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This is the PC you'll need for the retail Oculus Rift, bad news for laptops

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We knew that the consumer version of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset would require a beefy PC, but Oculus VR has always been cagey about what to expect for the minimum system specs.

Today the company has published its recommended specs for your virtual reality machine. They also shared some bad news about gaming laptops.

And here they are:

  • Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • 8 GB+ RAM
  • Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

Yeah, you're likely going to need to upgrade. The GTX 970 starts at around $300 and goes up from there, and the Intel i5-4590 costs around $200. These aren't god-level parts, but they're certainly on the upper end of the "enthusiast" level of gaming PCs.

The recommended spec will stay constant over the lifetime of the Rift

"The goal is for all Rift games and applications to deliver a great experience on this configuration," the blog post states. "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."

Here's the trick, according to a more in-depth blog post from Atman Binstock, Oculus' chief architect: The spec won't change. If you hit this now, you'll be good for years.

"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," he wrote. "Developers, in turn, can rely on Rift users having these modern machines, allowing them to optimize their game for a known target, simplifying development."

You'll also need a GPU that features "HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture," which means most laptops won't work well with the Rift.

"The last bullet point is tricky: many discrete GPU laptops have their external video output connected to the integrated GPU and drive the external output via hardware and software mechanisms that can’t support the Rift," Binstock explained.

"Since this isn't something that can be determined by reading the specs of a laptop, we are working on how to identify the right systems. 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."

Why do you need all that power?

"On the raw rendering costs: a traditional 1080p game at 60Hz requires 124 million shaded pixels per second. In contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second," Binstock wrote.

"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." So yeah, you're going to need a lot of power.

Looks like we have our upgrade path all picked out.

Verge Video archive: Can we build a virtual world? (2014)