Building my (budget) VR dream machine

I pre-ordered the Oculus Rift thinking it would take months to get it only to have it arrive before I had the computer to power it. While it would be great to run a top notch VR experience from my MacBook, the reality is that you need a pretty beefy Windows-based PC to play in the VR world.

So I started to look-into different options. To get a true beast of a machine I would have to spend upwards of $3,000 which seems a bit crazy given that these are still the early days of VR. I dug a bit deeper and learned that for around $1,500 you can build a pretty solid, albeit budget, VR PC. While there are some compromises that have to be made, if you build the computer yourself you can decide what those compromises are.

First things first. If you’ve never built a computer before I’m happy to let you know that in all actually it’s not that hard. I have built a computer before and while you couldn’t guess your way through the process, it’s far from rocket science. That being said, it is important that you are very careful when picking components and when installing critical things like your CPU.

The great thing about a PC is that you can also swap out some parts like your video card, RAM, hard drive, etc. very easily which means you can start with something that’s pretty good, and upgrade to something awesome later down the road. For me the two things I don’t want to compromise on are the CPU and the motherboard.

Here’s my logic. Yes, I need a solid video card, and I can start with a good one that will provide a great VR experience and later down the road if I want to, I can easily upgrade to a better one, and the better one will be even cheaper the longer I wait. If I pick a wimpy CPU or a cheap motherboard I have to change out a lot more in the future, essentially requiring me to disassemble the whole PC to swap out the parts.

So what did I pick?

For a CPU I went with the Intel i7 6700K, it’s more than Oculus requires (they’re fine with an i5) but I also know this CPU will still be a beast a year from now. For a motherboard a picked an MSI Motherboard (this one) which has incredible ratings on both Tom’s Hardware and Amazon.com. It’s double the price of a regular motherboard but it has more features, a better bios, and significantly more durability which means it will also live a long life.

I’m still picking the graphics card and while the GTX 1080 is without a doubt the best of the best, I’m looking at a GTX 1070 or 1060 to start. From what I’ve heard both of these cards offer more than enough horsepower for a high frame rate VR experience when paired with a good CPU and fast RAM.

The rest of the components don’t really have any cost issues associated with them. RAM is less than $100, a nice solid state drive is under $200 and a case is only as expensive as you want it to be, mostly based on aesthetics vs. functionality.

Once everything is built I’ll share the full specs and for anyone who happens to be visiting Austin, consider this an early open invitation to try it out in the new VR room we’re creating in our apartment. Yes, I’m a huge geek but something tells me if you’ve read this far, you are too!

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Robert November 2, 2016, 2:26 am

    Hi Morgan,

    Nice reading you are VR fan, but I cant believe you would not register any VR domain name.I know this is not about this article, its about building your first VRPC. We have on NP a strong community of VR domainers. Do you have registered or bought any VR domains ? I presume it would be good next article topic if you have some.

    Reply
  • joe November 2, 2016, 8:56 am

    That craze for such a simple thing as virtual reality, always think the opposite of what they do to you to buy this and all do the same think in reverse to reset your mind and do yoga.

    Search and make as keywords.

    Reply

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