So it’s that time of the year for holiday gifts. We have an unusual practice in my family that we give some presents to ourselves and don’t tell anyone what they are. The joy of opening a secret (to everyone else) present and sharing it with your loved ones is a fun alternative to the disingenuous “buy me this” or the “oh, how nice”. Try it, I guaranty you’ll like it. May I suggest that the gift is a simulation rig? There’s basically 3 ways to go with this (1) basic 1 monitor desktop PC setup (2) VR (3) triple monitor cockpit (I don’t advise consoles).
You don’t need a very expensive PC to play Assetto Corsa, iRacing, etc. If you want to go bargain hunting, you can find used or refurbished stuff cheap. However, if you want a warranty and the ability to ship back for free, shopping at Amazon is a good way to go. They have plenty of gaming PCs under $500 that have GPU benchmarks over 3000. Check your videocard performance at https://www.videocardbenchmark.net/high_end_gpus.html to find your specific card. I did a lot of iRacing with a card that had a 726 rating, but I don’t recommend that now. Shoot for 2000 or more. You’ll need a 1080P monitor as well, which you can find under $100. For steering wheel and pedals, the Logitech G29 is a great value that lasts years. At $300, it’s the best bang for the buck. All told, it’s about $900 to buy a completely serviceable desktop sim rig brand new. People have won simulation championships with this kind of rig. You don’t really need anything more. And if you have the patience to look on craigslist or online racing forums, you can pick up components for half the price or less.
In order to operate simulators with a VR setup, you’ll need the VR system and a computer that can drive it. The Oculus Rift is $400. Oculus says you need at least an nVidia 1060 but people in the know say 1070 or better. That equates to a benchmark rating of 11K or more. You can find these on Amazon for $1200. You could use the same G29 wheel in the base setup, but if you want something a little better, you could go with a Thrustmaster ($400) or Fanatec ($700) rig. For more immersion, you might add a shifter ($100) and a cockpit ($200-500). All told, it’s $2000-3000 to buy a VR sim rig. I just upgraded my kit for VR and it cost me $1350.
Sim racers have been using triple monitors for a long time. It gives a better sense of immersion than a single monitor and doesn’t have the propensity to induce motion sickness the way VR can for some people. The main downside of a triple monitor system is all the space it takes up. These things are wide! Also, the cockpits can be $1000-2000 even before you get to the wheel-pedals-shifter combo. You also need a decent computer to drive 3 displays. It’s more expensive to build a triple monitor rig than a VR rig. The entire build will set you back $2500-$4000.
I haven’t opened my present to myself yet. So I can’t tell you how good VR is. Stay tuned for my Oculus Rift review and a VR Simulator Shootout.