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Radeon RX 480 and i5-6400 Mini VR Build

UPDATE: The Newegg Super Combo team put together a killer budget package with the RX 480, Itel i5-6400, ASUS mobo, Cooler Master case, EVGA power supply, Kingston SSD and more for just $589! Yes, you need to bring your own OS, but for the upgraders out there with a spare OS on an HDD, a $589 RX 480 VR rig with legit parts is crazy good. 

We talk about VR a lot on this site, mostly because it's 10 kinds of awesome. Problem is, VR-Ready systems are on the pricy side and you need a expensive graphics card to run it…right? Not anymore. The Radeon RX 480 runs $199 for the 4GB and $239 for the 8GB version, both gloriously VR ready. 

To welcome the latest VR-ready card to the club, we're building a mini VR-ready system using the Radeon RX 480 with the $189 i5-6400 CPU that meets the minimum VR specs. Intel and AMD together? Gasp! But popular entry-level VR builds regularly pair a Radeon card with a Skylake CPU, it's one of the best ways to get in the stereoscopic action. 

While this blue system built with parts hanging around Unlocked HQ clocks in around $850, we're confident you can build an RX 480 with i5-6400 system for close to $650 (minus OS and clicky things). Keep reading for a parts suggestions to get you on the road to a $650 VR machine. Add in an $800 Vive and you're looking at under $1400 for true VR glory. The future is here. 

 

Now, the star of the system is, of course, the new Radeon RX 480 graphics card. Check out our review with gaming numbers. We landed the 8GB version with the reference blower design at $239, though there is a cheaper $199 4GB VR-ready model coming shortly. $199 for VR-ready is the new price to beat.

We started the build with a smurf-tastic $85 Raijintek Styx Micro ATX case for a smaller, more portable machine. This case looks great, but it is a bit unusual in that it flips the motherboard upside down so the power supply is actually in the front of the case. Then you're going this small and trying to pack in an mATX Crossfire ready mobo, internal layout is bound to get funky. Of course, if you're looking for an absolute budget build, there are many cheaper cases out there.

For mobo duty, we had an ASUS Maximus VIII Gene Micro ATX motherboard begging to be used. It’s not the cheapest board at $200, but since we’re flush with X99 Broadwell-E boards right now, the ASUS Gene is the only small form factor and remotely afforable board on hand (tough life, we know). The Gene is, naturally, a Z170 Skylake board, and the Gene features ASUS's fancy fan controls which are a huge benefit in a tiny case like this. Being able to have independent throttling of the different fans, ramping up depending on different mobo temps, means we're able to keep the rig as quiet as possible. 

The $189 i5-6400 CPU is the most basic and possibly the most common CPU that meets the VR requirements. At $189, it's arguably one of the most popular CPUs out right now, getting that Skylake goodness for a reasonable price. Of course, there are many more Skylake VR-ready chips ranging from $189 to $349 for the i6-6700k. If you spend an extra $15, you jump up to the $205 i5-6500 with a 3.2 clock instead of a 2.7. Is it worth it? Well, I think the i6-6700k is worth it, but we're going for min VR specs here. 

Now, personally, I hate stock fans. But since we’re trying to save a few bucks, no AIO liquid coolers here, we’re going with stock. And since it’s the 6400 model, not the fancier 6600k, we won’t be overclocking the CPU. Installation was easy, as it comes complete with thermal paste already applied. Nice and simple.

Next we installed the power supply, and again wanted to balance power with value. We decided on a $110 Silverstone 500 watt SFX. Plenty of juice, but pretty pricey -- those extra bucks are going to "full modular" status so we don't have to struggle with cabling as much as a non-modular model. We like the insides clean.

Interestingly, the Styx case can accommodate standard ATX power supplies, but since we had the SFX on hand and the Styx still appreciates room to breathe inside, the Silverstone fit the bill. If you're looking to lower the price, definitely think about a cheaper power supply, a non-modulra juice box can be had for less than $50. 

After we connected all the power cables to the board, we did our best with cable management, though there isn’t a whole lot you can hide in a case this small. For mem duty, we went with 8GB of Patriot Viper DDR4-2400 RAM -- it's blue, it's cheap, it says Viper on it, so in it went. 

Lastly, we installed the $88 Intel 540s 240GB SSD behind the motherboard to finish off our build. 240 is enough room to install an OS and a few games, and still affordable. Of course, if you really want to save some coin, go 120GB. But, to me, a 240 SSD is the minimum I'd ever go. 

Build Notes

Overall, our blue build is a no frills (no optical drive, no LEDs, no liquid cooling), VR ready machine for less than $900. It looks great, runs smooth, runs super quiet, and is nice and portable. Despite the lack of cooling options in the case (only one generic fan), the case and components were surprisingly quiet even under moderate load.

Now, the Rainjintek Styx is such a strange mATX case, it feels like it's 80% to where it needs to be. I'd like to see a Styx 2 with upgrades like a bigger side window (seriously, this is the smallest window ever) and a better panel removal method. After doing a couple builds with this case, the thin aluminum panel screw holes are nearly stripped because they're so tiny and so shallow. 

Other upgrades would be a better mobo and PSU layout -- I'm just not sold on the upsidedown layout. This makes AIO watercooling options tricky to say nothing for looks -- I want to see my glowing GPU logos the right way, not the Australian way. 

Otherwise, the aluminum look is higher end than competing plastic cases out there. And, of course, it's tiny, so the Raijintek is small enough for portable duty to show off the VR to friends and fam. There are some super small ITX cases with handles out there, like the SilverStone Milo ML08, a personal favorite that I can't wait to do an ultimate portable VR rig build.  

While this system is geared more towards VR, a good gaming addition to this next generation (but still affordable!) build is a FreeSync 4K monitor. These have also gotten astonishingly cheap over the last year, check out this 28" AOC 4K FreeSync monitor for only $339.99. Eat your heart out, NVIDIA. 

If you want an absolutely bare bones VR ready rig, check this out:

$620 Super Budget VR-Ready Build 

UPDATE: The Super Combo team put together a $589 combo build with the RX 480, Intel i5-6400, ASUS Z170 mobo and more (but no OS or keyboard/mouse). Check it out.

Video Card - AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB $199.99

CPU – Intel Core i5-6400 2.7GHz Quad-Core Processor - $179.00

Motherboard - Asus Z170-P ATX LGA1151 – $89

Memory - G.SKILL NT 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 – $28.99

Storage - Intel 540s 120GB 2.5" Solid State Drive - $59.99

Case - Cooler Master Elite 430 ATX Mid Tower Case - $31.98

Power Supply - EVGA 430W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply - $29

Add it all together and you get a VR ready machine for under $620! Of course, no OS or keyboards are included, but we assume you can bring your own if you're upgrading. Or plunk down $99 for Windows 10 Home

Let's pause for a minute: $620 ($720 with OS) is insanely good for someone who is excited about VR but is on a budget. Now that VR is no longer prohibitively expensive, hopefully more consumers will drive the game developers to crank out more AAA titles in the near future. 

Overall

Our smurf-blue mini VR system rocks. Personally, I'd swap out the stock cooler for a fancier model and bump the RAM from 8GB to 16 or 32GB. But when it comes to, you know, the actual processing, the Radeon RX 480 seems like a stunning capable card for both VR and for gaming. Combined with the i5-6400, I expect this combo to be a crazy hot seller, especially as PC builds continue to shrink and make their ways into living rooms everywhere.