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VR System Build Guide Spring 2016: High End at $2500

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Manufacturer: Various

A system worthy of 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 launched build guides for $900 and $1500 price points earlier in the week, but today we look at the flagship option, targeting a budget of $2500. Though this is a pricey system that should not be undertaken lightly, it is far from a "crazy expensive" build with multiple GPUs, multiple CPUs or high dollar items unnecessary for gaming and VR.

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

VR Build Guide
$2500 Spring 2016
Component Amazon.com Link B&H Photo Link
Processor Intel Core i7-5930K $527 $578
Motherboard ASUS X99-A USB 3.1 $264 $259
Memory Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB DDR4-3000 $169  
Graphics Card ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX $659 $669
Storage 512GB Samsung 950 Pro
Western Digital Red 4TB
$326
$180
$322
$154
Power Supply Corsair HX750i Platinum $144 $149
CPU Cooler Corsair H100i v2 $107 $107
Case Corsair Carbide 600C $149 $141
Total Price   Full cart - $2,519  

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.

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Unlike the previous two builds that used Intel's consumer Skylake processors, our $2500 build moves to the Haswell-E platform, an enthusiast design that comes from the realm of workstation products. The Core i7-5930K is a 6-core processor with HyperThreading, allowing for 12 addressable threads. Though we are targeting this machine for VR gaming, the move to this processor will mean better performance for other tasks as well including video encoding, photo editing and more. It's unlocked too - so if you want to stretch that clock speed up via overclocking, you have the flexibility for that.

Update: Several people have pointed out that the Core i7-5820K is a very similar processor to the 5930K, with a $100-150 price advantage. It's another great option if you are looking to save a bit more money, and you don't expect to want/need the additional PCI Express lanes the 5930K offers (40 lanes versus 28 lanes).

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With the transition to Haswell-E we have an ASUS X99-A USB 3.1 motherboard. This board is the first in our VR builds to support not just 2-Way SLI and CrossFire but 3-Way as well if we find that VR games and engines are able to consistently and properly integrate support for multi-GPU. This recently updated board from ASUS includes USB 3.1 support as you can tell from the name, includes 8 slots for DDR4 memory and offers enough PCIe lanes for expansion in all directions.

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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For our graphics card we have gone with the ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti Strix. The 980 Ti is the fastest single GPU solution on the market today and with 6GB of memory on-board should be able to handle anything that VR can toss at it. In terms of compute performance the 980 Ti is more than 40% faster than the GTX 980, the GPU used in our $1500 solution. The Strix integration uses a custom cooler that performs much better than the stock solution and is quieter. 

Continue reading our recommend build for a VR system with a budget of $2500!!

Another option for anyone that is interested in a front panel HDMI port: EVGA has a pair of GTX 980 Ti cards with the VR Edition label, to facilitate exactly that!

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The storage configuration gets a big upgrade here, moving from a SATA-based SSD to a Samsung 950 Pro. The 512GB drive uses PCI Express and NVMe to improve throughput to 2.5 GB/s reads and 1.5 GB/s writes, giving us blazing fast speeds for boot, game loads and more. It's definitely more expensive than the 500GB SATA options, but for a $2500 build, it seems like the logical move. I've also upgraded from a 2TB to a 4TB hard drive from Western Digital. If you have extra budget consider multiple drives in an array for redundant storage.

We've used a 750 watt Platinum rated power supply from Corsair, the HX750i, which should be enough juice to double up on the 980 Ti graphics cards while remaining efficient and quiet at modest workloads. Corsair also provides the H100i v2 all-in-one liquid cooler for the CPU as well as the 600C case, a very unique design. It's big, has tons of space for building in and rotates the motherboard / components by 180 degrees and flips it, with the window on what you might consider the "wrong" side of the case. In terms of usability it is a fantastic design and will look great on your desk or next to it.

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 exceeds all the recommended specifications 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.

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Our system screams performance on all of the tests above. The ASUS GTX 980 Ti Strix and the Core i7-5930K processor result in 3DMark FireStrike score that is 66% faster than the $900 entry priced build and 54% faster in the SteamVR Performance Test. Note that the SteamVR performance test caps at a score of 11.0 - otherwise I would expect the GTX 980 Ti to scale above that. This rig will not only be able to power every VR game and experience that is released this spring but will give you the headroom for more games with more intense and improved image quality throughout the year. 

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Clearly the $2500 system isn't going to fall in the budget window for most of our readers, but if you have the cash this is a system that will not only prepare you for the VR gaming future but will make you the envy of your friends and family. Now's the time to not just invest in VR gaming but also in the joy of PC gaming over consoles, and with the build we have outlined here, you have the flexibility to do it.


March 25, 2016 | 10:56 AM - Posted by Dr_Orgo

For anyone interested in additional PC build variations, check out PCPartPicker. It's perfect for comparing parts and completed builds.

March 25, 2016 | 11:11 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yup, love those guys. PC Hound is a new on the scene too: https://pchound.com/

March 25, 2016 | 02:15 PM - Posted by JohnGR

I see AMD's marketing doing wonders with those 12 core.... APUs. They should fix that and put those APUs in the 4 cores category.

March 28, 2016 | 11:01 PM - Posted by BlackDove (not verified)

There should be a disclaimer telling people that the 28nm GPUs being recommended here are about to be replaced by 16nm GPUs, and that the 28nm node has been in use since 2011.

Unless someone literally cant wait a few weeks for something several times faster with GDDR5X like GP104, they should avoid buying a GPU now, as its probably the worst time to do so in several years.

March 29, 2016 | 09:11 AM - Posted by JohnGR

There are many hardware parts that are not current models in the market. Just search for example the hard disk drive models that are sold. Also in the hard disk department, do you have any info, rumors, leaks about new hard drives?
What you are saying can't be done and even then, if it was done, you would be reading disclaimers all over the place.

March 29, 2016 | 05:48 PM - Posted by BlackDove (not verified)

It can and is done regularly by this, and other, tech sites. Theyve been talking about GP104 and GP100 for YEARS now, so it would be pretty stupid to buy a 28nm GPU right before theyre replaced, ESPECIALLY considering how long GP104 and GP100 have been being discussed.

March 31, 2016 | 09:58 PM - Posted by brucek2

Check out http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/ for an example of this concept done right.

For each category, they show historical data on how often generational leaps are made, when the last one was, and therefore how likely it is your investment will be obsoleted in the near / mid / long term.

Knowledgeable, connected tech journalists can't know everything but they sure might have a better sense of where any given component is in its lifespan than the average person looking for some buying advice. I am always grateful for these hints especially when its in a category I don't follow closely and may have lost track of.

March 25, 2016 | 11:24 AM - Posted by Jann5s

Wow, I was expecting SLI or Xfire for in this price range. Apparently you need even deeper pockets for that.

March 25, 2016 | 02:38 PM - Posted by funandjam

Yes you should expect sli for $2500. Here is a list that comes in right at $2506 and has dual 980TI's:

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/XpKtVn

CPU: Intel Core i7-5930K - $557
CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S 99.0 - $86
MotherBoard: Gigabyte GA-X99-SLI ATX - $134
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4 Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 - $75
Storage: SSD Mushkin ECO2 512GB - $130
Storage: HD Toshiba X300 4TB 3.5" 7200RPM - $125
VideoCards: 2 x EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Superclocked+ - $1240
Case: Cooler Master N300 - $40
PSU: EVGA 1000W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular - $120

After discounts - $2506

If you shop around, you can find even better deals.

March 25, 2016 | 03:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You should use 4 sticks of memory with an x99 platform.

March 26, 2016 | 10:18 PM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla

Filling all 4 channels doesnt make that much of difference. Even with Dual channel config x99 runs perfectly fine.

March 27, 2016 | 12:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Then why run an x99 platform? Suggesting x99 at this point, at any price range, probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If you are spending that much anyway, I would just get a 32 GB kit and be done with it.

March 25, 2016 | 07:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Shit build, and SLI for VR haha. Noob.

March 25, 2016 | 02:59 PM - Posted by x169 (not verified)

Everything that I've heard so far with dual graphics cards is that VR has problems with it at the moment.

March 25, 2016 | 05:06 PM - Posted by extide

WHere have you heard that from? Especially with AMD releasing the Radeon Pro DUO SPECIFICALLY for VR development?!

March 26, 2016 | 03:09 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It may work very well in some cases, but defiantly not all, at least not yet. This is why AMD is pushing multi-GPU development programs. Also, the die sizes at these smaller processes is going to be limited, so multi-GPU set-ups will probably be much more common in the next few years. I don't know if there will be much advantage to multi-GPU set-ups explicitly for VR. The early titles seem to be very limited with little to no options to increase quality. If you happen to have a 4K display for your main display, then it could come in handy when you are not in VR. 4K displays will be much more common in the next few years also.

March 25, 2016 | 12:12 PM - Posted by chlamchowder (not verified)

A couple of comments about the CPU:
-Valve's VR test is not demanding on CPU power at all.
-Skylake is out now. With the 5930K/5820K, you're getting the previous Haswell architecture at lower clock speeds (compared to the 6600K/6700K). The cost for X99 motherboards is also higher than Z170 boards.

You're betting future games will benefit more from extra cores than having faster cores. With almost no games now taking advantage of more than four cores, I'm not sure that's the best bet to make.

March 25, 2016 | 05:07 PM - Posted by extide

Yeah, I think you could go 6700k/z170 and 2ch ram, and have enough budget to go SLI 980 Ti's.

Although if it was a build for me, I would probably go for 6 or 8 cores, but I'd rather wait till skylake-e.

March 25, 2016 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Bhappy (not verified)

I think what would be an even better 2.5k High end build would be basically the 1.5 Mid end build, replacing the gtx 980 with dual gtx 980ti's and a 850w PSU.

March 25, 2016 | 07:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

And that's why you're a nobody, who doesn't get PAID to THINK.

March 25, 2016 | 12:50 PM - Posted by Loki (not verified)

If you want a 6 cores:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nfYFFT
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nfYFFT/by_merchant/

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820k
CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X61
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X99-SLI
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB)3000Mhz
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB
Storage: Toshiba X300 4TB 3.5" 7200RPM
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB HYBRID Video Card (2-Way SLI)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro M
Power Supply: EVGA 1000W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular
Total: $2546.88

If you want Skylake:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Mb4fYJ
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Mb4fYJ/by_merchant/

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K
CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X61
Motherboard: MSI Z170A GAMING M5
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB)3000Mhz
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB
Storage: Toshiba X300 4TB 3.5" 7200RPM
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB HYBRID Video Card (2-Way SLI)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro M
Power Supply: EVGA 1000W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular
Total: $2559.79

March 25, 2016 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

pfft no vr pr0n assessories

March 25, 2016 | 01:22 PM - Posted by Giggles (not verified)

Just for shits and giggles I wanted to see if you can build a 980 Ti SLI build for ~$2000.

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/DryPt6

i7-4790K 4.0GHz
CRYORIG H7
ASRock Z97 EXTREME4
Team Vulcan 8GB x 2 1600MHz
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB & Seagate Barracuda 2TB
Reference Zotac 980 Ti in 2-way SLI
Corsair 200R
EVGA 850B2 psu

Total: $2031.30

March 25, 2016 | 04:00 PM - Posted by Jann5s

+1

March 25, 2016 | 01:51 PM - Posted by remc86007

Why not 5820k?

March 25, 2016 | 01:52 PM - Posted by James (not verified)

Why do all these builds not include the cost of a Windows license in the price? Is the expectation that this is simply pirated?

March 25, 2016 | 07:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Windows 10 is free dummy. Duh. At least for all of us smart people. Who is going to waste money on a key that won't last because we swap out mobos, chips, and cards out several times a DAY, and don't want to sit around and call their damn SKU upgrading center.

March 28, 2016 | 05:57 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Okay, so the argument is steal because it's cheaper and easier than doing the right thing. I'd rather be a "dummy" than a thief. And the notion of these costs at a price point is scwed and flawed. To say otherwise is disengenious

March 28, 2016 | 05:04 PM - Posted by brucek2

Probably the same reason they don't include mouse / keyboard / monitor and/or any other software: the readership here already has these things from the system they are replacing and/or doesn't consider software as part of the main hardware build.

Also, new for Win 10, isn't Microsoft handing out free licenses regardless of whether your previous version was genuine or not?

March 25, 2016 | 02:12 PM - Posted by JohnGR

This is the only system build from the three where I will agree with the GPU that was chosen. No reason to move to dual gpus with Polaris and Pascal just around the corner.

March 25, 2016 | 02:41 PM - Posted by funandjam

This system makes no sense at all, considering that for the same price you can get a system with same CPU, dual 980TI's and pretty much the same components as what PCPer chose.

March 26, 2016 | 04:25 AM - Posted by JohnGR

The best PC builds are always founds in the forums from simple members who just want to help others. Not in the main page of a site or in the pages of big OEM companies.

March 25, 2016 | 07:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

WHY IN THE FUCK WOULD YOU SAY MOST YOUR READERS CANT AFFORD THIS? ARE YOU KIDDING? WHAT ARE YOU GUYS TRENDING IN MEXICO OR SOMESHIT? IVE SOLD 50-60 VR READY RIGS THIS YEAR, AND THEY START AT $3500. WHY IN THE FUCK IS PCPER SO PEASANTY NOW?

What a shame! Best actual journalists out there and you're all poor FUCKING bastards. Guess you should not have quit your day job to do this venture.

March 25, 2016 | 10:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

lol

March 26, 2016 | 04:31 AM - Posted by JohnGR

Take you dad's wallet and put it where sun never shines. Are you really angry to PCPer? I think not. I think you want to advertise yourself. So much arrogance.

March 28, 2016 | 03:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Shut the fuck up fag.

March 28, 2016 | 04:12 AM - Posted by JohnGR

Bingo!

March 28, 2016 | 11:07 PM - Posted by brucek2

At least they could afford a keyboard supporting both lowercase and uppercase letters. You should try it in your next build!

March 25, 2016 | 10:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This CPU makes no sense, especially as you're only running one GPU. The only reason to take the 5930 over the 5820 is if you will be heavily populating PCI lanes, and even two GPUs are still fine on a 5820.

This build seems to add needless expenses just to reach $2500.

March 26, 2016 | 01:28 AM - Posted by NamelessTed

Sorry guys, but these three postings of VR builds haven't been great in execution. I think its a great idea; its fairly common to see best for budget builds for different purposes of gaming, all around, video editing, etc and doing three builds for VR is a logical thing to do. Unfortunately, I don't understand how any of the three builds that you have put together make any sense at all.

I just don't understand how way overspending on motherboard and CPU makes any sense for VR. I guess if you could show benchmarks demonstrating that using an x99 chipset and CPU results in any significant increase in performance I would understand, and maybe you will. But, based on any tests and benchmarks that I have seen that have explored CPU scaling in gaming the results are not as significant compared to spending the same budget on a GPU upgrade.

I just think if you say you are doing a build "FOR VR" that should be the major focus. It isn't unreasonable to expect a person looking to build a computer to potentially use these videos/articles as part of their research on what parts to look for. I believe it feels like you are doing a disservice by recommending setup that you have.

I will say that I think this build is nice, overall. It looks great and uses nice parts. But that doesn't mean it makes sense.

March 26, 2016 | 03:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That has been the case for a while. The bottleneck generally hasn't been the CPU even in non-VR gaming unless you have a very weak CPU. Anything i5 and above for the last 3 generations will probably not be the bottleneck in most games. There are almost always exceptions. If the software is written well, then VR should not increase the load on the CPU much. You are rendering the same scene twice, just from a slightly different perspective. Most of the set-up for the scene should be shared.

The main issue here is that the $2500 price point doesn't make a lot of sense in the first place. It is pretty far up the price performance curve. You get more performance, but you pay a huge amount extra for it. The sweet spot with the most performance per dollar, but still capable is probably in the $1000 to $1500 range, mostly dependent on video card choice. I wouldn't recommend to any gamer to spend $2500 on a system, unless they really just don't care about price at all. In my experience, people overspend on the computer, and underspend on the display. The computer will be outdated quickly, but you may keep a quality display for many years.

If I was making recommendations for one of my friends, I would probably recommend an i5 6600k on maybe a $150 motherboard, with as much budget going to the video card as possible. Most of the other components don't actually effect performance much. Most people would not notice the performance differences between different SSDs.

March 26, 2016 | 09:32 AM - Posted by remc86007

I completely agree. I don't understand why anyone would install games on a pcie ssd with their current price per gigabyte compared to sata ssds.

March 28, 2016 | 03:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Shut the fuck up already. You don't know shit.

March 28, 2016 | 12:36 PM - Posted by godrilla (not verified)

Great build, but you probably can shave a bit from going i7 6700k.
Until multi gpu scaling gets better or close to amount forked out for the extra gpu(s), i would not go there, i rather upgrade my gpu yearly. current sli scaling is about 40 average based on gamersnexus review dual 970s in sli vs one 980ti.

March 28, 2016 | 12:37 PM - Posted by godrilla (not verified)

40% average*

March 28, 2016 | 12:52 PM - Posted by NamelessTed

http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/NVIDIA-GTX-980-3-Way-and-4-W...

40% just isn't accurate. Of the games PCPer tested moving from a single card to 2x SLI resulted in anywhere from 60-90% scaling depending on the game.

March 29, 2016 | 06:23 PM - Posted by godrilla (not verified)

The flaw in that article is, only one resolution is shown 4k, the more popular 1440p resolution just like in vr isn't shown. Frame variance isn't shown either.

https://youtu.be/DaKgbnosw9o

Frame variance shows a way better picture!

March 30, 2016 | 03:51 AM - Posted by NamelessTed

Did you read any of the article? It has multiple pages. They test like 7 games at multiple resolution and have charts for frame times for all of it, it is a PCPer article after all.

More on the main point, even if scaling was only 40% and not actually significantly higher depending on the game, so what? At a $2500 build that is supposed to be for VR the money spent on the second 980Ti would still result is a great increase in gaming performance over upgrading to a monster CPU and m.2 SSD.

March 28, 2016 | 10:55 PM - Posted by BlackDove (not verified)

Anyone interested in VR should probably wait a few weeks for GP104 GPUs.

February 17, 2017 | 03:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Great build, but you probably can shave a bit from going i7 6700k.
Until multi gpu scaling gets better or close to amount forked out for the extra gpu(s), i would not go there, i rather upgrade my gpu yearly. current sli scaling is about 40 average based on gamersnexus review dual 970s in sli vs one 980ti.
192.168.0.1 192.168.1.1 192.168.1.1 192.168.0.1

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