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What Graphics Card Do You Need for VR in 2022? A Short Guide

Updated: June 02,2022

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If you're looking for a smooth VR experience, having the latest Intel or AMD chip and plenty of RAM won't be enough - you’ll also need a powerful graphics card. And with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know which one is right for you. That's why we've put together this guide on the best graphics cards for virtual reality gaming.

So, what graphics card do you need for VR? That depends on the kind of headset you’ll want to use. First, we’ll explain the basics of VR gaming and talk about the differences between the popular models on the market. After that, we’ll give you some suggestions about graphics cards in different price brackets (entry, affordable, and high-end) you could consider. Let’s get started, shall we?

The Key to a Great VR Experience

At its core, a graphics card is a specialized piece of hardware designed to generate and output images. In the case of virtual reality, the graphics card is responsible for creating the images that are displayed in the headset. This includes both the 3D environment you see when you look around and any 2D elements such as menus and UI elements displayed on VR-capable graphics cards.

VR, or virtual reality, is a technology that uses a headset to create a simulated environment. The headset tracks the user's movements and adjusts the images accordingly. A graphics card is essential for VR because it is responsible for generating the images displayed in the headset. Without a graphics processor, VR would not be possible.

This is not the same as augmented reality, where you use apps or gadgets to add computer-generated content over real terrain that the device’s camera is detecting. AR statistics show that the adoption rate for this simpler tech is soaring, but VR is still somewhat of a niche product, and one of the reasons for that is affordability.

The graphics card must be powerful enough to render images at a high framerate, as any lag or framerate issues can lead to a bad VR experience. In addition, a good graphics card for VR needs to be able to output the images at a resolution high enough to provide a good level of detail. 

Another essential factor for most VR games is the field of view (FOV) that the graphics card needs to render. The FOV is the total amount of the environment that you can see at any one time and is measured in degrees. 

The bigger the field of view, the more demanding your VR-ready GPU will have to be. For example, the Pimax 5K+ has a field of view of 140°×101°, while the Oculus Rift has a slightly smaller one of 86°×86°.

Some VR headsets (such as the Pimax 5K Plus) have an even wider field of view, providing a more immersive experience. However, these headsets are more demanding on the VR-compatible graphics cards, as they need to be able to render a larger area at any one time. 

Handling VR Intensity

To render high-quality CGI in virtual reality, you need a decent graphics card. Otherwise, the images will appear choppy and low-resolution, which can break the immersion of being in a virtual space. And since you're wearing a headset that displays these computer-generated images, your eyes will notice any slowdown or degradation in performance.

A good graphics card can help reduce latency, which is the delay between when you move your head and when the image in the headset moves.  Latency is one of the main things that can cause nausea in VR, so it's important to have a graphics card for VR gaming that can render images quickly. This is essential for VR because it helps to create realistic and immersive, lag-free images.

These days even compact smartphones support VR via Google Cardboard. However, their graphical prowess is laughable compared to the needs of modern VR headsets, which is why they are much more used for augmented reality scenarios.

Choosing the Right Headset

Several different VR headsets are available on the market, each with its own specifications. Below, we've listed some of the most popular ones and their minimum graphics card requirements.

Oculus Rift S

Some headsets don’t require the absolute best video card for VR experience. The Oculus Rift S is one such example and is one of the most popular VR headsets on the market. It has a resolution of 1280 x 1440 per eye and a refresh rate of 80 Hz. The minimum requirements for the graphics card are an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or an AMD Radeon RX 470.

For a more optimal experience, you’ll need a GTX 1060 or 970 from Nvidia or an AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater.

HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is another popular headset. It has a resolution of 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye and a refresh rate of 90 Hz. The minimum recommended GPU is an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or an AMD Radeon RX 480. 

Pimax 5K Plus

The Pimax 5K Plus is a high-end VR headset with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 per eye, which needs the best VR graphics card you can muster. It has a refresh rate of 144 Hz. The minimum requirements for the graphics card are an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070Ti or an AMD Radeon RX Vega 64.

Oculus Quest 2

The Oculus Quest 2 is a standalone VR headset that doesn't require a gaming PC. It has a resolution of 1832 x 1920 per eye and a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz (though only supported in some games, with the standard refresh rate being up to 90 Hz). The minimum requirements for the graphics card are an NVIDIA GTX 970 or an AMD Radeon R9 290. 

Valve Index

The Valve Index is a high-end VR headset with a resolution of 2880 x 1600 that also requires the best GPU for VR you can get for it. It has a refresh rate of 120 Hz but also supports an experimental 144 Hz mode. The minimum requirements for the graphics card are similar to the Oculus Quest 2, but when it comes to recommended specs, they are a fair bit higher.

For optimal performance, you’ll want at least a Radeon 580 if you go with AMD or a GTX 1070 if you’re on the green team.

Which GPU To Get?

The minimum specs for the graphics card can vary depending on the VR headset. However, we would recommend choosing a graphics card above the minimum requirements, as this will help ensure a smooth and immersive VR experience.

Even VR drawing tools like Tilt Brush need a capable graphics card to handle the workload. As such, you’re best off getting at least a midrange GPU from our list, though an entry-level model will still get you a decent gaming experience on some headsets.

Entry-Level Graphics Cards for VR

If you're looking for a VR-ready graphics card on a tight budget, we would recommend the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD RX 470. These graphics cards are powerful enough to run most VR headsets, including the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. 

They will be an excellent addition to a budget VR PC build where you can run VR under medium or light graphical settings without the need for fancy tech like dedicated ray-tracing cores.

Midrange Graphics Cards for VR

The best budget VR graphics card for those who want to spend a bit more is an NVIDIA GTX 1080 or an AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. You'll be able to handle VR apps and games on medium graphical settings with a smooth framerate. If you want to go above that but aren’t quite ready to hit the big leagues, first-generation AMD RDNA cards such as the 5600 XT or Nvidia’s 2070 and other Turing cards are a good bet.

Enthusiast Graphics Cards for VR

If you're looking for the most powerful graphics card for virtual reality, we would recommend something from the Nvidia Ampere 3000 or AMD Radeon RX 6000 series. These are high-end graphics cards that can handle even the most demanding VR headsets, such as the Valve Index. Graphics cards within this segment are some of the best GPUs for VR gaming and apps and will allow you to run a VR game or VR apps in ultra settings.

Important Purchasing Factors To Consider

A graphics card is a piece of computer hardware responsible for generating the images you see on your screen. To create a realistic and immersive virtual reality experience, you need a recommended graphics card for VR that can handle large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. 

When choosing a graphics card capable enough for VR titles, you should keep the following factors in mind: 

The headset's resolution: The higher the resolution, the more powerful the graphics card running it will need to be. 

-The refresh rate of the headset: A higher refresh rate will result in a smoother VR experience but also be more demanding on your VR setup.

-The quality of the lenses: Higher-quality lenses will improve the overall look without demanding more from your VR graphics card. 

-The field of view: A wider field of view will naturally require a beefier graphics card as there is more to render in any given scene. 

-The games and experiences you want to play: Some VR titles are more demanding than others. If you're going to play the latest and greatest VR games, you'll need a high-end graphics card. 

-Your budget: Suitable graphics cards for VR can range in price from around $100 to over $1,000 with the current market prices. Choose the best graphics card that you can afford comfortably. 

Once you’re set on getting the perfect graphics card for VR adventures, you’ll have to focus on getting the right headset and controls. Some users prefer to use classic controllers for the best orientation in a 3D immersive space, but many advanced VR systems come with their own motion controllers. 

Conclusion

We've outlined the best graphics cards for VR in different budget ranges so that you can find the right one for your needs. Remember that more expensive headsets that feature higher resolutions and a wider FOV will look and play better but also cost far more and require beefier graphics cards and other hardware to run. 

FAQ

Will my graphics card run VR?

Most likely, yes. Even some entry-level graphics cards today are powerful enough to run some VR applications and games. However, for the best VR experience possible, we recommend choosing a medium to a high-end graphics card, especially if you want to game at high FOV, refresh rate, and resolution settings.

Do you need a good GPU for VR?

It depends on what kind of VR you want, really. An acceptable graphics card for virtual reality should have at least 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, but if you're going to run games at higher refresh rates (over 90 Hz) or in more demanding resolutions/with a wider FOV, you’ll need a pretty powerful graphics card.

Is GTX 1660 Good for VR?

The GTX 1660 is a good graphics card for virtual reality. It's a mid-range GPU that can handle most VR headsets, including the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. With this card, you can expect to run VR games and experiences at medium or light graphical settings.

Is a GTX 1050 Ti good for VR?

The GTX 1050 Ti is a good VR graphics card for more economical budgets that can run VR applications and games. However, you may need to lower the graphical settings in some cases. This card is best suited for entry-level VR headsets, such as the Oculus Go.

Is my laptop good enough for VR?

It depends on your laptop. You'll need one with a good graphics card to run VR applications and games. We recommend checking the requirements of the VR headset that you're interested in to see if your laptop meets those standards. You may also need to upgrade your laptop's cooling system to avoid overheating during VR use.

Is a GTX 1080 Good for VR?

Remember our question, “What graphics card do you need for VR?” The GTX 1080 is a great choice that can handle even the most demanding VR headsets, such as the HTC Vive Pro. With this card, you can expect to run VR games and experiences very well as long as you don’t push it with the most demanding settings and resolutions.

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Ivan
ABOUT AUTHOR
Ivan

A true tech and gaming savant, Ivan has been fascinated by the digital world since the early days of gaming on antiques such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore’s beloved Amiga. Whether you’re interested in the latest PC and console gaming news, antivirus software, or smartphone reviews, or simply want to learn about the newest geeky gadgets around, we at KT have you covered, and Ivan’s likely the one we’ll ask.

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