Best VR-Ready PCs for the Oculus Rift
VR is out of this world, man.
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Update: All of the PCs we tested for this roundup have since been discontinued, but you may find our Best Gaming Laptops roundup helpful.
My first virtual reality experience was unforgettable. The demo placed me atop a colossal skyscraper, where the wind whooshed loud in my ears. When I leaned forward to peer over the edge of the building, I felt dizzy. Though I was really standing inside my office, the experience was so immersive I almost lost my balance and ate carpet.
I bet you're here because, at the very least, VR intrigues you. Maybe you're looking to pick up a new hobby. Well, if you're ready to take the plunge, I highly recommend not going in blind. You're going to need a robust rig that's powerful enough to drive a VR headset. But what makes for a good VR-ready PC?
First and foremost, your computer needs to maintain a steady frame rate. In other words, the picture inside the headset should always align with your head movements. This reduces instances of virtual reality sickness. But if you shop smart, your wallet doesn't have to take a critical hit just to get a VR-ready machine.
We spent weeks testing four setups from across the spectrum, from well under $1,000 to almost $2,000 to see how well each held up. We learned a lot, but one thing is clear: you don't have to spend a ton just to get a great VR experience. Our top pick is the Asus G11CD (available at Amazon), but there's some real competition. These are the best VR-ready PCs you can buy right now.
The Asus G11CD blew our expectations right out of the water. Not only is it affordable, it also packs a serious punch. You're probably thinking, "bigger tower, more power," right? Actually, that's not always true. You don't have to invest in a behemoth rig to get the driving power you crave. It's not only a powerful PC, it's sized to fit perfectly in a smaller space like an apartment or living room. Gamers, rejoice!
The PC scored well across the board, but hooking up the Oculus Rift was super easy. For those who don't know, setting up a VR headset is no walk in the park. The number of wires might scare some folks off, but fear not! The ports on the back of the Asus were clearly marked with the Oculus Rift symbol, meaning setup only took 20 minutes.
Surprisingly, it was the second most powerful computer. We tried to push the computer to its limit by putting it through a benchmark test, but it handled everything we threw at it. We even tried driving a spaceship through a heated battle in one of our demos. The Asus still came out on top.
If you're on a tight budget, I recommend the MSI CyberPower PC Gamer Xtreme. This inexpensive rig, a full-sized tower, is great for people new to the VR scene. You can still explore VR without dropping a ton of cash. It's also the number one VR-ready PC on Amazon, but we noticed a few problems.
In one test demo, we controlled a pair of disembodied hands. We could produce blocks, turn gravity off, and stack objects. One of our testers attempted to crash the computer by creating over a hundred blocks. When he nixed the gravity, the MSI rig struggled to keep up. The blocks floated skywards, but at a painfully slow pace.
For the Oculus Rift to run properly, your computer needs to at least meet the hardware's minimum specifications. That means your computer parts need to be up to snuff. Though the MSI tower was a step above the minimum specifications, it was still the least powerful computer.
The MSI PC will run a VR game or cinematic just fine, but if you're purposely trying to break the computer, you'll probably succeed.
Other VR-Ready PCs We Tested
The Acer Predator G6 was as powerful as the most expensive rig on our list, but I really disliked the bulky design. The tower's octagonal shape made it difficult to carry across a room or store under a desk. Maybe it just boils down to personal preference, but if you have limited space for a computer, you should take size and portability into consideration.
The tower was so massive, it was more like a transformer than a computer. Whenever I moved the tower from the photography table to the floor, it was so heavy my arms shook. It wasn't the most portable computer I've dealt with, but if you care more about performance, then this rig won't disappoint.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Y900 had the sleekest design, but it was also the most expensive rig. It reminded me of a Cylon, one of the evil robots from Battlestar Galactica, which pleased the sci-fi nerd in me. Unlike the Acer Predator G6, I was able to carry this one around with no problems. The tower's rectangular shape was pretty standard as far as towers go.
It was the most powerful computer, but that came as no surprise. The Lenovo rig had the best GPU, which was the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080. Known as one of the most advanced graphic cards on the market, it's intended for intense gaming experiences. Unlike my own computer, which sounds like a rocket ship that's about to take off, the Lenovo rig was super quiet when it ran a VR game. It's on the pricier end, for sure, but you'll get your money's worth.
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