Minimum Specs for VR Gaming Laptops and PCs

VR-ready gaming laptops and VR-ready gaming towers have very specific requirements, so they can fully support the hardware, graphics, and processing needs of advanced virtual reality games (or any type of interactive VR -- industrial, educational, etc.). If you're shopping for a PC to use with your new Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Lenovo Explorer headset, pay close attention to the system requirements.

Virtual reality (VR) games and artificial/mixed reality (AR/MR) titles put heavy demands on your PC. While typical PC games display the action only on your monitor, taking input from simple joy sticks and control pads, VR action is projected through dual-lens VR headsets. Many of these VR headsets are motion controlled to send your head and eye movements back to the system as game input (along with data from a variety of other devices such as gloves, steering wheels, and so on).

So, a VR-ready gaming system must be able to receive and process data from multiple input sources, and render it in real-time for game play. This means greater system requirements, versus a standard gaming computer.

System requirements for VR-ready gaming laptops and desktops

When you're ready to buy your new VR gaming laptop or computer, think CPU, GPU, and USB. In other words, check the central processor, graphics card, and built-in USB ports. Video output matters, too, and should be matched to your specific headset. RAM and storage, while important, are not as essential to the core VR experience as the other components.

Headset and VR/AR/MR platform manufacturers typically provide both minimum and recommended system specifications for their products. However, most experts suggest getting as close to the recommended specs as possible, as VR-style experiences diminish rapidly if your PC can't keep up.

Following are the current (late 2018) recommended PC specifications for VR gaming using the popular Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, as well as the Lenovo Explorer headset that uses the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Note that individual VR games may have specific, additional hardware requirements that are not covered here.

VR-ready gaming PC Requirements

Graphics

The most critical component for high quality virtual reality gaming is a dedicated graphics card or GPU that's powerful enough to render the complex, 3D-style imagery that makes VR so immersive. Plus, VR-quality games are presented at higher frames rates than non-VR games (90 fps compared to 60 fps) with distinct images for each eye, rather than a single image for both.

As of late 2018, here are the recommended graphics specs for the major headset platforms:

OCULUS RIFT
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060 (+) or AMD Radeon RX 480 (+)
HTC VIVE
  • HTC Vive: NVIDIA GTX 1060 (+) or AMD Radeon RX 480 (+)
  • HTC Vive Pro: NVIDIA GTX 1060 (+) or AMD Radeon RX 480 (+)
LENOVO EXPLORER
  • Windows Mixed Reality: Intel HD Graphics 620 (+)
  • Windows Mixed Reality Ultra: NVIDIA GTX 1050/965M (+) or AMD RX 460 (+)

Processor

While not as critical to VR as the graphics card, your CPU should have sufficient cores/threads, cycle times, and cache allotments to juggle the intense I/O needs of complex, multi-player VR games.

Here are the recommended processors for several major headsets/platforms as of late 2018:

OCULUS RIFT
  • Intel Core i5-4590 (+) or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X (+)
HTC VIVE
  • HTC Vive: Intel Core i5-4590 (+) or AMD FX 8350 (+)
  • HTC Vive Pro: Intel Core i5-4590 (+) or AMD FX 8350 (+)
LENOVO EXPLORER
  • Windows Mixed Reality: 7th Gen Intel Core i5, 2+ cores & hyper-threading (+)
  • Windows Mixed Reality Ultra: 6th Gen Intel Core i5, 4+ cores (+) or AMD FX-4350, 4+ cores (+)

Ports & connectivity

Depending on the specific headset and peripherals you'll use to play your VR/AR/MR games, you'll need to buy a laptop or tower PC that's equipped with proper types and amount of USB ports.

As of late 2018, the leading VR platform makers recommend between 1-3 USB 3.0 ports to support headsets and accessories, such as gloves and steering wheels:

OCULUS RIFT
  • 3 USB 3.0 (+), 1 USB 2.0 (+)
HTC VIVE
  • HTC Vive: 1 UBS 2.0 (+)
  • HTC Vive Pro: 1 UBS 3.0 (+)
LENOVO EXPLORER
  • Windows Mixed Reality: 1 UBS 3.0 (+)
  • Windows Mixed Reality Ultra: 1 UBS 3.0 (+)

Video output

Video output is another consideration when matching a new laptop or desktop PC to your favorite VR headset.

As of late 2018, the major headset manufacturers recommend different output options:

OCULUS RIFT
  • HDMI 1.3 compatible
HTC VIVE
  • HTC Vive: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 (+)
  • HTC Vive Pro: DisplayPort 1.2 (+)
LENOVO EXPLORER
  • Windows Mixed Reality: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 (+)
  • Windows Mixed Reality Ultra: HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 (+)

Memory

As for memory, the recommended minimum allotment for VR is 8 GB of RAM -- not much different than what 's needed for typical computer gaming. Storage requirements are mostly a function of how many VR games you plan to store for repeated play, and whether you think you'll benefit from the speed of a solid state drive, which can load games faster than a traditional spinning hard drive.

Of course, the specifications listed here represent just a snapshot in time. So be sure to check the recommended system configurations for your VR headset/platform before matching your specific model to a new PC (or vice versa). All the major manufacturers and software companies publish detailed spec lists on their websites, and most provide online tools to easily confirm if the system you're using can run their headsets or games.

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