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Made the move to PC and VR!!!

TheGreatC81

Premium Member
Ferrari Challenge Fixed 2021/S4
Name
David Cristelli
Joined
Nov 15, 2017
Messages
312
Location
USA, CT, Enfield
iRacing ID
321605
After weeks and weeks of research, spec and price comparisons, and hunting for deals I've finally made the move from PS4 to PC.  I'm really just writing this post to gush about the experience, but also to help anyone looking to do the same.

I ended up buying an Alienware R7 from Best Buy.  I know some of you are thinking, "You should have built one. It would have been cheaper and performed better." Wrong. If you're just looking to get into PC gaming in general, you may be able to build a decent rig with mid-grade components for less than a pre-built of the same specs. But if you want something with enough horsepower to run sim racing in VR fairly well...well, those GPU's are far too expensive right now.  That goes double if you want quality components and not just the cheapest part that meets the specs.

The R7 I bought has an i7 8700 CPU (liquid cooled), 16GB RAM, a GTX1080, and Intel's new Optane memory cache system for $1600 with 24 months 0% interest financing. You might be able to get close to that price building your own, but you won't get the financing, and you won't get the warranty or support that both Alienware/Dell and Best Buy offer.  That might not bother some, but it was important enough to me.  I also picked up a new LG 29" Ultra wide-monitor.  It's not a 4K, just 2560x1080 @ 75hz, but it looks great and the price was right at $230 (compared to $500+ for a 4K) and also from Best Buy.  The Optane memory does a good job of speeding up boot times and load times of frequently used programs, but it's no replacement for an SSD.  I plan to add an SSD as soon as my wallet recovers from the beating I've put it through.

I re-purchased Project Cars 2 and also picked up Assetto Corsa to see what all the fanboys were talking about. My system plays AC on all highest settings at an average of around 108 FPS.  PC2, being newer and more graphics heavy, can be played on all highest settings and maintain an average of around 60 FPS.  (both at my monitor's ultra-wide native resolution, with full grids, and for PC2 with weather and day/night effects) Pretty solid. There is a definite upgrade in image quality and especially smoothness compared to the PS4, but, to me, I wouldn't say it's worth the price difference on it's own. However, the biggest difference is in load times. The PC loads so much faster than the Playstation, which is really nice when you want to try out a bunch of different cars, or try a certain car on several different tracks.  
I spent about 2 weeks getting comfortable with the PC and testing it's capabilities, and then I moved on to phase 2 of my sim racing upgrade.  Oculus was offering a $50 store credit to new buyers for the 2 year anniversary of the Rift's launch.  That, along with the recent drop to $399 for the bundle told me it was a good time to jump into VR. So jump I did.

I had a couple small hiccups with USB drivers when setting up the Rift, but otherwise it was pretty smooth.  The issues I did have were addressed in the Oculus setup troubleshooting guide, and were fairly quick and easy to resolve.  Right off the bat I was blown away by how immersive this generation of VR really is.  I hadn't even experienced it before buying, and was a little worried it wouldn't live up to the hype. It does. Even without sim racing, VR is an amazing way to game.  But we're here to race, so I'll stick to those impressions.

I fired up AC, and after consulting YouTube for settings advice, jumped into a practice session at the Nurburgring GP course in an R8 GT3 car.  Just sitting in the car in the pits I had a Cheshire Cat grin plastered on my face. I did a few laps and was amazed at the sense of speed and my new ability to hit an apex with consistency.  I then jumped into PC2 and took a Pagani Huayra BC out on the California coast. The thing I love about racing sims is that I get to drive cars that I'll never even sit in, or possibly even SEE in real life. AND actually feel like I'm really driving them. This was true on a monitor or TV.  In VR, it's a whole other level of awesome. In VR, the interior detail of the Pagani made me giddy as a school girl. On a monitor it feels spacious and wide. In VR you realize just how small the cockpits of supercars actually are. It's really just a pair leather wrapped carbon seats with an enormous engine mounted behind them.  At this point my girlfriend was yelling at me that dinner was ready, but I refused to leave until my run up the coast was done. I admit I hit the guard rail a few times because I was too busy looking at the scenery to watch where I was going. It's simply amazing. I was sitting in my dark basement, but felt like I was in a car with glass roof panels on the sunny coast of California.

It's not all perfect, of course. While the resolution of the headset is great for objects that are close, objects in the distance get more blurry the farther out they are. I can't identify cars as far away as I can with a good monitor.  And there is the screen door effect, which is also worse with far away objects and less noticeable with thing up close.  However, I have to say that unless you are obsessed with super high resolution graphics, it won't matter.  The resolution is still really good, the 3D effect is spot on, the head tracking is (in my experience) perfect, and the sound is truly excellent, IMO.  I'm no audiophile but the Oculus headphones sound much better than my Turtle Beach headset which I already thought sounded pretty good.  The simulated surround sound they produce is very convincing.  I can easily tell when a car behind and to my left suddenly moves over to my right without looking.

The other negative is that VR is VERY taxing on your system.  Even if I had the currently top-of-the-line 1080ti, it wouldn't allow me to run these games on full settings, or even anything close.  Most of my settings on PC2 in VR are medium or low, and it still dips below the recommended 90 FPS mark frequently.  Again, there is a "however" to this.  I don't see much difference when lowering the settings, especially while racing. Some of the detail may be missing, but it doesn't really effect the immersion, IMO.  The essential elements, the interior of your car, the opponent cars, the track and markers, still look great.  Even the lighting and shadows still do their job.  You really just lose things like tire smoke, dust/grass getting kicked up, and some other little things like that.  Trust me, it's still totally worthwhile. Also, ASW (asynchronous space warp) works quite well.  It's a tech that Oculus uses to manage the framerate and avoid stuttering or screen tearing, which can cause nausea. It basically cuts the frame rate to 45 FPS when your system gets overloaded and goes back to 90 when the demand gets lighter again.  I've see it do this when watching a framerate counter while playing, but I don't really see much difference in the game.  I guess it's a little less smooth, but not to the point where it causes problems. For me anyway, I guess some people are more sensitive to lower framerates and may get a little motion sick.  This is also something people say they get used to after some seat time.

This post is already much longer than I intended so I'll wrap it up.  I just wanted to share my experience switching from PS4 on a TV to PC in VR and all that came with it in case someone else is thinking of making the leap.  Of course, this was not cheap.  I have a decent job and do ok, but this was still a big expense for me.  Of course, the computer will be useful for more than just games, but still I basically just dropped $2k+ to pretend to race cars I can't afford on tracks I'll probably never see in person.  But that's also the point. I love cars and racing with a passion.  Always have. I've looked into autocross (or solo racing), rallycross, and even had an opportunity to join a 24 Hours of Lemons team.  It's all FAR more expensive and involved than sim racing.  And with those real life options, I'd only be driving one car, and only for the few hours per month that I could afford time on the track. With sim racing I can drive any car on any track, and when I bin it into a wall at 150 mph, I don't have to spend 6 months in the hospital recovering. Some will always prefer real over virtual, myself included, but I decided this was the better choice for me.  Plus, the line between real and virtual is getting thinner all the time.  It's a good time to be sim racer, and a gamer in general.

If anyone made it this far, thanks for reading my excited review.  I'm happy to answer any questions I can. I hope to get into a PC league soon and see some of you on the track.  
 

jeromef1

Director
Staff member
Name
Jerome Berthiaume
Joined
Jan 25, 2017
Messages
9,799
Age
34
Location
Nicolet, QC, Canada
iRacing ID
177904
Next step... iRacing!! 😁

Also, have you get dizzy with Occulus. Do you think you would be able to do 4 hours stint in a 24h endurance race?
 

TheGreatC81

Premium Member
Ferrari Challenge Fixed 2021/S4
Name
David Cristelli
Joined
Nov 15, 2017
Messages
312
Location
USA, CT, Enfield
iRacing ID
321605
jeromef1 said:
Next step... iRacing!! 😁

Also, have you get dizzy with Occulus. Do you think you would be able to do 4 hours stint in a 24h endurance race?

Once in a while certain situations will give me a little nauseous feeling.  For example, the first few times I went through the cork screw at Laguna Seca, and when going through some of the hilly sections on the Cali coast.  It's always been fairly minor and goes a way in a few seconds. I think it happens (for me at least) when my eyes see something and my brain expects a certain feeling to come with it, but it doesn't happen.  I think that little disconnect makes your brain go, "Wait, wut?"  But for me it's been happening less and less so I think you get used to it. 

I'm also still messing with graphics settings and trying to optimize for a solid 90 FPS.  Once I get that worked out I don't think it'll be an issue anymore.  I think the real problem with long stints would be getting hot and fogging up the lenses.  I've read that the VR Cover replacement pad kits help a lot with that problem, and are also more comfortable.  I have one on order so I'll let you know.

I will be trying iRacing at some point, but my wallet just took a beating so I'm going to let it recover before I invest in another sim.  I have a feeling I will become obsessed all over again and end up blowing a lot of dough on cars and tracks. Talk about first world problems. LOL
 
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