Graphics card manufacturer Nvidia has revealed its minimum specs for running virtual reality on PC, along with a new scheme to highlight which of its products can handle the heavy processing workload.
Although 2016 may prove to be the year of virtual reality, the adoption costs are mounting up. Beyond buying a headset — such as Oculus Rift — many users will need significant system upgrades to utilise the technology, and the requirements won’t come cheap.
Nvidia’s recommended specs for an entry level experience comprise an Intel Core i5 4590 as the bare minimum CPU (which can be found for roughly £160 at time of writing), 8GB of RAM (anything from £40 to £60), two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.3 port and be running Windows 7 SP1 or later for the system OS. That last part is surprisingly low-end, especially given later versions of DirectX — necessary for PC gaming — no longer support the seven-year old system.
The real wallet-ruiner though is likely to be the graphics card, which will be the workhorse of any VR system. Nvidia has named its GTX 970 as the minimum requirement, despite being a powerful card in its own right and one of the company’s higher end products, available for approximately £270. Also compatible are the 980, 980Ti and Titan X cards, which cost roughly £400, £540, and £840 respectively. Laptop users have a sharper spike, with the 980 being the minimum needed for on-the-go desktop quality VR.
Juggling all those less-than-sexy numbers is a potential minefield for less tech-savvy users, so Nvidia has also introduced a new branding scheme. Cards deemed powerful enough to run VR will carry a “GeForce GTX VR Ready” label going forwards, which should ease some consumer confusion. Even the more hardcore early adopters are likely to want some reassurance their purchases will do what they’re meant to, so it’s a welcome move.
Of course, Nvidia’s specs only reference its own products, but the official Oculus specs say an AMD 290 will also serve as a suitable entry point. Whichever camp you’re in, those minimum figures aren’t necessarily going to suffice for running virtual reality games though, just VR experiences.
For VR gaming, a GPU needs to produce two images, one for each eye, and each at (ideally) 90fps or higher, all while reacting to player actions and movements. That’s a lot more intensive than putting the viewer in a immersive but controlled environment, and likely to need higher-power machines to really suffice. Even the cutesy likes of Lucky’s Tale, bundled in with Oculus Rift, will likely place demands on gamers.
With high specs and a price to match, it may still be a while before VR reaches the mainstream.