The recommended hardware specifications for running the Oculus Rift have been released by Atman Binstock, chief architect and technical director at Oculus.
The requirements aren’t completely out of this world, but if you’re running on an older desktop, you might be looking at dropping a few hundred dollars to get yourself up to speed – especially on a new GPU.
Here’s the recommended hardware specs:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
Right now, if you’re playing on a screen that’s 1920x1080p, your GPU has to process about 124 million shaded pixels per second to play a game at 60Hz. That’s a lot of pixels. Since the Oculus Rift has a resolution of 2160×1200 and runs at 90Hz on two displays, it needs to process 233 million shaded pixels – nearly double that amount. Unfortunately, since the goal of virtual reality is complete immersion, the target for the Rift is to process 400 million shaded pixels per second. That means that right now, if your computer can’t handle running three games in 1080p at the same time, it probably won’t be able to handle the Oculus Rift.
The problem with running the Oculus Rift lies within the way that we currently play games. Right now, as long as your GPU can keep your game running between 30-60 FPS, it’s no big deal. You might notice a bit of skipping when your frames drop, but it doesn’t jerk you away from your game as abruptly as something as immersive as virtual reality would; every frame that you drop is a jarring reminder that you’re not actually in this virtual world, you’re just wearing a helmet.
On top of that, GPUs have been developed in a way that prioritizes throughput over latency – pushing lots of information through is great, but the Rift has to figure out when your head starts moving and when it stops, and it has to do it immediately. Since our GPUs haven’t been optimized to handle this task, you’re going to have to squeeze some extra performance from your card to make sure that it can keep up.
On top of the recommended hardware, here are some things that you will absolutely require to be able to use the Rift in the first place:
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
The bad news for laptop owners is that most laptops’ external display ports are connected to the internal GPU instead of a dedicated card, so the HDMI ports won’t reach those clock speeds. The other bad news is that you can’t find out whether this is the case with your laptop or not just by reading the specs. Atman Binstock says “Note that almost no current laptops have the GPU performance for the recommended spec, though upcoming mobile GPUs may be able to support this level of performance.”
He has also announced that development for OS X and Linux have been paused while they work on bringing a fully-developed experience to the market, saying “We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.”
Binstock also hopes that the Oculus Rift and its lofty hardware requirements will be a driving force for GPUs, OSs, drivers, 3D engines, and apps in the near future.
Will hardware rush to keep up, or will VR will just become another novelty that’s fun to try but too complicated to keep up with? We’ll be seeing the Rift shipped to consumers in Q1 2016, so I expect that’s when we’ll find out.