Recently, Rosie bought a new desktop from NZXT. Here are my thoughts about NZXT, the new computer, and VR on it.
I built my own desktop back in 2008, so I’m not unfamiliar with the process. However, since then things have changed slightly. Everything has RGB LEDs, liquid cooling is far more “consumer”, graphics cards have gotten a lot more powerful, etc.
I like NZXT as a service because they greatly reduce the number of choices you have. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not - it depends on how far down the “part picker” rabbit hole you want to go. For us, it made sense to use the service because we didn’t really want to pick all the parts out of thousands and do the assembly ourselves. (I have horrifying memories of mounting the CPU cooler and thinking I was going to snap something in half.)
The only thing I have to say negatively about NZXT is that they use FedEx for shipping, which is almost universally bad. In our case, the initial delivery estimate was on a Sunday, and the Monday after was a holiday - hooray all day gaming! Or so we thought. Turns out, that method of FedEx shipping never delivers on a Sunday. They didn’t deliver on Monday either - at least not our package (maybe they knew our leasing office would be closed and decided not to deliver). It finally got delivered Tuesday night (after sitting in a nearby town since early Sunday morning).
Benchmark / Stress Test
While waiting for all the video games to download, I decided to try some benchmark applications. I don’t have actual numbers here because, well it doesn’t really matter that much to me. The applications I used as a stress test were prime95 and Folding @ Home. Prime95 is really good at maximizing CPU and RAM usage. Folding @ Home is really good at using the CPU and GPU to their fullest extent, but it doesn’t consume RAM nearly as much.
In both cases, the results that I was most interested in were temperatures (and power draw).
Going full tilt, my laptop CPU would easily hit 100°C and start to thermally throttle. The GPU can also easily hit 90°C if I pushed it. Pretty bad, IMO, but it is a laptop with a weird cooling flow.
The desktop, however, performed amazingly. Even with the CPU and GPU going at 100%, it never broke 65°C on the CPU and 75°C on the GPU. Even the fans barely made noise.
At the fullest utilization, the system pulls ~300W, which is pretty good for the amount of work it’s doing. My desktop from 2008 would idle around that power draw, and could peak around 600W.
The biggest thing I was looking forward to was using the new desktop for VR instead of my laptop. The laptop had a laptop-grade RTX 2060, while the desktop is a full-sized RTX 3070. I knew it would handle VR better, but how much, I didn’t yet know.
TL;DR: It’s a lot better!
The first improvement I was able to see was that the loading screens were much smoother. On my laptop, they’d take ~10-30 seconds before the headset tracking would kick in. During that time, the screen would flicker to gray and not update when I moved my head. Very nausea inducing! On the desktop, that period was about 1 to 2 seconds. And the loading times overall we’re much lower.
The second improvement was that I was able to increase the graphics quality settings in game and not suffer much, if at all.
The last improvement I made, and was by far the most noticeable overall, was upping the HMD’s frame rate from 90 fps to 144 fps. This made the games much “smoother”, even if there were the occasional reprojected frames. This was especially noticeable in Beat Saber.
I’ve heard on Reddit that it’s possible to force the VR system into an every-other mode: the headset would run at 144 fps, but the game would be rendering at 72 fps, and every other frame is reprojected. Supposedly this is supposed to make it smoother (since the game has more time to render each frame) and the “interruption” of the reprojection is more consistent so it’s easier to ignore. I’ve not needed to do that yet, but it’s in my back pocket if I ever want to push things further.
We probably went overkill with the specs on this desktop, but we are planning on keeping it and not having to upgrade it for quite a long time. I’m also very happy with the VR performance on the RTX 3070 (specifically for Half-Life: Alyx and Beat Saber).