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Is My Computer Capable and Ready for Virtual Reality?

You may be questioning yourself before buying virtual reality (VR) headset. I had the same question when I was about to enter the world of virtual reality. A computer needs to be ready for VR before you plug in a VR headset.

Many people have the same confusion. So, I crafted this blog post to help you find clarity to your questions. Let’s check what we need to make our pc ready to run VR applications, games and videos.

Do I need to Have a PC for VR Headsets?

You can find three broad categories of VR headsets in the market:

  • Headsets using compatible smartphones
  • Tethered headsets with a PC or gaming console
  • Standalone headsets with display and processing unit

You will need a PC only when you are going for tethered headsets like HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. But if you go with standalone headsets such as Oculus Go, a PC is not required.

What Does it Mean to Have a VR Ready PC?

In a VR ready PC, all hardware specs are pre-installed to run virtual reality applications. Once you get your tethered headset, you will require a processor, GPU, ports and other accessories to operate the headset. Let’s see what we need to get our PC ready.

Don't Compromise on the Processor

The Oculus Rift has a different processor need than the HTC Vive. A specification of Intel Core i5-4590 or higher powers the Rift. If you have at least Intel Core i3-6100 or AMD FX4350, your computer will be good to go.

In the case of Vive, you need to have an Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350. For running Windows mixed reality, you will need Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD Ryzen 5 1400.

Here, I would recommend that you go for at least an i5 for better performance and a smooth VR experience. If you have the necessary budget, you may also consider top-end processors like the i7.

The Power of the GPU

The basic GPU needed for the Rift is NVIDIA GTX 960 or AMD RX470. However, I recommend using GTX 970 or AMD R9 290.

For HTC Vive, the recommended GPUs are GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480. I suggest getting GTX 970 or Radeon R9 290 that are quite affordable. For Windows VR, I prefer using at least an NVIDIA GTX 960 or 1050.

Though basic specifications are decent for running VR applications, I recommend the manufacturer specified specs to get the best out of your PC. The headset may report frame stutters and lags if it is too graphic intensive.

Testing Your PC for VR

Let me share a useful way to test if your computer is ready for VR. Check GPU performance in medium to high 4K settings. Rift and Vive offer a combined resolution of 3024 x 1680 pixels. In such a scenario, your GPU will need to process 457 million pixels per second at 90Hz refresh rates.

In the case of 4K content that runs at 60fps, your computer processes 498 million pixels per second. So, if you are able to run 4K content on your current PC at 30fps, then your GPU can drive VR applications at around 60fps.

Asynchronous Spacewarp (AWS)

Intel i5-4590 and Nvidia GTX 970 are crucial elements to operate Oculus Rift. Oculus introduced the AWS software. Operating this software requires Intel i3-6100 and Nvidia 960 or higher.

The software allows games to run at 45fps on your PC while converting it to 90fps on the headset. If you have a computer with the above requirements, you don’t need an upgrade.

Memory and Storage Considerations

An 8GB RAM is a basic necessity to run Oculus Rift and Windows headsets. In comparison, HTC Vive needs only a 4GB of RAM.

I prefer choosing an 8 GB RAM to allow enough space for running all VR apps and games. Doing this helps to avoid any glitches while you are watching your favorite video or playing a game.

Most VR headset companies don’t need any basic hard disk capacity to be present. But you will need adequate storage space to install your games and apps. Some VR games can be upwards of 10GB while others can be 17GB or 22GB. If you wish to install many games at one go, get a 512GB or 1TB hard disk.

You can choose from physical hard drives and solid-state drives (SSD). SSDs are more expensive than physical drives but offer faster booting times. SSDs are also have quicker transfer speeds and gaming applications.

With SSDs, your end user experience increases manifold. Some people also go for a combination of physical hard disks and SSDs. You can store your games and OS in the SSD for faster performance. The physical drive can work for other storage purposes.

Availability of Ports

Ports are vital when using tethered VR headsets. These headsets connect to your PC and need many ports to operate. For example, Oculus Rift requires one HDMI 1.3 video port, three USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port.

The HTC Vive needs one HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 and one USB 2.0 port. For Windows Mixed Reality, you will need one HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 and one USB 3.0 Type-A or Type-C port.

Check the basic specifications of the headset to make sure it works with the PC.

Operating System

You will notice that windows is the preferred choice of OS for the majority of VR headsets. Oculus recommends Windows 10 for its devices while Vive can run on Windows 7, 8 and 10.

Cooling System

Running VR applications will put a strain on your PC hardware, and it can have issues of overheating. I prefer using the recommended specifications for a better VR experience.

Overheating can occur if you use a pc with inadequate specifications for VR. With overuse, the pc is unable to take the excess load of operating.

To avoid such a situation, I recommend installing a few good quality fans or choosing a decent cooling system. Corsair seems to be a popular choice and offers reasonable performance at a low price.

Make Room for Future Upgrades

VR and PC gaming both are going to become more intensive and hardware-demanding in the future. I suggest making regular computer and accessories upgrades to enjoy the latest content and games.

First on the list should be a suitable motherboard which provides adequate options for future upgrades. For example, future VR headsets may need dual GPUs to meet the graphics requirements.

I would suggest having extra PCI Express 3.0 ports on your motherboard. This will help to accommodate another graphics card if needed. The same goes for memory slots in case you want to increase your RAM in the future.

One or two high-speed Thunderbolt ports on your motherboard can be useful. Future VR headsets may use them for better performance.

Run VR Compatibility Tests

If you are wondering whether your current PC or laptop can support VR, there are some easy ways to find that out. Both Oculus and HTC offer a neat compatibility testing tool. These tools help analyze your computer and tell you whether it’s ready for VR.

Rift Compatibility Check Tool, SteamVR Performance Test Tool, and HTC Vive Check Tool are available. Use these to scan your PC to determine whether it meets the requirements.

In the case of Oculus Rift, download the tool and click on “Start” to run the test. Here is an example of Oculus test results:

The results of Oculus compatible checker.

In the above image, check out the red cross marks beside the graphics card, memory, and processor.

These marks show that the hardware is not adequate to power the Rift. A green tick mark comes near the specifications. It confirms that the device is matching the requirements.

Here’s a video of how to run the Valve compatibility test:

Conclusion

The most important considerations for a VR Ready PC is the processor and GPU. I will list the recommended requirements once again for a quick recap:

  • Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480
  • 8 or 4GB RAM
  • HDMI 1.3 or 2.0 port
  • USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports

Once you have them sorted out, then you can deal with other requirements like RAM and storage. Do use high-quality hardware such as Core i7, GTX 1070, 1080 and Corsair.

Doing this, will help you make your computer ready for VR. Let’s get the game on!

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