For all of the public Oculus Rift demos so far, the demo systems have been driven by very powerful hardware, and for good reason. With the need to double-render a scene (once for each eye) along with keeping latency to an absolute minimum, Oculus and game developers alike have not been taking any chances on performance, always making sure they have more than enough to work with. Since the very first Rift demos GPU performance has improved at a decent clip, but rendering a scene quickly in 3D is still a demanding task.

As a result we’ve known since the earliest days that the system requirements for the Rift would be rather high. But of course with the device still in development – and not just the headset, but the sensor suite as well – the system requirements were still in flux. Today via an announcement on their site, the Oculus team has revealed their recommended system specifications and how they’re treating these as much more than a minimum.

First, the system specification recommendations:

  • NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • 8GB+ RAM
  • HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

Overall the recommended specifications are not too far off from the specs of many of the Rift demo systems, and in fact they may be a bit lower. The GPU recommendations only call for a $250+ video card despite the GPU generally being the bottleneck (and many recent demo systems using multi-GPU configurations for that reason). Meanwhile everything else is about as expected, with users wanting a fast Intel quad-core CPU, plenty of RAM, an HDMI port to connect to the Rift, and USB 3.0 ports for the Rift to feed sensor data back to the host PC. Essentially any modern mid-to-high end gaming PC should meet these requirements.

While explaining the specifications, Oculus also took a moment to note that while laptops are not formally excluded from running the Rift, they likely will run into issues. Along with the weaker GPUs on laptops, most laptops are using NVIDIA Optimus or AMD Enduro technology to slave the discrete GPU to the integrated GPU, which means that the dGPU doesn’t have a direct output, rather it goes through the iGPU and its outputs. This is where the “direct output architecture” part of the specifications come in; Optimus/Enduro are not supported, and for laptops to work the dGPU will need to be able to directly drive an HDMI port, which is something that very few gaming laptops do.

Finally, along with releasing the specifications, Oculus is also outlining how they want developers to treat the specifications, and how they want to see the Rift developed against as a single, stable, long-term platform. As Oculus wants to increase Rift adoption over time and deliver a consistent experience, they are asking that developers treat these recommended specifications as a quasi-singular platform, optimizing their games around these specifications over the long-haul. This way as Rift prices come down and lower-end PC performance goes up, consumers assembling these cheaper Rift systems will be able to pick up a Rift and play new games just as well as launch hardware plays launch games and new games alike. In essence Oculus wants to setup a loose approximation of the console ecosystem, having developers optimize against an unchanging baseline so that PC spec creep doesn’t slowly ratchet up performance requirements as what happens today with PC games.

The reality of course is that these are just developer suggestions, but it’s an interesting idea that makes a lot of sense given the fact that Oculus will need time for developer and consumers to adopt the Rift en masse. Suggesting that developers optimize around a fixed point ensures that costs come down over time, and launch buyers aren’t quickly left behind. That said, optimizing a game around a specific point and making that point a game’s maximum settings are two different things; given how well VR scales with multi-GPU setups, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see some developers treat these recommendations as minimums, and offer better graphical effects for more powerful systems.

Source: Oculus VR (via Tom's Hardware)

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  • JeffFlanagan - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    >I am not a fan at all of sticking phones into a frame like Gear VR

    Why? I love that I can repurpose the expensive display and processor in my phone as a VR display. It's not like I can use my phone at the same time I'm in VR. This is an Oculus device, and you're not going to beat $200. The shortcoming of Gear opposed to the PC device is that you can't play PC games, but it's spectacular and will keep me entertained with excellent VR until the HTC/Valve headset is released.

    Look at Microsoft HoloLens. It's what Glass should have been, but their current prototype has a crappy field of view. I'm hoping reviewer pushback leads them to fix that before release.
  • piiman - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    LOL its not even out yet and you already want 4k? lol By the time we get 4k there will be 8k displays and you'll say they aren't perfect until we get 8k. Can anything ever be perfect?
  • james.jwb - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    Because of how close the screens are to your eyes, there is a sweet spot you need to pass in order for image quality to match what we're used to via desktop (pixel size, etc). And that is routinely considered too be 4k for VR. At the same time, however, they need to solve the screen door effect, which becomes even more of an issue the higher res you go.

    But still, 4k is likely the sweet spot for "good enough", whereas anything below this is likely to feel inferior to what we currently enjoy on desktop, even 1440p (probably).
  • JeffFlanagan - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    You don't understand how huge the pixels are in an under 4K display that fills your field of view. It's worse than sitting close to an NTSC TV.

    Low-Res VR is still amazing, but a 4K+ display will allow a life-like experience. Current VR is really cool, but it's going to get a lot better.
  • Xenonite - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    Yeah I don't think that resolution will be the limiting factor in VR adpotion. Sure, the current VR implementations all have displays that will make images look quite pixellated, but a much greater headache (literally) is the ~90Hz refresh rate target for a fully immersive substituted reality.

    Even if they do get head-tracking latency under control, the jerkiness of full-vield video at those frame rates (even without any inter-frame or inter-eye variance) would be more than enough to ruin the experience for consumers like me (who find that tracking the motion portrayed by "moving" pictures at those low frame rates is extremely difficult and quickly induces quite severe motion-sickness).

    Today's VR hardware reminds me a lot of the failed push towards 3D media consumption. 3D-TV didn't just fail because consumers disliked having to wear the 3D-Glasses, a major reason why it failed was that engineering short-cuts reaulted in a product that was unable to deliver any real, robust improvement over its predecessor. Secondly, the extremely low frame rate that movies absolutely have to be captured in, exacerbated the technological limitations of 3D-videos and also induced the familiar symptoms of motion-sickness in a substantial number of comsumers.

    I, too, was extremely excited by the prospects of a true VR system; however, it now seems that only those who can experience the illusion of real-life motion at 'practical' frame rates will be able to use it without becomming totally disorientated.
  • ThortonBe - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    I hope AnandTech continues to cover VR headsets. I'm very much looking forward to an AnandTech review of the HTC Vive and eventually the Oculus Rift (consumer version).
  • CaedenV - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    welp, I need a new GPU, but that is hardly a surprise. My 570 keeps up with games quite well from a processing perspective, but it simply does not have enough RAM on board for big titles and lots of effects. Maybe I'll spring for a 980 when I get a real job again...
    At least the rest of my system is ready and up to the task!
  • wolrah - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    I'm amused at how people in the comments on Oculus' site are complaining about the lack of Mac support at launch. Did they read the recommended specs? Only the Mac Pro with the top-end "D700" (aka Firepro W9000) GPU option, starting at $4000, has the horsepower and even then it's not by much.

    I'm a pretty big cross-platform guy, but when the Mac gaming market is a niche to begin with and only a small subset of those users actually have enough hardware to run it properly it's hard to blame them for not prioritizing the platform. I'd be willing to bet that there are more Linux gamers than there are Mac gamers who own a high-end Mac Pro.
  • nutternatter34 - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    I meet the and exceed the requirements but wanted them to aim lower. It reads like Crysis to me.
    The first series of games will have a minimum level of performance, just enough to keep up while the computer is delivering it's maximum load/performance. I'll question Rift's compatibility with steam boxes, Good-Better-Best = No Rift-No Rift-Rift.
  • OrphanageExplosion - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    GTX 970/R9 290 powering the equivalent of 3x 1080p at a *minimum* of 90fps? My guess is that quality settings are going to need to take a big hit, but hopefully the sense of presence will compensate for that.

    Also, we're going to need DX12 and Vulkan pretty quickly - often the biggest challenge in maintaining a locked frame-rate comes from CPU/DX11 bottlenecks.

    On the plus side, it's great that there's a min-spec out there that developers need to target to hit a certain frame-rate. It should hopefully help the entire game design.

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