It’s now possible to get into fantastic shape by doing nothing but playing the right set of games in VR. But how do you shop for a gaming PC that’ll add more value than two years worth of gym memberships?
Anybody with limited hardware knowledge might think just any PC with a nice graphics card and a modern processor should do the trick for VR.
Unfortunately, shopping for the best gaming computer that suits your budget isn’t always the easiest thing to do if you’re new to the market.
At face value, there are some deals that seem too good to be true. But are they really as good as the store window (or webpage) says they are? Well, not quite.
To stay on the safe side, there are three ground rules that you should stick to when shopping for your VR-ready gaming PC.
Rule #1: Be cautious with laptops
To clarify: I’m not saying to never buy a laptop.
Let’s say that you’re shopping for a computer to hook your Oculus Rift into. You find the laptop of your dreams, and look! It costs $1,000—just like the desktop you wanted to build. But who has time to build a desktop when you can get a laptop, right?
Hold on! Why would anybody buy a desktop at that price if they could simply get a laptop and go portable?
Well, there are some solid reasons why.
For example: A laptop with a GTX 1070 cannot handle the same heat dissipation and power throughput as a well-built desktop with a GTX 1070. This is because laptops are designed to be perfectly compact and portable, resulting in very limited airflow.
As of September 2018, they also still run off of lithium batteries instead of dedicated power supply units. Meaning that power-hungry components such as the aforementioned GTX 1070 can’t receive the same amount of juice, period.
As a result, each of the parts in a laptop’s logic board needs to be deliberately slowed down at production, even if they’re the exact same parts you’d find in a desktop. And that’s for good reason.
You wouldn’t want your laptop to explode and cause serious damage to you or your home. But you also don’t want your laptop to burn out after a few short minutes.
So, if you want a laptop that performs like a custom-built $1,000 desktop, you’re going to be reaching for a laptop that costs over $1,500-$2,000 or more.
Rule #2: Be cautious with pre-built systems
Like with laptops, there’s a benefit here; a pre-built desktop is ready for you to plug in and use.
But unfortunately, you’re rolling the dice when purchasing a gaming desktop that you didn’t build or have somebody else build custom for you.
And here’s why: When pre-built PCs roll off of the factory line, they may or may not come with proprietary hardware that’s difficult or impossible to remove and replace.
Granted, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Here are some additional issues you might run into with a pre-built system:
- They may or may not have bloatware—useless proprietary software that slows your entire system by always running in the background without your knowledge or permission—that you can’t remove because it’s tied to the proprietary hardware that you also can’t remove.
- The BIOS may or may not be permanently locked; where you can’t replace or upgrade the operating system or tweak your system’s performance.
And then there’s the fact that retailers will sometimes price their pre-built systems higher than the market cost of each individual piece of hardware combined.
In which case, you may or may not be purchasing extra perks from the retailer, such as warranty and extended customer support.
Even then, you may sometimes get lucky with a really good deal. Check out this video from Linus Tech Tips for an example of a great retail gaming PC:
Again, my recommendation isn’t “Don’t buy pre-builts at all!”, but rather to not purchase a pre-built without understanding what it is that you’re actually purchasing.
Rule #3: Only buy a Mac if VR support is incidental
Macs are fantastic for music producers, filmmakers, photographers and writers on the go.
On the other hand, Macs do not have any competitive advantage in gaming at their sticker price. Especially not in VR gaming, which demands high system specifications (and extra USB/HDMI ports).
If you’re already budgeting to deck out a Mac with the highest options offered, then you may have luck with SteamVR’s OSX integration.
Otherwise, skip over the Mac when shopping for your VR-ready gaming PC.
But you can usually find a reliable gaming PC within your budget range—assuming that your budget is above $850—if you’re educated and aware of what you’re buying.
At a budget of $1,000 for a custom gaming PC, you can play the latest VR games for current-gen headsets at your preferred quality setting for at least two years on the pessimistic side without needing to upgrade anything.
After which, all you’ll need to do is upgrade your GPU.
What’s the worst experience you’ve had while buying a gaming PC? Let us know in the comments!