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Nvidia: Virtual reality requires seven times the power of a normal game

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It may be time to upgrade your GPU

You get the sense, sitting in a room with Nvidia talking about virtual reality, that this new technology is the best thing to happen to companies selling GPUs in some time. Oculus VR is recommending some serious hardware to run its Rift headset, and describes the following specs as "minimum":

  • Video Card: Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • Memory: 8 GB+ RAM
  • Video Output Compatible: HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 64-bit or newer

"Every new generation of GPU will of course bring more performance. But if you want to enjoy VR, the 970 is out — you can just go in and get it — but the 980 Ti will obviously be much better," Sridhar Ramaswamy, director of technical marketing at Nvidia, told me, referring to the GPU I told them I'm using in my own machine.

Nvidia showed a slide that explained the target resolution for virtual reality is 3024 by 1680 total, running at 90 frames per second. This is a steep increase from the standard 1080p running at 30 frames per second or higher we're used to in console games, although of course certain PC games go higher.

Nvidia VR performance slide 1280

The difference with VR is that the higher frame rate and resolution isn't just nice; they're mandatory to deliver a good experience on the Oculus Rift. That's why Nvidia is introducing a program to certify desktops, laptops and graphics cards as "VR Ready."

While we don't know the minimum specs needed for the upcoming HTC Vive has a whole, the minimum specs needed to run Elite: Dangerous on the platform have been released, and they're even steeper than the Rift's power requirements:

  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K Quad Core CPU or better / AMD FX 4350 Quad Core CPU or better
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 980 with 4GB or better
  • Network: Broadband Internet Connection Hard Drive: 8 GB available space

In other words, many gamers will be upgrading their rigs for virtual reality, and based on the smiles in the room when I noted that VR is going to drive upgrades, Nvidia couldn't be happier about that situation.