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