The NVIDIA 970 is one of NVIDIA’s newest cards. Typically we would be expecting new cards. But, there is trouble in the graphics card manufacturing world. There is a common manufacturer for most video cards. AMD and NVIDIA use the same manufacturer. The financial model in use is not working thus making it more cost effective to use using existing cards than introduce new ones. Expect something to change, but we may see the video card release process slow.
The NVIDIA 980 moves into the realm of dual video processors on one card. The Titan Z and Titan X are the top of NVIDIA’s line for desktops. The models prior to 900 series are no longer being manufactured.
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti $120-160
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 $100+
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 $235 – $500 – 1664 cores
- GeForce GTX 980 $265 – $800 – 2816 cores using Titan X type cores
- Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan X $800 – $1,200 – 3072 cores
Benchmark performance comparisons are here. In general the 980 has the best scores, even surpassing the Titan X. There is no good way to say what we can get by with and enjoy Sansar in VR. But, it easy to upgrade video cards. So, it is reasonable to start low and work up.
There is a wide range of boards that support 4th and 5th generation CPU’s. You will see motherboards with 87 and 97 designations or said another way 8 and 9 series. The 87’s support 4th gen CPU’s. The 97 designated motherboards support 4th and 5th generation CPU’s. Since we won’t be able to upgrade from 4th or 5th gen CPU’s to 6th without changing motherboards, you only need to decide on 87 or 97 based on the CPU you are buying, 4th or 5th. So, this is an opportunity to save money, but not very much. The 97 boards have support for SATA Express and M.2, which means better support for those SSHD’s. This means your probable best buy is a 9 series board. Asus z97 boards run $75 to $250. (Z97 Comparisons)
You will also see x99 motherboards. These provide better performance for professionals. As the 6th gen CPU’s make these boards obsolete and push prices to the level of z97’s, these are a higher performance option. Cost: $80 to $300. Best: I happen to like Asus. That doesn’t mean they are the best. I just like them. But a z97 or x99 is likely our best choice.
Computer memory, RAM, is a seldom discussed bottleneck in the SL community. But, it is a very real bottleneck. The hardware I’m talking about uses DDR3 memory. The DDR3 sticks cannot be used in DDR2 and earlier machines. Memory Speeds:
- DDR3-800 – PC3-6400 – 800mhz – slowest
- DDR3-1066 – PC3-8500 – 1066mhz
- DDR3-1333 – PC3-10600 – 1333mhz
- DDR3-1600 – PC3-12800 – 1600mhz – fastest
To know which memory you can use, you look at your motherboard specs. Memory is plug and play. So, you can buy some now and more latter. For Oculus the minimum is 4gb and recommended 8gb. For better performance 16gb is recommended by many. 4gb PC3-1600 sticks go for about US$25. 8gb PC3-1600 sticks go for about US$45.
With the i5 and i7 CPU’s the most common bottle neck is disk drive speed. That means we will see visible performance improvement by going with solid state drives.
Existing hardware delivers SATA I, II, or III and IIIx3 at 150mb/s, 300mb/s, 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s respectively. In regular use you won’t notice much difference in III and IIIx3. But, with a SL like app that is forever accessing the drive the difference is significant. So, we want faster and SSD has almost zero seek time making it even faster than spinning disks.
What is changing is that newer SSD is using a PCIe connector rather than the SATA connectors. (Reference) This means we are moving from 3 or 6gb to 8gb on PCIe3. This means we have to consider our PCIe motherboard slots more carefully. It is not just a matter of how many the board has, but whether we can fit all our cards in. Some video cards will cover more than their own slot making another slot unusable.
These interface speeds do not guarantee your hardware can move data that fast. So, one has to check benchmarks for the SSD under consideration. Just because you have 6gb/s motherboard and your SSD is advertised at 6gb/s doesn’t mean you’ll see 6gb/s. You may only see 0.5gb/s. Research the benchmarks before you buy SSD. Tom’s Hardware
SSD drives have a high cost per gb. Spinning hard disks have a very low cost per gb. So, a smaller SSD for SL cache is all that is needed. 4gb is a large cache for SL. Mine run between 300k and 2gb. Your main storage can be a conventional spinning disk.
HDD 1tb cost $25 – $100
SSD 250gb cost $100 – $300
Blu-Ray DVD R/W drives are in the $50 range now.
Building a decent game machine off eBay that is Oculus ready could cost about US$700 to $2,000 depending on what you want and what’s for sale the day you buy. It would be pretty easy to get your base machine together for $700 and then add to it as funds are available.
That doesn’t include the Oculus or other VR headset. Nor am I counting labor or best buy search time.