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Oculus Rift Requirements Released: Laptops Lose, No Macs

Oculus VR has released the list of hardware requirements for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset (which goes on sale in early 2016, price unknown). And that list is a doozey — ruling out all but the latest hardware, which, by Oculus VR's own admission, excludes virtually all current laptops on the market. Oculus is also focusing on Windows development, leaving Mac and Linux users hanging for the time being.

In a post on the Oculus VR blog, technical director Atman Binstock makes clear why the hardware requirements are so demanding. "… rendering techniques and quality matter more than ever before, as things that are imperceivable on a traditional monitor suddenly make all the difference when experienced in VR," he wrote.

In short, he says, rendering smooth images on the Oculus Rift requires 3x the graphics power as required for showing a normal 1080p video — moving up to 400 million shaded pixels per second, vs. 124 million for regular 1080p video.And dropped video frames, which are hard to notice on a 2D screen, are painfully obvious in VR. 

These are the specific requirements:

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

It's the first item, the graphics requirement, that's so hard to fulfill. Even most gaming laptops don't have that kind of graphics power; and many mid-range laptops don't have adequate CPUs, either. Of course, this doesn't mean that an Oculus VR headset won't work with lesser machines, just that Oculus VR isn't guaranteeing it will. Still, if your machine falls well below the requirements, you might not want to drop money on a VR device that likely won't work well. 

As a bit of consolation, Binstock reminds readers that the hardware requirements won't change, so things will get better in the future. "As the equivalent-performance hardware becomes less expensive, more users will have systems capable of the full Rift experience," he wrote.

In the meantime, to get a good experience with the Oculus Rift, you're going to need a powerful desktop gaming computer, and one that runs Windows.

More Virtual Reality Goodness on Tom's Guide

Sean Captain is a senior editor for Tom's Guide. Follow him @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide and on Facebook.