Choosing a VR compatible Computer

Elma Kujovic
Elma Kujovic
  • Updated

When beginning the VR Journey the amount of technical specifications and new terms that you may hear or see may seem a bit overwhelming and confusing at first. This article aims to help make the process a bit easier and explain some of the terms and specs so you can confidently make the right decision. After all VR ready machines represent a substantial investment.

Summary

  • Specifications for Minimum, Recommended and Optimal performance with Gravity Sketch
  • Desktops in general offer better performance per dollar
  • Desktops are user upgradeable and in general last longer
  • Desktops can run hotter due to larger size and cooling systems = better performance.
  • Laptops offer portability at the expense of performance
  • A NVIDIA RTX 3070 on a laptop is NOT the same as an NVIDIA 3070 on a Desktop and does not offer the same performance

PC Specifications

Minimum Recommended Specifications (August 2022)

The minimum recommended specifications are highly dependent on the headset you intend to use. These are the minimum specifications for Gravity Sketch to work on older VR Systems (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift) however be sure to check the required specifications for your VR Headset.

  • Operating System (OS): Windows 10 or Windows 11
  • Processor (CPU): Intel i5- 4590 or AMD FX8350 or equivalent
  • Memory (RAM): 8GB Minimum
  • Graphics Card (GPU): NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti/ AMD Radeon RX450 (be sure to check if the graphics card is VR capable and supports DirectX 11.3 or newer)
  • Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.4 output, or DisplayPort
  • I/O (Ports): 1 x USB 3.0 Port plus 1 x USB 2.0 Port
  • Storage Space: At least 300MB 

 

Recommended Specifications (August 2022)

The recommended specifications will enable you to have a good experience in Gravity Sketch are highly dependent on the headset you intend to use. These are the recommended specifications for Gravity Sketch to work on most VR headsets (HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Rift-S, Oculus Quest 2 Tethered) however be sure to check the required specifications for your VR Headset. 

  • Operating System (OS): Windows 10 or Windows 11
  • Processor (CPU): Intel i7- 7700 or AMDRyzen 5 1500x  or greater 
  • Memory (RAM): 16GB or more
  • Graphics Card (GPU): NVIDIA GTX 1060/ AMD Radeon RX480 or newer (be sure to check if the graphics card is VR capable and supports DirectX 11.3 or newer)
  • Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.4 output, or DisplayPort
  • I/O (Ports): 3 x USB 3.0 Ports (Recommended is at least one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 Port)
  • Storage Space: At least 2GB or more available 

 

Optimal Specifications (August 2022)

These optimal specifications are recommended for great VR performance with Gravity Sketch. These are meant more as a guide if you are looking for what Gravity Sketch highly recommends for the best performance. They are also highly dependent on the headset you intend to use. These are the optimal specifications for Gravity Sketch to work on most VR headsets (HTC Vive Pro 2, HP Reverb G2, Oculus Quest 2 Tethered) however be sure to check the required specifications for your VR Headset. 

  • Operating System (OS): Windows 10 or Windows 11
  • Processor (CPU): Intel i7- 12650H or AMDRyzen 7 5800H  or greater 
  • Memory (RAM): 32GB
  • Graphics Card (GPU): NVIDIA GTX 3060/ AMD Radeon RX6600 (be sure to check if the graphics card is VR capable and supports DirectX 11.3 or newer)
  • Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.4 output, or DisplayPort 
  • I/O (Ports): 1 x Thunderbolt 4 Port (or at least one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 Port) 2 x USB 3.0 Ports
  • Storage Space: At least 2GB or more available (Ideally on an SSD) 

 

Laptop VS Desktop

When looking into VR ready computers, one of the first questions that will come up will be if you should get a desktop or laptop. This really depends on your needs and budget.

Desktops

In general, desktops offer better performance per dollar/ pound/ euro spent on them. They can also be upgraded over time, so you can buy one system and then use it for several years by swapping out components. In addition to this, because of the form factor desktops have, they can offer far greater performance as they can allow components to run hotter, allowing processors and graphics cards to run faster. Thus if you are looking for better performance, or plan on running several applications simultaneously, a desktop may make sense.

Laptops

If, on the other hand, you have a strong need for mobility and need to take your VR computer with you, then a laptop may make sense. In general, laptops are more expensive than a desktop setup, and sacrifice performance for mobility. An NVIDIA RTX 3070 Graphics card in a Laptop is not the same, nor does it perform the same as an NVIDIA RTX 3070 on a Desktop. This is primarily due to the extremely tight form factor that laptops have to enable portability. Due to the smaller form factor, cooling becomes an issue, and thus laptops have to throttle performance.

 

What do all these terms mean?

'Processor': The processor is the main processing unit inside the machine that does all of the computing functions. It's primarily the brain of the computer that processes information and then tells the rest of the computer what to do. When you hit a key on a keyboard, the processor processes that input and then tells the computer to draw a letter on the display, for example. The faster the processor, the faster this operation can be handled.

'Cores': When researching computers, you may run into terms such as 'quad core' 'six core' or even 'eight core'. Basically, cores are a way of enabling computers to run faster and more efficiently. Once processor designers reached the physical limit on how fast a single processor could work, the next step was essentially adding multiple smaller processors, or 'cores' to work in tandem to enable a computer to run faster and more efficiently. The more cores a processor has, the more data can be processed at the same time, thus enabling faster operation.

'3.5ghz': Gigahertz (in this case, 3.5ghz) is the speed at which processors are measured - thus a 3.5ghz processor can handle 3.5 Billion operations per second. Often you will see a processor advertise two speeds -- one normal and one 'turbo boost' or similar term speed. The turbo boost speed is a speed the processor can reach under stress for short periods of time, but is not a sustained speed which the first number usually is.

'Ram/ Memory': Ram, which stands for Random Access Memory, or is often simply referred to as memory, enables your computer to temporarily hold data that the computer needs to access at any given time. These days it is measured in gigabytes (GB) and is usually sold in multiples of 8. Gravity Sketch recommends having 16GB of ram regardless if you are looking at a Laptop or Desktop. The more ram your system has, the faster and more efficiently it can run.

'Graphics Card': The graphics card, (or GPU - Graphics Processing Unit) in a computer is responsible for translating binary data into graphics so you can actually see images on the computer. In the last decade graphics, cards have become more important and more powerful in the makeup of a computer and essentially act as a second processing unit in the computer. For VR, Graphics cards are very important. Think of VR headsets as essentially being two high-resolution displays - The graphics card is responsible for creating images on the displays and then refreshing the images 70-120 times per second. These days Graphics Cards have their own Video Ram (VRAM) and like RAM, the more VRAM a card has, the more performance the card will have. Gravity Sketch recommends

'RTX, GTX, Radeon'?: RTX, GTX, Radeon along with Quadro are the names of types of graphics cards. There are two primary players in the graphics card industry - NVIDIA and AMD. NVIDIA uses the GeForce RTX and GTX labels on their gaming-focused graphics cards. RTX is the current technology NVIDIA is using. NVIDIA uses the Quadro label on their business-focused graphics cards, which are essentially more 'stable' versions of the RTX gaming cards.

AMD uses the Radeon label on their line of Graphics cards.

Currently, Gravity Sketch will run on any GTX 970 or newer graphics card, and we currently recommend the RTX 3070.

One important note about NVIDIA Quadro RTX Cards: Quadro cards are geared more towards CAD and scientific applications and are designed to be more stable, and thus run slightly slower than the GeForce equivalents. In our experience, Quadro graphics cards do not provide as good of a VR experience as the GeForce equivalent. We recommend GeForce cards over Quadro cards if you are wondering what to choose.

Graphics Card TGP (Total Graphics Power)

This is especially important when looking at gaming laptops for VR, and is not as relevant for Desktop Tower computers with full-size graphics cards.
Because of the need for laptops to balance heat, power draw (for battery life) and thus performance, and because laptops can serve different purposes – for example, you may have a thin and light gaming laptop versus a mobile workstation, there are different graphics cards with different TGP or Total Graphics Power ratings.

Why does this matter? Well, you can have two laptops that both say they have NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Mobile Graphics cards in them, but one might have an 85W TGP, while the other might have a 140W TGP. The performance between the two is very noticeable and does make a difference.

For VR, the higher the TGP, the better performance you will get. In general, the larger the laptop, the higher the TGP can be due to increased space for cooling. In some cases, a 17” laptop with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 will outperform a 15” Laptop with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 card simply because the 17” may be running a card with a 140 Watt TGP, while the 15” is restricted by size and cooling capacity and thus only runs at 105 Watts.

Bottom line, when looking at laptops for VR, it is very important to look at the TGP of the graphics card in the laptop.

Anything over 105 Watts will work quite well. For more information, check out this article here: https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/laptop-gpu-power-limits-tgp-nvidia-amd/

Discrete vs Integrated: There are two kinds of graphics cards these days - Discrete and Integrated. A discrete graphics card is a separate unit -- it is its own graphics card that can theoretically be taken out of a computer and replaced. Integrated graphics however means that there is a graphics processing component integrated inside the computer processor (CPU) that handles the graphics. It's important to note that while integrated graphics cards can do a lot, they are not usable for Virtual reality. When choosing your computer, make sure that it has a discrete, or a separate graphics card, such as an NVIDIA GTX or RTX card on board. If you get a machine that only has integrated graphics, you won't be able to run Gravity Sketch.

'Refresh Rate': When looking at laptops or monitors, you may see a specification for the Refresh rate, where the screen has a 120hz refresh rate. This essentially means that the image on the screen can completely change 120 times per second. Faster refresh rates are great for gaming, but for Gravity Sketch they don't really matter -- any standard Laptop Screen or monitor will work fine with Gravity Sketch. So if you are looking at gaming laptops especially, there is no need to worry about the refresh rate as this won't affect gravity sketch in any way.

'Storage': Storage is where you would store the files that you work on. Often referred to as the hard drive, storage for a computer system is measured in gigabytes(GB) and terabytes(TB). We usually recommend at least a 1 Terabyte hard drive on your system so you have enough space to store files, and applications and still have your computer run smoothly.

'SSD/ HDD/ M.2': When looking at computer configurations you will often see one of these abbreviations next to the storage size. These all relate to storage and are different types of storage. SSD stands for Solid State Drive, HHD Stands for Hard Drive (which is a mechanical drive consisting of platers that have magnetized binary) and M.2 is a type of solid-state that is not only very fast but also very energy efficient.

Solid State Drives cost more per gigabyte of storage compared to Hard Drives, but this is because they are faster, more energy efficient, and less prone to failure. Hard drives are less expensive but are slower -- that said they can also be much larger - you can get 12TB hard drives for example -- whereas Solid State Drives pretty much max out at 4TB for consumer available models.

 

Notes

Gravity Sketch will run on a lot of different configurations and does not require the best or most modern hardware to run efficiently or effectively.

In fact, you can run Gravity Sketch very well on mid-level laptops costing less than $1500. Check out more about this in the video here. 

That said, when choosing a computer, think about what other activities and applications you will be using with the machine -- will it be only used for work, or will you do some gaming on it too? Will you be using the machine to do video editing or 3D rendering? If so, you may want to look at machines with higher specifications. Computers represent a pretty big investment, and we want you to have a great experience when considering getting into VR. 

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