Best Graphics Cards for Virtual Reality in 2022

— 22 minute read

Decades after its conceptualization, Virtual Reality is finally here and looks set to stay. In hindsight, human struggles to get VR going seem reasonable owing to the herculean computational power needed to keep the computer-generated simulation afloat. At the center of this simulation lies the GPU.

best graphics card for vr

GPU, more commonly although incorrectly referred to as the Graphics card, is arguably the most important component of any computer build, especially gaming rigs and workstations. It is responsible for accelerating the creation and rendering of images and is a major force behind the development of realistic life-like AAA titles.

Tasked with rendering 3D worlds, VR head-mounted displays need to be paired alongside powerful rigs packing the best GPUs in order to enjoy an immersive and realistic experience. Squeeze-through GPUs just won’t do and could potentially lead to a nauseating experience.

The process of choosing the right video card for your VR-compatible rig has its complexities. For starters, the absolute best graphic cards can go well north of four figures, owing to the pandemic-induced supply chain issues. For most people out there, they are unrealizable. Secondly, you are spoiled for choice. With both Nvidia and AMD dolling out numerous chips in each price range, users have multiple options to choose from.

To save you the hassle of scouring the internet for GPU options for your rig (although if you are here, you have done that already), we have compiled a list of the best GPUs for VR accounting for power, price, and supply. Before we proceed to the list, however, it is pertinent that we look into things to consider before buying a GPU for a VR-compatible rig.

Buying Guide for GPU for VR

The following portion of the guide lists down general guidelines and tips to consider before deciding upon a Graphics Card for your VR-compatible rig. If you intend to go with one of our selections or are well-versed in technology, feel free to skip this section.

Nvidia or AMD?

Only a couple of years ago, this was a simple question. While Nvidia dominated the power ratings, AMD’s offerings were much more affordable. Since then, we have had the launch of Team Green’s Ampere Graphics cards and AMD’s Big Navi, and things are no longer black and white.

Team Red’s Big Navi might not be the Nvidia-killer they were advertised to be, but they can surely go toe-to-toe with the most premium Nvidia GPUs out there. Radeon RX 6900 XT, for example, is a direct competitor to Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3090 and can hold its own in multiple AAA titles. That being said, Nvidia may still take the crown as far as sheer power is concerned but the difference is minuscule at best.

Similarly, AMD still offers a better value proposition but ever-so-slightly. It does have a hold on mid-range and enthusiast graphics cards, but its high-end offerings (RX 6700 XT and RX 6800 XT) fare negatively against their Nvidia counterparts.

With no side emerging as a definite winner, it all boils down to personnel preferences.

VR Headset Hardware Requirements

Owing to the varying minimum graphic requirements across VR headsets, the sane decision would be to decide upon your preferred VR head-mounted display and then go hunting for the GPU. In this regard, we have listed the minimum and recommended graphics hardware specifications for 4 of the most popular headsets available in the market today.

VR HeadsetMinimum Graphics CardRecommended Graphics Card
Oculus RiftNvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 470Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 or better
Oculus Rift SNvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 470Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 480 or better
HTC Vive ProNVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 or Quadro P5000 or AMD Radeon R9 480 or better
Index ValveNvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD RX 480Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or better

As a general rule of thumb, if you are unsure of your desired VR product, opt for Nvidia GeForce RTX 1070 or better. This way your rig will be compatible with almost all headsets out there and you can conveniently have your pick.

CUDA Cores or Stream Processors

Steam Processors are the AMD equivalent of Nvidia’s CUDA cores. The two are responsible for handling intensive graphics and are integral to VR, gaming, and the combination of two. It is worth noting that cores/processors aren’t the true measures of a card’s performance. They are approximates at best and only meaningful when comparing cards having the same architecture. Don’t worry if you don’t understand how they work; all you need to remember is that the higher the number of cores/processors, the better the performance of the processor at rendering visuals.

VRAM

Video RAM, more commonly known as the VRAM, refers to Random Access Memory dedicated to storing image data for display. Needless to say, it is an integral component of the GPU and one that is of primary contention as far as gaming rigs go by. In the case of VR, however, VRAM isn’t a huge concern owing to the low resolution of the panels. To elaborate, VRAM primarily affects screen resolution and texture, both of which aren’t huge concerns for VR. Hence, anything over 4 GB should do the trick.

It is worth mentioning, however, that you will be using VR sporadically. If you intend to play hardware-intensive AAA titles on ultra-4K settings during your time away from VR, opt for at least 6 GB of VRAM. To provide headroom and ensure future-proofing, 8-10 GB is a better option.

Physical Compatibility

Let not its position in the list deceive you, the first step in selecting a GPU for your rig is ensuring it fits. Hence, cross-reference the width and height requirements of your selection to that of your case. If you have a standard ATX, Mini ATX, or Micro ATX case, the width shouldn’t be an issue more often than not. Height, on the other hand, can prove more troublesome. Hence, ensure due diligence.

Apart from size, you should also take note of the video card’s power requirements. Your PSU may very well be inadequate for the graphics card of your choosing. The problem tends to exacerbate as you move towards high-end GPUs. In such circumstances, you can either settle for a lesser GPU or upgrade your power supply.

Overclocking is overrated

Don’t rely on overclocking to turn up the goods. Most cards’ do not have much overclocking headroom and max out at a 5-10% performance boost. If you want better performance, you will just have to bite the bullet and buy a beefier card.

Squeeze-through GPUs just won’t do

With VR, skimping on the GPU isn’t really an option. The reason being that most premium VR headset options operate at a refresh rate in the excess of 90 Hz (In the case of Valve Index, the refresh rate climbs up to 120 Hz). The graphics processing portion of your rig has to match that and do more to ensure smooth gameplay and avoid screen tearing and judder. It is also worth noting that, unlike traditional monitor gaming, screen tearing and judder in VR gaming aren’t just responsible for lack of immersion, they can have a nauseating effect.

When selecting a GPU for VR, the resolution is a secondary concern but it is a concern nonetheless. Fortunately, most of the popular VR headsets going around don’t have groundbreaking resolutions. The best VR headset (Valve Index), for example, tops out at 1440x1600 (per eye). Others, like HP Reverb G2, perform slightly better but their requirements are hardly steep, especially if you have been gaming at 1440p or 4K resolution. All in all, as far as the resolution is concerned, if your video card is good enough for your monitor, it should be good enough for your VR headset.

How much money should I spend on Graphics Card for VR?

With VR, a graphics card will certainly be your biggest expenditure, owing to:

  1. Insane graphic requirements
  2. Inflation resulting from the pandemic-induced supply chain crisis

That being said, you will also need a decent processor and adequate memory among many other things. Hence, the wise choice would be to spend 25-40% of your budget on the GPU and the rest on other major components. It is worth noting that this figure does not include accessories like monitors, mice, keyboards, speakers, etc.

The 6 Best GPUs for Virtual Reality in 2022

Having discussed the minimum requirements, it is finally time we set our eyes on the best GPUs for VR. Our strategy would be simple, i.e., dealing with Nvidia and AMD offerings separately. As mentioned already, brand selection ultimately boils down to your personal biases and displays. Hence, we would be listing down the best Nvidia and AMD GPUs in 3 distinct price ranges. For each GPU, we will also be listing the benchmarks for a few of the most popular VR games, so to give you an idea of what you are getting your hands into.

It is also worth noting that while the guide provides links to specific Graphics cards, the reviews are for the GPUs within. You can opt for any other product featuring the same GPU and expect similar performance.

Best high-end Nvidia for VR: ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX™ 3080

SpecificationValue
CUDA Cores8960 / 8704
Texture Mapping Units272
ROP Units96
Tensor Cores272
RT Cores68
Base Clock1.26 / 1.44 GHz
Boost Clock1.71 GHz
Memory12 / 10 GB
Memory TypeGDDR6X
Memory Speed19 Gbps
Power Connectors2x PCIe 8-pin
Graphics Card Power (TGP)350 / 320 Watt

VR Games Benchmarks for Nvidia RTX 3080

VR GamesUnconstrained Framerates
Elite Dangerous148.09
HalfLife: Alyx158.82
Skyrim158.87
Fallout 4145.2
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners120.28

An absolute behemoth of Graphics card, RTX 3080 offers the biggest generational leap in GPU history. Not only does it out-perform RTX 2080 TI by 20-30% percent, but it does so at almost half the price. Sure, it compares unfavorably to Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3090, but the performance gains are negligible at best and the price difference astronomical. Results of a comparison study conducted by our good friends at Babel Tech Reviews reveal that the RTX 3090 offers, on average, a 16% VR performance boost over the RTX 3080. While that number seems significant, the results are often indistinguishable. That being said, there is no denying that performance-wise, RTX 3090 is the better card (and also for securing bragging rights!). Yet, its absurd price tag makes it an overkill for VR. RTX 3080, on the other hand, finds the sweet spot between performance and value, making it the perfect fit for the role.

ProsCons
Absolute powerhouseHigh TDP
Suitable for both pancake and VR gamingCan cause CPU bottlenecks
Solid price-to-performance ratio (based on MSRP)Limited overclocking headroom
Features innovative cooling solution

View / Check Price on Amazon


Best high-end AMD for VR: ASUS TUF Gaming AMD Radeon™ RX 6800 XT

SpecificationValue
Stream Processors4608
Texture Mapping Units288
ROP Units128
Compute Units72
RT Cores72
Base Clock1825 MHz
Boost Clock2250 MHz
Memory16 GB
Memory TypeGDDR6
Memory Speed16 Gbps
Power Connectors2x 8-pin
Typical Board Power300 Watt

VR Games Benchmarks for AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT

VR GamesUnconstrained Framerates
Elite Dangerous141.8
HalfLife: Alyx145.62
Skyrim134.93
Fallout 4152.52
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners116.5

While AMD never really came through on its promise of a “Nvidia killer”, it surely came up with chips that could be mentioned in the same breath as Nvidia’s top-tier GPUs. Based on RDNA 2 architecture, RX 6800 XT is one such GPU. The video card goes toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s RTX 3080, even managing to hold its own in a few AAA titles. Not to mention, the card offers better bang-for-buck owing to comparatively lower MSRP and, more importantly, Nvidia’s inflated street prices.

Featuring 16 GB of blazing-fast GDDR6 memory and an “infinite cache” to supplement bandwidth, RX 6800 XT is one of the best GPUs for VR. Not only can it handle the most demanding titles, but it will also future-proof you against upcoming developments in VR technology.

That being said, the RX 6800 XT isn’t without flaws. For starters, it suffers from driver-stability issues, leading to many dropped frames. Secondly, ray tracing performance is mediocre at best. That’s hardly surprising, given the 6000 series marks Team Red’s first attempt at ray tracing.

ProsCons
Decent value propositionInconsistent frame rates across titles
Excellent 4K performanceDriver instability
Goes toe-to-toe with RTX 3080Mediocre ray tracing performance
Substantial overclocking headroom
Runs cool

View / Check Price on Amazon


Best mid-range Nvidia for VR: EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti XC Gaming

SpecificationValue
CUDA Cores4864
Texture Mapping Units152
ROP Units80
Tensor Cores152
RT Cores38
Base Clock1.41 GHz
Boost Clock1.67 GHz
Memory8 GB
Memory TypeGDDR6
Memory Speed14 Gbps
Power Connectors1x PCIe 8-pin
Graphics Card Power (TGP)200 Watt

VR Games Benchmarks for Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti

VR GamesUnconstrained Framerates
Elite Dangerous105.17
HalfLife: Alyx104.51
Skyrim124.01
Fallout 4103.23
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners79.8

Based on Nvidia’s ampere architecture, RTX 3060 Ti is the best GPU for most gamers with and without VR. Its performance rivals that of RTX 2080 Super- a graphic card that originally retailed for almost twice its price. The GPU also trades blows with its costlier and slightly beefier counterpart- RTX 3070. The comparison is inevitable given both chips pan to 1440p audience and struggle with 4K gaming resolution. While the former offers a better bang-for-buck, the latter is more future-proof with respect to 4K gaming.

My only concern with an otherwise perfect GPU is its not-so-ideal 8 GB of VRAM. Sure, it’s well above the minimum requirement of most VR headsets, but it can still create a bottleneck in your gaming experience. For example, while playing highly moddable games like Fallout and Skyrim, which allow you to add tons of high-resolution textures, you may exhaust the GPU’s VRAM. Such occurrences are minimal, however, given VRAM has little bearing on VR performance.

ProsCons
Offers the best bang-for-buck8 GB of VRAM isn’t ideal
Whisper-quiet operationLimited potential for 4K pancake gaming
Runs cool
Outperforms Nvidia’s former flagship RTX 2080 GPU
Offers substantial overclocking headroom
Compact
Manageable TGP

View / Check Price on Amazon


Best mid-range AMD for VR: MSI Gaming Radeon RX 5700

SpecificationValue
Stream Processors2304
Texture Mapping Units144
ROP Units64
Compute Units36
Base Clock1465 MHz
Boost Clock1725 MHz
Memory8 GB
Memory TypeGDDR6
Memory Speed14 Gbps
Power Connectors-1 x 8-pin -1 x 6-pin
Typical Board Power180 Watt

VR Games Benchmarks for AMD Radeon RX 5700

VR GamesUnconstrained Framerates
Elite Dangerous56.92
HalfLife: Alyx78
Skyrim110.42
Fallout 473.14
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners104.24

The card that started it all! AMD’s recent competitive streak with Nvidia owes a huge debt to the success of its mid-range RX 5700 offering. The success wasn’t unexpected though. Packing 2304 stream processors and 8 Gigabytes of GDDR6 memory, the card can take on any AAA title at QHD resolution. You can even jack up the resolution to 4K, albeit at the expense of a few cut corners. While performance has certainly helped, RX’s sweet price-to-performance ratio has been critical too. The card offers more bang-for-buck than any other GPU in the market, making it a highly interesting proposition.

Price-wise, the RX 5700 is a direct competitor to the RTX 2060. With more VRAM and raw gaming power, however, the matchup is highly slanted in favor of the RX 5700. Its performance is, hence, more comparable to the RTX 2060 Super.

The performance of the GPU with and without the VR is more-or-less the same. As the benchmarks above illustrate, most games run smoothly. Initially, the GPU was plagued with driver issues with many users reporting black screens and crashes. Over the last two years, however, AMD seems to have ironed out most of these problems.

ProsCons
Excellent 1080p and 1440p performanceDoesn’t support ray tracing
AffordableRuns hot
Performance comparable to RTX 2060 SuperLimited overclocking headroom
Plenty of software options

View / Check Price on Amazon


Best budget Nvidia for VR: MSI NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060

SpecificationValue
CUDA Cores1920
Texture Mapping Units120
ROP Units48
Tensor Cores240
RT Cores30
Base Clock1365 MHz
Boost Clock1680 MHz
Memory6 GB
Memory TypeGDDR6
Memory Speed14 Gbps
Power Connectors8-pin
Graphics Card Power (TGP)160 Watt

VR Games Benchmarks for Nvidia RTX 2060

VR GamesUnconstrained Framerates
Elite Dangerous51.72
HalfLife: Alyx69
Skyrim108.67
Fallout 459.91
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners85.75

Let not its comparatively reasonable price tag deceive you, the RTX 2060 punches well above its waist to deliver a seamless 1080p experience. You can even amplify your graphic settings to 4K for a pretty bearable 30 frames per second. Such performance is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor’s, the GeForce GTX 1070. That’s hardly surprising, given the RTX 2060 packs 50% more CUDA cores and 6 GB of blazing-fast GDDR6 memory.

As appealing as that sounds, RTX’s performance relative to its predecessor isn’t its greatest selling point. That crown goes to ray tracing. 2060 is the cheapest Nvidia offering to incorporate real-time ray tracing, hence offering an easy point of entry into the revolutionary technology.

As far as VR is concerned, the GPU does a remarkable job. Bearing a few aforementioned exceptional circumstances, its 6 GB of VRAM is generally adequate. Yes, future-proofing is a concern. As more and more titles make their way onto VR, the Turing architecture-based GPU may not be able to keep up. Then again, it is unfair to expect a budget option to hold on in the long run.

ProsCons
Reasonably pricedFeatures only 6 GB of VRAM
Stays cool even under heavy workloadNot future-proof
Provides for easy overclocking
Silky smooth 1080p gaming performance
Energy efficient
Supports ray tracing

View / Check Price on Amazon


Best budget AMD for VR: AMD Radeon RX 580

SpecificationValue
Stream Processors2304
Texture Mapping Units144
ROP Units32
Compute Units36
Base Clock1257 MHz
Boost Clock1340 MHz
Memory8 GB
Memory TypeGDDR5
Memory Speed8 Gbps
Power Connectors1x 8-pin power connector
Typical Board Power185 Watt

VR Games Benchmarks for AMD Radeon RX 580

VR GamesUnconstrained Framerates
Elite Dangerous79
HalfLife: Alyx41
Skyrim88
Fallout 465.55
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners48

The pandemic and the consequent supply-chain crisis have ensured that shiny new RDNA 2 and Ampere-based cards would set you back plenty. Forget the already herculean MSRPs, you will have to contend with highly inflated scalper prices. Cards originally priced at $500 are easily going in upwards of $1300. In such circumstances, AMD’s 580 has aged like fine wine.

Combining 2304 stream processors and 8 Gigabytes of GDDR5 memory, the old hag is impressively powerful. It is no RTX 3080, but it can take on most modern-day AAA titles, and deliver decent frame rates while it is at it. Performance-wise the GPU is comparable to the GTX 1060. To be honest, comparable doesn’t seem right given the RX 580 is both quicker and cheaper. The card even undercuts the GTX 1660 Ti which only offers marginal gains over the GPU, hence making it one of the best GPUs for VR.

ProsCons
Solid 1080p and VR performanceHogs power
Decent 1440p performanceNot compact
Cheap and offers great value

View / Check Price on Amazon


Which of these Graphics Cards should I buy for VR?

All of the above-mentioned GPUs can contend with the complexities of VR- some definitely better than the others, but the overall outlook is generally positive. It goes without saying that the higher the cost, the more powerful the GPU and the better equipped it is to handle VR. There may be a few anomalies to this rule but it generally holds, particularly within the brand.

Hence at the end of the day, it all comes down to how much money you are willing to spend and to some extent, your biases and the type of display. If you are comfortable spending a fortune on a Graphics card, the best GPU for VR is undoubtedly Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3090 featuring an absurd 24 GB of VRAM. It doesn’t make the list, however, owing to its equally absurd price-to-performance ratio and because it only offers marginal gains over the RTX 3080.

It is also worth noting that if you purchase a GPU in today’s pandemic-plagued market, you are bound to incur heavy losses. Once the market settles, and it will, you will have a hard time turning the card around for 1/3rd of the price you are paying. I suppose that’s the price you pay for passion!

In such circumstances, a clever cost-saving alternative would be to opt for AMD’s Radeon RX 580 for the time being and turn it around for a heavyweight in a year (when the market settles). Then again, this idea is premised on the user not already having even an entry-level GPU.

For users already in possession of a GPU and looking to upgrade, there is no such alternative. You either bite the bullet, pay the inflated street prices and incur a loss or wait till the market settles.


Simulator Hardware is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, we may earn little commission on any purchase that you do on Amazon after visiting it through our links. Please note that there is NO extra cost at your end and the bucks we earn are used in maintaining this site & publishing unbiased buying guides. For all that hard work, coffee is appreciated.