Winston is a VR developer focused on creating immersive storytelling experiences.
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January 8th, 2021
5 (Tested) VR-Ready Computers for the Valve Index
*This guide has been updated for 2022 and will be regularly updated*
The Valve Index is an absolute top tier headset with LCD panels running at 144 Hz refresh rate and 2880 x 1660 resolution, but with such high specs, does this mean you’ll need a big budget get a VR-capable PC?
The answer is: NOPE! Even lower end PCs can run the Valve Index, but I still recommend buying the best you can with your budget. You can never have enough power for VR! There are always areas where you can use the extra power.
Having used to work at a VR-cafe, I can now share with you the builds we used for our Valve Index computers.
Refresh rates: The Valve Index has 4 modes for refresh rates: 80, 90, 120 and 144 Hz (experimental mode).
A cheaper computer will only be able to maintain lower refresh rates (80 or 90 Hz) which kinda defeats the purpose of having an Index in the first place.
Supersampling: If your computer isn’t powerful enough, it won’t be able to supersample games. This means the edges of objects will look more jagged and pixelated.
Whilst this might not seem important in general gaming, it can make a huge difference in VR. Removing those jagged edges can greatly heighten immersion.
So for specs – I recommend looking to buy a computer that can handle supersampling on at least the 120 Hz refresh rate.
Also keep in mind, the 144 Hz experimental mode is just a ‘nice to have,’ but don’t expect to be able to run it for ALL games. Some games are just too intense for VR to handle at 144 Hz, even on the best graphics card.
5 Best Computers For the Valve Index
Here’s the 5 best ‘pre-built’ computers you can buy and use straight away.
If you want to build a PC yourself – you can skip to the next section.
Why is the SkyTech Azure our top pick? The main reason is that I think 9/10 people will the suitable for this machine:
It utilizes the new 3xxx series graphics cards (3070 Ti) which is more powerful than a 2080 Ti.
It is a mid-range PC, so if you can afford a Valve Index, you should be able to afford this too.
It can run nearly every game on 120 Hz refresh rate with no frame drops, except on a few edge cases like Microsoft Flight Simulator and some poorly optimized games that were ported to VR.
We’ve tested the SkyTech AZURE Gaming Computer on: Arizona Sunshine, Half-Life: Alyx and Boneworks and these games ran butter smooth on 120 Hz ultra settings.
When trying these games on the 144 Hz ‘experimental mode’ it maintained the refresh rate for the majority (95%) of the time, but had frame drops in the more demanding spots. This wasn’t too much of a surprise. as these are some of the most demanding games in VR after all.
But if you wanna run lesser demanding games like Beat Saber on 144 Hz, you can do that all day.
Remember when I said you can never have enough power for VR? Well, this is for those people who want the absolute best PC they can get.
Keep in mind that this isn’t the most ‘bang for your buck’ option. Getting a 3080, or even a 3070 graphics card is better value for your money, but for those who don’t care and just want the absolute best consumer GPU ever made, then here it is:
It comes with the very best specs you could ask for in a PC:
10th Gen Intel i9 CPU
RTX 3090 GPU
32/64/128 GB RAM depending on which option you choose (I recommend keeping the 32 GB and upgrading to the 3200 or 3400 MHz).
Comes with an Alienware keyboard and mouse
Building Your Own PC
Not everybody wants to build their own PC and I certainly won’t push you to do it.
But if money is a concern for you – I highly recommend that you look into building one. It will save you several hundred dollars, and your PCs will generally last a bit longer than pre-built machines.
How long does it take to build a PC? For a beginner, it can take anywhere between 3-7 hours depending on how fast you are. On average, I’d say 5 hours.
A pro can build a computer in 30 minutes to an hour easily.
If you’re interested in building your own computer, I’m going to show you the builds I use and you can assemble it together by reading the manual that comes with buying the parts. Or you can follow some Youtube tutorials – there are plenty on the internet.
Build #1: My Recommended Build
This is the build I use for myself personally. It’s slightly above ‘mid range’ and can handle the very best VR gaming has to offer.
Graphics Card: RTX 3080 – This GPU is frequently out of stock due to it being new on the market and high demand. You can be patient and try and snipe it, or alternatively you can buy a 3070, or a 2080 Ti instead (the 3070 is slightly better than a 2080 Ti).
Motherboard: ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming – Nothing too fancy, we just need a cost-effective motherboard that’s compatible with the rest of our hardware. Note: If you have an Oculus, this motherboard doesn’t have a USB-C port for it, so you might wanna pick this one instead.
Power Supply: Phanteks AMP 750W 80PLUS GOLD – We want at least 750W and gold rating, because our graphics card is very power hungry. Also this one is fully modular, meaning you can remove the unnecessary cables, making it much easier to build your PC (usually the cables in the way of building).
Cooler: Corsair iCUE H100i – this is one of the best coolers on the market at this price range and also has RGB lights.
RAM: G.SKILL Trident Z Royal Series (32 GB) – we want fast DDR4-3600 memory. You can also go for 16 GB to cut down costs, but keep in mind some games use over 10 GB of RAM and with other background programs, it’s easy to eat up the 16 GB.
Having an SSD will make your load times faster in games and your PC will boot in a few seconds. You want to install your OS (Windows 10) on the SSD along with all the games that require fast loading. Store everything else – videos, music, documents, less important games on the Seagate hard drive.
Case: There are several options for cases – just pick whatever you like the most:
Build #2 and #3 will becoming soon after I do more testing.
There are plenty of tutorials on how to build your own computer so I won’t cover it here. To be honest, your best just reading the manuals that come with the parts on how to assemble the PC. If you get stuck, you can look up a Youtube video for that manufacturer.