what VR development machine to buy?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by etx, Sep 2, 2017.

  1. etx macrumors newbie

    etx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    #1
    Hey guys,

    I fell in love with OS X and want to buy a powerful Apple machine for developing VR games. Since recently Apple announced eGPU support and new products seem to be "made for VR", I think it is time to go for it!

    Can you suggest me something, because I am really confused about which models can be used for VR production, Apple loves to name their products in same line the same way, so I do not get which year models fit the profile.

    I would prefer a portable device, but open to other options. I would also prefer something with ability to upgrade, so eGPU could be changed over time, for example. But I am not sure, can eGPU be used with laptops?

    I get that new macbooks pro are ready for VR, but on High Sierra page it is said that the technology tested with 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-based 13-inch MacBook Pro, while the new 13-inch Macbooks do not have 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core. So, I am really confused, which new models exactly are VR ready.

    Please, help me out, this is going to be a work machine, so I have no luxury to make a wrong choice.

    P.S: i am just really sick of Windows, and using hackintosh has it's limitations/problems I will not not time to deal with.
     
  2. Rob_2811 Suspended

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    Mar 18, 2016
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #2
    Honestly if its VR your into stick to Windows.
     
  3. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    #3
    thanks, I kind of came to the same conclusion in recent hours. it is too unsteady yet and no enough reviews. and apparently only the biggest iMac is made for VR, macbooks pro seem to be ready, but with eGPU, not by themselves. if i'm wrong, please correct me.
    Now i'm trying to figure out if i should go for lenovo y720 or one of msi vr ready notebooks, do you happen to have any advice on that? :)
     
  4. ChrisA, Sep 2, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017

    ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #4
    And if this is for work. There are not yet any potential customers looking for Mac VR games.

    As for a development computer. Newegg was loads of HP workstations that just came off lease. Specs like e5 8/16 core/thread Xeon and 64GB ECC RAM and dual PCIe GPU slots for $600. MacPro power for under $1K. I'll drop a couple GTX1080 cards in next They also have dual chip systems with 16 cores and 128GB RAM. I'm building Tensorflow on it from source right now using 8 cores and editing/testing Python code as the same time with browser open and ZERO slow down. I can ssh into the HP machine from either my iMac or MacPro You might guess my use case from fact that I'm using Tenserflow.

    The HP models to search for are Z420 or with more budget to spend Z620 or Z820. Had a dual CPU Z820 for a few years and it was way-expensive but today these come off lease for peanuts. They are built like tanks and you can disassemble them with no tools
     
  5. Rob_2811 Suspended

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2016
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #5
    I couldn't really advise you which would be best between the Lenovo or the MSI I'm afraid.

    You are right in thinking only the latest iMacs have any real VR capability and they were extremely vague in terms of what VR platforms were supported. The real problem going forward on the Mac are the GPUs and lack of upgradeability. When your GPU gets too outdated to run the latest stuff ( a few years at most id imagine given the cards Apple uses) you are looking at replacing your machine. Great for Apple, not so great for you bank balance.

    Good advice from @ChrisA above.
     
  6. ZapNZs macrumors 68000

    ZapNZs

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2017
    #6
    The Lenovo is a solid pick IMO. Outstanding computer. Outstanding customer service. And it has full 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3, which IMO is potentially hugely beneficial with what you plan to do.

    Several of the Acer Predator models are also great, but IIRC none of them offer TB3. The GS63VR is a solid design, but MSI support leaves much to be desired.
     
  7. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    #7
    Well, I'm not from USA, so prices vary greatly on same products, and some products cannot be bought at all.I never built a PC before, and I hoped for something portable, since I may need to move and dragging a desktop would be a pain. I don't own a car/cannot drive and maybe will need to change places before I will find a good place to rent. plus, robbery is common in some places for rent, so carrying laptop around may be a necessity for a while(yup, I'm kind of paranoid).
    I'm trying to look into desktops, but I have only experience with laptops, so it is hard for me to compare desktops.
    and i couldn't find Z820 to buy in my country or with delivery here :\

    But what about eGPU? woudn't it make upgrading easier?
    I also want to have a chance to make a hackintosh, in case I will need OS X for work/testing. My current laptop is lenovo y510p, and I have Sierra in it, simply why I was so eager to find an Apple product for VR, OS X really impressed me. I would love to have at least a hackintosh option, just in case(or for fooling around in Xcode).

    I heard the opposite of customer service. Also, why Thunderbolt is beneficial for VR? I understand what it does vaguely, but not sure, why it is a benefit for VR. Lenovo is what I usually bought, so I am sticking to this for now myself. It also has less heating problems and battery seems to be longer, than other options in same range or with same capabilities. Though, I've seen other laptops with Thunderbolt already.
    Also, there is y920 coming out soon...
    And, is y720 the only one right now, who offers the upscale of non- VR games and movies into VR?
    my main concern, 5,400-rpm HDD. there is also mention about dim screen, mixed productivity performance and slow SSD.

    overall, the money is not a strong concern, so I am open to other options for now, but I need to buy asap, and y920 seems to be not in the market yet. and the upscale of games and movies to VR seems really cool and didn't see it mentioned about other laptops and desktops.
    also, I may need hackintosh too.

    P.S does anyone know, are lenovo y510p memory cards compatible with lenovo y720?

    thanks a lot guys for quick replies, especially that the discussion moved from mac products fast.
     
  8. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

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    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #8
    Buy a mac laptop for work / daily use / carrying about with you and build a small cheap mini-ITX or mATX computer for hobby stuff / the VR dev work / tasks the laptop can't handle?

    (You can also run bootcamp / Parallels / Fusion on the laptop if you need the Windows side or remote into the small desktop)
     
  9. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    #9
    I don't really care for Windows :)
    thanks for ideas! I looked in my local shops and overall prices, building own computer for VR is not gonna be much cheaper, than buying a notebook for same needs. Simple mac laptop is not gonna cut it for me, sadly. I've seen them in action, surprisingly slow.
    nor I won't have money for both, unless I go for older/less powerful parts, which in such rapid VR development times can be a bad idea.

    I've decided to go with Y720, unless I figure out a cheaper way(the laptop has few unique features, thunderbolt and vr upscale), and if apple products will not get powerful enough in few years, I'll five up and build my own PC. I hope y720 will be okay as a portable device for few years to come...

    Thank you everyone for help!

    also, I guess I am quite scared to make my own build, because I have zero experience with that and almost none with PCs in general(I always used laptops). And I i fail, i will have no resources to fix it. Given my circumstances right now, I have a one shot, so to speak. But I spend a lot time weighting this decision out, I know that stationary PC is always better, but I am not sure I have what it takes right now :\
     
  10. ZapNZs macrumors 68000

    ZapNZs

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2017
    #10
    My experience with Lenovo support has been very positive, and they are pretty well rated. They aren't Apple, but no other maker has consumer-level support on Apple's standard.

    Thunderbolt 3 can be useful for external PCIe devices, multi-drive attached storage, and docks. If you purchased a gaming laptop with a powerful GPU, chances are you would not need it for this purpose. However, given the files you will work with during content creation will likely be ginormous and you may not want to keep them on the local disk, with TB3 you can take full advantage of m.2 NVMe external SSDs, such as the Samsung 960 Pro. TB3 can also take full advantage of use of multiple SATA SSDs in one of the various RAID levels that increases speed beyond what a single SATA SSD is capable of on its own. The TB docks also provide good expansion capability + convenience. Even if it does not benefit you in the short term, having a system with TB3 will equate to considerable flexibility, in my personal opinion.
     
  11. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

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    Sep 2, 2017
    #11
    Maybe it depends on a country. In my country there is no Lenovo office, only resellers. And I didn't personally contact them, so I do not know really. I just know their batteries are usually good and laptops do not heat that much in general. Deep down I'm kind of loyal to the brand :D

    Thanks, now I understand a bit better now.

    Haven't heard about NVMe external SSDs before, need to research. I was planning to get a cheap 1Tb external HDD, just for safety. Hard drives always fail me, external or internal, my USB drives last longer for some reason :\ Another reason, why I was hoping for Apple macbook pro or something, their file system allows to easily recover any file, compared to windows, in case of drive malfunction.

    Do you know, y720 has place only for one hard drive? I have y510p, and I can take out 2nd graphics card and put another ssd or hdd. The y720 seems to have hybrid hard drive(128gb+1tb) or just hdd(1tb) option where I live, I wonder, what should I choose and if I'll be able to add a bigger ssd later. Maybe, the presented model has both ssd and hdd, but I am not sure.

    also, can I add later eGPU to lenovo y720, like new Razer Blade, Razer Core etc?

    Thanks a lot! I get smarter with you! :D

    I wonder, if y720 can be a hackintosh...
     
  12. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #12
    If you don't care for windows, why are you buying a windows machine / looking to hackintosh a windows machine?

    One thing isn't clear - what are you doing right now for earning a living? It seems to require a computer but not be actual VR work. Do you do it in windows or osx? I would prioritise whatever you use for earning a living.

    If you are not currently earning a living through creating VR then there's no need to buy the latest and greatest Macbook laptop.

    Many people on this forum (including me) are very happy with the Macbook Air from 2013 onwards. Perhaps a second hand Macbook would give you a solid OSX machine for earning a living, and give you spare money for building a Windows machine to play about with VR / attempt to hackingtosh.

    I don't work with VR but I get the feeling that a) it is very early to be buying stuff for VR - as you say, it's a bad time to be spending large amounts on VR hardware unless you intend to be earning with it b) there is practically no cheap laptop graphics card that gives good VR c) most graphics work is best done with a large, good quality monitor (e.g. 20"-30").

    Once you're buying a separate monitor and working out where to put it, then you're most of the way to buying a desktop. With crossplatform VR tools, you can keep your code-in-progress updated on both the laptop and the desktop.

    Following e.g. TonyMac's guides for recommended hackintosh purchases for slightly older second hand hardware, but a newer graphics card in mini-ITX or mATX form (both about the size of a Mac Mini or slightly larger, mATX is larger but easier to extend), will give you something that is really EASY to build, small enough to put behind a monitor, plus can easily be updated with new cards, new drives etc.

    https://www.tonymacx86.com/buyersguide/september/2017/

    Places to buy second hand hardware (not sure if you are in the EU or not, but it also covers non-EU countries outside the USA/UK)
    https://www.reddit.com/r/HardwareSwapEU/

    Finally, apologies if this seems a bit rude, but I'm not sure how much programming experience you have. Some of your posts make me think you haven't really done much programming before. VR dev work is HARD. If you haven't already, I suggest you install some dev environments, a VR dev environment (e.g. Unity) onto your current hardware and do some into tutorials to see how you get on. There's a lot you can do with what you already have. If you were already pushing the limits of your current hardware, your posts would be a lot more specific about your current issues, and I'm not seeing that.

    tldr: do as much learning-how-to-create-VR stuff as you can with your current machine, and save your money for later.
     
  13. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #13
    VR needs massive graphics processing that simple really, unless you buy huge very expensive heavy crap battery life laptop then it will not be the best for what you want. to be honest you want to wit for the imac pro in december and that will cost a minimum of £5000
     
  14. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    #14
    I do not care for Windows, means it is not in my requirements. If the machine will be windows, it is okay, I just prefer OS X. But for VR I will need to have both to test the product, I believe. So, I either need hackintosh option or Apple product(and almost all of them fail with VR). Also, since VR doesn't exist on OS X, but Apple made VR ready for Mac, there will be a demand for VR content for Mac users, and an empty VR Store to get noticed by potential buyers. I mean, getting early to the party has its benefits.

    I earn a bit from freelance(art/graphics), what I do can be done in any operating system, and I have an old laptop to do this. I prefer OS X, because I've had a lot of problems with Windows. OS X is just built differently, it cannot run into half of those problems. Because I only used OS X on hackintosh, I couldn't open certain programs, like game engines. I do not own a VR headset yet(except google cardboard), so a lot of things cannot be tested on my current machine. Like, I can run Unreal and Unity on Windows, but not on OS X. My laptop Y510p has 2 types of GPU in it, and only weak integrated one is recognized. Maybe it can handle VR, but fps will be really low, based on some comments on other forums.

    I intend to buy VR stuff for earning on VR. It's not my money, where I live I can get a "grant" for opening own business, but it is a bit tricky, you need to prove you have little competition. With VR as my business plan I believe I can prove it well, since it is not as hard to get into, as, for example, selling a game or app at Android store. No enough content, but a lot of demand, so, hopefully, it is possible to earn a bit despite professional level, so to say. And, based on the rules for the "grant", I will have enough time to produce a playable demo, at least, even alone. Plus, I'll earn money before that through freelance.

    Anyway, on the grant I was thinking of buying everything needed for VR, because myself I cannot really afford it, but it will open a lot of new possibilities for me. I believe, VR is a really good direction to look into, because it is new for everyone, so everyone has equal chances to make a name. So, regarding learning and saving money for later, I have the opportunity now to get this money, I am not sure, if I will be able to do it later. I also may not get the grant at all, but to ask for it I must show the "to buy list". I have approximately until the end of the month to deal with this.

    I was thinking about your message a lot, and also found a review on the "VR upscale" for Lenovo laptops, which made me agree to making my own PC. I have really modest expectations, but I try to plan for the best possible outcome, so I want to choose the tech wisely. My main concern with own build is that I will connect something wrong and nothing is gonna work or break in two weeks or something. I've read and watched videos on building PC yourself, but I see that some things are not clearly mentioned. Like, do I need to have just the stuff in the list or there are things I need to buy additionally, like thermal paste, different wires, special bolts etc. Plus, some components work better/worse with another components, so it is really confusing(like certain motherboard may not handle a powerful GPU). I'm trying to make a list of possible build right now, and see, if it is worth the hassle. It is not that easy to just go and buy stuff I need, there are some rules about it in the terms for getting the grant.

    And yeah, the grant itself is amazing opportunity, but mostly in my case. My idea doesn't require a lot of money, and the money they can give is enough for my needs. But since I will need not only the machine(graphics and testing related stuff, a bit on marketing and stores fees), right now I am looking at around 1000-2000 euro to spend on a VR ready laptop/PC. I am from EU, and taxes are crazy from US, so I hope to buy stuff from my own country, or EU.

    Well, I do not think there is a laptop this powerful with a good battery life. I was considering a laptop just because I may need to move for jobs later on, and I do not own a car(or can drive) to do so with a desktop PC. My budget is sadly limited, I have 2000 euro tops, I think. I could sacrifice a lot and maybe get around 3000, but that's it. iMac Pro, sure will be powerful, but I was hoping for someone to know about cheaper Apple products.
     
  15. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #15
    Unfortunately there are no cheaper apple products and a laptop for VR development just isn't going to cut it, you'll need multiple screens etc. Maybe a second hand mac pro but even they may not be up to scratch.

    Your best bet is still building your own PC, of course as you have noted you will not then have any support and will have to provide all your own hardware and replacements etc, the big bounus is the ability to swap out parts when new components that will boost your productivity comes out.

    It is a big undertaking and maybe some tuition in PC building etc would be a good use for a few of your grant euros, or a lot of watching you tube videos. I would start out by trying to get hold of a few old PC's for nothing or very cheap and playing around with them trying to get any system to work before you go for it on a VR ready PC for your business.
     
  16. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

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    Sep 2, 2017
    #16
    I see, but I heard mac pros are not good either. They have the specs, but performance is not equal to same specs on PCs, or even just on Windows with Bootcamp.

    I am ok with not having support, most of my laptops were used or refurbished. And I had to deal with problems myself. And I heard bad things about support locally(not the PC makers, granted, but the shops that sell), so I do not trust it anyway.

    I have few really old PCs with really old parts to start with. Hmm, haven't heard of tuition of that kind, will try to search. I also found few places that sell their own builds, maybe I can find someone to build it for me in the end.

    Thanks for your advice!
     
  17. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #17
    Thank you for your considered reply. Good luck with the grant application!

    - If portability is important to you, don't go for an ATX build (classic desktop size). Go for a mATX build - they are roughly 30cm by 30cm in size, much smaller and easier to carry around, and takes less space in your home. Still space for proper graphics cards and lots of SSDs / hard drives.

    - Like I said before, best to follow a list of recommended parts when buying. A good mATX parts list that will still give you maximum ease of hackintoshing, and still be good for VR is this one: https://www.tonymacx86.com/buyersguide/september/2017/#CustoMac_mATX

    -- However, in your grant application, don't list any motherboard or component with the word 'gaming', 'ROG', or 'Fatal!ty' in the title (even if your grant application specifically says you are designing for games, I would still avoid them). Pick a different motherboard from the list in the link, probably a Gigabyte one.

    -- Also the link says to buy an add-on card to get wifi working under hackintosh. This might be difficult to justify in the grant application. Consider buying this separately with your own money if it's important to you.

    --- Graphics card pricing right now is odd because of bitcoin mining. See https://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/6jl60i/video_card_prices_and_cryptocurrency_mining_whats/ for more details.

    Finally, I would add that the details of what to buy will be a very small part of your grant application. Get that business plan done, show your market research, cash-flow expectations, SWOT analysis, portfolio, marketing plans, budget etc together. I've done many grant applications, and a lot of it is making stuff up, but it's really important to show that you've got a plan down on paper that looks plausible.

    If you get the grant, then it will be quite easy to make small changes to what you buy depending on market conditions / market availability / your evolving needs. Permission is just an email away, and I've never had a change to a spending plan rejected when it was backed by a reasonable explanation.
     
  18. etx thread starter macrumors newbie

    etx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    #18
    Since I go for local products, I guess I'll end up buying what there is on a market.

    Yeah, I'm trying to make a build based on this list. I've been looking into CustoMac Pro, I guessed it is the most powerful custoMac. Also, I'm trying to figure out, which part I should choose first and use as a base for other choices.

    Thanks for the tips, it didn't occur to me gaming in the description could be a problem. Motherboard seems like the trickiest part of the whole build, I see a lot of same names of motherboards in the online shops with one number different or something, or same name and different prices. still figuring it out.

    The other parts of the plan are mostly finished(except portfolio, sadly). I'm trying to fit in everything I need into the sum I can ask for. Quite hard with VR requirements and latest upgrades in tech(tablets/phones for testing). But I'll have around half a year to buy the stuff I need, I hope the prices will drop considerably.

    Not sure about how easy it will be to make changes, maybe it depends on the country/plan itself. I heard I can go both ways here, easy or a lot of trouble for small change.

    The build seems to be cheaper way out, but it is quite challenging, I end up wondering things I didn't think I'd need to consider, hehe. Thanks to you, I feel more confident choosing to make my own build! :)

    Thanks, I hope it goes well!
     

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