Getting Your Gaming PC VR Ready
Virtual Reality (VR) is the ultimate experience in computer gaming. Don your VR headset, pick up your gaming controller and escape into a new dimension of gaming with unmatched reality, sound, and special effects.
If you want to move into the VR gaming world, there are a few questions you must answer:
- Is your PC VR ready?
- What do you need to upgrade it for VR, and at what expense?
- How much would a new VR-ready PC cost?
- Is a gaming PC a must for VR?
Each of these questions – as well as the size of your budget – requires some consideration of what you want to get from your VR experience.
VR headsets have come a long way since the first generation, increasing resolution and features, while also becoming more attainable from a price perspective. Powering a VR headset requires much more in the way of computer resources than a typical gaming monitor, due to the increased rendering requirements and presentation in 3D.
Several providers of VR gaming system devices provide guidelines or recommended specifications for VR gaming systems that will support their headsets and other peripherals:
- CPU – Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalents or greater
- RAM – Minimum 4GB – 8GB or more is preferred. This depends on the game.
- Video/Graphics card – NVIDIA GTX 1060, AMD Radeon RX 480, equivalent or greater. This will also depend on the game.
- Operating System – Windows 10 is strongly preferred, although most companies still support WIN 7 or WIN 8.1
- USB Ports – At least 1 USB 2.0 port, with recommendations for multiple USB 3.0 ports
- Video Output – Minimum HDMI 1.3, HDMI 1.4 is preferred, or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer.
If your system does not meet or exceed these basic requirements, it’s time to either upgrade or replace your system.
If you need to bring your PC specs up to speed to be ready for VR gaming, you can expect to open your wallet for some high-powered technology:
A quick search of Amazon will reveal VR headsets in a wide array of prices – from $250 to pro-level models priced at $1,400. You can probably expect to spend somewhere in between, with many high-quality units available in the $400 range. You will want to invest in a headset that is capable of 90 frames per second (fps) with a refresh rate of 90Hz, to provide smooth visual rendering. You should also consider the field of view (FOV) provided, for the best viewing experience (the higher, the better).
For VR gaming, don’t skimp on the video card. When gaming companies provide specifications for minimum graphics power, you can be sure you’ll need it. A quality video card with plenty of processing power and graphics RAM is critical for exciting VR gaming.
PC Mag’s recent roundup of leading contenders for your system includes multiple manufacturers ranging in price from $249-$1200. Pay special attention to the requirements provided above for minimum specs, as VR gaming puts much more demand on your systems’ graphics power. Cards that work quite well for monitor gaming may not prove passable for a positive VR experience.
Every VR gaming system will need plenty of processing power, as demonstrated by the minimum Intel i5-4590 recommended by providers. If your system does not measure up, a CPU upgrade is in order.
Updating your CPU is actually less costly than a good graphics card – with processors that meet or exceed VR requirements readily available in the $200-$400 price range.
Both monitor gaming and VR gaming benefit from the availability of abundant high-speed memory. While some VR game creators recommend a minimum 4GB memory, most suggest 8GB, on up to 16GB for the best results from your VR gaming. Beef up your memory as much as you can afford – no games will ever suffer from too much RAM.
If you want to get the absolute best results from your VR gaming – and monitor gaming for that matter – consider upgrading from HDD storage to SDD drives. SSD drives may be more expensive per GB, but the prices have been improving in recent months, and they are faster, quieter, and smaller than their HDD equivalents. That can result in faster game loading and quicker transitions between scenes or game levels.
Depending on the titles you have in mind for your VR gaming, you may also want to invest in advanced technology for controllers, keyboards, and mouse devices. Gaming keyboards offer many advantages for gaming speed and stored scripts that improve your playing performance – even more important if your plans including competitive playing over the internet.
Like your computer hardware components, these devices vary widely in functionality and price. Be sure the devices you select provide the features that will enhance your gaming activity.
If your existing PC is outdated or requires a significant overhaul to meet the requirements for VR gaming, it could make more sense for you to replace it with a new VR-ready PC. Armed with the minimum requirements for VR gaming power, you can select from a variety of offerings from several leading manufacturers.
How much does a VR-ready PC cost?
Your choice of platform will influence the selection and cost of your VR gaming PC. If you want the flexibility of a desktop or tower computer, there are several providers building computers well-suited for VR gaming. Desktop systems are typically much easier to upgrade from the standpoint of updating video cards, RAM, processors, and storage devices.
Desktop system prices will vary in price, with quality VR ready systems available beginning at $1,500 and moving up to well over $3,000 for the most powerful units for serious gamers.
When you want to participate in VR gaming on the road or have your games available wherever you are, a gaming laptop is a solution. While laptop computers are not easily updated by most owners, manufacturers, fortunately, have you covered with VR ready laptops fully loaded with gaming power:
- NVIDIA GTX 2080 graphics with 8GB RAM
- Intel Core i7 processors
- 8-24GB RAM
- 1TB SSD storage
- 17” full HD display
Certainly, for that level of power, you pay the price (starting at $3,000+), but you have optimum VR gaming power at your fingertips. You can also enjoy VR gaming on a laptop at a much lower price, with respectable performance in the $1,500 range.
Do you need a gaming PC for VR?
If you want to delve into VR without selling your car or taking out a second mortgage, there are ways to begin enjoying VR at a lower cost.
- Your headset is the key to enjoying excellent resolution and the graphics capabilities of VR, so put some emphasis on a good headset to avoid the need to shell out for an upgrade later.
- Graphics cards are the next most important (and costly) component in your system. Go for as much power as you can justify, and stick with a quality provider. Checking out reviews of graphics cards for the pros and cons of each model is time well spent.
The truth is, most quality desktop and laptop systems today have the processing power needed to drive VR gaming – but you may not be able to play every title. Your key is paying heed to the CPU power recommended in the specs above vs. that of your computer, or the unit you’re considering buying. If you have the basics in CPU and RAM, you just add a suitable graphics card and headset, and you’re good to go.
Keep in mind that computer manufacturers have the benefit of volume purchasing for processors, RAM, and even video/graphics cards. You may find that it’s just as cheap – and far easier – to purchase a VR ready PC than to build your own. However, if building your own sounds like half the fun, there are online instructions available to help you select your components and put them together expertly and safely.
Along with VR technology comes new software, graphics components, and peripherals such as headsets and specialized controllers. To operate all these devices efficiently requires staying up-to-date on the drivers installed on your VR-capable computer. Even if you purchased a brand new VR gaming computer, there may be many driver updates since your system was built and configured.
You should check for driver updates regularly to get the most enjoyment from your investment and to keep your system running at its best.
Driver Support simplifies the entire process of updating all drivers installed on your computer. By registering with Driver Support, you take advantage of sophisticated software that takes over what can be a time-consuming and complex maintenance function:
- Inventory your entire system for supported devices
- Locate any outdated or missing drivers
- Automatically download and install the drivers for you
Install Driver Support today to discover how you can keep your VR system running at peak performance without the manual effort.