Virtual reality technology is improving every year. This is leading to lots of new and exciting games being released and re-released for VR such as Half-Life Alyx and the new Resident Evil 4 port for Oculus Quest.
Headsets like the Valve index and HTC Vive are slowly becoming more affordable, meaning more and more people can try out this awesome technology. However, in order to do so, you will need to make sure you have all the necessary equipment first.
This doesn’t just include the headset itself, although that is an essential factor. Unless you are using a console, you will also need to make sure your computer has the necessary specs for running games in VR.
As well as a solid processor, you will need to make sure you have a decent graphics card capable of sustaining the necessary 90 frames per second that most VR experiences run at. Without the right hardware, you may risk overheating your computer with the intense processing that is required for virtual reality.
Most modern graphics cards will be able to run programs in VR, but if your card is a bit older than you may need to look into a replacement.
If you want to keep up with the technology, it might be better to buy a GPU that is slightly over-spec, to leave enough space for future VR games that may have even better resolution. Here are five of the best graphics cards available on Amazon for making your home PC VR-ready.
Best Graphics Cards For VR
OUR TOP PICK
If you are looking for an alternative to Nvidia, the RX 5700 is one of the best AMD cards on the market. It uses RDNA architecture with 40 updated cores, each of which contributes to this card’s formidable performance capabilities.
This architecture allows for great refresh rates, which will help with providing the 90 frames per second required by many VR headsets.
There is a good range between the base clock and the boost clock as well as 8GB of VRAM to ensure that the Sapphire has all the power it needs for running games in virtual reality.
All of the internal components are exceptionally durable from the protected fuses to the long-life capacitors. With a dual cooling system, this card is very unlikely to overheat and is guaranteed to last you a long time.
This card comes with Saphire TriXX software for controlling its performance. In this program, you have the option to create custom resolutions so you can run your games at the best graphics settings for your machine.
In order to make the most of this card, it is recommended that you have 16GB of system memory on your computer along with a 650W power supply at the very least.
- Dimensions(In): 10(l) x 5.3(w) x 1.8(h)
- Graphics Coprocessor: AMD Radeon Navi
- Achitecture: AMD RDNA
- VRAM (GB): 8
- Clock Speed (Mhz): 1670(Base), 1815(Game), 1925(Boost)
- Outputs: 1x HDMI, 3xDP
- RDNA architecture for great refresh rates and excellent performance.
- Made of durable components.
- Comes with special software for maximizing performance without damaging your machine.
- This card is prone to driver instability.
This card made by MSI uses Nvidia’s Ampere architecture which utilizes a combination of different cores for maximum speed and performance.
With Ray tracing capabilities, this card is more than sufficient for powering most VR headsets with its sizable 12GB of VRAM. The Tensor cores use a special AI for maximizing frame rate without compromising image quality.
MSI’s Dragon Center software comes included with this card, which allows you to optimize your card’s clock speed in real-time to cope with more intense gaming sessions.
The brushed aluminum backplate is connected to numerous thermal pads for excellent cooling. There are also two powerful Torx 4.0 fans that are programmed to turn off when active heating isn’t needed in order to reduce noise.
The length of the card is supported by an anti-bending strap so the GPU won’t collapse under its own weight. This card has one HDMI port and 3 display ports for hooking it up to multiple monitors should you wish to.
- Dimensions(In): 10.9(l) x 5.2(w) x 2(h)
- Graphics Coprocessor: Nvidia GEForce RTX 3060
- Architecture: Ampere Architecture
- VRAM (GB): 12
- Clock Speed (Mhz): 1837
- Outputs: 1x HDMI, 3x DP
- Durable construction with anti-bending strap and brushed aluminum backplate.
- Tensor cores are dedicated to maximizing frame rate while preserving image quality.
- Great cooling system with two fans, and a heatsink designed to reduce noise.
The Red Devil uses the new and improved RDNA”2 architecture with up to 40 high-performance cores.
With this chip, it can deliver stunning 1440p graphics and it has 12GB of VRAM for handling all the detailed textures and other features commonly found in modern games.
There are two overclock modes for this chip, one of which allows it to handle top-of-the-line graphics, while the other is for making the fan practically silent during less intense gaming sessions.
This card has a reinforced metal backplate to prevent it from bending under its own weight, and all of the components have been made as durable as possible.
Everything from the high polymer capacitors to the three fans which use two ball bearings in the central shaft is built to last and provide a great gaming experience.
All of the outputs on this card are lit up with LEDs, which means you can plug all your monitors in without needing a head torch to find the HDMI and Display ports.
The three fans on this GPU work in conjunction with a nickel-plated copper heatsink and heating pipes to prevent overheating.
These fans are programmed to not turn on until the unit reaches above 140°F, which ensures that the graphics card won’t be too noisy during medium to low-intensity gaming sessions.
This card is capable of ray tracing, however, doing so can cause dips in the frame rate. Regardless, the Red Devil is a formidable GPU that is more than capable of running games in VR.
- Dimensions(In): 12.6(l) x 5.1(w) x 1.9(h)
- Graphics Coprocessor: AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
- Architecture: RDNA”2
- VRAM (GB): 12
- Clock Speed (Mhz): 2514(game), 2633(boost)
- Outputs: 1x HDMI, 3x DP
- There is a switch on the side for switching between two different overclocking modes, one of which is silent.
- Three fans, with nickel-plated copper heat sink and cooling pipes to prevent overheating.
- Output ports are illuminated by LEDs for easily plugging in your monitors.
- Enabling ray tracing can cause dips in frame rate.
It is worth remembering that you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg just to get a VR-ready graphics card. Many headsets will function perfectly well with older cards provided they have the necessary refresh rate to offer 90 frames per second.
If you are on a budget then the Radeon RX 590 is a simple and cheap option that will allow you to run most VR games.
This card doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the other options on this list, but its 4th generation GCN architecture still makes it a formidable GPU.
Rather than having a software program where you can alter the clock speed, this card makes use of XFX true clock technology.
What this means is that the card will automatically alter its own clock speed to always be at an optimal level for the task you are performing.
With 8GB of VRAM and premium high dynamic range (HDR), this card is more than up to the task of virtual reality. It is fine-tuned to automatically turn the fan off during low-intensity loads, which saves on power and noise.
There is a switch on the side for swapping between silent mode, and performance mode when you need that extra power at the expense of more fan noise.
- Dimensions(In): 10.6(l) x 4.9(w) x 2.1(h)
- Graphics Coprocessor: AMD Radeon RX 590
- Architecture: 4th generation GCN architecture
- VRAM (GB): 8
- Clock Speed (Mhz): 1580
- Outputs: 1x HDMI, 1x DL-DVI-D, 1x DP
- Switch between silent mode and performance mode depending on how much clock speed you need.
- Affordable graphics card capable of running VR.
- XFX True clock technology ensures this card is always running at the optimal clock speed for any given task.
- This card can run quite hot at times.
This is another older card that is great for those who want to experience VR on a budget.
The ZOTAC GTX 1660 is a compact yet powerful card that shouldn’t be difficult to fit in most PCs. Its ultra-fast memory and Turing architecture are both designed towards providing a card that is completely VR-ready.
The 6GB of VRAM is quite small, but it should be just enough to provide smooth performance on most commercial VR headsets. With game-ready drivers, there will be significantly less setup when using the GPU for gaming.
Optimizing this card to get the best performance possible is very easy with the help of the OC scanner, which will automatically set your card to the right clock speed for whatever program you are running.
The wide fan blades are curved to maximize airflow and prevent overheating. These fans are a bit noisier than some of the others we have seen on this list, so you may hear them whirring while playing games.
However, with a full-body heatsink and three 6mm cooling pipes, this card should have no problem staying cool even when running games in VR.
- Dimensions(In): 6.8(l) x 4.4(w) x 1.4(h)
- Graphics Coprocessor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan
- Architecture: Turing
- VRAM (GB): 6
- Clock Speed (Mhz): 1770(boost)
- Outputs: 1x HDMI, 3x DP
- OC scanner allows you to optimize your graphics card’s clock speed with the press of a button.
- Built to be VR ready.
- Ultra-fast memory for improving loading times and frame rate.
- Only 6GB of VRAM
Best Graphics Cards For VR Buying Guide
Shopping for a new GPU can be very difficult if you aren’t tech-savvy enough to understand what all the dense terminology means. That’s why we’ve composed this helpful guide to highlight the crucial aspects that any good graphics card needs. With this knowledge, you should be able to find a card that will enable your machine to play games in VR.
All graphics cards are made from chips that have several cores for processing the textures and visual details in most modern games. These cores are weaker than the ones on your CPU, but there are generally a lot more of them which helps the card to handle multiple processes at once.
The clock speed is how fast these cores can run and dictates how quickly your GPU will process the data it receives.
The base clock speed indicates a core’s minimum processing speed, while the boost clock indicates how fast it can go when all the cores are overclocked.
Generally to keep up with the high refresh rate needed for VR you will need a graphics card that has a decent enough clock speed. It is best if your card can handle virtual reality without constantly overclocking, as this may lead to issues with overheating.
RAM or random access memory is the specific portion of a computer’s memory that the machine uses for handling data it is currently processing. This could include programs that are running on the machine as well as the background process of the operating system.
VRAM is the same thing for your graphics card and controls how many processes your card can handle at once. This will dictate things like rendering, texture quality and, most importantly for VR, framerate.
Since virtual reality headsets use two screens, one for each eye, and need to run at 90 frames per second, you will need a GPU with at least 6GB of VRAM. Anything less may cause stuttering, missing frames, and numerous other issues.
Which headset do you want to use?
There are several different VR headsets available to buy on the market and each one will require slightly different specifications to run properly.
Generally speaking, if you want to run an original HTC Vive, Valve index, Oculus Rift or Rift S then you will need an Nvidia GeForce 1060, or an AMD Radeon RX 580 card at the very least.
The latest Vive Pro or Vive cosmos have slightly higher specs and will therefore need better GPUs for you to enjoy a high-quality gaming experience on them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the minimum GPU requirements for running VR?
If you want to experience VR and avoid paying top dollar for a state-of-the-art graphics card then you can check to see if your current machine already meets the necessary specifications.
The Nvidia GeForce 1060 and the AMD Radeon RX 580 are the bare minimum when it comes to graphics cards capable of providing the necessary frame rate for VR.
Any models that are above these two cards will also work fine. Sadly these older GPUs have now been discontinued by their respective manufacturers, but you can still find them for sale on some computer websites or on eBay.
Will a better graphics card improve the VR experience?
Most games that are compatible with virtual reality will have a significantly lower resolution than many AAA titles. Because of this, a top-of-the-line graphics card can’t really make them look better and you should only consider this option if you want to play graphically intense, non-VR games as well.
The main purpose of your graphics card with respect to virtual reality is to provide the necessary 90 frames per second that most headsets use. Having a GPU with a high refresh rate will reduce stuttering and latency while in VR.
So while a great graphics card won’t make the games look better, it may help to make you feel less nauseous while you are playing them.
What are the minimum CPU requirements for VR?
Having the latest and greatest graphics card won’t make much difference to your VR gaming experience if your CPU isn’t up to the job.
At the very least you will want an i5-4590 intel processor or an AMD Ryzden 7 chip to use your machine for virtual reality. Obviously, any of the more modern chips after these models will also be sufficient.
You will also need to make sure your computer has enough memory for running the two screens contained within a VR headset. Most headsets can work with 8Gb of RAM, 4GB in the case of the HTC Vive.
However, this is the bare minimum and if you want a smooth gaming experience it is recommended for your machine to have 16GB of RAM. When it comes to internal memory, it is much better to have a solid-state drive( SSD) over a regular hard drive.
This will speed up loading times and prevent you spending most of your VR experience waiting in an empty black room.