With more and more people working remotely, we’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding what the ideal PC is for VR development. VR development pipelines can be complex as developers need to work with multiple software such as 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, Unity and Unreal Engine. Having high-performance hardware that can handle your project is essential to an easy breezy workflow.
Whether you’re building your own work from home workstation, or want to upgrade some parts of your PC, here are a few tips to set up your PC for VR development.
1. Your CPU is one of the most important pieces
Many believe that the graphics processing unit (GPU) is the most important piece when setting up a PC for VR development. After all, one of the key goals is creating visually engaging graphics. However, the central processing unit (CPU), or the “brain of the computer” is what sends control signals to the rest of your PC components – and is what you should be thinking about first when setting up your workstation.
When choosing a processor, not only do you need to consider the type of software applications you’ll be using, but also the type of projects you will be working on. Real-time visualization projects with a high number of meshes and materials need a higher-end CPU to process efficiently. Your CPU is in charge of processing numerical data, like the position, orientation and scale of your 3D meshes. If your project is complex, and has a high amount of meshes, a mid-range CPU will slow down or overheat.
Your CPU’s cache size is another important component, especially when it comes to real-time processing. Sometimes, hardware companies may advertise a PC with an Intel I5 Core processor as “VR ready”. However, an I5 processor will simply not cut it for VR. We recommend the new Intel I9 series as it has proven to be effective and affordable.
2. Choose the right graphics card for your 3D project
Graphics card’s (GPU’s) work alongside the CPU to turn the processed data into images. GPU’s are also usually the most expensive part in a PC, and since there’s a plethora of GPU options in the market, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one for you. When choosing a GPU, it’s helpful to consider the types of 3D project you’ll be working on. If you’re creating extensive 3D projects with a high mesh and material count, we recommend selecting a Quadro GPU over GeForce.
Quadro cards have a lot more memory than GeForce cards, which can be a huge advantage in professional 3D workflows. If you’re just using your graphics card for gaming, you probably don’t need the 48 GB of memory offered by the Quadro RTX 8000. You can get by just fine with the 11 GB in the GeForce RTX 1080 Ti. But if you’re rendering an animated film, or running exhaustive AEC simulations, that extra memory is welcome.
For example, when we were working on the Robosharp visualization projects for Williams & White, the 3D file was insanely large, with 3 million meshes to render! Using a Quadro RTX GPU we were not able to preview the file. After switching the GPU to the Quadro the model instantly started rendering.
Williams & White project created using Quadro RTX GPU.
3. Get a hard drive with at least 1 TB
If you’re developing VR content, you know that it is a very complicated workflow. Working with countless compilers, softwares, and libraries can easily take up 600 GB of space. This is where a high-capacity hard drive comes in handy.
Some of the first PC’s we built had a hard drive of only ~500 GB – granted, this was a few years ago, and hard drive capacities weren’t as high back then. Nonetheless, the hard drive quickly filled up, and we had to purchase a larger one a couple months later. Hard-drives aren’t the most expensive part of your PC, so take it from us and invest in a decent-sized hard drive and save some money in the long run! Our recommendation is Samsung’s 2TB Solid State Drive which should be enough to store plenty of VR projects. An affordable alternative is the Mushkin Enhanced RAW 960 GB Solid State Drive.
4. Use a pair of RAM memory sticks
Game engines will recommend having a minimum of 8 GB or RAM on your PC. This may be enough to run a single software– like UE4 or Unity. However, when you’re working on a VR project most likely you will have multiple software running – from Unreal Engine or Unity, to Photoshop, Substance Painter, Mari, Blender and Maya. An 8 GB of RAM is simply not going to cut it.
We recommend having a pair of RAM memory sticks, each having equal amounts of memory – such as two 16 GB sticks. This allows the motherboard to interleave between the two chunks of memory slots, creating a slight improvement in performance. G.Skill’s Trident Z 2×16 GB memory is an affordable yet effective option.
5. Your motherboard is the foundation of your PC
Motherboard’s act as a hub that connects all the different components of your PC, allowing them to communicate with each other. When choosing a motherboard for VR development, you need to make sure it has a few USB-C ports, SSD cards, ethernet cable ports and many USB ports. A mid-range motherboard will come with 6 to 7 USB ports, however, for VR projects, you need a motherboard with at least 9 USB inputs and outputs, like the Gigabyte Z390 UD ATX motherboard.
6. Choose liquid cooling over a fan
VR content development can put a lot of strain on your system and having a good cooling system is essential to making your CPU more power-efficient. While fan coolers are the general go-to for many a liquid-based cooling system can offer better results. Not only are they less noisy and take up less space in your case, but they continuously keep your PC running at lower temperatures and higher performance. While it’s a little bit more expensive than a regular PC fan, the Corsair H60 liquid CPU cooler is a great affordable option.
7. Lastly, don’t cheap out on your power supply
Some of the first PC’s we built for our VR projects used the cheapest power supply, simply because we couldn’t afford a better one. They failed periodically – every 6 to 12 months – forcing us to continuously shell out more money to replace them. A failing power supply can have adverse effects such as damaging your graphics card and motherboard. In the long run, getting a decent power supply will be more cost-efficient. We recommend getting a power supply like the Corsair HX Series with at least 1,200 Watts, but this will largely vary depending on each of your components. A budget-friendly alternative we recommend is the Corsair RM 750 W 80+.
Setting up your PC for VR, concluding thoughts
Considering the different PC components required for VR content development can be overwhelming. While the suggestions we provide here are for a mid-to-high-end PC, you can use our tips to guide you in finding the right parts for you. Overall, a good rule of thumb for VR developers is to focus the majority of their budget on the CPU and GPU. These parts are notoriously the most expensive, but they’re also the ones most worth investing in. While other parts in your PC also need to be high-performing to function well together, they’re usually not as pricy and can be easily upgraded as you go.
For a full list of the PC parts mentioned in this post, click here.