The entry point for PC VR

Looking to build a new PC for VR gaming at the minimum budget? We have you covered!

Early this year I started getting request after request for hardware suggestions for upcoming PC builds for VR. The excitement surrounding the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive has caught fire across all spectrums of technology, from PC enthusiasts to gaming enthusiasts to just those of you interested in a technology that has been "right around the corner" for decades. The requests for build suggestions spanned our normal readership as well as those that had previously only focused on console gaming, and thus the need for a selection of build guides began.

Looking for all of the PC Perspective Spring 2016 VR guides?

This build will focus on the $900 price point for a complete PC. Months and months ago, when Palmer Lucky started discussing pricing for the Rift, he mentioned a "total buy in cost of $1500." When it was finally revealed that the purchase price for the retail Rift was $599, the math works out to include a $900 PC. 

With that in mind, let's jump right into the information you are looking for: the components we recommend.

VR Build Guide
$900 Spring 2016
Component Link B&H Photo Link
Processor Intel Core i5-6500 $204 $204
Motherboard Gigabyte H170-Gaming 3 $94  
Memory 8GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR4-2400 $43  
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Superclock $309 $334
Storage 250GB Samsung 850 EVO
Seagate 2TB Barracuda
Power Supply EVGA 500 watt 80+ Bronze $49  
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $29 $28
Case Corsair SPEC-01 Red $52 $69
Total Price   Full cart - $939  

For those of you interested in a bit more details on the why of the parts selection, rather than just the what, I have some additional information for you.

Starting at the beginning, the Core i5-6500 is a true quad-core processor that slightly exceeds the minimum specificaiton requirement from Oculus. It is based on the Skylake architecture so you are getting Intel's latest architecture and it is unlikely that you'll find an instance where any PC game, standard or VR, will require more processor horsepower. The motherboard from Gigabyte is based on the H170 chipset, which is lower cost but offers fewer features than Z170-class products. But for a gamer, the result will be nearly identical - stock performance and features are still impressive. 8GB of DDR4 memory should be enough as well for gaming and decent PC productivity.

Looking to build a PC for the very first time, or need a refresher? You can find our recent step-by-step build videos to help you through the process right here!!

The GPU is still the most important component of any VR system, and with the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 selection here we are reaching the recommended specifications from Oculus and HTC/Valve. The Maxwell 2.0 architecture that the GTX 970 is based on launched in late 2014 and was very well received. The equivalent part from the AMD spectrum is the Radeon R9 290/390, so you are interested in that you can find some here.

Storage is being dual-wielded here with a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SATA SSD and a 2TB hard drive from Seagate. Building a gaming PC today without an SSD of some type and capacity is a poor decision - the speed difference you get with Windows start time and game loads is absolutely noticeable. But since the 250GB capacity will only hold 5-8 PC games (if we estimate around 30GB each on average) you will want to larger, lower cost storage for other games and for media.

The power supply and CPU cooler are pretty standard units that are known for quality and performance. Finally, picking a case for a build is always a task - so much of it comes down to style and preference. The Corsair SPEC-01 is a solid selection for about $50 that offers a decent feature set, is easy to build in, and looks good at the same time. 

Our total price? $939 at the time of this writing, in line with expectations and in line with what Oculus set out as a goal months back. How does it perform?

Performance Results

You won't find a deep dive of performance testing in this VR build guide but we did want to give potential builders an idea of how this system looks. Since it meets all the recommended specificaitons from both Oculus and HTC/Valve, it should be capable of running all the launch games on either platform.

Below I have included results from 3DMark to help those hardware savvy enough to know a reference point for total system performance, the Oculus Rift compatibility tool result and a score from the Valve SteamVR performance test.

Clearly the Core i5-6500 and the GeForce GTX 970 are providing a good amount of gaming horsepower for VR gaming as well as just good-old standard gaming. We hit all the check marks on the Oculus tool and the SteamVR result is 7.1 which is well into the "Ready" category from Valve.

There you go - for just about $900 you can put together a PC to prepare for the world of VR with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, while also bringing you into a magical world of PC gaming. If you have questions about the build process, component selection or anything else, leave us a note in the comments below!