I dunno about you, but I've been sat waiting for any old VR news with incredibly bated breath, because it's big. It's really, really big news and could provoke a massive shift in gaming, and entertainment as a whole, the likes that haven't been seen since... well... the last time companies tried to sell us VR (eh, Virtual Boy?)!
But with major players such as Facebook, HTC, Valve, AMD, Samsung and other immeasurably huge companies vying for the right to parade their most awesome and pricey set of future goggles, what this all comes down to is us and whether our rigs and wallets are ready for the onslaught of "THE NEXT GENERATION OF ENTERTAINMENT!"
The answer is pretty much a resounding no, especially when considering the former. For most, running a VR headset on their PC is going to be a real pain when taking into account the amount of work and money that will go into future proofing said rig.
I mean, take a look at Oculus Rift's minimum spec:
Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
Memory: 8GB+ RAM
Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 ports
OS: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
An already pretty decent gaming rig will more than likely be due an upgrade with this spec being touted around, and even top of the line ones will probably need new video cards too! And, how many of you out there have a USB 3.0 ready machine too? I sure don't.
But if you really are interested in leaping into a whole new world of immersion, but are still out on whether your PC will be able to handle VR, head over to Steam's VR Performance test tool and have a look. If it's bad news, or if you're simply interested, then come with me on a journey into:
Future Proofing Your PC
First up, in order to handle displaying 2K images over two different screens at 90FPS, your PC is going to need an upgrading montage. And the first point of call should be its GPU.
Though the GTX 970 is a GPU perfectly capable of handling VR, it wouldn't hurt to dream a little big bigger and hold out for Nvidia and AMD's GPUs built especially with VR in mind. Because if it does take off, expect the quality of games to improve somewhat.
Naturally this is all dependent on your budget. You don't need to future proof your rig at all. You could stump for a GTX 960 (or AMD Radeon 280) and that will be fine for the time being.
A Bigger Brain
Digital Foundry's ever keen eye for tech has gazed over which processors would be perfect for processing all the info needed for a smooth VR experience. And, naturally, they've come down on the decision that Intel's i7 processors trump their i5s. Here's why:
In our CPU-bound gaming benchmarks, we have observed that game engines using eight processing threads enjoy a performance boost on the Core i7 chips vs their i5 equivalents (even when overclocked).
It seems that more threads has a particular impact on lowering stutter in CPU-bound scenarios, resulting in an improvement on lowest recorded frame-rates. This could help in a VR scenario, where sustaining 90fps at all costs is so important.
Ramp Up The RAM
Having more and faster RAM can, in some cases, boost frame-rates of a game, especially when using rigs with GPUs just outside of a VR friendly world. But be wary, because putting new RAM into your rig more than likely will force you into having to shell out for a more pricey motherboard.
And while we're on the subject of sticking things into your PC, consider the rig's power source too. That may also need to be upgraded to make up for the boost in GPU processing and to power the headset, of course! So much to consider.
So, are you still down with VR? I dunno about you, but when I do adopt to the hype, I'm going PSVR. It's just easier, isn't it? Well, on paper anyway.