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Here's what your gaming PC will need for VR, according to Nvidia

Confused? Let Nvidia's VR Ready program help

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

With virtual reality set to officially become a thing in 2016, people interested in the technology are wondering what kind of computer hardware they'll need for headsets and software. Nvidia is looking to ease those buying concerns with a labeling system it's calling "VR Ready," the company announced today.

In partnership with companies that manufacture computers, laptops and graphics cards, Nvidia is certifying hardware as being "GeForce GTX VR Ready." Nvidia's partners include Alienware, EVGA, Falcon Northwest and Maingear, as well as retailers such as Amazon and Newegg.

"For customers, navigating an emerging technology like VR can be daunting," said Jason Paul, general manager of emerging technologies at Nvidia, in a press release today. "We're working with trusted partners worldwide to simplify the buying process with a GeForce GTX VR Ready badge that will let customers quickly identify PCs or add-in cards that are capable of handling the demands of VR."

Nvidia is setting the minimum requirements for its VR Ready program at a GeForce GTX 970 for desktop PCs and a GTX 980 for notebooks. You'll also need the equivalent of an Intel Core i5-4590 processor, at least 8 GB of RAM, two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI 1.3 port, and Windows 7 (with Service Pack 1) or newer. Nvidia's own GeForce Experience software can tell you whether your current gaming rig meets those specifications.

For reference, a GTX 970 currently has a suggested retail price of $329.99, while the GTX 980 goes for $499.99 and the GTX 980 Ti costs $649.99. Of course, you can always go for broke with the $999.99 GTX Titan X.

The baseline for Nvidia's VR Ready label matches the recommended specifications for the Oculus Rift that Oculus VR laid out last spring. At the time, Oculus said it wasn't sure how to highlight laptops that could support the Rift, since the headset requires a "direct output architecture" for a computer's HDMI 1.3 port. In many notebooks with a discrete gaming GPU, the external video output is actually connected to the integrated GPU; that setup won't work with the Rift. Presumably, any laptops that Nvidia marks as VR Ready will indeed meet the video output requirement.

Expect more news from Nvidia tonight, when the company kicks off the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show with a press event. Nvidia's presentation begins at 9 p.m. ET.

Correction: The minimum VR Ready level for laptops is a GTX 980, not a GTX 980M, and Oculus published recommended system requirements, not minimum specifications. We've edited the story to reflect this.

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