Looking to get into virtual reality but need to beef up your gaming PC to handle it? Here’s a quick cheat sheet on our current top picks for NVIDIA and AMD Radeon graphics cards suited for virtual reality.

Among the myriad aspects of virtual reality which have evolved almost beyond recognition since the Oculus Rift Kickstarter ended in 2012, it’s the technical trickery used in modern VR rendering which has not only helped lower the barrier of entry for ‘VR Ready’ PC GPU hardware, it’s drastically enhanced the user experience for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive users while doing so. With VR hardware prices dropping, more people outside of VR enthusiast’s will be looking for guidance on solid hardware purchases for their new VR gaming PC – so we put together this short cheat sheet.

You can now run most VR experiences out there at acceptable levels of fidelity on relatively cheap hardware, but make no mistake, powering a first rate VR experience on the PC is still a taxing task requiring a little more investment. So, we’ve broken out our picks for what we think offer the current best value in VR graphics cards, which can deliver a great experience but not break the bank. To be clear too, there are cheaper GPUs out there capable of rendering an acceptable VR experience but in our opinion, the selection below is where you want to be aiming to ensure you’re getting the most from your Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headsets.

Mid-range VR Graphics Cards

NVIDIA GTX 1070

NVIDIA GTX 1070 Specs
  • VRAM: 8GB GDDR5
  • CUDA Cores: 1920
  • Core Clock: 1506Mhz
  • Boost Clock: 1683Mhz

Check Amazon for NVIDIA GTX 1070 prices

Baby brother to the NVIDIA’s first ‘Pascal’ architecture GPU the GTX 1080, the 1070 (as with its GTX 970 forebear) once again represents the the most balanced purchase prospect in NVIDIA’s lineup for those interested in acceptiong few compromises from their VR experience but aren’t necessarily hardcore PC gaming enthusiasts. With 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, 1920 CUDA cores and a very respectable 6.5 Teraflops of performance, the cards will allow you to exceed the minimum recommended specs laid down by both Steam VR and Oculus, which will leave some headroom for application of moderate supersampling on many titles on Rift and Vive.

Like AMD, NVIDIA have flung themselves headlong into the VR arena, with their own suite of VR APIs for developers in VR Works and some interesting features introduced with Pascal aimed at virtual reality performance, including Lens Matched Shading and Simultaneous Multi-Projection.

Do shop around using the above link for different vendor’s take on the GTX 1070 though, as 3rd party efforts are generally cheaper or offer more options (custom coolers, PSUs etc.)

AMD RADEON 580

AMD Radeon 580
  • VRAM: 4-8GB GDDR5
  • Stream Processors: 2304
  • Base Clock: 1257Mhz
  • Boost Clock: 1340Mhz

Check Amazon for AMD Radeon 580 prices

AMD have shown great enthusiasm for the renaissance in virtual reality technology. The company has been on the forefront of the rush to support VR for the last few year with the dedicated VR API collection LiquidVR and their aggressive pricing strategy on their line of VR ready GPUs. Their previous generation Radeon 480 cards represented one of the most affordable, least compromised way to enjoy VR and its more recent replacement, the slightly tweaked Radeon 580, is no different.

A refresh to the company’s ‘Polaris’ GPU architecture, the 5xx line of cards is a drop in replacement for the previous 4xx range as, bar for some power usage optimisations, the cards are extremely similar. The 580 is a capable card whether faced with visually rich VR content or standard gaming. Although the Radeon 580 can’t quite muster the same levels of grunt as it’s NVIDIA counterpart the GTX 1070, it is significantly cheaper to buy (check out prices at the link in our boxout). We do recommend you opt for the more expensive 8G version however, in order to give you legroom for some supersampling.

High-end VR Graphics Cards

NVIDIA GTX 1080ti

NVIDIA GTX 1080ti Specs
  • VRAM: 11GB GDDR5X
  • CUDA Cores: 3584
  • Core Clock: 1481Mhz
  • Boost Clock: 1582Mhz

Check Amazon for NVIDIA GTX1080 ti prices

In our performance showdown article upon the cards release, Paul James acknowledged that NVIDIA’s Titan X beating graphics card was still an expensive prospect but that, if you really did want to push your VR experience beyond the ‘vanilla’ defaults, then the NVIDIA GTX 1080ti gives you the grunt to enhance visual fidelity by not only maxing out the in-game options of most VR titles available today, but by applying higher levels of supersampling to drastically reduce aliasing when inside VR.

Here’s a summary of Paul’s conclusion, but make sure to head over to the full performance comparison with FCAT VR benchmark results.

The GTX 1080 Ti provides a compelling price to performance prospect. Whilst Nvidia are still asking you to part with $700 for the privilege of thumbing your nose at Titan X owners, what you get as a standard gamer and as a VR enthusiast is the power to literally max the image quality capabilities of your chosen VR headset and a damn sight more.

…the ability to push VR titles at these resolutions, achieving in many cases a fully-rendered (i.e. with no need for reprojection and ASW) 90FPS mean your investment will very likely see you through to the next generation of VR headsets and beyond.

The only thing you may want to bear in mind is that, if you’re in the market for a powerful GPU, AMD’s new Radeon ‘Vega’ architecture will start powering new cards from AMD soon, with the ‘RX’ flavour likely to offer performance pitched somewhere between the GTX 1080 and the 1080ti, possibly for less money.


Check out some of our more in depth VR graphics card coverage below:

SEE ALSO
Analysis: Latest VR Ready GPUs Benchmarked and Compared with NVIDIA 'FCAT VR'
SEE ALSO
NVIDIA GTX 1080Ti vs. 1080 VR Performance Review: Supersampling Showdown

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  • Get Schwifty!

    I would add in that a 1060 or even *possibly* a 1050ti would work for “low end” VR. I know for a fact a 1060 will run a game like Job Simulator no problem. And if you think a 1060 is a slouch, note that it is almost equivalent to the original GTX Titan of 2013.

    • J.C.

      A 1060 is the minimum I’d suggest someone get. The VRWorks features that just showed up in the two prevailing VR game engines aren’t available on the 900 series, and from what I’m reading they offer significant performance gains. The 1060 has enough grunt that you’d be able to bump SS up a little, but you certainly won’t be getting 2.0 out of them. I use a 1080, and more demanding games buckle at 1.6 (Valkyrie, Raw Data). That *was* before the VRWorks additions to both games, I haven’t had a chance to try them since the updates.

      Buying in at the bare minimum is like going to an amusement park and riding the kiddie coaster. Sure, you’re on a roller coaster, technically, but it isn’t going to be nearly the experience you expected. Save up a bit more than expected, so you can come in with a machine that won’t let you down early.

  • Plurr

    VR experiences are supposed to run on a GTX 970. There are few exceptions. I’m using a GTX 980, the equivalent of GTX 1060. I’ve always experienced that this is more than enough, especially since they introduced asynchronous spacewarp on Oculus. As far as I know, you don’t usually get much more out of a VR experience with a faster GPU. If I were to make a recommendation to someone, I’d certainly recommend a card a step down from the GTX 1070, or two steps. I might recommend a used card. It has to do with the economic aspect, of course. Then they can buy a new card when it’s time for the next generation – which may be far into the future for some users.

    • Anonymous

      You’re right, but that’s because almost all VR games are indie games right now with low graphics quality.

    • Get Schwifty!

      It depends on how you look at it – using the lowest possible rendering most cards will suffice, and a 970 is the “bottom”, OTOH, as you step up progressively you can raise artificially through tools the “Pixels Per Display Pixel Override” count, or often the game will determine the higher graphic power available and scale itself up.

      If you doubt this check out some game which increase visuals but you need a good GPU to take advantage, IIRC Arizona Sunshine’s settings will let you adjust certain settings on the fly in the beginning. OTOH, try using the debug tools for Rift (I believe Steam lets you set this on Vive automatically) to raise the “Pixels Per Display Pixel Override” value. You will be surprised at how much better things can look, and you need the graphic oomph of a card well beyond a 970 to run many games at better ratios. I could bump the value and get much better visuals going from a 1060 which is significantly faster to start than a 970 then going up to a 1080 was a serious leap up.

      Check out this article on R2VR: https://www.roadtovr.com/improve-oculus-rift-game-image-quality-using-this-tool-oculus-debug-tool/

      • MosBen

        I think that the article has too much of an enthusiast bent. Many people aren’t concerned with making current games look their absolute best, and they’re not interested in future proofing their machines (as if there is such a thing). You can run lots of great VR content with less powerful video cards than the article presents, and at much lower prices. And with the Windows VR headsets coming soon, the required specs are going to drop, not go up. I certainly understand the inclusion of higher end cards, but I feel like an article about recommendations for people looking to get into VR that doesn’t even include a low range option is incomplete.

    • David Herrington

      So VR is in its infancy. We are uncertain how much power the next generation will take. So its always a safe bet to buy a step up from the minimum to ensure compatibility. You don’t want to have to upgrade your GPU every year to meet minimum requirements.

      Minimum requirements are just that, the minimum. Recommended hardware is usually what is necessary to have the best experience without frame drops and nausea.

    • RFC_VR

      “VR” can run on a smart phone..an old one too, but not a good experience. Perhaps many PC VR applications still poorly optimized with inefficient use of resources, its new days for development and its not AAA money being thrown at the titles.

      Exception was Valve’s “The Lab” which was night/day different quality of rendering and the clarity of their VR experience.

      But in my experiments, quality of virtual reality experience is definitely improved with more powerful GPU, when you learn about applying super sampling to your PC VR.

      And level of super sampling is definitely improved with a more powerful GPU, really a 1080Ti.

      Considering my first Vive was £750 and I spent £450 on my 1070, should have waited longer and got the 1080 card.

      I’ve also played applications like John Wick on old (970) setup at retailer demo and it was a shuddering mess that had me pull the HMD off within 30 seconds to avoid brain scramble…

  • ummm…

    ive got the 1080ti. i probably dont push it as much as i could. but i know its in my tower, as i sit homeless on the street after my gf broke up with me because i didnt have enough time for reality.

    • Tony Story

      Lol! I loved your comment. Sad if true but hilarious.

  • Zerofool

    Honestly, with the current supply issues and price inflation (worldwide) due to cryptocoins mining, the only real options are 1080 and 1080Ti. I have a 1070 and it isn’t fast enough for my taste – I need at least 1.4x super-sampling in all VR games, sometimes as high as 2x in some (mostly UE4-based) games. IMO, 1080Ti is really the bare minimum for a future-proof VR PC.
    Radeon RX Vega will be much closer to 1080 than 1080Ti in raw performance, and with much higher power consumption than even the 1080Ti (based on all the leaks so far, if true). It seems its only advantage will be the aggressive price/perf ratio :(.

    • RFC_VR

      I had an overclocked i7 / GTX 1070 setup for my Vive, and it didn’t have enough headroom for required level of super sampling without grinding to a halt, depending on how well/poorly application has been optimized.

      With the current PC VR hmd’s like Vive and Rift using old panel tech, super sampling was very desirable. My new VR setup has 1440 x 1280 per eye with 534ppi and its a much cleaner display with noticeably less SDE

      in hindsight, I would not buy anything but 1080Ti for VR, but actually waiting for consumer Volta GPUs and prepared to spend same amount on GPU, as on new SteamVR system, to maximize quality of virtual reality

      • polysix

        yup – the only sane choice if VR is your bag going forward is to buy 1080ti (no amd alternative) or wait for Volta…. nvidia may take the piss on trickle feeding again now AMD falls short.

        • Zerofool

          Indeed.
          Consumer Volta isn’t likely to appear this year, and there are actually some rumors that the next GF series might be based on Pascal refresh (12nm), rather than Volta derivative. If true, we can blame the lack of competition from AMD (in the high-end) for this, as you said yourself :/

      • Zerofool

        Indeed.
        What’s your new HMD? Just curious :)
        Consumer Volta isn’t likely to appear this year, and there are actually some rumors that the next GF series might be based on Pascal refresh (12nm), rather than Volta derivative. If true, we can blame the lack of competition from AMD (in the high-end) for this :/

        • RFC_VR

          Currently exploring Google’s Daydream View on Pixel XL with mods; aftermarket 4mm Vive face cushion retrofitted into base /nose of OE face cushion to bring face forward (XL phone has a wider display) and custom top strap for stability when looking around especially straight down.

          It shouldn’t work as well as it does considering its limitations, but I’m already encountering great content (content is king) and well optimized apps with clever design and graphics to provide a quality VR experience. It’s ideal for interesting abstract VR experiences and excellent for YouTube VR type viewing

          Controller brings great immersion despite some drift

          The tetherless nature is a nod to the future of PC VR; it’s incredibly liberating.

          • Zerofool

            I’m glad you’re liking it. All these advancements can’t come soon enough to PC VR.

          • RFC_VR

            I got to say I’m pleasently surprised. I was expecting little after months of using Vive, and time on PSVR and Rift, but its actually very effective.

            I am experiencing well rendered, rich virtual realities that should not be able on such hardware but there it is. It really bodes well for PC VR because it shows how effective software optimization can be (i.e. The Lab), and how much potential there is in even current gen existing PC VR.

      • PrymeFactor

        Horseshit. Unless you’ve got a defective GPU.
        The 1070 is as powerful as the 980Ti, the best GPU on the market when the Rift and the Vive launched. It’ll run everything VR just fine. The ‘midrange’ classification in this article does that GPU a disservice indeed.

    • polysix

      Agreed

    • djinfinitee

      Thought I’d chime in that I’ve been using a 1050Ti pretty happily with a rig I just built with a 7th gen MOBO, 700w PS, and i7 4600k and have no problems with jitter or hitching playing on medium or even high settings in some games like Asseto Corsa, and Robo Recall just to name a couple…that said, I can only imagine what the 1080Ti will look like in Oculus and can’t wait to get one

  • VRgameDevGirl

    I still use the GTX 970 and have no issues with all games I have tried. I just can’t run Arizona sunshine on max graphics. That card is a steal now.

    • Miqa

      I too think most things run super smooth, and I’m on a 960. Arizona Sunshine is also the one game that doesn’t run perfect for me.

      • Miqa

        To add to my own post. It is running so well that I plan to keep it until gen. 2 arrives (unless FO4 VR runs like crap).

      • Robbie Zeigler

        Oh wow so you have one of those GPU only rigs?

        • Miqa

          What is that supposed to mean?

          • Robbie Zeigler

            Well apparently your entire rig is made up of just a gpu?

    • Ragbone

      I have the same card and works well for me also :) Only problem is when i run around kicking people and stealing cars etc, then try to take the headset off and realise it isn’t VR.

  • Firestorm185

    Using the 1070 just fine. Definitely a good VR card. ^^

    • Jason Mercieca

      I agree, i bought the EVGA GTX 1070 FTW and i can run everything with supersampling from 1.5 to 2, and runs very smooth, great card, at the time i was going for the 1080 but there is only a few fps more, so little difference that the extra £170 for the 1080 model is ridiculous, everyone goes for the very latest and thats not wise for vr or none vr use.
      Im so satisfied with the performance of the 1070 that i will not upgrade it till something faster than the 1080ti comes out..

      • Firestorm185

        Yeah, same, I run everything I can about 1.4 supersampled and that looks great, so I don’t have a need bigger than that Until higher rez hmd’s come out.

  • fuyou2

    Simple..Just Buy The Best Fucking Card You Can afford!.. Even 1080ti will be crap in 6 months

  • chaos_in_ashland

    I wish VR took advantage of SLI

  • nebošlo

    That’s silly, the actual requirements for a good experience are much lower than that. And I’m not talking about low settings or any real compromises.

  • psuedonymous

    “Although the Radeon 580 can’t quite muster the same levels of grunt as it’s NVIDIA counterpart the GTX 1070, it’s significantly cheaper to buy and less power hungry to boot.”

    You may want to double check you figures there, the 580 has a MUCH higher power consumption then the 1070, by nearly 100W. A stock 580 can use more power than a balls-to-the-wall overclocked 1080!

    • Caven

      I’ve had consistently good luck running VR titles on a 780Ti, which the 1060 is supposedly comparable to, so I think the 1060 is a good recommendation. I was able to play games like Raw Data and Arizona Sunshine with no issues on my 780Ti before the card died, so we’re not talking about being stuck playing the most minimal VR experiences at that performance level.

      • Robbie Zeigler

        Ugh no… pascal would trounce the living daylights out of kepler in VR.. I see people make this mistake all the time.. they think because 2 cards were comparable in performance on flat screen then the same must be true in vr and that’s not even close to being accurate.

        Pascal has VR optimizations that even maxwell didnt get and honestly the 780 has aged like garbage and consistently gets beaten by cards from AMD/ATI that were never meant to compete with it.

        • Caven

          Note that I did say “supposedly”. I’m fully aware that Pascal has VR optimizations that Kepler didn’t get. I was actually counting on that (and other assorted hardware improvements) when recommending the 1060. After all, if the 780Ti (which does not meet the official minimum VR spec) actually works reasonably well for VR–and it did for me–then surely the current generation card that’s similar on paper (but has lots of VR improvements under the hood) should be at least as good, and most likely better. If the 1060 would “trounce the living daylights” out of the 780Ti in VR, that’s great! It just makes the 1060 an even stronger recommendation.

          Just for clarification: When I originally posted my previous comment, it was supposed to be a reply to Get Schwifty!, who was saying that a 1060 or possibly a 1050Ti could work for low-end VR. Somehow I accidentally replied to psuedonymous instead, but the point still stands. If a 780Ti is usable for VR without serious compromises, then a 1060 most certainly is as well.

  • Sam Illingworth

    Ugh, the stock GeForce casings are sooooo ugly! I’d be inclined to buy AMD next time just for that reason (even though I wouldn’t be buying reference).

  • Loren Rohrich

    My 3yr old 290x 8gb runs everything on oculus just fine.

  • Cyndi Moore

    Do I need to upgrade my processor as well as my graphics card?