This Virtual Reality Guide updates frequently, so be aware of some changes and value differences, since information concerning Virtual Reality is constantly evolving.
We are at the very beginning of a VR revolution. Virtual Reality is not simply a new technology, bringing more opportunities when using our PCs, but will revolutionize the very way we interact with them. Whether you’re crazy about it or not, everyone should know the most important facts about VR. You can also check out our guide on the Best chairs for Gaming .
Virtual Reality Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Guide
The image below shows how simple it is to access Virtual Reality through a PC. In the following section, we will go through compatibilities.
The official system requirements of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been announced and are very high. These are the minimum system requirements for your PC and are still very demanding, so for the full experience, you will need more, and for gaming – even more!
The official minimum system requirements:
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970/AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater.
Intel Core i5 4590 equivalent or higher.
2x USB 3.0 port.
HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture.
Windows 7 OS or greater.
However, the trouble with VR and the system requirements lies in keeping up-to-date with what is necessary. In time, most PCs will meet the minimum system requirements, which will remain at current levels for a few months or maybe a year. When it comes to games, a problem arises – enjoying VR games demands progressively stronger hardware. You will need a PC that can easily and constantly display 2160 x 1200 resolution and 90 FPS. At the moment, even the fastest GPUs can barely handle that. GPUs that are coming out this or the next year will probably meet the specifications, and certainly those produced in 3 or 4 years’ time. Of course, new games will then be released which will require an even more powerful PC. Here are the minimum specs for the VR version of Elite: Dangerous:
NVIDIA GTX 980 or greater
Intel i7-3770 or greater
Pay attention – this is the minimum! To start this game on minimum system requirements, you will need a GPU costing around 600 EUR, 16 GB RAM, etc. These are the maximum system requirements imaginable. You should now understand why manufacturers of PC components are hoping that VR will boost the PC industry! Enthusiasts around the world will finally have new reasons for investing in PCs, without a doubt.
PC Builds for VR-Ready
We’ve tested a collection of PC builds to verify the specific VR-ready calibration. Below you’ll see a comprehensive list of the PC makes we used to understand the relationship between the components and fidelity. A higher fidelity results in a better VR-ready experience. In this case, fidelity is just another word for ‘devotion’, essentially telling us how much of the PC’s potential is devoted to the VR-ready experience. Note: all of these tests were performed using SteamVR’s performance test.
|A||SkyTech Archangel Gaming Computer||GTX 750Ti 2GB||AMD 3.5 GHz FX-6300 Six-Core||8GB DDR3|
|B||CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Xtreme GXi760||GTX 950 2GB||Intel Core i5-6600K 3.5 GHz||8GB DDR4|
|C||CybertronPC Borg-Q||GT610 1GB||AMD 3.8 GHz FX-4130 Quad Core||8GB DDR3|
|D||CybertronPC Palladium 970Z||GTX 970 4GB||Intel Core i7-6700 Quad-Core||16GB DDR4|
|E||CybertronPC SOKOM-I Green Gaming||GTX 960 2GB||AMD FX-6300 3.50GHz Hexa-Core||16GB DDR3|
|F||CybertronPC Flux X99 X5||GTX 980 Ti 6GB||Intel i7-5820K||16GB DDR4|
|G||CybertronPC Titanium X99||GTX Titan X 12GB||Intel i7-5820K 3.50GHz 6-Core||16GB DDR4|
|H||CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Supreme Liquid Cool SLC8000||AMD R9 390 8GB||intel Core i7-6700K 4.0 GHz||16GB DDR4|
|I||iBuyPower AM-FX07||AMD R9 380 4GB||AMD FX-6300 6-core 3.5GHz||8GB DDR3|
|J||iBuyPower AM-FX07||AMD R9 360 2GB||AMD FX-770K 3.5 GHz||8GB DDR3|
Here are the different results showing the subjects sorted from A-H.
|Subject||VR-Ready Scale||Fidelity||FPS under 90 (In percentage)|
|A||Not Ready||0.7 (Low)||92%|
|C||Not Ready||0.1 (Low)||96%|
|F||VR-Ready||11 (Very High)||0%|
|G||VR-Ready||10.8 (Very High)||0%|
|J||Not Ready||0.2 (Low)||97%|
Virtual Reality Graphic Card Fidelity Guide
In this section, we will cover a quick graphics card guide for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift compatibility.
All the graphic cards are tested on a PC with Windows 7 SP 1 and Intel(R) Core i5-4690K CPU @3.5Ghz (4cores).
- We start with the ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6GB (Strix). Assuming that we use the 4690K CPU as mentioned above, the VR-ready scale reaches a level of ‘Ready.’ This means that this graphic card is recommended for VR. The average fidelity is at 11 (Very high), which means that the power of the graphic card can be fully devoted to the VR experience.
- The MSI Geforce GTX 970 Gaming 4G is one of the officially recommended cards for the HTC Vive. With this card, the VR-ready scale again reaches an accomplished ‘Ready’ position, with an average fidelity of 6.9 (High).
- Trying it with an MSI GTX 960 Gaming 4G gave us different results. The VR scale reached ‘Capable’ with a medium-to-low fidelity rating: 2.9. Fortunately for GTX 960 users, the frame rate never dropped below 90 FPS. In conclusion, the card offers a pleasant VR-ready experience. Surprisingly, almost the same results were achieved when testing with a GTX 950, although the fidelity was lower.
- An older GPU, the ASUS GTX 660 Ti, performed differently. It scored a fidelity score of 0.3% (Low) and is not capable of being VR-ready, since the rate of dropping under 90 FPS was way too high, at 47.2%. Amazingly, overclocking the ASUS GTX 660 Ti bumped up the fidelity to 0.8% (Low) with a passable 27.3% rate of FPS below 90.
We performed the same tests with a different processor, the Intel(R) Core i7-875K.
|Graphic Card||Scale||Fidelity||Frames below 90 (In percentage)|
|ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6GB (Strix)||Ready||10.8 (Very High)||0%|
|MSI Geforce GTX 970 Gaming 4G||Ready||6.5 (High)||0%|
|MSI GTX 960 Gaming 4G||Capable||2.6 (Low)||3%|
|MSI GTX 950 Gaming 2G||Capable||2.2 (Low)||8%|
|ASUS GTX 660 Ti||Not Ready||0.2 (Low)||48.2%|
The similarities show us that the processor doesn’t have a significant influence on the VR experience. We recommend upgrading your graphic card from a GTX 950/960 to at least a GTX 970, for a better VR experience. You might be tempted to ask about the 600/700-series, but unfortunately, Nvidia keeps the drivers of the 900-series optimized for VR, while only minor changes have been done for the 600/700-series.
Long-Term Problems in Gaming Performance
Gaming is one of the most important categories that will influence VR’s use and application, though there are certainly a lot more uses that might not be immediately apparent. VR devices work using high resolutions, and the next step after 2160 x 1200 resolution for Oculus Rift is mastering 4K technology; the same applies to rival HTC’s Vive.
The problem is that you need to have an above-average PC, which can achieve a constant, stable frame rate. To display VR in Oculus Rift, you will need a 1980 x 1200 resolution, combined with a 90 FPS frame rate. Acquiring a PC which can achieve the required resolution and stable frame rate does not come quickly or cheaply.
This issue cost by the fact that technology doesn’t stop advancing. In a few years, PCs will easily achieve the resolutions and frame rates detailed above. For gamers, this will be a serious challenge as the technology continues to advance, and it seems likely that VR will use gaming for self-promotion before quietly turning to other applications.
We are pretty sure that you will have heard a lot about VR, considering what a hot topic it is, and with good reason. Some think that the “big glasses” are forever going to change the way we interact with our PCs. Others only want them for fun. There are the trendsetters and those who hope that VR could provide a boost to PC sales. From all perspectives, it is clear that expectations are high.
This guide will provide you with the most relevant information you need; we aim to cover both the positive and negative aspects of this new technology. Virtual Reality devices are coming to market now, and the range of these devices will be great. A large number of devices will be available, among which are the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR and Gear VR for Samsung mobiles, as well as a variety of others that are launching imminently. There are differences between them all, but these are not the main focus of this guide; we are looking more closely at performance. What are the important facts about the upcoming VR mania? What will be great and what should be avoided? Below we will cover these topics in a series of sections that will teach you everything you need to know.
Need for games optimization, controls imperfections
The final part that needs to be taken into consideration and refers to gaming, and is connected with the previously mentioned one, is set of things that can, but do not necessarily affect it. However, will that step out or not, nobody can know now. Virtual reality is suitable for all kinds of games that have “cockpit”, for example driving simulations and space flying. Whatever comes next must be improved, adapted, and perfected. There are going to be a lot of “walking simulations”, as they are called today, adapted for VR. We can even expect a boom of adventures through which persons with VR helmet will be created easily, solving problems. “Experience games” have great potential in the VR. A walk through an island full of dinosaurs, horror in a cursed castle, visiting countryside – thing is becoming more sophisticated as we move towards classic First person shooters because there is a lot of head driving which might cause dizziness. The dizziness leads to discussions if only the moving (or the gaming, too) will be more efficient than the classic mouse + keyboard combo at the moment, where 180 degrees rotations are easily made. Apart from this, in third person games, and even in the games from bird’s perspective, VR is just unsuitable.
Besides this, lots of VR solutions come with personal control models and ways of moving, which sounds great in theory, but is doubtful that in praxis will rightly be supported by the games. Also, lots of developers limit their games today on 30 or 60 fps, or use physics for frames in a second, which will make those games just unplayable combined with Oculus and divide the players’ community leading to discussions if there are quality developers who will develop software for VR environment. We highly doubt that you will play CounterStrike with VR helmet. Probably you will try it so to realize that you are much weaker without the standard controls, and after that, you won’t play it. “Slower” games for one player might be a top solution!
VR is going to have a high price – great, in fact, especially if we count the “hidden costs”. One of the biggest disappointments lately is the announcement that the Oculus Rift VR system price will be 600 USD. On the European market, it will be even higher. However, it was not an obstacle for a good sale, having in mind that copies are already reserved – above all expectations. You can check the price for Oculus Rift here.
Back to the whole VR story – as you already figured out, enjoying VR requires a thousand dollar/euro worth PC and constant investment in the strongest hardware will be necessary if you do have the ambition to use the VR in gaming. Here comes the trick with “hidden costs”. The gaming minimum is 650 euro GPU, 2 of this in a multi-GPU regime are much better, but not the best solution, and the hardware the will “fully” work does not exist at the moment considering that is needed for more demanding, newer games. The same goes for the other systems too, not just for Oculus. To use VR for Gear, you will need to have Samsung mobile whose price is almost 1000 euro. The price for HTC Vive is even higher, but having in mind that it will have implemented technology – it is unrealistic to expect anything cheaper.
The biggest price problem for the product itself is that it comes out because of the false expectations. The Oculus founder promised that the price should vary between 300 to 350 USD, and those changed, as well as the promises that the company would sell itself, that resulted in the hands of Facebook. However, Facebook buying Oculus gave hope to many that the giant will be interested in making the mass technology available, and also decrease the price. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. According to the company’s sources, Oculus Rift will be sold at a high price. Not only has the price risen, but it also decreases privacy since Facebook will gather information about your usage and use it for its own advantages.
Virtual Reality Headset is not for long rides
The thing that many forget and are ready to turn a blind eye is the new experience as to how useful and enjoyable the experience is. We have good and bad news. The manufacturers, referring here to Oculus and HTC, worked a lot to reduce the helmet weight, so that the ergonomics and the usage won’t cause any problems. The new iterations are dramatically improved and have been tested for one year so that no problems should appear.
So why do we say that VR is not enjoyable? The entrance in the virtualized world that we will move through is in a way that our brain hasn’t adapted to yet and unavoidably causes “connection failure”, which may lead to sickness. This specifically refers to long gaming sessions, and there are cases when the hardware is not so reliable to deliver adequate performances and lacks fps’s. The effect will be an analog to the feeling of uncomfortable playing with little fps, which will be exponentially expressed because you are there – in that world. All in all, this is something that needs to be taken to consideration.
Incredible potential in every sense
Games in the VR context are being discussed a lot lately because of the most obvious way of entertaining software that can be used for popularizing technology. Is VR focusing only on games? Not at all! The potential is scary, even unlimited. As we mention in the introduction, VR is a new way of interacting with PC. That does not mean that is strictly applicable for a particular usage.
Games are not the only ones that will bring unavoidable push the VR through. If they are going to stay as most dominant and mass area on which VR exists seems to be another question.
Therefore, what factors will be crucial for rapid VR implementation? Don’t doubt it, pornography will be very high on that list, if not at the top. Human needs are endless in adopting any way to experience what they want. There are already sites that offer VR variety of pornography, but we won’t go into details. Marketing? Absolutely! Business? Of course! It is free to say that VR will lead to an evolution of new workplaces, as means of doing work. The engineer will at any moment be able to see what his employee sees . Also, the training will be held at a distance and completely virtual, without expensive material and the example with the truck drive with the regular distant controller we already mentioned.
Imagine how great the potential is in the marketing or education area? Would you like to try a hotel where you plan to stay? Yes, the top hotels will make that available to you through their VR apps. In that way you will be able to walk through the rooms and halls, the restaurant and other areas, to “try” the beach near the hotel. Of course, without smell and touch, those types of sensitivities will remain for the actual reality. Virtual sports? Virtual concerts? – Absolutely yes.
One thing is certain everything based on specific experiences might benefit from VR. The experience is the key word. How about walking on the moon? Maybe in a virtual Zen garden, or using the same therapeutic app, meditating, spending time in some different surrounding, in a house that is not yours? Would you like to stroll through Rome? If somebody would make an app for that – why not! Would you like to combine the experiences, let’s say watching a movie on an open cinema on Mars? Why not! Or wearing boots of some Soviet soldier during Stalingrad’s defense, seeing and experiencing destructions reproduced by VR application? Being a roman soldier, or Roman slave? Of course, all that will be possible – limitless.
Open hands VR solution in Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift will most easily integrate with the concept of PC usage. It is enough only to connect the device to the Video output and 2 USB 3.0 ports and nothing else because it does not make for combining with individual controllers. The limit that enables Oculus Rift to adapt to the today’s PC usage is well kept, with the difference that will provide new possibilities and horizons. The second reason is when we look at it more widely. Oculus is the periphery of the PC. PC is the freest, most opened platform than anything else that VR was planned for now, and at the same time most advanced in the development and implementation. Here lies the significance of the PC platform and VR combination. The other devices are set for working on closed platforms, on functions on fixed platforms, or it is maybe about inferior equipment. For example, Playstation VR is only set for Playstation consoles where the games are dominant, but the current consoles do not have enough power for VR in the standard games so that ecosystem will be divided, and it is up to discussion if there is going to be something else. Samsung Gear VR has the similar story because it can only work on Samsungs mobiles. There is no point in discussing the solutions like Microsoft Hololens or Google Cardboard VR. The first one is not eve virtual reality – is augmented. The second one is only a piece of technology that can be used for VR but practically is a piece of cardboard.
With everything stated above, HTC Vive can only compete with Oculus Rift, but it is uncertain will it, despite the enormous progress in the past few months, be able to stand up. Some parts there are more advanced that in Oculus, but we think that Oculus is for the mass population, for the chair experience, while HTC Vive is a mobile experience, with all the sensors and cameras and external controllers that make an unforgettable experience. However, this might be very expensive and smaller number of clientele will be affected. Here comes another, the important reason that suggests that Oculus will dominate, and that is having the Facebook behind it. Facebook yet did not guarantee anything, and considering that having its back might comes as bothering factor.
No matter what you might think of VR, the fact is that is a unique experience, incomparable to anything. It also provides you with a bunch of new options and ways of interaction, opening a new level of imagination and creativity when it comes to the programmers, designers, 3D models. Besides this; we have already mentioned a lot in the previous pages. You should also know that VR won’t replace anything. VR is here to bring something new and different, to “export” the user on the beach, in the hotel, in a different city or in another historical time. We had the opportunity to try the newest VR solutions, and that is unforgettable feeling. Everyone will feel the same when you put the helmet for the first time and start any VR app.
List of Virtual Realty Headset coming out in 2016
Here is a list of the most popular VR systems that are coming out this year. You will find a difference in the prices, and some models are not officially announced yet but are worth mentioning.
The Oculus Rift is probably the most awaited devices of them all. It was first launched as a kick starter project, and as later bought by Facebook, Oculus Rift becomes one of the most expected VR devices.
The system is composed of the headset with integrated sensors, a display for both eyes separately and headphones. There is also a camera for detecting movement and it might come with Xbox One controller. You will need a PC with higher specifications as the Oculus Rift can run, and this is above the price which is currently $599.
What are you going to get is a complete VR system that, according to the tests, will enable you with incredible VR experiences. The pre-orders can be made no earlier than April, but the demand is high, and probably the shipment won’t be until July. Oculus Rift will be number one in its category.
HTC Vive Headset
HTC Vive is also a complete set of VR experience that is meant to be connected to a powerful PC. Roll up to see which computer builds can run the HTC Vive.
There is a difference between the HTC Vive and other VR systems because it enables freedom from room to room. Other systems support the movement, but HTC Vive has specific lasers that detect your location and moving in the physical space, incorporated in virtual space. This is the advantage of the other systems. A disadvantage is that you will need a spacious gaming space for usage.
The headset consists of sensors displaying visuals to both of the eyes and requires headphones also, at the moment. There are also Vive hand controllers, and the location is detected in the 3D space with varieties of controls. A lot of different environments are introduced in the HTC Vive, starting from climbing Everest to marinating robots. Partnered with Steam owner Valve, just for the development, HTC will become competitive on the market as soon as it launches.
Pre-ordering is active now, and the headset shipping will start on 5 April. The prices are £689 in the UK and $799 in the US.
PlayStation VR Headset
The former Project Morpheus was named as PlayStation VR, driven by PlayStation 4 and not by PC. It does not have a complete VR system and is only additional part of the PS4 console which means that it will be cheaper that the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. It is scheduled to come out in October 2016.
The headset will cost £349 ($399) which is must cheaper then the prices of the rivals, which also adds to lowering the costs if you have in mind that the console in not so expensive as the required gaming PCs. You can check the current price here.
There is no difference in the VR technology. When it comes to the movement, it detects the head movement with the PlayStation camera combined with Ps controller, displaying and exporting the picture from the TV to your face. This addition of the PS4 will be an easy VR solution for lots of gamers.
Later this year lots of contents will be launched along with some trailers. Gamers will be happy with the Golem and Ace Combat 7. Drive Club was tested on PlayStation VR, and the results were excellent. Gran Turismo Sport responded affirmatively about their support also.
Lost of boundaries will be removed because this is an additional to the platform. There is more for the upcoming years. The gaming experience will never be the same with PlayStation VR.
The rival to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that uses Windows 10 architecture is the Sulon Q headset, which was presented during GDC 2016 in San Francisco. It does not require a powerful PC and is “tether-free.” The processing power is incorporated into the devices with AMD technologies suitable for games and applications, wireless and without connecting to any box.
You will find the lens on the headset for using the augmented reality apps, something like Microsoft HoloLens about which we will talk later. The computer graphics is transferred to the real world objects. Instead of headphones, ear buds are providing unique 3d sound and integrated microphone.
The launch is scheduled to be this spring, and there are no prices yet.
Samsung Gear VR
Developed side by side with Oculus, Samsung was one of the first and earliest brands that turned to VR with its Gear VR headset. It was designed to support a smartphone, and it does need to be connected to a PC or a console.
Different models of Samsung smartphones were supported by different versions of the Gear VR. At first, some lenses split the devices between the eyes of the user but Samsung’s new device gives you high-resolution display.
Samsung Gear VR was used in car showrooms and with wider possibilities than those from the Oculus, it is the best solution for those using a Samsung handset. You can check the price here.
LG 360 VR
LG 360VR headset is a device that you must connect to LG G5 with USB Type-C cable to make it useable. It is different than the other devices because of the untypical pair of glasses needed for the VR experience. The biggest difference and advantage is that you don’t need to keep it close to your face, unlike Cardboard. It consists on two 1.8-inches inside displays, a separate one for each eye, with a resolution of 960 x 720 pixels that results in 639ppi. The shows are put behind the lenses and you can focus with each one separately, adjusting the width is also available and you will get a stereoscopic vision.
The navigation is controlled by an OK and BACK button. The motion sensors allow movement all around, as well as the sensor situated between your eyes, only when the headset is worn.
The 3.5mm headphone socket is incorporated in the 360VR headset for best audio. If it isn’t used, the sounds will come out from the smartphone.
It is also scheduled to be announced in April, and there is no info on the price yet.
Google Cardboard was introduced in 2014 with a cardboard folding container where you were supposed to place your smartphone. It was two-folded: the cost was very low, sometimes even free, and it was universal as it was compatible with lots of smartphone models. Everything that fitted in the front stayed secure.
It was a huge success, and people were sampling the VR content (it could have been from anywhere – Google….) without further investing in the system. It was reported that 5 million Cardboard viewer were shipped. There were lots of different apps on the device and it was stated that it was set for further development and investment in the future. The name refers to the Cardboard viewer and the VR platform from Google, too.
Cardboard does not have a head strap, and it needs to be held near the face – that is why it is an ad hoc VR viewer. Lots of different apps are available; you can watch the 360 view environment on Google Street View and also, 360 content on YouTube.
For beginners, this is the best VR solution.
Microsoft Hololens (Not VR)
It was a big surprise when Microsoft became part of the virtual reality. It presented the Microsoft HoloLens headset, working with a new technology – the Windows Holographic – that puts 3D images around us. Realistically, this is more like augmented reality but it is in the same space as the other systems. Microsoft’s goal is to enter the augmented reality in the world. The users of HoloLens will be able to see this through the holographic images transferred on the objects (projection will appear from a laser and into the eyes). This headset runs on built-in Windows 10.
Digital images are presented in the real-world view, which can connect and interacted with other objects around you. It is able to recognize movement; the voice has a 120-degree field of vision.
It is a now in the Development Edition and it will be suitable for future, not for the present.
Oculus Store, new place for selling software and applications
According to the sources from Oculus, the hardware will be practically sold at a price that will only cover the costs. How will then they make a profit? The answer is Oculus Store. Imagine an enormous digital store, like Stream, where thousands and thousands of different apps will be sold. You will find there not only games but interactive tutorials, travel apps, therapeutic apps, hotels listings…. Possibilities are full.
The concept is exquisite, and profit will come out from developing VR apps for the mass population, no matter the way the users will use their VR. Why are we so focused on Oculus, when there are other systems too? Don’t worry, the concept will be similar. Sony apps will sell their PlayStation VR through PSN, more specifically individual sections in their online store. The same can be expected with the other VR systems. One is for sure – the creators of the initial hardware made sure to think of any concurrency that might occur on device selling by the initial price and focusing on the software.
We hope that with this guide we cleared some fundamental dilemmas and practical implementations, and helped you understand what your expectations should be regarding the VR solutions. You should remember that it is a new way of PC interaction that is not here to replace anything or to ditch the other ways of communication. It is here as an addition to them, as well as to bring a new level of experiences.
We are not trying to say here that everyone should rush and buy VR devices. There is no need for that, nor is it objectively necessary. Not everyone have the PC’s for that, and VR devices are very expensive. The whole process might last few years. We hope it won’t be too long, but VR does not run sprint – tough marathon. Be patient and convince yourselves. Gradually you will see the benefits of this concept yourself, and it is expected that the technology will become more available. Enthusiasts will buy these devices, try them and comment on them, and probably sooner or later large number of users will join the VR world.
At the same time, we can’t but notice that the ideal fundament that enables true experience for this type is the desktop PC! That seemly forgotten, despised and rejected nontrendy concept has enough performances and strength to make VR viable in any aspect of its usage – on it makes sense when we talk about usability because we will not wear the helmet when you can watch it on a more compact mobile or laptop. It is reasonable to expect that this demonstration of PC capabilities will take a turn in the PC industry. It is more than needed as we expect that the demand for hardware, as well as for the software, will give new chances and opportunities for jumps in hardware strength and creativity solutions that the developers can offer.