Specs for Building a PC for Virtual Reality
How powerful does your PC need to be to work with virtual reality?
Virtual reality for the desktop requires an impressive system and is an expensive technology. However, the price of Oculus Rift or HTC Vive is low as compared to virtual reality PCs. That remains true and the requirement is one of the reasons that the low price of the PlayStation 4 that’s combined with the $500 full-bundle cost of the PlayStation virtual reality is so attractive. But, the PS4 won’t be able to compete (as for the quality of graphics) with the expensive PCs that are specially built for virtual reality.
Why does VR technology require so much out of the PC?
Blair Renauld, the developer of the upcoming virtual reality title, Technolust, said, “The reason you need more power for VR is the same reason you need more power … for 4K and multi-monitor gaming. You’re pushing more pixels.”
He further said, “These VR devices have two HD low persistence displays refreshing 90 times per second. I’m no mathematician, but that’s a lot of pixels.”
The frame rate is essential in regards to virtual reality. You are going to feel sick if it drops below the refresh rate of the headset’s screens. But in terms of gaming performance, what’s the minimum requirement?
PC Perspective and Polygon teamed up to build two computers designed for gaming in virtual reality. Their expertise in hardware knowledge of virtual reality enabled them to create a system for about $900. The system was developed to get close to the minimum specifications of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
They had to build and then test the PC to make sure it worked with VR.
The PC they created had the following specifications based on the minimum specs recommended by Oculus.
They chose a true quad-core processor due to the high demands of virtual reality in general and gaming in general. Also, the prices or processor architecture are not going to show a big jump from this price point in the coming months. The GPU they picked is simple as they went with the GTX 970 with minimum specifications, but this is the model that is a solid one and provides you a little more performance with a little less noise. If you want to inquire about the rest of the parts, then the video will provide you with more details.
Watch the video below
The truth is that this system supports virtual reality, and it doesn’t feel like a minimum experience even though it’s created with a PC that has the minimum requirements. They said that it felt comfortable and looked great. The question arises of how they were able to get such excellent performance with just minimum specifications?
Renauld said, “Lucky for us, there have been some pretty huge advances in software to help out.” He further explained that “Game engines are doing things like instanced rendering that checks both displays and is able to reduce the number of things that need to be rendered twice. Lots of cooperation between the major display drivers, game engines and HMD [head mounted display] manufacturers on the software side allow us to do things that would be impossible if we were just pushing the raw images from the computer to your eyes. So, in the end, you’re getting more power than you paid for on the hardware side.”
Adam Orth, the developer of Adrift and the founder of studio Three One Zero, during an event, noticed that the game was being run on non-super powered PCs. Other developers were just happy on this achievement.
Adam Orth said, “I was surprised, pleasantly, that an off-the-shelf PC that wasn’t the highest level ran our game beautifully. I was totally psyched about.”
Oculus tested Adrift with the Rift’s minimum specifications to make sure that it ran well on it.
Orth told Polygon that “This section of the game isn’t really hitting it for us. You need to focus on that, they would say.” He further said, “It’s not a very strict process … it’s more of a feeling of everyone pitching in and rolling up their sleeves together than a Draconian ‘you must have this, this, this in order to even be considered.’ It was a very pleasant experience.”
Orth stressed that the Oculus didn’t pay any money to the developers for Airdrift, but Oculus gave guidance on many sections to the Three One Zero, that needed to be improved to run well on minimum specifications systems. It seems that if you’re unable to run your game at 90 fps on these specifications, you’re not going to take this to the official Oculus Stores.
They didn’t just test this minimum spec PC with Oculus. The SteamVR tool, that is designed for HTC Vive hardware, also put their minimum specifications system to the test. The testing didn’t find any problems that might hold their hardware back at all and they think people would have a quality experience.
They (PC Perspective and Polygon) tested the $900 PC with a number of HTC Vive games and again, they were happy with the performance. Yes, you can drop below the minimum 90-frames per second, and can increase settings on some games. With their build, you are going to have a workable virtual reality system.
So these are the things that they were able to achieve by targeting the minimum specifications that are listed for Oculus Rift: A system that would run both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets with quality. You can feel the limit of components if you want to get aggressive with some game’s settings. But for the games that don’t offer you any options or on the recommended settings, you will have an awesome experience.
That’s one of the important facts about this PC: You can push some of the games past their limits, but there will still be enough power to give you a very pleasant and entertaining time in virtual reality.
PC Perspective and Polygon decided to try their hands at creating a higher priced PC after they tested this minimum requirement PC that they built.
So, what to do if you need something more than minimum specs? That’s the reason that they created their $2,500 gaming PC. Take a look below what components we used, and the results on testing.
Now, there the choices get more interesting. They chose a Haswell-E chip. In PC Perspective’s words…
“We have moved our $2,500 build to the Haswell-E platform, which is an enthusiast design that comes from the realm of workstation products. The processor that we used is Core i7-5930K, which is a 6-core processor with the Hyper-Threading technology, that allows for 12 addressable threads. Because we want to target this build for virtual reality gaming so we moved to this processor is to get better performance for other tasks including photo editing, video encoding and more. It supports overclocking too so if you want to increase the clock speed using the overclocking feature, you have the flexibility for that.”
It’s a processor with six cores and twelve threads. That change in the platform meant that they had to buy a more costly motherboard. But, this motherboard will enable more options for the PC to expand in the future. It also uses the quad-channel memory. That means that you have to use the four memory modules to get the desired performance. The memory is no doubt faster. They also chose one of fastest single-GPU cards available.
This PC build looks intense and it is.
So you need $2,500 in hand to get a lot of quality hardware.
Take a look below to see how these two systems compare with each other using certain benchmarks:
3DMark Fire Extreme Scores
Here the industry standards are the 3DMark benchmarks. Here we are just interested in getting some comparison between the above-mentioned two PC systems. In terms of performance, there is no doubt the most expensive system is going to be far better than the PC created to hit the minimum specification system for virtual reality.
3D Mark Fire Strike Ultra Scores
You can see a pretty nice leap here in terms of overall performance. From the Oculus point of view, both systems got all green check marks, in other words, they both worked effectively.
Steam VR Scores
11 is the highest rating you can achieve on Steam VR. The minimum spec PC got a score of 7.10, which puts it right in the good section of the Steam VR application. The higher end PC got a score of 11. So, that means that both systems will be more than powerful enough to work well with the HTC Vive.
It’s true that maximizing out the graphical settings in virtual reality is pretty awesome, even if you look silly while playing it.
At least, for the virtual reality, it is also a bit over the top. While you are paying a lot of money for these parts, the rewards of graphics for most of the virtual reality games diminish pretty quickly. If you decide to build your PC to work with VR, what you’re paying for is the act of future proofing your system, to make sure that the games with a more aggressive higher end to their settings that are going to release in the coming few years from now will still run well on your build.
But do you want that high-end build?
Orth said, “I think honestly if you’re interested in VR, you’re probably going to be building a new PC next year too.” He further said that “The processor power is going to increase, but the price is going to go down. It’s kind of a weird time. If you build a mega-PC right now, I’m sure it’s going to support what VR will be next year, but you’ll probably be able to build that mega-PC next year for less money, or for more performance.”
Ortho also noted that in terms of what the developers are offering graphically, they were playing it conservatively, to ensure sure that games run well on the lower end of PCs as well. For instance, In the Oculus Rift version of Adrift, there are higher graphical options available. Three One Zero has not turned them on yet, but it may do so in the coming months.
It is possible that you are going to need a PC as powerful as their $2,500 build with the release of more games in the future, but it’s widely thought that the realistic price point for a great PC for VR will end up being somewhere in the middle, close to the $1,500 mark.
What is good about their results is that, although the hobby of virtual reality is an expensive one and it is in the early stages of development, people can get a fun virtual reality experience out of a system under the mark of $1,000. Any addition above that, for now, seems unnecessary, especially when you consider that the cost is most likely going to come down and the performance is most likely going to go up.
In conclusion, it’s good news that you might be able to get away with a PC that works well with VR for less money than you might have originally thought you would need to spend.