VR Game Dev Hardware Buying Guide

What to buy and why for differet game dev budgets.

You may not be doing VR yet but you will want to get hardware that can handle it and it may make a believer out of you.

The basic checklist depends on what kind of games you want to develop but here’s the basic checklist for a DIY indie developer generalist to develop and demonstrate games:

  • Computer(s)
    • VR laptop computer
    • VR desktop computer buying guide
      • AMD RX 480, NVIDIA GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080
    • Keyboard & Mouse
      • Razer Deathadder or another with an infrared flawless sensor
      • Razer Ornata or another with chroma LED color support
      • Razer Goliathus Extended mouse mat
    • Storage
      • USB3 drive for OS installations and fast file copying
      • USB3 backup drive
    • Audio
      • Neutral studio over-ear headphones for demoing
    • Display
      • 27-32″ 4K monitor for work and demoing
  • Art gear
    • Drawing tablet
      • Wacom, Monoprice or iPad/Mac using Astropad and Bluetooth stylus
  • Audio gear (See Audio gear buying guide)
    • MIDI Keyboard
    • Portable monitor speakers
  • VR Gear
    • Mobile VR
      • Any smartphone + Google Cardboard headset + duct tape headstrap
      • Google Pixel + Daydream View headset
    • Room-scale VR
      • HTC  Vive
      • Oculus Rift + Touch

Computers

VR Desktop Computer

The best value for doing VR development is to have a VR desktop for $600 or more and you can still afford a cheap, light laptop for portable use.

Read our VR desktop buying guide

VR Laptop Computer

Desktop gaming PCs are cheaper, but you’ll need a laptop to develop on the go with teammates, classes, game jams and game exhibition opportunities.

Recommended: A VR-capable laptop

Mac laptop

Read the MacBook Pro2016 with a Thunderbolt EGPU to do VR buying guide.

If you’re a Mac user or want to run XCode to target both iOS/Android and macOS/Windows/Linux support, you can enhance a MacBook Pro with an EGPU that supports VR. It is expensive, but it can achieve the highest versatily and great speed.

  • You’ll still need to dual-boot a Bootcamp partition with Windows 10 to test Windows builds and run Windows-only games and developer tools like Articy Draft.
  • Windows laptops can only virtual machine Mac and iOS dev with performance and compatability limitations.

Windows laptop

If you’re a Windows user, on a budget or don’t plan to support iOS and macOS, a Windows-only laptop will be cheaper for the same specs or better NVIDIA GPUs at the cost of versatility and battery life.

msi-g63svrMSI GS63VR

i7-6700HQ | GTX 1060 | 16GB | 128GB + 1TB $1294

i7-6700HQ | GTX 1060 | 16GB | 512GB SSD $1699

MSI GS63VR is currently one of the best all-around slim 15″ VR-ready laptops on the market with RAM upgradeable to 32GB and smoother GTX 1060 performance than the Razer Blade for thermal reasons.

Razer Blade 14″

With a built-in NVIDIA GTX 1060, this is a VR-ready 14″ touchscreen laptop that doesn’t need an EGPU to develop and play current VR titles.

Razer Blade Stealth + Razer Core

Razer’s Blade Stealth is a light and thin touchscreen ultrabook computer with a 7th gen Intel 7500U dual-core 2.7GHz processor, integrated 620 graphics. It can be upgraded with a Razer Core Thunderbolt EGPU box to use a desktop GPU such as an NVIDIA 1080. Quad core would provide faster multi-threaded performance in some apps and engines, but this is a great hybrid of ultra-portability and desktop GPU performance.

razer

Budget Laptop

If you need a cheap gaming laptop under $1000, there are some decent options that might run some VR games but none that are fully VR ready.

  • If you need to do VR level development on a  budget, consider getting a desktop till you can afford a VR-ready laptop or Thunderbolt laptop with EGPU.

Best Overall Budget Gaming Laptop:  Asus ROG GL552

The $979 Asus ROG GL552 delivers a surprising amount of gaming performance via its Nvidia 960M graphics without draining your bank account. The 15.6-inch laptop’s sleek, stealth-fighter-inspired chassis is lovely, but it is the 1080p display and its vibrant, accurate color that is the true star of the show. And if that isn’t enough win for you, the GL552’s 1TB hard drive offers blistering transfer speeds. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop under $1,000, the ROG GL552 should be at the top of your shopping list.

Key Specs: CPU: 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 6700 HQ * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB of VRAM * RAM/Storage: 16GB/1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6-inch/1920 x 1080 Asus ROG GL552 Review

Runner-Up: Dell Inspiron 15 7000

The Inspiron 15 7000 does a pretty solid job of straddling the fence between gaming and entertainment, offering a Core i5 processor with a mid-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU. The notebook was the uncontested winner on battery life, lasting an impressive 6 hours and 45 minutes. We also like that Dell went for a sultry, sophisticated look that’s sure to turn heads. In short, Dell is putting its money, performance and battery life where its mouth is, and heavy multimedia users and gamers should pay attention.

Key Specs: CPU: 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-6300HQ CPU * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB of VRAM/Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU * RAM/Storage: 8GB/1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, 8GB Flash Cache * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6-inch/1920 x 1080 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Review »

VR Headsets

Desktop Roomscale VR

You need an HTC Vive to develop and play room-scale VR. It’s not cheap at $700, but paired with a minimal $600 VR desktop a complete VR system can be built for $1400.

Mobile VR

You should also be targeting mobile VR if possible to make simplified controls, and there are three viable ways.

For best developer experience get a Google Pixel and the new Daydream View headset for $79.

For next best experience with a Samsung phone get a Gear VR.

If you have an iPhone or other Android phone, get a Google Cardboard and put a headstrap on it.

Any of the three can get you up and running with mobile VR development which has a much larger audience than desktop VR.

Audio gear buying guide

If you are a game musician, we have an audio gear buying guide.

Minimum:

  • M Audio Micro MIDI keyboard
  • USB microphone for sound recording.
  • Garageband or LMMS software to compose and record.
  • Audacity for audio editing.

Recommended: If you get into audio production seriously, take a look at the other options in the gear buying guide.

Art Gear

  • Drawing tablet buying guide
    • Wacom, Monoprice or iPad/Mac using Astropad and Bluetooth stylus
  • Software
    • GIMP & Inkscape for texture painting and vector drawing
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s