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Budget VR-Ready gaming PC for $600 or less with NVidia GTX 1060!

One of the obstacles to using a desktop VR system such as the Oculus Rift (previewed here) or HTC Vive is the high cost of a VR-ready PC, which is generally at least $1,000.   However, I was able to cobble together a VR-ready PC for $600, thanks to the new NVidia GTX 1060.  Hit the jump to see its performance!

I got an old Dell T3500 workstation powered by an Intel Xeon W3565 quad-core processor.  I got mine for just $270 (with 15GB RAM).  It performs very well for 4k video rendering.  You can get one on eBay for around $250.

Then I got a new graphics card, the new NVidia GTX 1060.  The one I got was the Founders’ Edition ($299 + tax).  It came in a handsome reinforced cardboard box.

It looks really high-tech, like a piece of alien technology!

It is quite heavy — heavier than my DSLR, for example — although I’ve never bought a high-end graphics card before, so I don’t have much frame of reference.

Here is the top part, which has the logo and a 6-pin power port.

Here is the rear, showing DVI, HDMI and Displayport connections.

When the card is running, it glows green, which looks cool if you have a transparent desktop cover.

So how does it perform?  I ran the HTC Vive VR-readiness test:

Here are the results:

I thought I would get only low quality VR but actually it performs very well, according to this test!  Actually, it is possible to save even more:

  • You can build a Xeon-based PC for $150.
  • Instead of a GTX 1060, you can get the cheaper Radeon RX 480  (However, I haven’t tested it, so I don’t know if it’s compatible with the Dell T3500).  Or you can get a cheaper version of the GTX 1060 from one of NVidia’s partners.

Issues:
The GTX 1060 does fit the case, but if I attach the power cable, the hard drive tray and case cover can’t be closed.  So I’m returning this and instead ordering the shorter mini version of the GTX 1060, which won’t sit below the hard drive tray.

Second, as stated in the HTC VR readiness test, it does not test for USB compatibility.  The HTC Vive requires one USB 2.0 port, and the Oculus Rift requires three USB 3.0, and one USB 2.0 port.  In the case of the Dell T3500, it has plenty of USB ports but they are only 1.1.  So I need to add a USB 3.0 card.

Here’s my cost:
– Dell T3500 with Xeon W3565, 15GB RAM, 600GB HDD, 525-watt power ($270)
– Zotac GTX 1060 Mini ($270)
– USB 3.0 card ($27)
Total: $577

(In my case, I also added a 480GB SSD which I got for under $100, although that’s not a VR-readiness requirement.)

About the author

Mic Ty

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  • Dear Sir,
    I still have similar T3500 configuration serving me very well as companion for job and games for years.
    Xeon x5687
    Zotac gtx 1080 mini
    48gb ram
    1x nvme samsung 950 – 500gb
    2x ssd samsung 860 evo – 500gb

    I am very interested to run MS Flight sim 2020 and Star Wars Squadron in VR.
    As I have no experience with VR headsets and usage, I started to explore requirements for VR.
    Now, I have found that my configuration is not VR ready while CPU and chipset doesnt support AVX instruction set, using WMR and Oculus ready check test

    Is it possible to run i.e Flight and Squadron , or other VR software avoiding wmr and oculus check test restrictions ?
    I had in mind to buy HP Reverb G2, but want to be sure does it work on T3500

    Thank You very much…

    With kind regards from Croatia
    Marko

  • Dear Mic,
    Thank You for supersonic speed answer.
    I am not concerned will those games run on T3500. I have both games installed, running flawlessly, on pretty high settings on 2x 27″ monitors, with Hotas Logitech g940.
    When I got SW Squadrons, I was start thinking to buy myself VR Headset, then I realized that X5687 and T3500 chipset don’t support so called AVX instruction set.
    I have run Windows Mixed reality test – Failed (CPU cant run VR, no AVX), Oculus test – Failed (same reason), Steam VR – passed with high marks.
    I read your article about T3500 and VR and was wondering if You can give me advice or info.
    For example, if I run Squadrons with VR (Oculus, Vive, HP Reverb) will it work or some driver will reject my cpu and wont let me use VR Headset, regarding all those failed vr tests.
    Star Wars Squadron are supposed to have native support for VR (I don’t know what does this exactly mean).
    I don’t have any experience with VR Headsets.

    In other words, I am trying someone who have tried VR games on T3500, or similar machines with older CPU without AVX instruction sets.

    Thank You

    P.S.1. I have screenshots of those vr tests, but didn’t figure how to post it.
    P.S.2. Sorry for my bad English

    • Thank you very much Marko! There is nothing wrong with your English. I can understand it very well.

      Unfortunately right now I don’t have any HTC Vive anymore (I sold it years ago and switched to Oculus). My remaining VR headsets are all either Oculus or Windows Mixed Reality.

      Perhaps you can ask on the HTC Vive subreddit. Out of the thousands of members, maybe one of them has similar CPU as yours. https://www.reddit.com/r/Vive/

      Star Wars Squadron native support for VR means that there is an option in the game to activate VR. You don’t have to run any plugins or 3rd party software or do any workarounds.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Dear Mic,
    Thank You very much on your time and efforts. You helped me a lot.
    Wish You all the best. Long live and prosper…

    Best regards
    Marko Franic