PC VR Guide

 

  • Overview
  • Popular PC Virtual Reality Headsets
    • HTC Vive
    • Oculus Rift
  • What Else You Will Need
  • Games and Software
  • Accessories
  • Finally

 

Overview

  • Headset Pricing: $399 to $599
  • Prerequisites: A decent Windows 7 or Windows 10 computer with a newer processor like an Intel i5 or equivalent, 8 GB of memory or more, and a higher end gaming graphics card with the minimum being the Nvidia 970 or equivalent (~$249 to ~$399 to ~$559)
  • Experience: Mid-range to Complete

PC virtual reality offers the absolute best experience and the most options. With a desktop computer PC components are standardized and can be upgraded and enhanced as new technologies become available.

 

Popular PC Virtual Reality Headsets

The two most popular headsets on the market today are the HTC’s Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift. The headsets have similar technical specifications and they cost either $459 or $599 for a full 360 degree tracking experience.

HTC Vive (~$599 – Check Amazon)
Oculus Rift (~$399 + ~$59 for a third sensor – Check Amazon)

The full 360 degree tracking setup for the Rift requires three cameras (the third is purchased separately, ~$59 @ Amazon) to capture all angles of the gaming environment with USB cables running back to the computer and require power adapters. Depending on the size of your room you may need an active USB extension cable or two (~$24 @ Amazon). In it’s most simplest state the technology consists of the cameras capturing a video feed of the room while looking for differences in the infrared signals from the headset and controllers.

The full tracking setup for the Vive requires two “Lighthouses” placed on opposite corners of the environment. They communicate wirelessly over Bluetooth and require power adapters. In it’s most simplest state the two Lighthouses create an array of infrared beams that track the headset and controllers. This tracking technology is generally regarded as the most accurate and creates the least amount of additional overhead for your computer with the fewest cables.

The other differences between the two headsets are:

  • The controllers – differently designed.
  • Third party peripheral options – to which the Vive currently has more.
  • Any opinions towards Facebook’s introduction of hardware related game exclusives for their Oculus Rift into the PC world – you can decide for yourself what effect it may have on the industry, even though there are some workarounds available.

The Rift started out with an Xbox 360 controller and later released tracked hand controllers. The Rift “Touch” controllers sit entirely in the palm of your hand with controls on the top, sides and back. The Vive controllers have a longer, larger design with controls on the front, sides, and the back. If you play rough it is worth noting that replacement Rift Touch controllers are about half the price of replacement Vive controllers. It’s really up to personal preference as to which one is more comfortable as they have very similar features.

 

What Else You Will Need

In addition to the headset and its’ included components you will need:

  • A computer with a fast central processing unit (CPU) running Windows 7 or higher. VR capable desktop tower computers will always cost less than laptop computers.
    VR Ready Computer (~$699 to ~$2499 – Check Amazon)
  • A good gaming graphics card.
    High-End Graphics Card (~$559 – Check Amazon)
    Mid-range Graphics Card (~$399 – Check Amazon)
    Minimal Graphics Card (~$249 – Check Amazon)
  • An open floor area covering at least your entire arm-span (to get the full experience in many instances) with the more space the better.

The computer should have a newer generation, fast CPU like an Intel i5 or i7, at least 8 GB of memory, and a minimum of 100 GB of free storage space for games. A new computer to meet these specifications will generally start around $700 and then you can easily spend $2,500 or more if you want to go for the absolute best. I recommend getting a gaming tower computer because it will almost always have enough ports for the VR setup and can be easily modified in the future, unlike gaming laptops.

 

Games and Software

The majority of games run through the worlds’ most popular digital game delivery and management service, Valve’s Steam. The Steam gaming client is free and available to install at http://store.steampowered.com/about/. If you don’t know much about the specifications of your computer then install the SteamVR Performance Test application, run it, and see what it says. This will give you a good idea of what you may or may not need for your computer. Both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift use Steam but Facebook also has an Oculus Rift exclusive game store that is similar to Steam but is limited to Rift owners only. As an FYI more than anything, but there is a piece of software that allows Vive users to run Rift-restricted games. Check the PCVRNews.com Links Page for links to games.

To get the full VR experience you will want to be able to physically move around in the VR space. The bare minimum you will want for this is an arms-length stretch of open space around you in all directions with the more space the better. However, PC virtual reality can also be done in a standing space or sitting. The sitting games are generally simulator games, such as flying and driving. Don’t forget to watch out for low ceilings or things hanging from a ceiling like a fan or light that can get smacked by a controller.

 

Accessories

For any PC headset:

Sensor Mounting Equipment

You may need to mount your sensors to get a better view of the room using a wall or clamp mount.

Camera Wall Mount (~$9 – Check Amazon)
Camera Clamp Mount (~$9 – Check Amazon)

 

For the HTC Vive:

Replacement face padding can make for a more comfortable and improved experience. They come in packs of two and are washable. I prefer the 6mm replacement padding because it brings your eyes closer than the standard 18mm so the field of vision is widened making for a more immersive experience. Otherwise if you want more padding the the 18mm is a good choice too.

HTC Vive 6mm Replacement Face Foam (~$29 – Check Amazon)
HTC Vive 18mm Replacement Face Foam (~$29 – Check Amazon)

Improve headset comfort, ease of use and audio with the HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap.

HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap (~$99 – Check Amazon)

Help shield your Vive headset and controllers from minor dings and scratches with a protective cover.

Vive Controller Cover (~$9 – Check Amazon)
Vive Headset Cover (~$14 – Check Amazon)

 

For the Oculus Rift:

Did you get an Oculus Rift package and want full 360 degree tracking? Pick up an extra sensor so that you have a total of three and you’re good to go!

Oculus Sensor (~$59 – Check Amazon)

Help shield your Rift controllers from minor dings and scratches with a protective cover.

Oculus Rift Controller Cover (~$14 – Check Amazon)

Make your Oculus Rift more comfortable with a softer face cover.

Oculus Rift Face Cover (~$19 – Check Amazon)

The Oculus Rift can occasionally use more USB controllers than was built in to the motherboard. Getting a USB expansion card takes care of that problem immediately.

Inateck USB Expansion Card (~$24 – Check Amazon)

If you are running a third sensor and need a bit longer sensor cable to get back to your computer can go get an active USB male to female extension cable. Active extension cables actively repeat the signal to make it stronger.

Active USB Extension Cable (~$24 – Check Amazon)

 

Finally

Be sure to check out the Console VR Guide and the Smartphone VR Guide to learn more about VR!