Virtual reality is coming in hot, but getting into VR isn’t just about the new headsets hitting the market. You’ll need a pretty powerful computer to get into truly immersive virtual reality. And that PC tower sitting under your desk probably won’t cut it.
While the only real VR solution on the market right now, the Samsung Gear VR, runs on a phone, many of the more serious manufacturers are harnessing the power of PCs to provide the virtual environments and handle all the data coming in from various sensors. Next year, only 13 million PCs worldwide—or less than 1 percent of PCs in use—will even be able to run VR setups, according to Nvidia.
Both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift will require a powerful gaming rig, but only Oculus has announced the exact specs ahead of opening its preorders later this week. Here’s what Oculus recommends your computer needs to jump into the virtual space:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Those specs include a $300 graphics card, $200 CPU and about $50 in RAM. Add in a hard drive, motherboard, case and the other necessities of a functioning computer, and you’re looking at a rig worth just under $1,000.
That fits in with what Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told the Re/code audience in May. He said the total Rift package, with a new PC and the Rift headset, will be around $1,500. With Oculus already confirming that the headsets would cost more than the $350 developer units, spending around $1,000 on a VR-capable PC sounds about right.
However, you’ll likely be able to spend much more. Nvidia announced a new branding program today that provides a standard for VR-capable machines. The GeForce GTX VR Ready program has nearly the same specs as the Oculus requirements (without the AMD recommendations), and manufacturers will be able to label both complete systems and retail video cards that meet those demands. But those will likely come at a premium thanks to the buzz around VR.
HTC is likely to require similar specs for the HTC Vive, although it may require less power thanks to the company’s history in mobile phone manufacturing. Sony is also coming out with a VR headset, but it will run on PlayStation consoles, which are just $300. However, users may have to splurge for the PlayStation Camera or other peripherals in addition to the eventual headset.