxy Case $48
Power Supply  EVGA 500W $35
Total  $785

This covers the bare minimum for the PC but you may need some additional items if you don’t already have them:

Component Link Price
OS Windows 10 Home – USB Drive $120
Monitor Acer S220HQL Abd 21.5-Inch LCD $100
Keyboard and Mouse LED CM Storm Devastator $30
Total  $250

My previous Rift PC Build slightly exceeded the recommenced specs by using a few higher end components and was built to support some future upgrades.  I wanted to shoot for the lowest price components to deliver the most inexpensive Rift build possible.

The selection process was straightforward since Oculus’s recommended specs already have the CPU and graphics card already selected – I only needed to find the supporting components.

Two key decisions I made were eliminating an optical drive to save money and the inclusion of a SSD over a regular hard drive for performance reasons.  Physical media is almost dead and if you’re building a new PC you should have a SSD otherwise you’re selling yourself short.

Here are the components and a few details about the selection process.

Intel i5 CPU

ProcessorIntel Core i5-4590K – This is the minimum Oculus recommended processor so no options here.  It’s a Haswell processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  Note that this includes its own cooler, fan, and thermal paste – nothing else is required here!

EVGA GTX 970 GPU

Graphics CardEVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 – This is the minimum recommended chip set from Oculus and the most inexpensive card that has it.  Great performance for the price and EVGA is a quality manufacturer.

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 has an awesome BIOS screen for easy setup.

Crucial RAM 8 GB

Memory – Crucial Ballistix Sport XT 8GB Kit – Two sticks of 4GB RAM to meet the minimum requirements.  Nothing special here but it does look cool!

ADATA SSD

Storage – ADATA SP600 2.5-Inch 64 GB SATA III – Solid state drive for the OS.  It’s on the small side at 64 GB but it will make the entire system snappy.  Consider a  3.5 SATA expansion disk for game storage.

Rosewill Case

Case – Rosewill ATX Galaxy Case – Nice inexpensive case with plenty of room inside. I don’t think this is winning any style awards but it fits the bill and Rosewill makes quality products.

Power SupplyEVGA 500W – Inexpensive but well made power supply, plenty of juice to go around.

OS - Windows 10 Home – USB Drive – The new standard here, shipped on a USB drive for easy installation.

Monitor – Acer S220HQL Abd 21.5-Inch LCD - Inexpensive LED monitor that’s great for gaming for when you’re not wearing the Rift.

Keyboard and MouseLED CM Storm Devastator – A nice combo to go with this PC, the back lit keyboard is a nice touch

This should be everything you need to put together an inexpensive Rift PC. I included Amazon links for everything as they have competitive prices and I 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 a PC for GTA V

GTA V has been one of my favorite games of the last and now current generation of consoles.  A PC port is on the way and it will benefit from higher horsepower machines and a lively modding scene.

Rockstar introduced a first person mode to the game when it made the leap to current generation consoles.  The mode begs for Oculus support and we’ll see it one way or another soon after the game’s release.  The open world of Los Santos is gorgeous and ripe for exploration with the current DK2 or the CV1.  Consider future support by the popular iCEnhancer mod and you’ll have a near photo real gaming experience.

The rumored  recommended hardware requirements are as follows:

  • CPU –  Intel Core i5 3470 @ 3.2GHZ  or AMD X8 FX-8350 @ 4GHZ 
  • GPU – NVIDIA GTX 660 2GB / AMD HD7870 2GB
  • RAM – 8GB

The game will be an absolute monster, especially if it requires a +75 fps frame rate for Rift support. These requirements are nothing more than a starting point.  We’re going to need a beast of a machine for a comfortable Rift experience.

Here’s what I would recommend:

ProcessorIntel Core i7-4790K – New Haswell processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  You can overclock it too but performance will be fine right out of the box.

MotherboardMSI Z97-G45 – supports the Z97 chipset, modern and flexible for different builds.  This is a solid foundation for the system.

Graphics CardEVGA GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB – Not exactly cheap but this card delivers excellent performance for the price.  Don’t skimp here.  I’m actually tempted to recommend a beefier card here but prices get out of hand pretty quickly.

MemoryCrucial 8GB 240-pin DDR3 – I’m recommending two 8GB sticks.

Storage Samsung SSD 850 EVO 250GB – Solid state drive for the OS.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 400R – Nice clean case that’s easy to work on with plenty of cooling.

Power SupplyRosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 650W – Very nice power supply to run the system and support future upgrades if necessary.

OS - Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit – Everyone’s favorite Windows OS, I still prefer it over Windows 8.

This should be everything you need to put together a solid gaming PC that can tackle GTA V.  The system is built with upgrade potential so with carefully selected upgrades (namely the GPU) this rig can keep you current for the next few years. Total cost is around $1400 which is downright reasonable for a new gaming rig built from the ground up.

DK2 Recommended PC Requirements

For those of you who are curious if your current PC can handle the demanding Oculus requirements (myself included), I decided to do some cursory research.

From Oculus’s own DK2 FAQ:

Recommended specifications: A desktop computer running a dedicated graphics card with DVI-D or HDMI graphics output, with capability of running current generation 3D games at 1080p resolution at 75fps or higher.

Hmmmm, the concern here is the required frame rate at a 1080p resolution.  That’s a lot of high res frames for a graphics card to crank out.

A little more digging and I find a reddit comment from cybereality, a community manager for Oculus, regarding a recommended graphics card :

A GTX 770 is probably the minimum spec that would be OK. I wouldn’t go any cheaper than that.

So the floor for a graphics card is a Nvidia based GTX 770 card which is currently $300+

Interesting, I may need to invest in some new hardware soon.  I’m guessing most low end demos will run fine on my current PC so I plan to do a lot of initial evaluation before I start piecing together a new PC.