Virtual reality is starting to feel really real, for real. Sure, we're still six months out from the proposed HTC Vive launch and even further out from Oculus's early 2016 consumer-ready Rift. But now we have recommended PC specs! See also: Oculus Rift launch live.
That's right: This morning Oculus announced recommended specs for attaining "the full Rift experience," and you know what? They're surprisingly reasonable considering the horsepower VR requires. Much more reasonable than the dual-GTX 980 rigs some people have been building in anticipation.
- Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
According to Oculus, "The goal is for all Rift games and applications to deliver a great experience on this configuration. Ultimately, we believe this will be fundamental to VR's success, as developers can optimize and tune their game for a known specification, consistently achieving presence and simplifying development."
VR eats graphics cards
The recommended specs seem about in line with the current Rift's specs. A GeForce GTX 970 or equivalent will easily run most demos currently on Oculus Share, as long as the demo is well-optimized. And while the GTX 970/R9 290 are definitely not bottom-of-the-barrel cards, it's definitely a lower barrier to entry for VR than a lot of people anticipated.
Why? Because VR is a graphics beast. Most normal (read: non-VR) games typically run (even in 2015) at 1080p, 60 frames per second. That's basically the standard most PC developers shoot for. And if a game drops to 30 frames per second intermittently, it's not a huge problem.
The Rift is, according to this supplemental spec post by Oculus Chief Architect Atman Binstock, running dual 2160×1200 displays at 90 frames per second in order to attain an optimal experience. In other words, it's doing far more than double the processing you'd need to run a game on a single monitor. That's a huge graphics sink. It also needs to stay at 90 frames per second, because intermittent lag is what causes many users to get sick when using VR headsets.
So with that in mind, a 970 or an R9 290 starts to look pretty damn reasonable. Surprisingly so, actually. Sure, you might not be able to run it on your laptop (yet) but the barrier to entry is definitely lower than I anticipated. Not that you won't see performance and graphics improvements with your fancy, schmancy dual-980 system.