Buying Guides Gaming

The Best PCs for Virtual Reality

Mihir Patkar 02-08-2016

In 2016, consumers can choose between two different VR headsets: the Oculus Rift, or a new contender that changed things up: HTC teamed up with Steam VR HTC Vive Review: Virtual Reality is Finally a Thing The HTC Vive for Steam VR redefines gaming, and more besides. It's the closest thing to a Holodeck I've ever seen. And it's absolutely incredible. Read More . But what’s the best machine to power your VR headset?


In general, we think you don’t need desktop computers anymore 5 Reasons Why You Don't Need a Desktop PC Anymore When you hear the word "computer", your first image is probably that of a desktop machine. It's iconic, but perhaps outdated. Here are reasons why you probably don't need one anymore. Read More , but these are still your cheapest options if you want a PC that can play VR games. You see, virtual reality requires a lot more horsepower than the average PC, so you need good dedicated parts.


So we set about looking for the best VR-ready PCs you can buy. Thankfully, in the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive battle Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive vs. Playstation VR: Which Should You Buy? Virtual reality is right around the corner and there are three systems to choose from. Here's what you need to know to make an informed, smart decision. Read More , your hardware requirements are the same. Here’s what both recommend as your minimum specs:

  • Video Card: Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or AMD FX-8350 equivalent or greater
  • RAM: 8GB RAM or greater
  • Video Output: HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Operating System (OS): Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

Some PC makers already offer ready-made units with these specifications, but as always with high-end gaming rigs, it’ll be cheaper to build your own.

Our Recommended Config (Under $850)

Don’t buy into the silly fears about building a PC 6 Fears & Myths About Building Your Own PC to Ignore There are many misconceptions out there when it comes to building a PC from scratch -- and a lot of those myths just aren't true anymore. Read More ; you can quickly assemble your own unit, and it will cost far, far less than buying any pre-made branded unit.


We scouted some of the configurations recommended by reviewers and tech enthusiasts, and found a mid-range pick that we believe offers the best value for your money:

  • CPU: 3.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 4590
  • Motherboard: ASRock H97M Anniversary Edition
  • RAM: 8GB (2x4GB) G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3 (2133MHz)
  • Video Card: Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 480 with 4GB RAM ($219)
  • SSD: 64GB A-DATA Premier Pro SP600
  • HDD: 2TB Seagate Barracuda
  • Cabinet: DIYPC GameMax-BK
  • PSU: 500W Corsair Builder (80+ Bronze)
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Total cost: $834.15

These prices are based on automatically building this PC Save Time & Money! The 4 Best Sites For Automatically Building a PC WARNING! Building a PC can cause the following symptoms - despair, rage, violence against inanimate objects, poverty, feelings of regret and worthlessness, depression and suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, websites exist that take the pain out of... Read More with PCPartPicker. Here’s a direct link to the part list.

The newly released Radeon RX 480 series of graphics cards has been receiving rave reviews for its ability to crunch virtual reality games on a budget. Heck, it made a three-year-old PC VR-ready. With an average price of $200, it seems like the best option to get a VR-ready graphics card without breaking the bank for an Nvidia GTX 1080 or even the GTX 1070.

At the time of writing, the Nvidia GTX 1060 is just hitting the aisles (especially with models from third-party manufacturers) and tests so far indicate the Radeon RX 480 offers better value. Both these cards are noted to be great for Full HD, but might struggle with 4K resolution.


As for the other specifications, the Core i5-4590 is going to be good enough for most VR games. The SSD is only for the operating system, so it’s optional, but we highly recommend it instead of an HDD alone. And nothing so far indicates that you need more than 8GB of RAM unless you have plans to Alt+Tab a VR game in the middle of playing it.

Plus, you could probably make this even cheaper with Kannon’s tips to get the best deals on PC parts Building A PC? How To Get The Best Deals On Parts Building your own computer and want to get the best deals? You need a strategy that can score red-hot sales before they sell out. My preferred method uses a multi-spectrum approach. Read More .

Budget Buy: Dell XPS 8900 SE

Dell XPS x8900-3760BLK Tower Desktop (Intel Core i5-6400 2.7GHz Processor, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, Windows 10) Black Dell XPS x8900-3760BLK Tower Desktop (Intel Core i5-6400 2.7GHz Processor, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, Windows 10) Black Buy Now On Amazon $1,499.77

The Dell XPS 8900 SE meets the exact minimum specifications required by the Rift and is officially recommended by Oculus. It’s the cheapest PC to get that certification.


There is nothing remarkable about this one, and it looks exactly like any other PC you might buy. Here’s a quick rundown of the salient specs:

  • CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 (2133 MHz)
  • Graphics: 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
  • Storage: 1TB HDD

By itself, the XPS 8900 SE retails at $1,199, but it’s currently discounted by $200, making it the only off-the-shelf VR-ready PC that you can buy for less than a thousand bucks. For $999, this is the budget choice, but you’ll do better if you build your own instead.


In fact, if you live in the US, you can get a better system for much cheaper if you’re willing to ignore the Dell brand. For example, CyberPowerPC’s AMD Six Core Configurator costs $795, is VR-ready, has an SSD+HDD combination, comes with the RX 480 graphics card, and raises the RAM to 16GB.


The Big Boy: Acer Predator G6

Acer Predator AG6-710-70002 Gaming Desktop (6th Gen Intel Core i7, Windows 10, 16GB DDR4, NVIDIA GTX 980) Acer Predator AG6-710-70002 Gaming Desktop (6th Gen Intel Core i7, Windows 10, 16GB DDR4, NVIDIA GTX 980) Buy Now On Amazon

Acer’s Predator series is known for being optimized for gaming, with several professional gamers using these as their rig. The Predator G6 is what you need for a high-end VR gaming unit right now, which will still stay relevant for a couple of years.

While we believe you shouldn’t future-proof your PC 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Future-Proof Your PC Is future-proofing your PC ever a good idea? Here are several reasons why you might want to reconsider. Read More , the Predator G6 tries its best to give you peace of mind. Here are the salient specs:

  • CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2133 MHz)
  • Graphics: 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980
  • SSD: 256GB
  • HDD: 2TB

The Predator series comes with a few gamer-centric tweaks built into it. For example, the top of the cabinet has a Turbo button that you can push to overclock your CPU for maximum performance while gaming. Then there’s the packaged Steel Series gaming keyboard and gaming mouse The Ultimate List of Gift Ideas Under $100 for PC Gamers So you have a friend or family member who loves PC gaming and it's up to you to find a gift on a $100 budget? No problem! Read More , which saves you a few bucks once again.

And let’s face it, that tyre-like chassis looks pretty darn cool, doesn’t it?

VR-Ready HTPC: Origin Chronos VR ($1750-$3050)

Virtual Reality gaming requires a little space to play when you’re actually wearing the headset and moving around. For a lot of people, that means your VR gaming PC should sit in the living room. You can’t have a big ugly computer cabinet in your entertainment center, can you? Well, you don’t need to, thanks to Origin’s Chronos PC.

This tiny, gorgeous box made it to our list of the best mini PCs you can buy The Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More With Windows, Android, or Chrome OS Want a smaller computer? Check out the mini-PC. Recent technological advancements have made computers smaller than ever before. And they're slowly replacing old-fashioned desktops. We've got 10 of the best models. Read More , and why wouldn’t it? Origin lets you customize every aspect of the configuration, and can even fit in a Nvidia GTX 1080 card. It has a custom liquid cooling system that keeps high-performance parts running smoothly without an issue. And it can be placed vertically or horizontally, which makes it easy to fit into existing entertainment centers. Also, you are likely to use this with your TV, so you save on the cost of a monitor as well.

Here’s the Origin-recommended configuration for the Chronos VR, which totals up to just above $3,000. That might be overkill though, so feel free to customize it as you see fit:

  • CPU: 4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7-6700K
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2666 MHz)
  • Graphics: 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition
  • SSD: 256GB
  • HDD: 2TB


The only issue with the Chronos is that it’s not as easy to upgrade as a normal PC, and for certain parts, you might have to ship it back to Origin to add upgraded hardware. So yes, you get a top-of-the-line system in a small box that looks good enough to sit in your living room. But you’ll have to compromise on the DIY part slightly.

What’s The Best Monitor for VR?

All of the ready-made gaming PCs come with Windows 10 preloaded, while you’ll have to buy it separately if you’re building your own rig. Windows 10 is better for gaming Gaming On Windows 7: Do You Need to Upgrade? Windows 10 and Windows 7 are the most popular operating systems among gamers. But is one better than the other? Here are the pros and cons of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Read More , so we’d suggest getting that instead of Windows 7 or 8, or upgrading.

The Rift or the Vive is a headset for the virtual reality experience, but you need a regular monitor for everyday computing. So at the end of this article, you probably know which VR-ready PC you will be buying or building, but do you have any recommendations for what’s the best monitor to go with this?

Also, while we’re talking VR headsets, let’s find out where we MakeUseOf readers stand. Are you #TeamOculus or #TeamVive?

Related topics: Gaming Consoles, PC, Virtual Reality.

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