How To Build A Custom PC VR Rig

How to Build a Custom VR Ready Rig

Virtual reality is a fantastic new dimension to PC gaming. Desktop computers have always had the edge over game consoles when it comes to processing power, and now that can be utilized to the benefit of VR duties.

And that’s certainly a good thing because virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC require powerful computers to work.

You can get some really good deals on gaming PCs from popular names such as ASUS, Alienware and Dell. But there’s always a price premium involved with these pre-built PCs.

If you’re handy with a screwdriver, why not build your VR PC?

We have already delved into a budget VR build and in this article, we will be discussing what your other options are.

How to Build a Custom VR Ready Rig

How to Build a Custom VR Ready Rig

Budget VR Build ($700)

Spending 700 dollars will get you the components necessary for satisfying the absolute minimum requirements for VR gaming.

You’ll be able to play older games at medium settings and most modern games at reduced graphics settings. But this will still be a very powerful PC, so when you’re outside VR, you’ll be playing the same games at high settings.

CPU Intel Pentium G4560 $84
GPU Nvidia GTX 1060 mini (3GB VRAM) $199
Motherboard MSI B250M Pro-VD $65.99
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD $49
Power supply 430W EVGA W1 $35
RAM 8 GB DDR4 $86
Case Rosewill Galaxy-01 $49.99
CPU Cooler Stock
Operating system Windows 10 Home $109.99

The beauty of this system is that it is infinitely upgradeable. So if you need to swap in a more powerful CPU or GPU, all you need is money and a screwdriver!

Mainstream VR Build ($1200)

This build utilizes some of the components that are recommended by Oculus for a smooth and lag-free VR experience.

However, a key component, the GPU, has been upgraded to a much more powerful one. The Geforce GTX 1070 included in this build is a graphics powerhouse that can power most modern games at high settings in VR.

What’s more, since it’s not recommended to play games with VR headsets for more than 40 minutes in a single sitting, you’ll get to experience absolutely top-notch graphics performance when playing on a traditional LED monitor at high resolutions.

CPU Intel Core i5-7500 $189
GPU Nvidia GTX 1070 8 GB VRAM $440
Motherboard ASRock H270 Pro4 $89.99
Storage Seagate Barracuda 2TB HDD $67
Power supply EVGA GQ 650W $76
RAM 16 GB DDR4 $157
Case Rosewill Galaxy-01 $50
CPU Cooler Stock
Operating system Windows 10 $109.99

Recommended VR Build ($1500)

The Recommended VR Build is for people who want the assurance that their PC will be able to handle VR games for the next couple of years.

This build enables you to play most modern titles at very high settings at a smooth 90FPS while in VR mode.

The added cost isn’t drastic compared to the Mainstream VR Build, yet the performance gains will be significant thanks to the Geforce GTX 1080.

Because this is going to the choice for serious gamers, we’re also including a higher wattage power supply unit that will be able to handle a more powerful GPU if the user wishes to do so.

CPU Intel Core i5-7500 $189
GPU Nvidia GTX 1080 8 GB VRAM $520
Motherboard ASRock H270 Pro4 $89.99
Storage Seagate Barracuda 2TB HDD $67
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2 $139
RAM 32 GB DDR4 $323
Case Rosewill Galaxy-01 $50
CPU Cooler Stock
Operating system Windows 10 $109.99

Hardcore VR Build ($2000)

The Hardcore VR Build is for gamers who’d like to use their PC for productivity purposes as well.

For this, we’ve upgraded the processor to a more powerful Core i7-7800X which comes with 6 cores. The GPU used is the new Nvidia GTX 1080Ti, a bargain considering the performance gains over its 1080 sibling.

We can see how $500 spent over the Recommended VR Build yields much more powerful components that will allow for the absolute peak in VR gaming.

Achieving 90 FPS with the maximum graphics options in modern VR games will be no problem for this system.

CPU Intel Core i7-7800X 6-core $359
GPU Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti 11 GB VRAM $749
Motherboard MSI X299 SLI Plus $219
Storage Seagate Barracuda 2TB HDD $67
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2 $139
RAM 32 GB DDR4 $323
Case Rosewill Galaxy-01 $50
CPU Cooler Stock
Operating system Windows 10 $109.99

This build will power any upcoming VR games at full graphics settings while maintaining the sweet spot of 90FPS. If VR is something you get tired of, then this PC will easily handle games for the coming 3-4 years at high resolutions.

Understanding VR’s Processing Requirements

As mentioned earlier, driving VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift will require a very powerful PC. And that really is a requirement.

Why a powerful PC? That’s simple. The Rift comes with a 2160×1200 display that needs to output content at a minimum of 90 frames per second. By any standards, that’s a tall order.

If your VR frame rate drops below 90, you’re bound to experience nausea.

And that’s not even the whole story. VR headsets also need to render what’s called an “eye buffer” which means rendering at a resolution that’s higher than the display’s capability.

The purpose of the eye buffer is to compensate for the distortion of the headset’s extreme field of view. What that means is that the true rendering requirements of the VR headset are 90 frames per second at a resolution of 3024×1680 pixels. And that’s a lot.

To further complicate matters and drive up processing requirements, each of the two VR headset displays need to render a game scene from slightly different angles. This is known as “stereo rendering” and puts quite a strain on the computer’s processor and GPU.

In the worst case scenario, stereo rendering will cause the GPU to work twice as hard as compared to rendering the same game scene at a similar resolution from just one angle.

Project Cars 2 - Building a custom VR Rig

Let’s also consider for a second the most demanding scenario in traditional PC gaming today: 4K gaming at 60 FPS.

Anyone who knows even a little about PC gaming knows that 4K is all the rage today. But despite that, few PC gamers actually possess the hardware required for smooth and lag-free 4K gaming.

That’s because compared to older standards such as 1080p@60FPS, 4K gaming is several multiples ahead in terms of processing requirements.

To put that into perspective, here are the pixel processing requirements of some gaming standards:

  • 1080p @ 60FPS: 124 million pixels/second
  • 4K @ 60FPS: 498 million pixels/second
  • Oculus Rift or HTC Vive display @ 90FPS: 457 million pixels/second

As you can see, VR headsets require almost the same amount of processing power as a 4K monitor running at a much lower 60Hz. However, once you factor in stereo rendering, expect the requirements to fluctuate to almost double.

Keeping that in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that running modern games at the maximum settings in VR would require even more processing power than 4K gaming.

That is no easy feat, and that is why a VR gaming rig will always be a hefty investment.

Wrap Up

Virtual reality is a completely new way to play your favourite games. Fortunately, computer hardware is finally catching up to the intimidating requirements of VR gaming.

From the builds discussed above, you can see that even a meagre 700 dollars will buy you enough processing muscle to power VR games at medium settings. Modern games look so good that even medium settings are sure to give you a visually impressive experience.

Have you ordered your custom VR rig? Make sure that you know how to assemble it.

The real benefit of a custom VR rig is that you can upgrade the components as you see fit. Spending a couple of hundred dollars more will get you higher visual settings and even better frame rates.

What’s more, a VR gaming rig will always be powerful so it can be used for productivity tasks as well, as opposed to gaming consoles that can only be used to play games.

If you don’t have a VR headset yet, take a look at our picks on the most beginner friendly VR headsets.

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