Tag Archives: Vive

1070

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.

vive_banner

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:

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 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:

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.

Virtual Reality

VR Cost Breakdown

There’s a lot of news and hype surrounding the arrival of consumer ready VR devices and head mounted displays.  Each device has it’s own strengths, some are targeting specific niches, and there’s a lot of overlap between all of them.  The most divisive topic has been VR input and this has been a polarizing topic for those initially interested in the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.

With all of that considered, it’s been difficult to do an apples to apples comparison of the devices, specifically the cost to buy into any particular VR ecosystem.  I was interested in doing a cost breakdown for each device and found that I had to make a few concessions for each system to bring them onto a level playing field or at least provide context for comparison.

Mobile VR

Mobile VR is its own world and can’t be fairly compared to the higher performance devices.  That being said it’s most peoples first introduction to VR and it can be very compelling.  There are really only two players at this end of the field.

Google Cardboard

The first entry point due to its cost and ability of the Cardboard app to work with almost any smartphone.  I am going to concede the cost of the phone (who doesn’t have a smartphone?) and only include the investment for the headset.

Component  Price
Head Set Cardboard Kit $17
Total  $17

Gear VR

This is the second option for mobile VR and is leaps and bounds above Cardboard.  It has the Oculus brand and engineering by Carmack so it has a very specific performance target for high quality VR.

This is again difficult to price since it requires a high end Samsung phone that may or may not be subsidized by your carrier.  A smart phone is also of higher utility  than a dedicated headset which again makes it difficult for comparison.  Regardless, I am going to include the cost of an older S6 unlocked phone as part of the package. An input device such as a game pad may be required for some experiences but I’m going to ignore it for now.

Component Price
Head Set Gear VR $100
Phone Galaxy S6 $453
Total  $553

 

Dedicated VR

This is where the comparison gets interesting.  The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Playstation VR are all fighting for a similar market share each with their own offerings and system advantages.  VR input becomes a big deal in the comparison as some systems will offer tracked 1:1 input at launch and others won’t.

In this comparison I will look at a the complete buy in for a full system that includes tracked 1:1 input.  This seems like the most equal comparison point and provides insight to the nuances of each system.

PlayStation VR

This is the lightweight contender at this end but is poised as the breakthrough hit since there are many households that already own a PS4.  The PlayStation VR will extend the PS4 console and work with the system’s camera and Move controllers.

Sony is offering a launch bundle that will include the headset, controllers and camera which appears to be the most economical option. The head set is available by itself if you already own the controllers and camera.

It will be interesting to see if Sony offers a complete bundle that will include the head set with the console for additional savings.

Component Price
Head Set PlayStation VR Bundle $500
Console PlayStation 4 $349
Total  $849

Oculus Rift

The Rift was positioned as the first consumer ready VR headset but has appeared to have stumbled as release neared.  Its main competitor, the HTC Vive, offers a 1:1 tracked input solution that will  not be included with the Rift at launch.  Oculus is offering their Touch input device a few months after the initial Rift launch.  Details are still preliminary on the Touch including price and availability but I will use an estimate guess in this comparison.

This is the first headset in this comparison that will require a dedicated PC for VR.  This blog has covered a few different options for building a VR PC and I will be including the results of the Budget Rift PC Build in the pricing. Take this pricing with a grain of salt because it may include a monitor or keyboard that you may already have.  Complete Oculus bundles are available with different options but at a slightly higher cost than the package below.

Component Price
Head Set Oculus Rift $599
Input Oculus Touch (estimate) $150
PC Budget Rift Build $1035
Total  $1784

HTC Vive

The Vive is the most complete package available at release as it offers 1:1 tracked input in addition to the headset. This inclusion raised the bar for comparison for all of the devices in this category because the input option could not be ignored.

The price comparison also includes the results of the Budget Rift Build with the difference of a $18 savings for less RAM since the Vive requires only requires 4GB to meet the minimum reccomended spec.

Component Price
Head Set  HTC Vive Package $799
PC Budget Rift Build* $1017
Total  $1816

Conclusion

In the end this is a frustrating conclusion.  There are many options available for VR experiences but the two high end versions are neck and neck in cost.  The unannounced price for Oculus’s touch solution requires an estimate for price comparison and is ultimately is the deciding factor between the price of the two systems.  This provides an unsatisfying conclusion since the pricing of the Oculus system is based on speculation.

vr_space

Setup Your Room for VR

Your Vive has been preordered.  You are trying to wait patiently.   How about you distract yourself with a project?  Let’s get your VR space setup!

Setting up a room-scale Vive VR space isn’t as simple as you think.  Plugging in the headset is the easy part.  Moving furniture and barricading pets shouldn’t be too hard.  The tricky thing will be locating and mounting the Vive base stations so that they’re functional but still out of the way.

The Vive Pre User Guide has a detailed explanation of setting up your VR space.  Let’s start from the beginning!

The Space

vr_setup

There many VR spaces like it but this one is yours.  Your Vive space should follow these rules:

  • Minimum area of 5′ x 6.5′ (1.5m x 2m)
  • Have blinds to block pesky sunlight
  • Free from reflective surfaces
  • Free from furniture, pets, children, Lego

I would recommend laying down a nice square rug to claim your VR space.  This will provide a nice visual indication of your area for those around you.  It will also provide some tactile feedback for the space boundary when you have the headset on.

VR Rug

 

The Base Stations

The Vive base stations need to be mounted diagonally across from each other and mounted above your head level. They also must be solidly mounted so that they won’t vibrate or wobble.  Each base station needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet and will  be powered on automatically via Bluetooth LE.  The base stations also come with a sync cable but it shouldn’t be necessary in most mounting situations.

There are a few different ways to mount the base stations.  Each base station comes with a 1/4″ standard tripod mount in the bottom and rear of the unit.

A more permanent solution is to directly mount the base stations to your wall using the included brackets (consumer version to be determined) and drywall anchors.  If you’re not thrilled with the stock mounts any set of threaded speaker mounts should work.

If you don’t want to drill any holes a less permanent solution is to mount the base stations using 3M Command tape.  A word of caution, this is not proven to be a long-term solution – vibration from the base station may eventually loosen the tape.

tape

As seen in Polygon’s Vive Pre Preview

If you don’t want to mount anything to your walls then consider using tripods to mount your base stations.  These are a little more obtrusive when set up but can be easily disassembled and put in a closet when not being used.

A smaller tripod can be setup on your desk or book shelf while a taller light tripod can be located in a corner and still reach above head level.  The smaller tripod has a head that can pivot to aim the base station but the larger tripod will likely require a separate pivoting tripod mount.

vive_tripod

As seen in Hover Junker’s Dev Blog

If you’re interested in something less obtrusive than a tripod you can also consider a floor to ceiling tension rod.  A vertical tension rod will easily fit into a corner and shorted version can fit horizontally into alcoves or window frames.  Use a pipe clamp tripod mount to position your base station freely along the length.

Conclusion

That should be everything you need for a great VR room!  You have a lot of options for mounting your base stations and many people will mix and match solutions for their own space. Start building your VR room now!