Virtual Reality is taking over, and its meteoric rise is hardly a surprise. The technology provides users a gateway to an artificially-simulated environment that, unlike displays, tailors to users’ sense of vision, hearing, touch, and even smell. Users are able to interact with 3D worlds, providing for highly immersive and interactive experiences.
All this, however, comes at a cost. The process of creating a simulated environment requires considerable graphics and processing power. Sometimes this is built into the head-mounted display, more commonly referred to as the VR headset. More often, however, the headset relies on your Desktop/laptop to provide the goods. Hence, if you intend to simulate artificial worlds and interact with them, you will need a beefy PC.
So, how beefy a PC do you need? Nothing too extravagant; a decent mid-range gaming computer should do wonders. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need a monstrous $3000 rig to handle the intricacies of VR, although it, surely, won’t hurt.
When we talk of PCs, you have the option of choosing from pre-built PCs and custom-built ones. While the latter offer greater flexibility and can help you save a couple of hundred dollars, the former stand out for their convenience, helping prospective buyers save countless hours of research. They are assembled by renowned manufacturers using stable configurations which bring the best out of the hardware.
While convenience is a definite advantage, the process of scouring the internet for prospective prebuilt PC options for VR is anything but trouble-free. With hundreds of vendors rolling out thousands of configurations, you have a plethora of choices at your disposal. It doesn’t help that most of these choices are inseparable in regards to specifications. Hence, be this guide! By listing the best pre-built PCs for VR, we intend to simplify this process for you as much as possible. Yet before we do so, it is pertinent that we discuss the minimum system requirements for VR.
Minimum System Requirements for VR PC
VR headsets slightly differ with regards to their minimum specifications, with the only constant being that each of them requires a beefy PC. In this regard, we will be covering the minimum system requirements for 3 of the most popular tethered headsets, namely Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro 2, and Valve Index. So, what if you want to opt for an alternate option? Don’t worry! if your PC can support these, it can, most probably, support any other headset out there.
|Specification||Oculus Rift S||HTC Vive Pro 2||Valve Index|
|GPU||NVIDIA GTX 1060 or better||NVIDIA GTX 1060 or better||NVIDIA GTX 1070 or better|
|Processor||Intel i5-4590 or better||Intel i5-4590 or better||Quad-core|
|Memory||8 GB or greater||8 GB or greater||8 GB or greater|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10||Windows 10|
There are two key takeaways from the above-mentioned data:
- If you have a decent mid-range gaming or content creation rig, you should be able to run VR at least after cutting a few corners.
- Graphics Card is GOD! As far as Virtual reality is concerned, GPU is the most important component of your rig. Hence, spend wisely. If you are short on budget, cut costs on other components and get the best GPU that you can.
Buying Guide for Best PC for VR
Having discussed the minimum requirements, it is essential that we discuss the things to consider before buying a PC for VR, because let’s face it, minimum requirements are just that: minimum. If you scrape up a PC with minimum-specified hardware, you are all but gunning up for a nauseating experience. As far as computers go, it is apt to have some headroom for performance.
The CPU, alongside the GPU and RAM, constitute the 3 most important components of a computer for Virtual Reality. Valve suggests a quad-core processor for its state-of-the-art headset, the Valve Index, but you may want to do a little better. In this regard, a six-core processor with 4+ GHz should not only do the trick but should also future-proof your investment. It will open up doors for gaming at higher resolutions, but more crucially, it will help maintain frame rate over the headset’s refresh rate, which is the difference between an ultra-realistic experience and a nauseating one.
Ideally, you’d want one of the best CPUs for your build but if you are really tight on budget, I’d suggest you-with a very heavy heart- to skimp a little. It is better to opt for a decent GPU and a quadcore processor than to spend extravagantly on the CPU and to cut corners on the video card. Then again, these are drastic measures and not at all recommended unless you starved for cash.
The guy who came up with, “CPU is the most important component of the computer”, surely didn’t have the farsight to envisage a world consumed by a crippling video gaming addiction. Don’t get me wrong, processors are fundamental to any PC build. It’s just that, with the invention of ultra-realistic AAA titles and complementary displays, GPUs have grown in stature, arguably more so than their CPU counterparts, and that’s without factoring in the inevitable rise of VR headsets.
As summarized earlier, Virtual Headsets have insane graphic requirements. Low-end video cards just won’t do, and most mid-range offerings would have trouble delivering the goods on a few AAA titles. Hence, skimping isn’t an option. To be able to (even slightly) enjoy the experience, you will have to opt for one of the best GPUs going around and the reasoning is no rocket science. Unlike displays, VR headsets have pretty inflexible refresh rate requirements. The inability of a graphics card to match the said requirements can lead to judder and screen tearing, which in turn cause dizziness and nausea.
So, when we talk of high-end graphic cards, how high are we really talking? Somewhere around “Charlie Sheen in Two and a half men” territory! The lowest you can go- and that’s after cutting quite a few corners- is Nvidia RTX 1660 TI. I understand that GPUs can be pretty steep but that’s a bullet you will have to bite.
The 3 best VR headsets (Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro 2, and Valve Index) have a homogeneous 8 GB memory requirement. Other notable products like the Vive Cosmos can make do with half of that. In today’s age, the requirement is pretty manageable. In fact, you will have to go out of your way to buy a rig that doesn’t come with 8 GB of RAM. That being said, it is best to opt for 16 or 32 GB options, so to provide sufficient headroom for performance.
When you go shopping, you will also come across a few options with DDR4 and a few others with the faster and pricier DDR5. While DDR5 is superior performance-wise, at this stage the performance gains are marginal. In a study conducted by Techspot, DDR5 memory offers just 3%,2%, and 1% performance boost at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolution respectively. With such incremental gains, current pricing, and availability, the new technology makes little sense. Hence, I will suggest you stick to the tried-and-tested DDR4 for now.
Desktop vs Laptop
Let not its position in this list deceive you; the desktop-laptop debate is often the first point of contention whenever someone decides to buy a rig. The only reason it is last on this list is that I can’t say something that hasn’t been said before. Both laptops and desktops have their advantages and disadvantages, which are well documented. I will, therefore, just try to summarize these differences as succinctly as possible. If you have already made up your mind about the type of computer you are going to buy, feel free to skip this section.
On the upgradeability to portability spectrum, desktops align with upgradeability. Not only are most desktop components removable, but the cases are larger too providing for ease of maintenance and greater flexibility on the choice of inner components. While desktops’ upgradeability is a definite advantage, it’s hardly their greatest selling point. That crown is shared by processing power and value per dollar. In comparison to laptops, desktops employ larger and more powerful processors. Laptop processors are no walkovers either, but despite the recent technological advancements, they are pretty limited in comparison to desktop processors. It is worth noting, however, that a laptop can have the same performance as a desktop, although it will come at a much steeper cost.
Laptops’ greatest selling point is their portability. The prospect of moving your VR set-up from one room to another, working on the go, and showing off your VR demos across the city does seem exciting. Then again, there are a few limitations with respect to current VR technology. At least one headset named on this list- the Valve Index- uses base stations to track movements.
All in all, while a few headsets restrict mobility, it is still a significant factor. Hence, your decision on whether to opt for a desktop or a laptop should depend on your standing on the performance to portability spectrum.
6 Best Computers for VR in 2023
Listed below are the 6 best pre-built desktops and laptops for VR. Given Laptop vs Desktop is a never-ending debate, we will be dealing with desktops and laptops separately. For both of them, we will be listing the best computers in 3 distinct price ranges.
1. HP Omen 30L: Best High-end VR Ready Desktop
HP Omen 30L is tailored to users who’d rather pay a premium than go through the hassle of building their own PC. In true fairness, though, given the rampant chip shortage, it may actually be difficult to build a comparable rig for less.
Build and Design
Omen 30L strikes the right balance between modest and modern. It features a gorgeous aluminum chassis on one side and clear glass on another, showcasing internals and RGB. The front view is as impressive as the side views, featuring the brand’s iconic typeface and logo on tinted glass. I won’t say I am head over heels for the rig, but the last time I drooled so hard, I was reviewing Alienware Aurora R11 for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
It might be the best-looking PC ever made, but Omen 30L is hardly flawless. For starters, it shows off a little too much. Messy wiring takes a bit of the ambiance away. More importantly, though, I am worried about the ventilation. With only one fan slot at the front and the top, and space for only one small 90mm fan at the rear, the desktop feels under-equipped with cooling hardware. It held on well, though, through extended sessions of VR gaming, occasionally getting noisy under intensive workloads.
HP has touted Omen 30L as the “most customizable gaming PC it’s ever made”, and there is nothing sketchy about the claim. Apart from providing users toolless single button-press access through a removable glass panel, the rig provides for multiple configurations. Potential buyers can opt for cheaper and affordable configurations and then work their way up.
One potential hindrance can be the lack of space available. The tower is huge (a capacity of roughly 30 liters) but then again, it accommodates some of the largest hardware components ever made. In our case, for example, there was little room for expansion with the RTX 3080 taking up most of the space. One could argue, however, that after RTX 3080 there isn’t much room for upgradeability either.
HP Omen 30L delivers the performance that you expect of a PC combining a 10-core Intel i9 processor with Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3080. It completes office tasks effortlessly and delivers consistently high frame rates on the most hardware-intensive titles with and without VR. That’s hardly surprising! Intel Core i9-10850K peaks at 5.2 GHz and being part of the “K” series, is overclockable. Critics can say what they have to, overclocking definitely does add 5 to 10% to the overall performance.
The performance is only enhanced further by the presence of 32 GB HYPERX DDR4 MEMORY and a hybrid arrangement for secondary storage - 1 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD and 2 TB SATA hard drive. While the SSD speeds up system processes, the hard drive provides for cheap storage for your data. At this point, however, I am curious why would HP or the user care for price control?
|Striking outer chassis design||Limited cooling options|
|Delivers a power-packed performance||Fan noise with hardware-intensive tasks|
|Comes in a handful of configurations||Pre-installed bloatware|
|Offers toolless access||Maybe shows a little too much|
2. Razer Blade 15: Best High-end VR Ready Laptop
Every year, Razer comes up with incremental updates to its already powerful laptops. While most of them are hardly noticeable, this one adds up!
Design and Display
Svelte as ever, Razer 15 is one of the few gaming laptops you can pull out in a coffee shop and not feel embarrassed. Draped in black, the laptop features a premium unibody aluminum chassis, giving it a neat and sophisticated vibe. Apart from the illuminated center-body Razer logo, there are no major frills that would appeal to sci-fi buffs.
The internal design fully embodies the aesthetically minimalist view that the laptop seeks to achieve. The bezels are thin and the display is flawless. How else do you define a FHD screen with a refresh rate of 360 Hz?
I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of ports on offer. With VR, the right ports at the right places are instrumental and the laptop doesn’t skimp. On the left side, we have a power jack, a headphone jack, two USB Type-A ports, and a Thunderbolt 4 port. These are complemented by an SD card slot, an HDMI 2.1 output port, Kingston lock slot, and additional USB-A and Thunderbolt 4 ports on the right side.
What do you get when you combine Intel’s 8-core 11th generation behemoth with Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3080 TI and throw in an additional 32 GB of blistering fast memory for fun? A laptop that can tear through the most demanding AAA titles with and without VR. A rig that can run through a day’s office work without utilizing even 10 percent of its computational power. Sure, the CPU and GPU requirements with VR are pretty steep, but they are hardly unmanageable, especially with a powerhouse like Razer 15.
Battery and Cooling
Packing the most power-hungry hardware in the market in one of the thinnest chassis is the perfect recipe for disaster. With such antiques, diminishing battering life and increasing working temperatures should hardly come as a surprise. While the laptop does last 4-5 hours on battery life across modest workloads, it is still unsuitable to be carried around without a charger. In reference to heat, expect the laptop to run hot under long sessions of strenuous VR workloads. Fortunately, the keys only get toasty and the laptop seems to be unaffected by the working temperatures.
|Sleek and slim design||Expensive doesn’t even cut it|
|Premium metal build||Short battery life|
|Top-end performance||Runs hot|
|Features the best touchpad in a windows laptop|
|The 360 Hz screen is a thing of beauty|
3. Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition: Best Mid-Tier Desktop for VR
Very seldom will you come across a list of Desktops for highly intensive workloads without an Alienware offering in it. Over years, the multi-billion-dollar company has distinguished itself with its ultra-stylish and blisteringly fast Desktops.
Build and Design
There are two types of people in the world: those who like Alienware’s peculiar chassis design and those who don’t. No prizes for guessing where I stand! Featuring an illuminated two-zone concave frontal design, the rig looks more like a futuristic sci-fi movie prop than a Desktop. As a sci-fi buff, I totally dig that.
One definite design flaw, however, is the fan noise. The fans always seem to be running, even when the PC is idle. On more strenuous workloads, the fans get noisier and you are forced to resort to headphones. The only reason this isn’t a deal-breaker is that most VR headset users use headphones.
While I am head over heels for the design, I am not really a fan of the plastic build. Bearing the metal internal frame, everything is plastic. That doesn’t bode well to the rig’s price, especially because most of the competitors are swathed in aluminum and tempered glass.
The Aurora R10 provides tool-less access to the insides. All you need are a few quick flips of a handful of locks and switches, and you are in. Once inside, you can swap out the components without needing any tools. The only time you may need a tool (screwdriver) is when you mess with the CPU or the cooling supply.
With its relatively competitive price tag, it is easy to assume that the rig cuts a few corners with regards to performance, but the Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen edition is no slouch! It just has a Ryzen heart beating down its chest and stays true to AMD’s value proposition. Not to forget, the rig features Nvidia’s RTX 3060 TI which can tear through the most hardware-intensive AAA titles. This, along with the fact that the Desktop features 16 GB DDR4 RAM and 1TB PCIe SSD, makes it the optimal mid-range computer for VR.
|Blistering Performance||Noisy cooling fans|
|Competitively priced (I never thought I would write this but here we are)||Plastic construction|
|Ports are plentiful|
4. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: Best Mid-Tier VR Ready Laptop
On its release in 2020, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 was a revelation. It was elegant yet powerful and took portability to unseen heights. Such was the popularity that it was difficult to get hands on it even months after the release. Since then, however, brands like Acer and Razer have dolled out their 14-inch offerings, and the Zephyrus G14 is no longer alone in its space. That being said, it is still one of the most powerful, compact, and VR-ready laptops out there.
Design and Display
Asus’s ROG Zephyrus is as aesthetically pleasing as any laptop out there. It doesn’t have the frills of a few other sci-fi-inspired gaming rigs, but that actually works in its favor. The diagonally split lid further adds a modernesque touch to a laptop that hardly seems to need any.
The best is reserved for under the lid. With no webcam to support, the bezels are thin and hardly protruding. That’s not even the best part. The display is drop-dead gorgeous, maxing out at 325 nits of brightness. The screen can replicate 100% of the sRGB spectrum so that you can enjoy comparable visual quality in your post-VR hours.
I am particularly fond of the portability that the laptop brings to the table. Measuring 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches and weighing a mere 3.64 lbs, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is one of the most compact and portable laptops out there. So, anytime you need to deliver a VR demo, just pack it up, and off you go.
Let not its size deceive you; ASUS ROG Zephyrus punches well above its waist. Packing AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS, Nvidia RTX 3060, and 40 GB of RAM, the laptop meets the hardware requirements of all the VR headsets out there. Frankly speaking, it absolutely crushes them! For context, the laptop features Nvidia RTX 3060 in response to Valve Index’s requirement of RTX 1070. Hence, if you purchase the said model, you won’t have any trouble shifting to virtual reality.
Battey and Cooling
For a gaming laptop, Zephyrus G14 has truly great battery life. It lasts around 10 hours on average on modest workloads, which is better than a plethora of laptops including but not limited to Dell G3 15 and Razer 14. Its long battery life along with its ultra-portability makes it the perfect travel companion.
One flaw in an otherwise perfect laptop is that the fans get loud under strenuous workloads. So, if you tune into your VR headset for a long session, make sure to have audio headsets plucked in.
|Blazing fast||A bit pricey|
|Great battery life||Doesn’t have a webcam|
|Satisfying keyboard and touchpad||Loud fans|
|Solid audio and video quality|
5. CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme GXiVR8060A10: Best Budget Desktop for VR
While it may not have the bells and whistles of some of the higher-end models, CyberpowerPC’s Xtreme GXiVR8060A10 gets the job done, and that too at a budget-friendly price.
Build and Design
While VR GXiVR8060A10 isn’t your regular sci-fi-inspired gaming rig, it does have a few frills up its sleeve. For starters, it features 3 RGBs illuminating from its tinted front panel, and another from its tempered side panel. The black chassis is as sleek as any, ensuring the rig stays easy on the eyes. As far as the aesthetics are concerned, this one is comparable to HP Omen 30L in quite a few metrics. To GXiVR8060A10’s credit, it doesn’t expose much of the messy internal wiring but that’s just about it. The rig comes close, but Omen is a thing of beauty.
With VR GXiVR8060A10, the ports are plentiful. You have a few at the front and a few others at the back, making for a handful of connectivity options. To be a little more specific, the rig has six USB 3.1 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI and DisplayPort, and a 7.1 audio channel output port.
With relatively low-cost desktops like the VR GXiVR8060A10, upgradeability is paramount. Most buyers intend to upgrade their rigs sometime in the future. CyberpowerPC’s budget VR offering truly manifests that in its design. Not only does the MasterBox NR640 offer sufficient space for any future upgrades, but the rig’s side panel also offers provides hassle-free access to internal components.
Pairing 10th generation Intel Core i5 processors to NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1660 Super, the rig can take on some of the most hardware-intensive AAA titles and consistently rake up frame rates in the excess of 60 fps. Yes, 8 GB DDR4 memory is criminal for a VR gaming rig, but it is not a deal-breaker. For an additional hundred bucks, you can purchase a RAM stick and make amends.
In reference to VR, the system has been tested to meet the requirements for both Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE with Steam VR. Hence potential users with a budget look no further and snap CyberpowerPC’s GXiVR8060A10 up before it goes out of stock.
|Packs a punch||8 GB RAM is criminal|
|Unmatched performance per dollar|
|Offers plenty of room for future upgrades|
|Comes with scads of configuration options|
6. Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-54-760S: Best Budget Laptop for VR
2021 has been a really strange year and Helios 300 PH315-54-760S’s pricing only makes it stranger. Not only is Acer’s offering more powerful than most laptops, but it is also much cheaper.
Build and Design
I have never been a fan of Predator’s design and this one is no different. Bulky and funky, the Helios 300 PH315-54-760S can be recognized as Acer’s Predator offering from a mile away. The glowing blue emblem at the back doesn’t help either.
The laptop supports metal and plastic build. While it’s not apparent at first sight, the rig uses copious amounts of plastic. Given Helios 300’s insane value proposition, my first instinct was to let it slide, but I couldn’t, especially because laptops in the same price bracket are supporting all-metallic builds.
Metal or no metal, the build quality isn’t a concern. The rig feels solid and practically has no flex. While the hinges are firm, you can still open the lid with one hand.
Featuring 11th generation Intel processors, Nvidia RTX 3060, and 16 GB of blazing-fast DDR4 memory, performance is hardly a concern with the all-new Acer Predator Helios 300. Not only is the CPU mighty fast for daily office tasks, but it can take on some of the most demanding AAA titles in the market today. While there is no denying that the CPU rocks, the GPU stands out from this pretty impressive build. Like this laptop, our mid-range pick also packs Nvidia RTX 3060 which is a testament to the graphical prowess of Predator Helios 300.
Battery and Cooling
The downside to packing powerful hardware in a laptop is that the battery drains rapidly. The Helios 300 doesn’t last long, maxing out at 4.5 hours on a full charge. It is worth noting that this time doesn’t include strenuous workloads like VR or gaming. For that, you will have to pluck in the power adapter. While we don’t expect lengthy battery lives from gaming laptops, this is still pretty disappointing.
Talking of packing power-hungry hardware in a laptop, the Helios 300 does a pretty decent job keeping temperatures in check. With strenuous workloads like VR and gaming, the working temperatures usually hover around 80-90 degrees, which is pretty decent.
|Insane value proposition||Short battery life|
|Solid performance||Comes with a lot of bloatware|
|Bright Display||Outdated design|
|Blazing fast 144 Hz display|
Which Pre-Built VR PC Should I buy in 2023?
All the desktops and laptops listed above transcend the minimum requirements of all the VR headsets out there and more. Each is a winner in its own right. While some are exceptionally powerful, others have a value proposition to kill for. Hence, your choice ultimately comes down to two things:
- What is your preference between a laptop and a desktop?
- How much money are you willing to spend?
Once you have an answer to these two questions, the choice will be obvious.