Microsoft is planning to divvy up so-called ‘Mixed Reality PCs’ into two categories, standard and Ultra. PCs meeting the higher specification will be designated ‘Ultra’ and will run Windows VR headsets at higher framerates and with better graphics.
Microsoft is planning a badging program to help consumers understand which PCs meet the requirements for the forthcoming Windows VR headsets, due to launch in consumer form from several Microsoft hardware partners this holiday.
Mixed Reality PCs
Standard ‘Mixed Reality PCs’ are those with integrated graphics and which meet the minimum specifications for Windows VR headsets. PCs that fall into this bucket will power Windows VR headsets at 60Hz, and presumably lower fidelity visuals. When it comes to the Windows Mixed Reality environment (which lets you run some Windows applications as floating windows inside of VR), Microsoft tells us that standard Mixed Reality PCs will have a three-app limit in order to maintain performance. So for instance you could be running Microsoft Edge, Word, and Netflix in the immersive Windows environment, but when you go to launch a fourth app, one of the three will need to be killed first.
Mixed Reality Ultra PCs
Then there’s ‘Mixed Reality Ultra PCs’ which will include dedicated GPUs and run the same Windows VR headsets in a 90Hz mode—offering a more immersive experience with smoother visuals and lower latency tracking—and as we understand, run games with higher fidelity graphics. PCs designated Mixed Reality Ultra won’t be limited to just three apps in the Windows Mixed Reality environment.
Microsoft has confirmed that both Mixed Reality PCs and Mixed Reality Ultra PCs will support the Windows VR controllers.
Our expectation is that developers of VR apps for the Windows Mixed Reality platform will be asked to meet the standard spec, and also ensure that their games take advantage of the additional power brought by Mixed Reality Ultra PCs, though it isn’t clear how stringent Microsoft intends to be about enforcing this; they could withhold apps that can’t run on the lower spec, or simply leave it up to developers to decide which they want to target.
When it comes to cost, Microsoft says that brand new PCs supporting Windows VR headsets will start at $500 (and we expect this is for the standard Mixed Reality spec). That said, the low minimum spec means that a large number of existing computers will meet the minimum requirements for running Windows VR headsets.