Breaking Down the Recommended Hardware for the Oculus Rift Ready PC

Oculus have previously released their recommended hardware for the Oculus Rift. We’ve also written a few articles about how to build an Oculus Rift Ready PC for less than $1,000 and How to build a quiet Oculus Rift Ready PC.

During Oculus Connect 2 in Los Angeles Oculus shared a little more information and announced a new “Oculus Ready PC Program” which is designed to make it easier for consumers to purchase a PC to run VR. PCs will be marked as “Oculus Ready” meaning they meet at least the recommended Oculus specification. Manufactures initially in the program include Asus, Dell and Alienware. 

Before we delve into what this means. First let’s analyze what it takes to drive VR which ultimately is driving the need for recommended hardware.

Up until now most games on Xbox, PS4 and the majority of PC gamers play games at 1080p. PC gamers are normally happy with anywhere from 30-60 fps. Gamers with more disposable income often play at 1440p and some even play at 4K requiring the purchase of at least 2 video cards. However the most common denominator is 1080p @ 30-60 fps.

Assuming 1080p at 60 fps this would require 124 million shaded pixels per second. In stark contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90fps split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second. At the default eye-target scale, the Rift’s rendering requirements go much higher: around 400 million shaded pixels per second. This means that by raw rendering costs alone, a VR game will require approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering.

Traditional gaming in the 30-60 fps range may result in the odd slow down which while a little annoying would not cause any dramatic loss of enjoyment and certainly not any nausea.

VR turns graphics into more of a hard real-time problem, as each missed frame is very visible. If many frames are continuously missed then this becomes a jarring and uncomfortable VR experience.

The need for smooth VR gameplay is what has driven Oculus to list recommended PC hardware and to work closely with game developers to ensure their software works on the Oculus hardware. This is very similar to how console gamers know the game they purchase will work great on their system. PC gamers since the dawn of PC gaming know the video card they buy today is unlikely to play the hottest games at the highest resolution with the settings turned up to the Max. Gamers typically spend hours tweaking their settings to get the best balance between FPS and graphic fidelity.

For those unfamiliar with the Oculus recommended configuration it is:

  • 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

In a recent Oculus post their stated goal is:

The goal is for all Rift games and applications to deliver a great experience on this configuration by default. We believe this “it just works” experience will be fundamental to VR’s success, given that an underperforming system will fail to deliver comfortable presence.

The recommended spec will stay constant over the lifetime of the Rift. As the equivalent-performance hardware becomes less expensive, more users will have systems capable of the full Rift experience. Developers, in turn, can rely on Rift users having these powerful machines, allowing them to optimize their game for a known target, simplifying development.

This is great news for developers and for gamers unsure of the hardware and money needed for a great VR experience.

But what about the hardcore gamers who are willing to spend many thousands of dollars on their PC hardware to turn up the graphic settings?

I suspect developers will add the default "Oculus Ready" settings to their games, however as with most PC games today will allow the user to increase those settings. This is especially important for those running SLI (Dual Video card) which NVDIA have already stated will support one video card per eye. Even for those power gamers the "Oculus Ready" setting provides a great place to start. Start with your settings at the default and gradually increase them until you get a noticeable drop off in performance. Even if an automated setting is provided power users are still likely to adjust the settings to push the limits of their hardware.

I for one cannot wait until next year to see how all this works out. Let us know in the comments below if you will purchase an Oculus Rift Ready PC or will go beyond the recommended to go as high are you dare!

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