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A Beginners Guide to Building a VR Ready PC

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VR Ready PC

With the release of Half Life: Alyx, more and more game development companies are realizing that VR is the next big thing. And with new VR games and experiences being released, more and more gamers are wanting to get in on the action.

They want to get into VR gaming. But before you try it out on your current computer, or build an entirely new system for it, you need to make sure that it meets the minimum requirements of some of the entry-level VR headsets out there – the Oculus Rift and the HTC VIVE.

Either one of those will be a good beginner’s headset to start playing some VR games. But let’s make sure that your PC meets the minimum requirements of them:

Minimum PC Requirements of Oculus Rift

CPU: Intel i3-6100 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200

GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti or AMD RX 470

RAM: 8GB

OS: Windows 10

SteamVR HTC Vive

Minimum PC Requirements of HTC VIVE

CPU: Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX-8350

GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD RX 480

RAM: 4GB

OS: Windows 7/8/10

 

As you’ll notice, the requirements aren’t too bad. I’m guessing your current PC already meets or probably exceeds those requirements if you play any AAA titles that were released in the past year or two. But if you are someone who has an old gaming PC, it might be time to upgrade it.

So far so good right?

There has to be a catch though. This can’t be all sunshine and rainbows.

You’re right. There is a catch with the system requirements.

VR in general is a lot more technically demanding compared to something that just plays on a monitor. So to have a decent VR gaming experience, you have to have a GPU that is capable of meeting the significantly higher demands of a VR headset.

VR'S NEXT REALITY

What Do You Mean?

Let’s start with the basics.

Try to think of each lens in your headset as a separate display. Both Rift and VIVE have a dual-lens setup to give you a better overall VR experience. Their total resolution is 2160×1200. Or 1080×1200 per lens/display with a refresh rate of 90Hz.

This means you are running the game on 2 displays at once.

Based on that alone, you’ll need to have a GPU that is capable of supporting 4k gaming at a 90Hz refresh rate.

Now here’s the kicker.

Your headsets have to have an “eye buffer”. It means that there’s a buffer between your eyes and the lenses in the headset. And the headset has to compensate for the distortion that this buffer causes. It does that by providing a higher true resolution of each of those displays so your eyes don’t notice the distortion.

So in reality, each display is 1512×1680 or 3024×1680 total resolution.

This doubles the rendering demand on both, the CPU and the GPU because now they have to render the right image for each display with the proper depth cues and parallax. There’s a name for this type of processing – stereo rendering.

According to Nathan Reed, NVIDIA graphics programmer, in worst-case scenarios, stereo rendering can almost double the graphical demands when one is gaming on a VR headset compared to a computer monitor of a similar resolution.

The reason is simple – with a VR headset, the GPU is rendering the same scene of 1512×1680 twice for 2 different displays compared to 1 scene for a 3024×1680 monitor.

Makes sense?

Now you understand you need to make sure that your current setup not only meets the minimum requirements but also need to make sure that it exceeds those requirements to have a decent VR experience.

Let’s jump into the fun part now, which is building a computer.

I have come up with 4 different setups depending on what kind of budget you have.

Not everybody has a $2,000 budget but we all want to experience a good VR game.

So, here’s a list of setups for every person out there.

Xbox and Oculus

$500 Entry-Level VR Gaming PC Build

$500 is the minimum budget is recommend going with if you want a decent VR experience. Go any lower than and you will either not meet the minimum requirements, or you will sacrifice how immersive you feel when you’re playing a VR game.

With a $500 budget, here’s what you should buy:

 

CPU: Intel Core i3-10100

MOBO: Gigabyte H410M

GPU: GTX 1650 Super

RAM: 8GB

SSD: 480GB

PSU: 650W

OS: Windows 10

 

This setup will meet and even exceed the requirements of the Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE. So you’re covered there. The only bottleneck you will have is the RAM.

8GB is the minimum. But even non-VR gamers prefer to go for either 16 or 32GB RAM. So if you have some extra cash, I recommend investing that in more RAM and you’ll be all set.

If not, you won’t be sacrificing anything. The extra RAM just leaves more headroom that’s all.

This is a perfect setup for someone who just wants to get their feet wet and see if VR is at a level where you can forget where you are and just experience the game the way it was supposed to be experienced.

The best part about this setup is that you can play any game on a decent 1080p monitor at medium or high settings depending on the game.

If you’re going to play GTA V, you can play it at high settings no problem.

So, if you are someone who just wants to get some VR gaming in but doesn’t want to spend a grand on it, this is the setup for you.

VR Gaming PC Build

$700 Mid-Range VR Gaming PC Build

For just $200 more you can build a decent mid-range VR gaming PC. The main component we’ll be upgrading here is the graphics card and RAM.

Since the GPU is the main component that will be doing most of the heavy lifting here, we want to make sure that we get the most powerful one that fits in our budget.

For this build, I recommend going with the RX 5600 XT 8GB GPU. Combining that with the Intel Core i3-10100, you will easily meet the requirements of both VR headsets and also have some headroom left for something more demanding.

Not only that, the RX 5600 XT is powerful enough to play any game you throw at it at 1080p max settings.

 

Here’s the build:

CPU: Intel Core i3-10100

MOBO: Gigabyte H410M

GPU: RX 5600 XT

RAM: 16GB

SSD: 480GB

PSU: 650W

OS: Windows 10

So, if you’re looking for a solid gaming PC that you can use for VR games as well as standard gaming, this is it.

VR Gaming PC Build

$1000 High-end VR Gaming PC Build

This build is for someone who wants to have a really powerful system that will get them the best VR experience and on top of that, it will allow them to play any game out there at max settings at a higher resolution monitor.

With this one, we are changing every component and getting as much power as we can. Not only that, but you can also make it look nice.

What’s the point of having a high-end gaming PC if it doesn’t look nice or have RGB?

In this build, we are going full AMD mode.

 

Here’s the build:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600

MOBO: B550

GPU: 5700 XT

RAM: 16GB

SSD: 1TB

PSU: 650W

OS: Windows 10

 

As you can see, this is a beast of a setup. With the 5700 XT, you can max out every game out there on a 1080p monitor. And if you have a higher resolution monitor, say a 1440p or a 4k monitor, you can play games at a decent FPS on those too.

But, if you don’t have a high-resolution monitor, or you are planning to buy a new monitor for gaming, make sure you buy a FreeSync monitor to take advantage of AMD’s variable refresh rate technology. This will give you incredibly smooth gameplay on top of all that power.

If you’re looking for mobility, a gaming laptop at this price range is also a good option. Any laptop with an RTX 2060 should give you a decent VR experience. It definitely won’t give you the same performance as a PC, but if you travel a lot or if you want to go to a friend’s house to play games (who is doing that these days?) then a laptop might be good for you.

All in all, a thousand dollars is a great price range that will get you the best of everything when looking to build a VR ready PC.

VR Gaming PC Build

$2000 Ultra VR Gaming PC Build

This build is for those of you who want the best of the best. People who want to make sure that their current gaming PC will still be a beast years down the line and they won’t have to touch a thing or worry about it ever meeting the requirements of any game out there – VR or standard games.

The components I recommend in this game will work with both HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift. But more importantly, it will also run games on 4k resolution – the holy sweet spot of the best of the best gaming.

This build will require more power and better airflow. So make sure you choose a proper case for it because that’s crucial. The Thermaltake Core X71 is a great case for this kind of setup. Just make sure you install extra fans in the right places for better airflow.

 

Here’s the build:

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700k

MOBO: MSI Z490

GPU: RTX 3080

RAM: 16GB

SSD: 1TB

PSU: 850W

OS: Windows 10

Bottom line, this is an ultra high-end VR gaming PC. And not just for VR, this is an ultra-gaming PC for standard games too. It will be able to handle any game out there and will still have some headroom left for you to run apps in the background.

So if you like streaming or if you are someone like me who just leaves everything open when working and just wants to hop in and play a game or two of Warzone at 4k resolution, this is the PC for you.

The best part about an ultra high-end PC is that it will continue being a high-end PC for years to come. So you don’t have to worry about upgrading any component of your setup to have better gameplay. You’ve already got everything you’ll need 😊

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