How to Build a PC that Can Handle Virtual Reality

How to Build a PC that Can Handle Virtual Reality

Virtual reality experiences are no longer a futuristic sci-fi technology: they’re a thing you can experience today.

The only problem is that you need some pretty serious PC equipment to handle virtual reality.

What kind of rig do you need to handle VR systems like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift? Today, we’re helping you future-proof your life by making your PC virtual reality-ready.

Now, there isn’t a strict set of requirements for running virtual reality PC games. Instead, there’s a bare minimum set of requirements (that will allow you to run the Oculus Rift and Vive at their most basic level) and then there’s a better, more expensive set of requirements that will future-proof your PC for the future of virtual reality.

The bare minimum will let you play most games today at decent to high settings, while the premium options listed below will let you play all games today maxed out while still being able to play VR games for 3 to 5 years into the future.

With that in mind, we’ll tell you both the bare minimum and the recommended system requirements.

Component 1: A Good Video Card

-Minimum: AMD Radeon RX 480 ($200 USD)

-Premium: 2 x Nvidia GTX 980 Ti Video Cards ($1,000 Total)

Alternatively, the GTX 970 is a good option if you don’t like the RX 480, although the RX 480 is a very good card.

The graphics card is the most critical component when running virtual reality. There are actually two reasons for this: the first is that you need to process a lot of visual information for your games. And the second is that good video cards actually reduce your chances of getting sick from VR.

virtual reality pc gaming 2

Why do you get sick from a bad video card? If your video card can’t run VR at 60 frames per second, then it’s going to feel choppy and staggered – especially when your movements don’t perfectly align with your actions. Serious VR enthusiasts actually aim for 90 fps.

The problem with VR is that most video cards – even ones you purchased within the last year – aren’t powerful enough for VR. So you’ll most likely need to upgrade your PC at this position.

It’s also important to note that modern VR games don’t support multiple GPUs, although that could change in the future. In any case, non-VR games will support multiple GPUs, so if you’re aiming to spend around $1,000, the dual GPU setup mentioned above is probably the best option.

Component 2: A Good Processor

-Minimum: Intel Core i5-4590 ($190 USD)

-Premium: Intel Core i7-6700K ($350)

Your GPU does most of the visual heavy lifting for VR, while the CPU does the heavy lifting for pretty much everything else. VR games stress your CPU more than conventional games, so you’ll need an option that’s up to the task.

You’ll notice that both of the picks above are Intel CPUs. AMD CPUs, according to virtual reality experts, are not well-known for excellent single-threaded performance and are not currently suited for VR gaming.

Component 3: A Lot of RAM

-Minimum: 8GB of DDR3 ($40 USD)

-Premium: 16GB of DDR4 ($90 USD)

There’s one lesson that’s been true in PC building since the beginning of time: more RAM makes your PC faster. RAM is a cheap and easy upgrade that lets you do more things simultaneously.

virtual reality pc gaming 3

Surprisingly, VR isn’t quite as intense on your RAM as you might think. Most VR experts claim that anything over 8GB is overkill. Nevertheless, it won’t be overkill a few years from now, so those with a little more change in their pockets today will want to invest in more RAM.

The DDR4 RAM is actually required for some newer processors (like the “Premium” processor listed above). So make sure you take that into account.

Component 4: A Steady, Strong Power Supply

-Minimum: Corsair 500 Watt CX550M ($60 USD)

-Premium: 1200 Watt SeaSonic Power Supply ($230)

Power supplies are an often-overlooked part of building a PC. Spending more on a power supply today won’t just future-proof your rig (for when you add more parts) but it will also make it more stable and less likely to crash in the future.

The premium power supply listed above is overkill, but it will future-proof your PC to allow for you to add a third graphics card in the future. Furthermore, a good power supply can be transferred between computers, because it’s the part most likely to still be relevant 5 or 7 years from now.

That’s it! Those are the core components. The other parts of your PC, like a cooler, motherboard, storage, case, and OS are obviously very important, but they don’t have any VR-specific requirements.

Shout out to our friends at CNet for the build! Header image courtesy of PixelKin.org

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Andrew
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