Today Oculus VR has revealed what kind of PC you’ll need to run the finalized Oculus Rift VR headset, and the short of it is that you won’t be able to get away with lower-end gear.
At this time the virtual reality pioneers are preparing for a launch on Windows, and “don’t yet have a timeline” for Mac and Linux platforms.
Below are the recommended and mandatory Oculus Rift PC requirements:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
As we know, the Rift HMD (head-mounted display) is only half of the required hardware–you’ll need a beefy PC to power it and take care of the complex tasks like rendering high-definition visuals
Since virtual reality relies heavily on high frame rates (at least 75 frames-per-second) and low latency, and considering the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, the hefty specs don’t exactly come as a surprise.
In a post entitled “Powering the Rift“, Oculus VR’s Chief Architect Atman Binstock discusses why these hardware specs are essential for VR.
“The Rift is specifically designed to deliver comfortable, sustained presence – a “conversion on contact” experience that can instantly transform the way people think about virtual reality,” says Binstock.
“As a VR device, the Rift will be capable of delivering comfortable presence for nearly everyone. However, this requires the entire system working well.”
Binstock also says that virtual reality as a whole has three main challenges: latency, raw rendering costs, and real-time performance.
In terms of raw rendering costs, Binstock contrasts the requirements of VR games to traditional 1080p 60Hz games.
According to Binstock, any given virtual reality game will require “approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering” and that the Rift’s targets 400 million shaded pixels-per-second compared to the 124 million shaded pixels per second of average games.
Touching upon the real-time challenge, the architect notes that current PC games have a “soft real-time requirements” of 30-60fps where missed frames aren’t really noticeable. In VR, on the other hand, every single skipped frame runs the risk of destroying the illusion and creates a “jarring, uncomfortable experience”.
“As a result, GPU headroom becomes critical in absorbing unexpected system or content performance potholes,” says Binstock.
For those worried about having to constantly refresh and buy the latest expensive CPUs and GPUs to stay up to date with the Oculus Rift, the company affirms that these specs won’t shift as more powerful hardware is released.
“The recommended spec will stay constant over the lifetime of the Rift. As the equivalent-performance hardware becomes less expensive, more users will have systems capable of the full Rift experience.”
The finalized consumer-ready Oculus Rift VR headset is slated to release in Q1 2016 (Jan. 1 – Mar. 31). Price points haven’t yet been revealed, and Oculus might start taking pre-orders in early 2016.