Is Your Feeble PC Ready For VR?

This is not virtual. This is reality. The two big beasts of the coming VR revolution are lumbering into view. It’s actually happening. By the end of April both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR headsets will be on sale. Things you can actually buy. Yes, yes, virtual reality has had several false starts. But this time, you can sense it. This time, it’s different. Well, probably. Oh, OK, nobody knows how big an impact VR is going to have in the next few years. But what I can do is help you to understand how much PC power you’re probably going need to get the most out of the new headsets.

TL;DR
– Traditional frame-rate performance metrics don’t get the job done for VR
– VR is all about graphics performance and specifically latency
The recommended requirements for the Rift very likely apply to the Vive, too
– Treat those requirements as minimum as opposed to optimal
– Things aren’t looking good for middling GPUs that you may currently have installed
– But you probably won’t need a new CPU
– VR rendering isn’t quite the same as conventional 3D rendering and technologies like ‘time warping’ could help VR run well on less powerful hardware
– AMD and Nvidia look closely matched when it comes to VR optimisations

That TL;DR is too long
For now, roll with the Oculus Rift recommendations for both headsets
– So that’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290. Don’t worry too much about your CPU

Also, this is not a Rift versus Vive post. For that, you’ll want to pop over here.

A very real nightmare

First, let’s be clear. If you deep dive into virtual reality, really get to grips with all the performance-relevant issues, this is a nightmare subject.

Forget about the old days of average frame rates or maybe minimum frame rates if you wanted to get fancy. In the brave new world of VR, everything is eleventy-three times more complicated. Welcome to API-event-to-draw-call latency. To time warping and late latching. To technojargon that makes your brain bleed.

That said, the subject mainly comes down to raw rendering performance. And VR is nothing if not a triple whammy of rendering rigour.

Doing VR well means fooling your wetware. For the most part, our brains are actually pretty keen to be fooled. Or rather our brains are keen to set up a coherent, working model of the world around us. But you do have to jump through certain hoops to prevent what you might call brain barf or, to botch a Blackadderism, the vomitous extramuralisation of sensory inputs.

That motion-to-photon thing, illustrated…

For VR, specifically, you need high resolutions, you need high refresh rates, and you need low response times. That’s the triple whammy. Bam, bam, bam.

Without getting bogged down in the science, at best any lag or choppiness is going to break the spell. At worst, it’ll give you motion sickness. You can read all about the notion of ‘motion-to-photon’ and how latency is critical for VR in this Valve blog post.

But the immediate assumption is that you’ll also need one hell of a graphics chip, right? In simple terms, yes. The additional CPU load generated specifically by VR isn’t particularly onerous. So, it’s mostly a graphics power problem. Do the rendering really quickly and the latencies tend to take care of themselves.

But VR is also more than simply pumping an existing 3D engine into a headset. And that has implications for how much PC power you’ll need to pack.

Those new headset specs in full

Hold that thought. First, let’s tear through the known speeds and feeds for the new headsets and what it all means for your poor old GPU. A bit like games consoles, VR involves the science and engineering of the possible. Inevitably, therefore, they look very similar in terms of the key performance-critical specifications. Which are thus:

1,080 by 1,200 pixels per eye or 2,160 by 1,200 total resolution
90Hz refresh

VR courtesy of Facebook? There’s a gag in there somewhere about life, art and virtual reality. Make one up for yourself

Oculus was initially and inexplicably cagey about those numbers, but as far as I am aware they are now official. That said, unlike HTC, Oculus has been kind enough to provide minimum required PC specifications, the highlights of which are:

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290
Intel Core i5-4590
8GB RAM

Given the identispec resolution and refresh, there’s not much initial reason to expect the minimum requirements for Vive to be terribly different.

For both headsets the resolution works out to 2.5 million pixels. For reference, plain old 1080p is just over two million pixels. So that’s 25 per cent more rendering load over 1080p in terms of the plain pixel count. For further reference, the popular 27-inch 2,560 by 1,440 display format translates to 3.7 million pixels.

If that was as far as things went – 25 per cent more pixels versus 1080p – you wouldn’t need all that much GPU. Most current mid-range GPUs could handle conventional desktop gaming on an effective 2,160 by 1,200 pixel display.

Having more than one player in the VR game is going to be critical…

Nope, the problem is the additional refresh and response hurdles. Superficially, 90Hz refresh puts both headsets 50 per cent higher than a standard PC monitor. So now we’re well on the way to twice the rendering load of common-or-garden 60Hz 1080p.

Except it’s not as simple as 60Hz versus 90Hz. If you set a target of 60Hz or 60 frames per second on a regular PC monitor, the consequences of dipping below 60 aren’t automatically disastrous. You often won’t really notice the odd dip into, say, the 40s.

Not so for VR. This problem is intimately linked to response or latency. In other words, how long it takes the display system to react to your inputs, which in VR terms mostly means head movements. If the movement of the world you see perceptibly lags your head movements, the whole thing comes tumbling down. It’s that motion-to-photon thing I mentioned earlier.

Can we have some numbers, please?

Extrapolating from the pixel counts and refresh rates is a start. But what we really need are metrics that include latency.

It’s early days for measuring that aspect of VR rendering performance. If you want some wider reading, here are a couple of articles you might want to look at. First is the Tech Report’s round up of what you might call marginal VR-capable current graphics cards, from the Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 and down.

This is where VR starts according to Nvidia and Oculus

To cut a long story short, my hunch is that you want Tech Report’s ’99th percentile frame time’ metric to read under 20ms and probably nearer 10ms for a nice VR experience (10ms roughly equating to 90Hz refresh). TR’s tests in that round up are split across 1080p and 2,560 by 1,440 resolutions. But overall, it doesn’t look terribly pretty for the GTX 970, let alone any of the weaker cards in terms of frame rendering latencies.

Put another way, it looks like even with a 970, you’re going to need to compromise on the eye candy to get really comfortable VR-friendly frame rates. You can also refer to this Oculus blog post for their take on the rendering demands of VR. It claims the loads are roughly 3x that of driving a conventional 1080p PC display.

A further interesting peep into the future of VR performance is this preview of FutureMark’s upcoming VRMark benchmark. If you can’t be bothered to read it yourself, and I don’t blame you, what you would have learned is as follows. Firstly, AMD and Nvidia are closely matched for latency and indeed some aspects of latency aren’t directly proportional to raw GPU power. Secondly, per-eye latency (ie left eye versus right eye) can differ pretty dramatically when using a single screen split between two eyes instead of two fully independent displays.

The Radeon R9 290 is the AMD lift-off point

Two independent displays is clearly desirable, but my understanding is that, for now, the new headsets use a single screen split via optics, just like the development kits. But I have failed to find absolutely definitive info on that. Like I said, this is a nightmare subject (shout out below if you know something I don’t on this bit, or anything else of relevance for that matter).

So, I do need that ridiculously expensive GPU, then?

Probably, but there are two possible mitigating factors. The first is that I reckon frame rate and response are more important than image fidelity – eg things like texture quality – for VR. Crush the eye candy settings and more modest GPUs could well be workable. We shall see.

The other saving grace could involve VR-specific rendering technologies like ‘time warping’ and ‘late-latching’. Say what? Time warping is essentially a low-overhead kludge for approximating some extra ‘fill in’ frames to improve performance. And late-latching is basically a clever way of optimising the rendering queue without introducing lag.

If you want to deep dive into the time warp, this YouTube vid explains how it works. For late latching, go here.

And what of AMD versus Nvidia?

The final question is ye olde AMD versus Nivida debate. Inevitably, both companies are bigging up the VR prowess of their graphics products. Nvidia has its Geforce GTX VR Ready thing, which tells you which card to buy (GTX 970 and up, no surprise), its VR Direct brand for VR-friendly technologies and then the Gameworks VR programme to help game developers with the VR challenge.

Will the VR rendering load turn out to be Titanic?

As for AMD, well, props for condensing all of its VR efforts under the singular LiquidVR umbrella. But as you can see from the VRMark preview story linked above, the early data don’t seem to favour either vendor. For more discussion on AMD versus Nvidia regards VR and some additional links, this Reddit thread is as good a place to start as any.

Just tell me what to buy

Like I said, this is a nightmare subject. The minimum specs quoted by Oculus are, ultimately, as good as it currently gets. So, I could have saved myself a lot of bother and you a lot of reading by just linking them. Which I did. At the top. So it’s not my fault if you still ploughed all the way through. But you do understand why those minimum specs are precisely as they are a little better now.

100 Comments

  1. tangoliber says:

    To be honest, I will probably only use my headset to play Doom 2.

  2. Psychomorph says:

    My body is ready, but my wallet is not (I will force it though).

    • MattM says:

      My wallet is ready, but I am still unsure if I’ll be able to avoid simulator sickness. Most FPSs, including 6DoF games, are no problem, but view-bob and screen shake can be deal breakers. Fortunately my roommate has ordered a rift so I can try before I decide.

    • Xzi says:

      VR is what tax refunds were made for.

  3. Emeraude says:

    It’s not. My rig is going ten years old and counting. Really need to upgrade, but given how uninterested I’ve been in new tech – VR included – it’s going to take a big chunk of software I can’t run before I do.

  4. heretic says:

    I like Jeremy’s TL:TL;DR :D

  5. Plank says:

    Too much hype. Give it a year and you never know, there may be a game worth buying one for.

    • metric day says:

      Elite: Dangerous is absolutely gorgeous and the game I’ve wanted all my life in VR. On a monitor it’s neat but not nearly as compelling.

      • Safari Ken says:

        Until I have a headset, I compromise and play with TrackIR in Eyefinity. In Elite specifically, I jokingly call it my “Poor Man’s VR”. Then I imagine it like that, but in 3D (as on a headset), and I get a little excited.

      • goettel says:

        Elite doesn’t run on current Oculus drivers though, and there’s no set date when it will.

    • silentdan says:

      Agreed. I was genuinely interested in the Rift, and then later the Vive. Shortly after that, the hype machine got cranked up to 11, and I began to rapidly lose interest.

      I get that every product needs a little marketing. No one will buy your widget if no one knows you’re selling it in the first place. That’s fine. But when the tone switches from “informational, if perhaps a tad optimistic” to “full-on hard-sell coercion” I just get turned off. “We think you’ll enjoy our fine product much more than you’d enjoy our competitor’s products!” is fine. I don’t expect anyone to shit-talk their own stuff in an ad. “Dude, you gotta buy this or your peer group will question the legitimacy of your identity, brah!” is just fucked up. It makes me want to not buy the thing, just to prove that I can.

      When you tell me I might enjoy something, perhaps that will pique my interest, and perhaps not. When you tell me that if I don’t buy your product, I’ll never be a real man, all I wanna do is call your bluff. “Still feeling rather masculine over here,” is what I’d snidely remark, if any of those ad folks were within earshot. Then I’d chortle smugly and slowly shake my head in a gesture of bemused contempt.

    • PenguinJim says:

      “Give it a year and you never know, there may be a game worth buying one for.”

      Errr… you know that you can add VR support to existing games, right? Games like MinecRift work amazingly well without even any official support. Games like Bioshock finally come to life. If you’re just looking at the “dedicated” VR games list, you’re doing it wrong.

      Give it a year? We have already had the games and support for two years.

      However, whether or not this additional peripheral for enhancing your gameplay experience in some games is worth YOUR money for YOU, is a question only you can answer. Like whether or not an expensive joystick is worth it.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Typical walking-around games are a terrible application of VR with just a headset. Even if they get the speed right, your actual ass is still stuck in a chair, or with the Vive in a couple square meters of floor space.

        Good games will be designed for VR, unless they happen to already fit the constraints perfectly (flight sims, space sims, etc).

        • Asurmen says:

          That only matters if you really really want the extremes of immersion. I’m guessing for most people the mere feedback of the headset is enough.

        • Premium User Badge

          Thirith says:

          From what I’ve read, some people love games that weren’t designed for VR with Oculus Rift and VorpX. Some people enjoy them, though they acknowledge that they’re not ideal. And some people hate them.

          Personally I’m very much looking forward to pottering about in the likes of Skyrim, Dear Esther, Gone Home and Arma in VR. I wouldn’t necessarily play all of them from beginning to end that way, but there are enough people who have obtained serviceable results with VorpX, even if the games weren’t designed for VR. No need to be all purist, “best thing ever” vs. “that’s not how you do VR!” about it until I’ve tried it out myself or have heard from people who’ve tried it out with the Consumer Version.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          If I wanted to go running around all over the place I’d have a different hobby.

        • PenguinJim says:

          “Typical walking-around games are a terrible application of VR with just a headset.”

          I’m sorry to hear you haven’t enjoyed some of these games. Did you manage to give MinecRift a go? I even found it worked well in third-person shooters, just letting you control the camera with your head – it’s not just about “being there” as in ‘your eyes are your avatar’s eyes’, but changing the way you see the game, and even making the controls a little easier by adding your neck as another input (although I still can’t do keyboard + mouse + VR. Pad only for me!).

          Which headset do you have? I might be able to make some recommendations.

  6. Sakkura says:

    Any particular reason you picked the Fable: Legends page on that Tech Report article?

    Anyway, my rig is ready. Overclocked R9 290 and Core i5-3450. The latter matches/beats the minimum 4590 by virtue of the overclock.

    PS: People also need to check that they have enough USB3.0 ports, and that they aren’t running off dodgy secondary controllers (from Asmedia etc).

    • brucethemoose says:

      Techreport pioneered the whole percentile-based frame time measurement thing, which is a much more important performance metric for VR than raw FPS is.

      • Sakkura says:

        Yeah, along with PC Perspective. My question was why link to that particular page of the article. Unless there’s no particular reason.

  7. Mahti says:

    You said “shout out below if you know something I don’t on this bit, or anything else of relevance for that matter”…

    Both Vive and Oculus do use separate 1080×1200 pixel displays. I don’t have a link for Vive right now but Luckey confirmed it for Oculus when explaining the price: “The core technology in the Rift is the main driver – two built-for-VR OLED displays with very high refresh rate and pixel density, a very precise tracking system, mechanical adjustment systems that must be lightweight, durable, and precise, and cutting-edge optics that are more complex to manufacture than many high end DSLR lenses.”

    link to reddit.com

    One major thing you’re complitely missing about performance is the strain caused by having to render two viewpoints instead of the usual one plus both at bigger FOV than with usual displays. This means that every visible object need to be rendered twice compared to non-stereoscopic gaming in addition to having more stuff on screen becaus of larger FOV. This roughly equates to having to draw 3 times as many objects (3 times the polygons) compared to the same scene without VR.

    Drawing objects is the most CPU straining part of most of the games today and the required CPU power has straight correlation wiht fps which mean that a VR game needs at minimum 2 times the CPU power compared to non-VR but more likely around 3 times without even taking the latency/minimum frame rate requirement in to the equation. Often any spikes in frame rate are caused by CPU bottle necks during explosions or other physics heavy events, which (the spikes) we want to avoid with VR. So all in all, it is complitely inaccurate to state “Don’t worry too much about your CPU” when it’s really the opposite.

    Oculus doesn’t have the Intel i5-4590 as minimum for nothing, you know.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      “and cutting-edge optics that are more complex to manufacture than many high end DSLR lenses.”

      Same goes for some smartphone solutions, but it depends on how you twist your marketing and what you mean with complex. Sure, you can’t use one kilogram of high quality glass, so making something decent is indeed more challenging but, ultimately, even if you succeed, you still tried to make the most of a huge necessary compromise.

      At the end of the day, high quality DSLR lenses are, indeed, high quality, the stuff you’re mentioning isn’t.

      • kael13 says:

        Hi. Yes. Palmer goes on to clarify that the Rift lenses themselves are more expensive than any of the individual lens elements in an SLR lens, not the entire lens apparatus.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Thanks.

      I’m naturally a pathological doubting Thomas, so despite references to dual displays, I wasn’t swallowing it. Most of the third party references smelt like assumption. I hadn’t seen anything absolutely categorical, so thanks for the link. I had actually read bits of that AMA before. Just missed the relevant bit, typically!

      • SCheeseman says:

        There’s having doubt and then there’s ignorance. The Vive has had dual screens since before it was known as the Vive and the Rift has had them since Crescent Bay.

        Your VR reporting is pretty misinformed and kinda sucks.

  8. SingularityParadigm says:

    “but my understanding is that, for now, the new headsets use a single screen split via optics, just like the development kits.”

    Nope. Both Rift and Vive are using dual independent displays custom designed for VR with low-persistance and global refresh. This has been common knowledge since Oculus Connect 2 developer conference last year. Both HMDe have hardware adjustments to move the screens laterally and make the separation between the displays narrower or wider to accommodate a greater range of the natural variation in human interpupillary distance (IPD). Oculus claims to cover everything between the 5th percentile and the 95th percentile.

  9. Sakkura says:

    Oh, and by the way: The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive do definitely both use two separate displays, it’s not just a single display split off to each eye. That’s what Oculus did with their devkits, but I guess it’s not quite as good as using separate displays.

  10. Jediben says:

    So what all the comments above really mean is “this article is wrong”. But VR companies have a lot of money tied up in these and they can’t be allowed to flop…

    • metric day says:

      Undoubtedly many of these companies will flop. Attending VR gatherings, you can catch a palpable whiff of death from some of these desperate startups. Fortunes will be made. And LOST.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      But the articel doesn’t say VR is going to be a big hit.

      In fact the only remark in that regard says that nobody knows how big an impact it will have.

  11. Rich says:

    Nope, and my eyes certainly aren’t.

  12. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    My PC is ready, but i’m waiting for VR to actually die out.

  13. Zenobite says:

    Well my PC is ready, but I’m still on the fence about VR

  14. racccoon says:

    I do not care about VR its another fad.
    I’ll just watch as people end up with physical & mental problems.

    • Xzi says:

      Are you serious? Please tell me you’re not serious. If the Virtual Boy didn’t give me “physical and mental problems,” 2016 VR is fine. What a silly, silly comment.

      • Asurmen says:

        He’s a known troll. Just ignore him.

      • Jediben says:

        I’d say anyone that bought the Virtual Boy had mental problems to begin with!

        • Xzi says:

          Technically my parents bought it for me. I was a young’un then.

      • LetSam says:

        Didn’t you know that riding a train in the mid-19th century at 20 mph (and a car at the end of it) could drive you insane? Never mind horses could match that speed and go faster.

        • Premium User Badge

          Don Reba says:

          What if everyone who has ever taken a train ride HAS gone insane in a subtle way? It would explain A LOT of things in modern society.

          • Saarlaender39 says:

            Hey you!…I like your thinking…I like it a lot.

            ;)

  15. Clarksworth says:

    I’m excited about VR finally making some real headway into PC gaming, but I’m not prepared to be an early adopter holding a very expensive Elite:Dangerous peripheral in 2 years time.

    If it takes hold, and in 2-3 years we start seeing a decent number of titles with proper support, and the kind of Graphics cards you need to drive it entering the commodity price range, I’ll buy.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    VR courtesy of Facebook? There’s a gag in there somewhere about life, art and virtual reality. Make one up for yourself

    I don’t feel up to it. A little help?

  17. Deano2099 says:

    No-one’s PC is ready. Anything remotely pretty needs dialing back hugely on a 970 even on the DK2 with a lower res.

    I’d think about getting one of the new headsets as it is cool, and the custom designed games (Keep Talking…) and some of the experiences are ace. But they’re going to be out about 3 months prior to the next generation of graphics cards that are actually capable of driving them (and to be frank, I think will be the true entry level minimum spec – it’s just you can’t have a minimum spec that’s cards that aren’t available to buy yet).

    • MattM says:

      The last buzz I heard indicates that the new nvidia Titan replacement will be out end of April and the 970 – 980- 980 ti replacements will be in June. It seems like the Oculus won’t be shipped in large numbers till June despite the earlier paper launch. So hopefully people can buy a card to match their VR display.
      Of course the cards might be later than that and they might also have a low availability launch.

      • kael13 says:

        Unless Nvidia changes up their release cycles, going off previous announcements, the first cards to come out will be 980 replacements. A short time after that, the 970 replacement. 3-6 months later the Titan X replacement and then finally another month or so after, the ‘new’ 980Ti to make all the Titan buyers cry. Oh and then another couple of months before you’re able to actually get decent versions of it.

        So yeah, if you’re looking at the ‘not silly money’ end of the scale, you should be good around June. This is a process node reduction for Nvidia so the jump in performance could be huge. The ‘new 970’ could beat current 980Ti performance.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Nvidia started doing that crap with Kepler and Maxwell because they couldn’t have satisfactory yelds with the latest cards, with the “full-fat” not being economically feasible.

          It wasn’t the same before and it probably won’t be this time either, they always sold you the big chip if they had it ready ( before Kepler and Maxwell ), and it seems that this time they do.

          They are already making some market differentiation afterall, only the full-fat will have HBM2, the smaller ones ( 980 replacement ) will have a new, faster version of GDDR5.

  18. CaesarNZ says:

    My system is good to go but whats the word on SLI for the Occ? does it work?
    I just have to wait till May to get mine, crikey that’s ages away.

  19. PenguinJim says:

    Ironically, two of the major problems to avoid with VR are stuttering and low minimum FPS – both of which can be caused by slower system RAM, and a recent RPS article proclaimed that faster RAM was basically worthless (by ignoring lots of 2015 and 2016 benchmarks, apparently).

    If you’re building, make sure you’ve got nippy RAM in there!

    • Asurmen says:

      Got any links for that?

      • PenguinJim says:

        “Got any links for that?”

        Well, these came up with a quick Google search:
        link to youtube.com
        link to eurogamer.net
        link to techspot.com
        link to techbuyersguru.com

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          I feel for you, sometimes i wonder why “burden of proof” is a thing but “burden of research” for those asking isn’t.

          Off course being genuinely curious and kindly asking is another thing entirely, but this guy is always trolling so i’ll rule that possibility out.

          • Asurmen says:

            Always trolling my arse.

            Asking someone for the evidence because they know where they read it isn’t trolling. Be less of an ass please.

        • Asurmen says:

          Haven’t checked the YouTube so I’m sorry for that, but two links are to Fallout 4 which is a known outlier which was brought up in the comments of the article you’re maligning.

          Of the other link, er, it shows very little difference in the benchmarks across a range of games and memory speeds. I’m not seeing what you are here.

          • PenguinJim says:

            I’m not sure why you can’t see YouTube videos, but just look at any memory speed benchmarks for AC: Unity, Ryse, Crysis 3, Far Cry 4, The Witcher 3, oh, yes, and Fallout 4. Or here: link to overclock.net . “Outlier” indeed! Most of the demanding games from roughly 2014 onwards get a significant boost to their minimum FPS from faster memory – as was pointed out in the comments of that RPS article (the article itself incorrectly having assumed that nothing had changed over the past few years).

            And as you seem to have missed it in the techbuyersguru link, look at the *minimum* framerates (oh, and the benchmarks are spread over two pages – you have to left-click on the square with “NEXT PAGE” to see the biggest differences). I mentioned it earlier – being immersed in VR, it’s important to avoid drops in frames-per-second. Stuttering, too – take a look at how faster memory reduces or negates stuttering entirely in modern games. http://www.google.com

            Here’s a sneak preview of what you can get if you bother to Google it yourself:

            “We’ll zero in on one test in particular – The Witcher 3 – as a highlight. Comparing 2133MHz to 3066MHz, there’s an 18 per cent average improvement without overclocking the CPU at all, rising to 21 per cent on the all-important lowest recorded frame-rate. Comparing the stock/3066MHz DDR4 result there with the 4.51GHz/2632MHz reading in the table reveals that memory bandwidth is actually more important there than overclocking the processor.”

            Please do feel free to share with us links that show no performance difference using faster memory in AC: Unity, Ryse, Crysis 3, Far Cry 4 and The Witcher 3 – I would love to know where you received YOUR evidence from, and I would certainly be happy to correct my understanding if I am mistaken. (Don’t worry, I won’t just pretend I haven’t looked at your link!)

          • Asurmen says:

            I didn’t look at the Youtube links because I was out and about when I was replying.

            I looked at all the links. The minimum showed barely any relevant variation between each game, hence why I said I wasn’t seeing what you were. Even the second page doesn’t prove your point (nice condescending attitude there btw). The biggest gain was just under 5FPS on the minimum in one example. Your most recent link however does finally show relevant gains in the minimum, and that’s all I was asking for you to provide.

            As for your last paragraph, I wasn’t making any claims so I’m not providing any evidence to disprove you. I was simply asking for you to back up your point, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Stop with the attitude, k?

          • PenguinJim says:

            “I didn’t look at the Youtube links because I was out and about when I was replying.

            I looked at all the links.”

            Durr… what? OK. Hmmm… well, given the fact that your follow-up to those links was completely mistaken (as I’m sure you can now see – interesting way of apologizing and thanking me, by the way. Manners and politeness must be very different in your culture/language), I have to ask – what made you feel the need to reply while you were “out and about”? Why didn’t you simply wait until you had checked the links before replying?

            That way, you could have written an informed and intelligent comment. Wouldn’t that have been preferable?

          • Asurmen says:

            Oh, I’m sorry I missed out a single word you pendant. Nothing durr…what? about anything I wrote.

            Nothing I wrote was mistaken.

            The irony of your manners/politeness comment is amusing. I’ve been perfectly nice. You’ve been an ass.

            What are you, the replying police? I can reply whenever wherever I want. I had something to say specifically about the links I had time to read and I apologised for not being able to look at the Youtube links.

            Again, I don’t have a clue what your bloody problem is, but your attitude stinks. I asked you to provide some evidence. You eventually did do and I thanked you. Not really sure what you’re continuing this or who pissed in your cornflakes, but if you could stop taking it out on me, that would be great.

    • Sakkura says:

      Ah, I remember being told off for daring to mention such a thing.

  20. Regibo666 says:

    I’m pretty confident my main pc will be fine but am a little more concerned with my second. It has a 780ti. It’s the MSI oc version which probably beats a stock 970.
    Because of its location it’s this system I’d want to use for VR 80% of the time.
    Hopefully it’ll be ok.

  21. Unsheep says:

    Good article, but I think its too early for media to push for VR. There are not enough good or interesting games to justify the investment for one thing.

    The short-run success of VR depends on how effective gaming media and gaming streamers are in marketing and pushing for it.

    Personally I still think VR will only be a fad in the long-run, since only a minority of gamers can afford to meet all the pre-requirements, let alone buy the thing. Its going to be a luxury item for people with big expensive rigs.

    As long as games are made in the traditional way there’s also less incentive to buy VR, since I think most gamers would rather spend that money on buying more games.

    If you look at the history of other gaming tools such as the sim racing wheel and flight stick control, gaming equipment that also raise the immersion of a game, its clear they have become things that only a minority of gamers choose to buy. I think VR is headed for the same path.

    • Xzi says:

      You must not realize exactly how many people pre-ordered the Rift on day one. Lol.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Or maybe you’re giving too much weight at the few voices you hear in the select internet spots you mostly visit.

        • Asurmen says:

          Not sure how that invalidates their point.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            I’m talking about their number, not their opinion.

          • Asurmen says:

            And I’m talking about their numbers, not their opinion. What you said doesn’t invalidate that there’s now a back up on the orders.

  22. Xzi says:

    I have an i5-4690K, and a GTX 970. I didn’t build this PC with the specific intent of VR, but when I saw the minimum requirements I thought why not. I’ve been eating up coverage of VR software since, and I’ve found plenty that I know I would enjoy right at release.

    I pre-ordered a Rift, but it doesn’t ship until May and I might well cancel it in favor of the Vive depending on the pending release details at the end of the month.

    I think people are failing to realize just how much VR content is available already, be they games or not. Virtual movie theaters supporting 3D and 2D content, virtual arcades supporting ROMs, more than a few VR games on Steam already. Valve claims ten more VR games out by Vive’s launch. Rift comes with two. The vast majority of available content is receiving very good reviews.

    I wouldn’t say VR is set to grow exponentially, but once the price of required hardware drops and the price of the headsets with it, popularity will start to explode and just build momentum from there. I mean just look at who is investing in it: Google, Apple, Sony, Valve, HTC, Facebook. I don’t think this is just going to go away.

  23. Technotica says:

    I am definitely going to wait for the next Nvidia generation to upgrade my GTX680 for the Oculus. I don’t think any of the current graphics cards will be adequate for VR if you plan on using them for more than a few months.

    Maybe the first generation of VR games will run on them smoothly but there is so much potential for future games that, if VR takes off, there will be another gpu arms race like in the late 90s early 00s. You’ll probably have to buy a new gpu every year to keep up with the games hardware demands.

    Of course, VR staying a niche product will probably mean longer timespans between hardware refresh.

  24. tonicer says:

    Meh i didn’t buy 3 144Hz monitors to play games on a low res <144Hz display that is glued to my face and probably causes a headache after a few hours.

  25. Kefren says:

    The thing is, the VR specs they quote are to play NEW games. The kind of thing the VR developers want you to do. However, I’m only interested in playing many of my existing games again, in a more immersive way. Out of the games listed here link to vorpx.com I already own enough of them to keep me entertained in replays for about 5 years I reckon. If I had a headset I wouldn’t be buying new games. So are the specs they quote ignorable if you only want to play old games? Or would the headset have some required software/driver that would refuse to run/install if you were below their recommended spec, even though it would have bene powerful enough to do what you wanted? I.e. will there be artificial restrictions to stop you only playing old games on your older PC?

    • Fiatil says:

      Palmer Luckey said in one of his post-price-announcement AMAs on reddit that the minimum/recommended specs wont “lock you out” of the Rift. So yes, you can plug it into your PC and use it with a lower spec, but I would recommend doing a lot of research on the vorpX games you want first. As the article alludes to, the requirements are going to be a lot higher than just the vanilla game had.

  26. JimboDeany says:

    After trying out VR for the first time last week I can now say that this technology is amazing and I will definitely be investing. It really was the best gaming experience I’ve ever had and I’m pleased that the rig I just bought will be able to handle the Occulus/Vive.

  27. Clavus says:

    You forgot something about the resolution: to compensate for the lens distortion, the game renders the scene at 1.4x the actual screen resolution to prevent the loss of detail in the center of the screen. So you’re not rendering 2160×1200@90hz.

    You’re rendering 3024×1680@90hz. Though game engines can do some smart stuff (like excluding a lot of pixels that get lost after the lens distortion is applied) to alleviate the required pixel throughput.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      How would rendering at anything higher than the screen resolution help? Lenses distort the pixels of the screen, not the ones in video memory, right?

      • kael13 says:

        Down-sampling. At those distorted areas of the screen, your view of those particular pixels would be more magnified, thus increasing any effects of aliasing. So to reduce this, the frame is rendered at a higher resolution and then down-sampled to the screen resolution. It’s similar to super-sampling anti-aliasing for your normal monitor.

        • kael13 says:

          Bit of an explanation. Also Nvidia has a feature that does this on newer cards – Dynamic Super Resolution. link to tested.com

        • Premium User Badge

          Don Reba says:

          For supersampling you need resolution to be an integer factor, though. Otherwise your interpolation spreads samples across multiple pixels and blurs the image. And if antialiasing is the problem, then why not use a cheaper technique?

      • arghstupid says:

        The images are first rendered in the normal way but drawn to a texture rather than the screen. Then they’re distorted on the graphics card with the inverse of the distortions caused by the lenses, so that when you look through the lenses you see an undistorted image. That’s why screenshots often look like they’ve been taken through a fish bowl. To ensure a unique value for every pixel post distortion, you have to render a lot more pixels than are actually on the screen. If you don’t you see a lot of aliasing. I seem to remember it being a fair bit higher than 1.4x but it’s been a few months since I was doing anything that low level.
        It’s basically substituting very expensive optics with gpu grunt, one of the reasons these things don’t cost £20000 any more.

    • Person of Interest says:

      On top of that, I recall seeing in Valve’s VR slide deck from last year that temporal aliasing is particularly distracting with the headset, so they recommended 8x MSAA, or at least not going below 4x MSAA. See also the blog of Timothy Lottes (creator of FXAA), where he discusses the value of supersampling for VR.

      Possibly some improved post-process temporal antialiasing can be used now (such as that employed by Fallout 4) which will have less of a performance impact, but even so, I anticipate fairly simplistic graphics in the first round of VR games and apps, so that all the techniques to aid viewer comfort can be applied.

      HTC/Valve and Oculus really don’t want users’ first VR experiences to be compromised by simulator sickness or visual glitches that diminish the feeling of “presence”.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Indeed, TXAA has the only drawback of being sort of blurry, but that might not be necessarily a problem with VR as there’s already a cheap distorting lens on top, making it less obvious.

  28. DThor says:

    It’s going to fare marginally better than home 3d in the living room. Gear is too expensive, it’s awkward and goinky to wear, content is too limited and what is there is less than overwhelming. Unlike 3d it probably will have some sort of future, but it will make some people a whack of money in the short term and then fizzle out. Enthusiasts only.

  29. Premium User Badge

    ark_quintet says:

    What about SLI/Crossfire? One would think it makes sense – two viewports, two GPU’s. But does it really? And how does DX12 and it’s advanced support for multi GPU solutions will play into that. Interesting times! ;-)

  30. kalniel says:

    “For further reference, the popular 27-inch 2,560 by 1,440 display format translates to 3.7 million pixels.”

    And I always thought size didn’t matter :(

  31. Saarlaender39 says:

    J. Laird: “Is Your Feeble PC Ready For VR?”

    Me: My PC is – I’m not.

  32. Zhiroc says:

    First off, I’ve had a tendency for motion sickness with a number of PC games, so I’m not going to spend oodles without first seeing if my body can actually handle it.

    Second, I doubt I’d be interested in spending more than $100-200 for VR, which is probably even more of a roadblock than the PC requirements.

  33. goettel says:

    Neither the Rift nor Vive offers any significant improvement in field of view on the Rift DK2, and 110 degrees doesn’t cut it, so I’m skipping both. Here’s hoping Oculus continues to support the DK2 for a couple of years at least.

    • Xzi says:

      Quite the moving goalpost there…I remember not that long ago when people were happy just to have FoV support of 90 in games. Some still don’t even have that.

      • goettel says:

        I’d say it absolutely is the most import goalpost to move, more important than resolution even. I suppose having (close to) peripheral vision in VR is years away, even assuming VR is enough of a success to warrant the R&D expenditure and GPU performance keeping pace sufficiently to offer the required increase in pixel count. But without it, VR won’t be the holodeck experience we secretly wish it to be.

  34. Radiant says:

    £777 for a pc that can run VR according to Logical Increments buyers/pricing guide.
    That’s not including the headsets which are £500 (?)

    Who did they make this for?!

    • Xzi says:

      For now, people who had already built $900+ rigs. It’s not as if technology never drops in price, though.

    • MattM says:

      If you have professional level job in a western country (west Europe/America/Canada/some Asian countries) and are into gaming then it isn’t a unreasonable expense. When I was a student, spending that much on a luxury just wasn’t going to happen. When I was working in my first few jobs after college, that much would have eaten up my entertainment budget for ~two years (but might have been worth it to me). Now I’m in my early thirties and I’ve moved up a bit into a non-entry level job. Suddenly, that price isn’t such a big barrier and I could probably swing it with a month of savings.
      The cost of some hobbies starts where the cost of a gaming hobby ends. 5k USD gets you a very low end boat and ongoing costs, but would set you up as a premium gamer for 5 years. Similarly if you are into cars, art, jewelry, or any kind of serious collecting.
      I also think people get a bit of sticker shock with one big gaming cost (that will last >3 years) but will pay the same or more spread out over 2 years for luxuries they consider more affordable.
      I should disclaim, that in some countries salaries, rents, and most local goods (food, essential services), are at a different scale. A person there might have a good job relative to local costs, but imported goods from the west can be prohibitively expensive.

  35. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    My face is absolutely ready to be melted by my gig-o-ram Radeon 5850, my Phenom II x3 2.GHzer (which mytosisized itself into an x4 after a year), my quad-gig-o-normal-ram, my Audigy 2 ZS, and my USB 2.0 ports.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      My face got so excited it missed two very important typos: 2.8GHzer and Radeon HD 5850. Both completely obvious, but I can’t let ’em go uncorrected.

    • Xzi says:

      As long as you’ve got your Power Glove, you’re golden.

  36. aircool says:

    With the price of the headset and the need to be running a GTX970 minimum, it’s just currently too expensive to be viable.

    We know that using just one GTX970 is the minimum required, and any experienced PC Gamer knows that ‘minimum requirement’ generally translates to ‘it works, but plays like shite and looks like shite’.

    So, you’re looking for ~£600 down for the headset, another ~£600 for two decent graphics cards to play a few games and a bunch of tech demo’s. Then it will be superseded in a few years time by something better and cheaper, or something better and just as expensive. The cost is just too much for the average Steam user (judging by the hardware stats).

    No doubt the games industry will also inflate the price of VR capable games due to that fact that the limited audience will want to make use of their VR equipment.

    Finally, there’s the whole HD-DVD/Blu-Ray thing going on. One is going to be better than the other, or perhaps more popular (VHS/Betamax) and early adopters will be paying the price.

    There’s plenty of people who can afford this, but I doubt there will be enough people overall to keep it viable unless the technology and GFX grunt becomes much, much cheaper.

    • Regibo666 says:

      Just read Eurogamers review of the Rift. They say a 970 is perfectly fine. On the games they tested at “VR” settings it was amazing.