VR System Build Guide Spring 2016: Mid-range at $1500

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?

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

VR Build Guide
$1500 Spring 2016
Component 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
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.

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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!!

Our storage system combines both a Samsung 500GB 850 EVO SATA-based SSD and a 2TB hard drive from Seagate. The SSD is a necessary purchase for a gaming PC, with huge performance advantages from Windows start times to level loads, and the 500GB capacity gives you room for 10-15 full PC games (based on the install size of course) without having to worry about managing storage too often. The 2TB hard drive can be used for other media you need to store.

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The Seasonic X650 power supply is a great unit that is reliable, quiet but also has enough juice to keep these components going. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO again makes an appearance as a fantastic cooler at a great price. And rounding out the hardware is the Fractal Design Define S windowed chassis, a $110 case that has room for water cooling, includes a pair of fans for airflow, supports mostly toolless installation and even includes sound absorbent material for noise reduction. It's a great case to build in and I think it looks amazing too. There is just one caveat - no optical drive bays! Keep that in mind if you are attached to your Blu-ray collection.

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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The results are impressive with the Core i7-6700K and the GeForce GTX 980 at the helm, bringing in a Fire Strike score 21% faster and a SteamVR performance score 23% higher than our $900 VR system. The needle is nearly at the maximum position on the "VR Ready" spectrum for SteamVR so clearly Valve believes that a system using this hardware is not only ready for VR today but that it will be ready for some time.

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As it turns out the additional $600 of budget for this VR system build gives more performance head room than we originally expected. The upgrade to a quad-core HyperThreaded processor doubles the addressable threads for applications and games while the move from a GTX 970 to a GTX 980 means we see a sizeable improvement in rendering capability. We've double the SSD capacity, used a motherboard with additional features and accessories and doubled our DDR4 memory to 16GB. That's a drastic improvement and any PC gamer would be happy to have this rig as their own. 

There's only one more place to go now...more money!

Video News

March 23, 2016 | 10:24 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

When do the Rift and the Vive go on sale? I apologize if you already answered this question in the article.

March 23, 2016 | 10:35 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"When do the Rift and the Vive go on sale? I apologize if you already answered this question in the article."

Both have been available for pre-order for some months. Rift starts shipping next Monday, Vive starts shipping the week after that on Tuesday. Both are back-ordered by several months if you purchase now.

March 23, 2016 | 11:07 AM - Posted by Loki (not verified)

PCPartPicker part list:
Price breakdown by merchant:

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz ($369.95 @ B&H)
CPU Cooler: CRYORIG H7 49.0 CFM CPU Cooler ($34.50 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI Z170A GAMING M5 ($142.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 Memory ($79.89 @ OutletPC)
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB ($149.89 @ OutletPC)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB ($65.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB CLASSIFIED ($636.98 @ Newegg)
Case: Fractal Design Define S w/Window ATX Mid Tower Case ($69.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Power Supply: EVGA 650W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($62.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $1613.16
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-03-23 11:05 EDT-0400

March 23, 2016 | 11:27 AM - Posted by remc86007

That gpu is in no mans land for price to performance.

"the highest level of software and driver support for modern gpus" this sponsored by NVidia?

March 23, 2016 | 11:37 AM - Posted by Fasic (not verified)

March 23, 2016 | 11:59 AM - Posted by NamelessTed

Wondering what the thought process was for putting this build together was if the purpose is to have a VR ready build. Why not drop the i7 down to the i5 K chip and not spend $200 on a mobo? The money you would save on CPU and a more mainstream board would allow for either a Fury X or a 980Ti. The more powerfuly GPU would certainly outperform this build in any VR setting, would it not?

Just based on any benchmarks that I have seen in terms of gaming I just can't see having the i7 making any difference over the i5 and the more powerful GPU would certainly perform better.

And just to also point out, you can buy a 1TB SSD for about the same price as buying a 500GB SSD + a 2TB HDD. Granted, you are getting less overall storage but in my mind having the single 1TB SSD is much more valuable to a new build where mass storage isn't a concern.

March 23, 2016 | 07:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I agree. I did some research for a friends build recently and a capable gaming oriented mother board was in the $145 to $170 range. Going over that seemed to just include features that would never be used by 99% of consumers. There also doesn't seem to be much of any advantage to going with an i7 over an i5 for gaming.

I would recommend going up to a card with more than 4 GB of memory. The 390x is clearly the best value over a 980. If you have the budget, I would recommend going up to a 980 Ti with 6 GB rather than a 980 with only 4. The Fury cards are a bit of a grey area. They only have 4 GB of memory, but they have some new features which can save memory capacity. I don't think I would recommend them right now though.

Most of the rest of the components are irrelevant since few gamers are starting with a blank slate. Those components also make no difference for VR performance. I doubt even the memory would make much difference as long as you are using the recommended capacity or more.

March 23, 2016 | 08:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Also, the $145 to $170 is assuming support for running dual graphics cards in the future. If you don't mind being limited to one card, then the motherboard could be much cheaper. I don't know if it is reasonable to expect to upgrade to dual 14 nm GPUs in the future. I suspect running dual cards will be more common, but would anyone be upgrading that soon after spending more than $370 on a video card now?

March 23, 2016 | 12:41 PM - Posted by funandjam

Below is a 980ti build that is pretty much the same as the $900 build, but costs way less than PCPer's 980 build, or even another commentor's build(see the one above mine from Loki)

CPU: Intel Core i5-6500 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor - $197
CPU Cooler: it's a non K part, just use the included heatsink - $0
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H170-GAMING 3 - $95
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2666 - $65
Storage: A-Data Premier SP550 240GB SSD - $57
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB - $66
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti - $599
Case: Thermaltake Versa H21 Window - $30
Power Supply: Antec TruePower Classic 750W 80+ Gold Certified - $55

Grand total after discounts: $1164

I'd go so far to say that this particular build is what a lot of people, such as myself would have, something to run a single high end monitor so SLI is not needed.

March 23, 2016 | 03:04 PM - Posted by remc86007

I agree with this. Anybody buying a regular 980 for VR is throwing their money away.

March 23, 2016 | 01:23 PM - Posted by Luciano (not verified)

Maxwell does not support fine grain preemption. You should not use it as first option for VR. Nvidia said that future architectures will support it.

March 23, 2016 | 08:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do you have any references to articles discussing how that relates to VR, preferably with test showing that there is an issue? Latency is obviously very important, so anything that increases latency could be an issue. I believe Nvidia has had less issues with frame rate consistency recently, so I would want to see some proof that fine grain preemption is an issue. It may be the case that it is only an issue if they are using a lot of asynchronous compute. At this point, I think developers targeting Nvidia hardware are probably holding AMD hardware back. AMD has been much more forward looking I their hardware design.

March 23, 2016 | 10:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, the way to see it, is if nvidia can run it, then an AMD system should have absolutely no problems running it.

Yes at this point AMD has the upper hand in VR and DX12, and nvidia is now the minimum to meet.

March 25, 2016 | 11:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Youre smoking FUCKING crack kid.

March 28, 2016 | 04:56 PM - Posted by JohnnyNismo (not verified)

AMD has the upper hand in DX12 right now. PCPer and the rest of the world recognizes that their Async Shader hardware capabilities is something Nvidia's current generation lacks. DX12 favors AMD today. That may change tomorrow but if you were to build a new system today, 3/28/2016, then go with AMD's high end which will carry you into the DX12 future better.

I currently own a GTX 980 and ASUS G-sync modded display. I hate these facts more than anyone. Nvidia will hopefully deliver later this year so our wait will be short.

March 23, 2016 | 03:43 PM - Posted by Lance Ripplinger (not verified)

You need to add another $100 bucks for an Windows OS license. If you want the system to be legit, then that is what it will cost you. So that makes this "midrange" system closer to $1600-$1700 depending on the price of components you choose. Just throwing my two cents in. The computer is worthless without an OS on it... :)

March 23, 2016 | 05:02 PM - Posted by GeekAvenger (not verified)

Is there a reason you didn't go with a 390X? They are cheaper ($388 right now) and perform better or at least comparably (at least with 3D mark).

Is there a particular reason you went with Nvidia in this product category, high end I get it the 980 ti makes sense, but the 390X is a very solid choice in this category, especially since some of the early reviews I have been reading keep mentioning the importance of video memory to VR.

March 23, 2016 | 08:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Other than to get a lot of people to comment on it, I don't see the reason. I would definitely recommend a 390x for this price range. If you want to spend a bit more or you are an Nvidia fan, then a 980 Ti could make sense. I don't think a 980 makes sense over a 390x. A 970 doesn't make sense over a 390 either.

I don't think Nvidia's current cards are really designed for DX12 either. AMD pioneered DX12 type APIs with their work on Mantle. When DX12 is used to its full potential a 390x may outperform an Nvidia 980 Ti. The 390x actually has more raw compute resources than the 980 Ti and DX12 may allow those resources to be used more efficiently.

March 23, 2016 | 08:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nvidia makes up for the compute resources by often running at a high boost clock. This makes the perfomance numbers misleading, since Nvidia GPUs are often not running at the clock speed specified by the reviewer. I don't think this is a good way to handle this since everyone is not guaranteed to achieve those same clock speeds. You are only guaranteed to achieve the advertised base and boost clock.

March 25, 2016 | 07:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

JESUS you're an idiot.

March 25, 2016 | 11:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Cause AMD makes FUCKING horrible products and their company is going to go belly up anyday, only stupid, poor, peasants who have no taste would even think about using inferior ass shit from that shitty company.

March 23, 2016 | 07:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Decent build but who in the FUCK uses a mechanical hard drive in 2000 AND 16??

Also, for you poor AMD Peasants out there, AMD GPU's are total shit. They fail 300-400% MORE OFTEN, they sound, look, and perform like SHIT. Same as their CPU's which is why Ryan, didn't use them. Or at least why us experts don't use that gay AMD junk. Nothing but hassles, headaches, and bullshit. And who has time for that? Oh yeah, poor people. Still, if you're only spending $1500 on your VR Capable Rig, you're missing the point.

March 24, 2016 | 03:46 PM - Posted by remon (not verified)

Ooh, an anonymous moron. How original.

March 25, 2016 | 07:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Shut the fuck up fag.

March 28, 2016 | 04:50 PM - Posted by remon (not verified)

Oh my god, you made me see the light. Can't argue with that reasoning. Nvidia is the best!

March 24, 2016 | 12:25 AM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

A lot of good points have been made in these comments about the builds being a little off. Here is an important fact - the Oculus itself is $600!!! Go look on amazon, you can get an i7/980 Asus or Dell fully built desktop with OS loaded (another $100+) and the oculus included (which is sold out everywhere) for the sames prices as Ryan has here and if you added the oculus cost. Actually a little cheaper. Love this site, Ryan's a great guy, but this was not the best article as far as stretching your dollar.

March 24, 2016 | 08:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Holla holla 980 ti stole ma dolla

March 24, 2016 | 11:36 AM - Posted by James (not verified)

Is there a reason that these builds don't include the cost of a Microsoft Windows license? Or is it just assumed that everyone will pirate the software for free?

March 25, 2016 | 08:01 AM - Posted by LightspeeD

VR is just all hype at the moment, lets see if things change in another years time...

March 30, 2016 | 07:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

To think I was looking for an article about building a PC for VR.
And found yet another poorly done nvidia infomercial :(

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