I’ve always been interested in Virtual Reality and the possibilities it holds. In its early days, I spent a lot of time in Second Life. I still think that at some point VR is going to fundamentally change our lives.
Although I’m usually an early-adopter, I tried to hold back on VR a bit. Then over the holidays I had a chance to really use an HTC Vive setup, and decided I could wait no longer.
I commenced my usual excessive research and in late January I made a decision and started ordering gear.
Which gear? Some of the “inside out” headsets on the horizon were tempting, but I’m skeptical that they will have the processing power and movement-tracking quality of the PC-based headsets, so I narrowed my search to the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.
I went with the Vive. It was close between this and the Rift, but after looking at a lot of reviews and comparisons the Vive seemed to be a slightly better option. The fact that my son has one was also a factor – I could be sure that any multi-player games we might want to try would be available without them needing to be available on both platforms.
It was also a close call between the Vive and the Vive Pro. I chose the Vive mainly because I was not certain just how much I’d really use VR and this was an attempt to not go too wild. If money is no object and/or you are convinced that VR will be amazing, the Pro is pretty tempting. It’s better, but probably not amazingly better. And the price difference is significant.
One big advantage of the Pro beyond better resolution is the Deluxe Audio Strap. This is a $100 option if you add it to the regular Vive headset.
The Deluxe Audio Strap is not only more comfortable, but it avoids the need to fool with earbuds. Well worth the money, and was an immediate upgrade for me.
The next issue is how you run the headset. If you have a Windows PC with a sufficiently fast GPU, then you are all set. I’m a Mac guy, so what I had was a very nice Mac laptop with completely inadequate graphics performance for VR. Yeah, you can do things with external GPUs. However, that only addresses the hardware side.
On the software side, the amount of games and applications that are Windows-only is vast. Apple has a real chicken-and-egg problem here, and until they solve it Windows is really the only viable platform for the full VR experience.
I bought an Alienware Aurora R7 tower, and it’s worked well so far. (Other than having to use Windows 10, which is as awful as I was afraid it was going to be.)
I’ll explain later why I went with a desktop and not a laptop.
Here’s the key specs for mine:
- 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-8700 Processor 3.2GHz
- 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM
- 2TB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive
- 8GB NVIDIA® GTX 1080 Graphics
Only thing wrong with the model I got was that instead of an SSD it had a spinning drive. I immediately replaced this with a 512G SATA SSD for a reasonable price. The system I bought was from Costco, and that was worth the drive shenanigans – I like their extended warranty and return policy.
The GTX 1080 is more than the base Vive headset really needs, but I wanted to aim a little high so that when I upgrade to the next generation headset in a couple years, I won’t need to replace my PC hardware as well (hopefully).
I’ve made one other upgrade, which is the HTC wireless adapter for the Vive. This was $300 well spent. Not having to worry about stepping on and getting tangled up in the wire to the headset is great.
May not matter as much if you play mostly games and apps that are “seated” experiences, but for anything room-scale, it is a great advancement.
My suggestion would be to start wired and see just how annoying it is, which is what I did.
Some of the games I enjoy involve a lot of movement and turning, so this was well worth it to me.
I’m still in the early stages, with a lot of games and apps to look at but so far it’s been pretty amazing. I’ll certainly have more updates as I get to spend more time in VR.