Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Various

More power for VR

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?

I have already given suggestions for a minimum specification build, with a target price of just $900, in a previous build guide. Today we are going to up the ante a bit more with some additional cash. What can we change and upgrade if given a budget of $1500 for a PC that will handle VR and standard PC gaming?

system.jpg

It turns out you can get quite a jump in performance with that added budget:

VR Build Guide
$1500 Spring 2016
Component Amazon.com Link B&H Photo Link
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K $362 $374
Motherboard MSI Z170A Gaming M5 $200 $183
Memory 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000 $79 $94
Graphics Card MSI GeForce GTX 980 Gaming 4GB $459 $466
Storage 500GB Samsung 850 EVO
Seagate 2TB Barracuda
$149
$71
$149
$71
Power Supply Seasonic X650 Gold 650 watt $129  
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $29 $28
Case Fractal Design Define S Windowed $111  
Total Price   Full cart - $1,589  

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

cpu.jpg

The Core i7-6700K is the highest end consumer processor in Intel's lineup based on the Skylake architecture. This part is a quad-core CPU with HyperThreading enabled that allows for eight threads of processing at an extremely high base clock of 4.0 GHz. Even better, because of the K-designation, if you chose to venture into the world of overclocking, you'll be able to hit 4.5-4.7 GHz with little effort. The MSI Z170A Gaming M5 motherboard has all the overclocking features you'll need to get the job done while also including support for SLI and CrossFire multi-GPU setups, USB 3.1, dual M.2 storage connections and an improved audio interface. We were able to bump from 8GB to 16GB of DDR4 memory in this budget - a benefit for more than just gaming.

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!!

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MSI is also the manufacturer of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 graphics card we have selected, a a product that is easily the most important (and most expensive) component for your gaming and VR PC. With 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 2048 CUDA processing cores and the highest level of software and driver support for modern GPUs, the GTX 980 nets you anywhere from 15-25% additional performance over the GTX 970 from our $900 VR system build. For users considering an AMD option, the Radeon R9 390X and the Radeon R9 Nano are both fantastic options as well. 

Continue reading our selections for a $1500 VR system build!!

Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Various

The entry point for PC VR

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. 

system1.jpg

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 Amazon.com 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
$88
$71
$88
$71
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.

cpu.jpg

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.

Continue reading our selections for a $900 VR PC Build!!

Podcast #391 - AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 11:07 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, XConnect, gdc 2016, Vega, Polaris, navi, razer blade, Sulon Q, Oculus, vive, raja koduri, GTX 1080, msi, vortex, Intel, skulltrail, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #391 - 03/17/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Video Perspective: Spending the day with an Oculus Rift

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 16, 2016 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: video, rift, Oculus

As part of our second day at GDC, Ken and I spent 4+ hours with Oculus during their "Game Days 2016" event, an opportunity for us to taste test games in 30 minute blocks, getting more hands on time than we ever have before. The event was perfectly organized and easy to work in, and it helps that the product is amazing as well.

oculus-rift-consumer-edition.png

Of the 40-ish games available to play, 30 of them will be available on the Rift launch day, March 28th. We were able to spend some time with the following:

We aren't game reviewers here, but we obviously have a deep interest in games, and thus, having access to these games is awesome. But more than that, access to the best software that VR will have to offer this spring is invaluable as we continue to evaluate hardware accurately for our readers. 

kitchen2.jpg

Job Simulator

Ken and I sat down after the Oculus event to talk about the games we played, the experiences we had and what input the developers had about the technical issues and concerns surrounding VR development.

Talking VR and the HTC Vive with Polygon.com's Ben Kuchera

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 8, 2016 - 10:18 PM |
Tagged: video, polygon.com, ben kuchera, VR, htc, vive, Oculus, rift

During our 12-hour live streaming event cleverly titled "Streaming Out Loud", we invited Ben Kuchera from Polygon.com to stop in and talk about a subject he is very passionate about: virtual reality. Ben has been a VR enthusiast since the beginning, getting a demo of the first Rift prototype from John Carmack himself. He was able to bring over the HTC Vive Pre unit to the office for some show and tell, answer questions about the experiences he has had so far, hardware requirements and much more.

Podcast #388 - Samsung SSD T3, Logitech G933 and G633, Vulkan on Android, HTC Vive Pricing and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2016 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: YOGA 710, YOGA 510, vulkan, VR, vive, video, T3, T1, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, Oculus, MWC 2016, logitech, LG G5, Lenovo, htc, galaxy s7, G933, G633

PC Perspective Podcast #388 - 02/25/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung SSD T3, Logitech G933 and G633, Vulkan on Android, HTC Vive Pricing and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:42:11

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:41:35 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  3. News items of interest:
    1. MWC News!
      1. 0:48:30 Lenovo
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Use PAR files? Get MultiPar. (PAR3 support!)
    2. Sebastian: Running PS2 games at high res with PCSX2 Version 1.4
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Valve Releases SteamVR Performance Test - Is Your Rig Ready?

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 22, 2016 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: vive, valve, steamvr, steam, rift, performance test, Oculus, htc

Though I am away from my stacks of hardware at the office attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Valve dropped a bomb on us today in the form of a new hardware performance test that gamers can use to determine if they are ready for the SteamVR revolution. The aptly named "SteamVR Performance Test" is a free title available through Steam that any user can download and run to get a report card on their installed hardware. No VR headset required!

And unlike the Oculus Compatibility Checker, the application from Valve runs actual game content to measure your system. Oculus' app only looks at the hardware on your system for certification, not taking into account the performance of your system in any way. (Overclockers and users with Ivy Bridge Core i7 processors have been reporting failed results on the Oculus test for some time.)

screen1.jpg

The SteamVR Performance Test runs a set of scenes from the Aperture Science Robot Repair demo, an experience developed directly for the HTC Vive and one that I was able to run through during CES last month. Valve is using a very interesting new feature called "dynamic fidelity" that adjusts image quality of the game in a way to avoid dropped frames and frame rates under 90 FPS in order to maintain a smooth and comfortable experience for the VR user. Though it is the first time I have seen it used, it sounds similar to what John Carmack did with the id Tech 5 engine, attempting to balance performance on hardware while maintaining a targeted frame rate.

The technology could be a perfect match for VR content where frame rates above or at the 90 FPS target are more important than visual fidelity (in nearly all cases). I am curious to see how Valve may or may not pursue and push this technology in its own games and for the Vive / Rift in general. I have some questions pending with them, so we'll see what they come back with.

fury.png

A result for a Radeon R9 Fury provided by AMD

Valve's test offers a very simple three tiered breakdown for your system: Not Ready, Capable and Ready. For a more detailed explanation you can expand on the data to see metrics like the number of frames you are CPU bound on, frames below the very important 90 FPS mark and how many frames were tested in the run. The Average Fidelity metric is the number that we are reporting below and essentially tells us "how much quality" the test estimates you can run at while maintaining that 90 FPS mark. What else that fidelity result means is still unknown - but again we are trying to find out. The short answer is that the higher that number goes, the better off you are, and the more demanding game content you'll be able to run at acceptable performance levels. At least, according to Valve.

screen2.jpg

Because I am not at the office to run my own tests, I decided to write up this story using results from a third part. That third party is AMD - let the complaining begin. Obviously this does NOT count as independent testing but, in truth, it would be hard to cheat on these results unless you go WAY out of your way to change control panel settings, etc. The demo is self run and AMD detailed the hardware and drivers used in the results.

  • Intel i7-6700K
  • 2x4GB DDR4-2666 RAM
  • Z170 motherboard
  • Radeon Software 16.1.1
  • NVIDIA driver 361.91
  • Win10 64-bit

GPU Score
2x Radeon R9 Nano 11.0
GeForce GTX 980 Ti 11.0
Radeon R9 Fury X 9.6
Radeon R9 Fury 9.2
GeForce GTX 980 8.1
Radeon R9 Nano 8.0
Radeon R9 390X 7.8
Radeon R9 390 7.0
GeForce GTX 970 6.5

These results were provided by AMD in an email to the media. Take that for what you will until we can run our own tests.

First, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti is the highest performing single GPU tested, with a score of 11 - because of course it goes to 11. The same score is reported on the multi-GPU configuration with two Radeon R9 Nanos so clearly we are seeing a ceiling of this version of the SteamVR Performance Test. With a single GPU score of 9.2, that is only a 19% scaling rate, but I think we are limited by the test in this case. Either way, it's great news to see that AMD has affinity multi-GPU up and running, utilizing one GPU for each eye's rendering. (AMD pointed out that users that want to test the multi-GPU implementation will need to add the -multigpu launch option.) I still need to confirm if GeForce cards scale accordingly. UPDATE: Ken at the office ran a quick check with a pair of GeForce GTX 970 cards with the same -multigpu option and saw no scaling improvements. It appears NVIDIA has work to do here.

Moving down the stack, its clear why AMD was so excited to send out these early results. The R9 Fury X and R9 Fury both come out ahead of the GeForce GTX 980 while the R9 Nano, R9 390X and R9 390 result in better scores than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 970. This comes as no surprise - AMD's Radeon parts tend to offer better performance per dollar when it comes to benchmarks and many games.

badresult2.jpg

There is obviously a lot more to consider than the results this SteamVR Performance Test provides when picking hardware for a VR system, but we are glad to see Valve out in front of the many, many questions that are flooding forums across the web. Is your system ready??

Source: Valve

MWC 16: HTC Vive Launches in April for $799 USD

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 08:27 PM |
Tagged: MWC, mwc 16, valve, htc, vive, Oculus

Valve and HTC announced that the Vive consumer edition will be available in April for $799 USD, with pre-orders beginning on February 29th. Leave it to Valve to launch a product on a date that doesn't always exist. The system comes with the headset, two VR controllers, and two sensors. The unit will have “full commercial availability” when it launches in April, but that means little if it sells out instantly. There's no way to predict that.

The announcement blog post drops a subtle jab at Oculus. “Vive will be delivered as a complete kit” seems to refer to the Oculus Touch controllers being delayed (and thus not in the hands of every user). This also makes me think about the price. The HTC Vive costs $200 more than the Oculus Rift. That said, it also has the touch controllers, which could shrink that gap. It also does not come with a standard gamepad, like Oculus does, although that's just wasted money if you already have one.

htc-valve-2016-viveset.png

Unlike the Oculus, which has its own SDK, the Vive is powered by SteamVR. Most engines and middleware that support one seem to support both, so I'm not sure if this will matter. It could end up blocking content in an HD-DVD vs BluRay fashion. Hopefully Valve/HTC and Oculus/Facebook, or every software vendor on an individual basis, works through these interoperability concerns and create an open platform. Settling on a standard tends to commoditize industries, but that will eventually happen to VR at some point anyway. Hopefully, if it doesn't happen sooner, cross-compatibility at least happens then.

EVGA Releases GeForce GTX 980 Ti VR Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 10, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive vr, Oculus, evga, 980 Ti

You might wonder what makes a graphics card “designed for VR,” but this is actually quite interesting. Rather than plugging your headset into the back of your desktop, EVGA includes a 5.25” bay that provides 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x HDMI 2.0 connection. The use case is that some users will want to easily connect and disconnect their VR devices, which, knowing a few indie VR developers, seems to be a part of their workflow. The same may be true of gamers, but I'm not sure.

evga-2016-980Ti-VR-Header_BG.jpg

While the bay allows for everything, including the HDMI plug via an on-card port, to be connected internally, you will need a spare USB 3.0 header on your motherboard to hook it up. It would have been interesting to see whether EVGA could have attached a USB 3.0 controller on the add-in board, but that might have been impossible (or unpractical) given that the PCIe connector would need to be shared with the GPU (not to mention the complexity of also adding a USB 3.0 controller to the board). Also, I expect motherboards should have at least one. If not, you can find USB 3.0 add-in cards with internal headers.

evga-2016-980ti.jpg

The card comes in two sub-versions, one with the NVIDIA-style blower cooler, and the other with EVGA's ACX 2.0+ cooler. I tend to prefer exposed fan GPUs because they're easier to blow air into after a few years, but you might have other methods to control dust.

Both are currently available for $699.99 on Newegg.com, while Amazon only lists the ACX2.0+ cooler version, and that's out of stock. It is also $699.99, though, so that should be what to expect.

Source: EVGA

Oculus Ready PC Pre-orders Announced, Include Rift Bundle

Subject: Systems | February 10, 2016 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, rift, preorder, Oculus, gaming pc

Oculus has announced an upcoming pre-order date for 'Oculus Ready PCs' from mainstream manufacturers, and these will be bundled with the Rift VR headset (and everything that comes with it).

oculus_ready_pcs_hero.jpg

(Image credit: Oculus)

“Today we’re excited to introduce the first Oculus Ready PCs from ASUS, Alienware, and Dell! These PCs have been battle tested and certified by Oculus to deliver an incredible Rift experience. We’re also thrilled to announce that starting February 16 at 8am Pacific Time, you can pre-order Oculus Ready PC and Rift bundles from Best Buy, Amazon, and theMicrosoft Store, starting at $1499 USD for a limited time only.

All bundles include an Oculus-certified PC and everything that comes with Rift – the headset, sensor, remote, an Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack, and Lucky’s Tale!

Pre-orders for Oculus Ready and Rift bundles will ship in limited quantities to select countries and regions from retail partners starting in April.”

So what kind of gaming system are you getting for $1499? Of the ‘Oculus Ready’ PCs, the baseline specs across the board are an Intel Core i5-6400 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 GPU, along with 8 GB of system memory. This is in keeping with Oculus’ published specifications from last summer: “The recommended PC specification is an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM."

Including the Rift VR bundle makes the price tag sound a lot nicer for what is otherwise a pretty basic gaming setup, as Rift costs $599 on its own. Still, is it worth $900 for a Core i5/GTX 970 gaming system? Factoring in a Windows license and all parts it's not a terrible value proposition, though most early adopters of this VR tech will likely not be starting completely from scratch.

A quick check on Amazon for the first system bundle listed shows “Currently Unavailable”, as pre-orders begin February 16 at 8:00am PST. You’ll be waiting even longer to have product in hand as the actual release date is April 23.

Source: Oculus