Best Computers for VR

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
402 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best computers for VR

Last Updated June 2019

Virtual reality (VR) applications — whether for viewing movies, live video, or gaming — are catching on quickly. But you can’t get a high-quality experience at home with just any computer. VR requires a powerful computer system that can process large amounts of data and output it to the user’s VR headset and controllers.

The computers best suited to VR have plenty of built-in processing power and also have a top-notch graphics card specifically built for VR. These processors generate a lot of heat, so a quality cooling system is essential. However, these are just the basic requirements for a VR-ready computer. Users looking to step up to one of these powerful systems will have plenty of additional questions. How big does the processing unit’s casing need to be? Can a laptop offer the same quality VR experience as a tower?

We’ll answer these questions and more in the shopping guide below. Then, check out our recommendations to find the best computer for VR for your needs.

Online compatibility guides and checkers are available to quickly determine the specifications you’ll need in a computer for VR.

Key considerations

Cost vs. performance

Computers for VR need serious technological muscle or their performance won’t just be bad — it’ll be terrible. When a gaming computer doesn’t quite have the memory or graphics processing capability to render a 2-D experience, the biggest problem is a slowdown of the game. When a VR game suffers performance problems, the jitter and slower frame rate can make you feel physically ill.

Because of this, choosing a computer for VR means looking for units with top-end graphics cards, excellent processing capability, and the ability to perform at peak for long periods. Buying a lower-end computer for VR applications may be fine at first, but the lower-priced components are often from previous generations of graphics cards and processors, and they may not keep up with the rapidly changing technology in the VR market — meaning you will need to upgrade sooner than expected, which adds to the cost of a computer.

Virtual reality fans take different approaches to the cost-vs.-performance dilemma. Top-rated computers for VR — both desktop and laptop — can be purchased ready to run the latest VR programs out of the box. But that tends to be the most expensive option. To save on upfront costs, expert computer users often purchase components to upgrade their computers, spreading out the total cost over time. The disadvantage to that is obvious: it takes time, sometimes weeks or months, to upgrade and tune a system. Buying a VR-ready computer is convenient and will get you up and running your favorite VR apps and games in just a few minutes.

VR power right out of the box


This liquid-cooled dynamo of a PC combines an attractive see-through LED-lit tower with plenty of computing muscle. It combines a powerful i7 processor with AMD’s latest graphics card and has all the connector ports needed for a premium VR experience.

Tower or laptop?

Tower: The best-performing computers for VR are desktop units — especially those whose CPU (central processing unit) is housed in a tower casing. Part of the reason is that high-performance computers tend to run hot — very hot. There is room within most towers for multiple cooling fans. Some even have liquid-cooled components to further boost performance. Tower units can also be easier to upgrade and configure.

Laptop: There are several gaming laptops on the market that handle the demands of VR very well. Laptops offer convenience and portability so that you can take that VR experience with you almost anywhere you want to go. Some can be upgraded to improve graphics performance, memory, or storage.

CAUTION

A poor-performing computer for VR will cause the frame rate of the VR game or video to fluctuate. This can cause motion sickness.

Features

Computers for VR have similar performance specifications and requirements. These can make a new user’s head spin, but the important thing to keep in mind is that the computer needs to meet the minimum requirements listed below. As long as the computer’s specifications are at or above these minimums (suggested by the manufacturers of the Oculus Rift VR headset), its performance should at least be adequate for the VR app or game you plan to run.

  • Processing speed: Intel i5 4590 processor
  • Graphics processing: Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 290
  • RAM: 8GB (many recommend 16GB or higher)
  • USB ports: Multiple USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports
  • Display ports: HDMI 1.3 or 1.4 and/or a DisplayPort 1.2 (depending on the VR headset)

Computers with the above features will have the power necessary to drive VR performance. Other options, such as the size of the hard drive, are less important — unless you are looking for plenty of local storage.

If you already have a VR headset, make sure the computer that you’re considering meets the minimum specifications listed by the manufacturer. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a computer with performance specs that are higher than those minimums.

The two best PC-based VR experiences on the market are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, and a computer for VR should be selected with these two brands in mind — even if you opt for one of the less expensive VR headsets coming onto the market from other manufacturers.

Computers for VR prices

A computer for VR can be had for as little as $800 to $900 — but these also have graphics cards and processors at the lowest acceptable rates, and they may not be able to run newer VR apps and games. If you can spend $1,200 to $1,800, a much wider range of desktop and laptop units are available with much greater processing power and graphics capabilities. The highest-end computers for VR — and the highest performing — feature liquid cooling, dual fans, and other performance enhancers; these typically cost between $3,000 and $4,300 or higher.

EXPERT TIP

The latest gaming computers are increasingly being touted as VR-ready. They’re a good place to start looking, but check their specifications closely to make sure they meet VR requirements.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • VR games and videos must maintain a frame rate of 90 f.p.s. (frames per second) to provide a comfortable, enjoyable VR experience.
  • Buying a laptop computer for VR? Make sure it has the correct ports (USB, HDMI, and others) for the VR headset and peripherals you plan to use.
  • VR experiences are increasingly designed to allow users to move around, so place the computer and headset in a room with plenty of open space.
  • Consider buying an anti-fatigue mat to stand on while using VR to reduce lower back pain and sore feet from long VR sessions.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, keep them on while using the VR headset with your computer.

Robust VR computer


With a surprising amount of processing speed and powerful graphics card, this desktop computer is perfectly priced to jump into high-quality VR experiences using both headsets and accessories.

Other products we considered

We found a good entry-level computer for VR in Computer Upgrade King’s Mantis, a gaming PC with plenty of custom options. Dell’s Alienware line is still a great choice for high-performance applications, and its M15 Gaming Laptop has everything a VR aficionado needs in a compact laptop. And we couldn’t leave out a pie-in-the-sky wish list stalwart, the Skytech Supremacy, a powerhouse of a gaming computer with an 11GB video card, multicore CPU, and powerful AMD processor.

The graphics card is the most important — and the most expensive — component of computers for VR.

FAQ

Q. Will I be able to use different VR systems on the same computer?
A.
The two biggest VR brands, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, can be used on any computer for VR. Keep in mind that each uses different connector configurations and different accessories. Make sure that your computer has the right configuration for both.

Q. Do VR systems need upgrades as frequently as computers do? How will this affect my purchase?
A.
Virtual reality technology is changing constantly, but where you’ll see the biggest change is in the quality of the graphics used in VR. This may require you to upgrade the graphics card in your computer every couple of years in order to get the best experience. Buying a computer with a graphics card well above the minimum requirements for VR can reduce the need to upgrade as frequently.

Q. Can my eight-year-old use a VR system? I’ve heard that they aren’t recommended for kids.
A.
While at least one VR manufacturer cautions against use by children under age 13, there is no set standard for age. A parent should supervise VR use and probably limit VR time to the same amount that is recommended for smartphone screen time — an hour or less per day.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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