Virtual Reality is a quickly evolving genre of PC gaming. With games like Half-Life Alyx and Fallout 4 VR, more PC gamers are looking to get into VR than ever before. Anyone looking to get into VR should take into account the strengths and weaknesses of various graphics cards that can handle VR gaming.
The right graphics card will run whatever game you’re playing at a smooth, consistent framerate. Conversely, purchasing a weaker graphics card can lead to several issues such as crashes and low framerates. Not every graphics card handles VR well. A budget graphics card may handle running games like Gorn and Beatsaber but have trouble with more graphically intensive games like No Man’s Sky and Subnautica. Some cards may even push a high frame rate but a low resolution in VR.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing chip shortage, most graphics cards are unavailable or overpriced by scalpers.
Best high-end AMD graphics card
If money isn’t an issue when buying a graphics card for VR, then the AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT may be for you. The 6800 XT is meant for high-resolution gaming, including VR.
Thanks to AMD’s Radeon DNA (RDNA) architecture, gamers can expect several features to provide higher visual quality. Mesh shaders create environments with greater detail. Raytracing increases realism by creating more accurate light interactions. Variable rate shading allows for high performance while maintaining high visual quality.
Games running on a 6800 XT can receive a performance boost of 16 percent, thanks in part to AMD Smart Access Memory. This feature lets AMD’s Ryzen processors communicate with Radeon graphics cards to boost game performance, allowing a 6800 XT to reach its full potential. With 16GB of memory, the RX 6800 XT should have no trouble handling VR gaming, especially since it’s considered a VR-ready product by AMD.
Best high-end Nvidia graphics card
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is the newest Nvidia graphics card and has earned the reputation of being the most powerful graphics card on the market. With help from Nvidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution feature and its 24GB of video memory, the 3090 delivers 4K and 8K gaming. A review from TechRadar claims that every game tested with the card was set to its max settings and ran without issue.
With a 3090, Fallout 4 VR runs smoothly with the supersampling to 200 percent. With Half-Life Alyx, it can be set to 300 percent and still run smoothly. VR games running on a 3090 can also benefit from a boost in visual quality thanks to Nvidia’s Variable Rate Supersampling (VRSS). VRSS improves the visual quality of a display resulting in higher image quality and reduced aliasing. Over 30 VR titles support this feature, including Boneworks, Job Simulator, Rec Room, and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality.
The 3090 should have no trouble with playing VR games or any game in general. It’s unnecessary to buy a 3090 to get into VR gaming, but this card ensures VR games run as smoothly as possible.
Best mid-range AMD graphics card
The AMD Radeon RX 5700 is a cheaper alternative to other graphics cards on this list. This graphics card’s MSRP value is just under the 3060 Ti and the 6800 XT. AMD’s RX 5700 is another midrange card designed with 1440p gaming in mind that also does a great job of handling VR games. Like the 6800 XT, this GPU is also considered a VR-ready product by Steam. This means that it passed Steam’s VR performance test with a rank of Very High or better.
The RX 5700 contains a DisplayPort capable of up to 8K resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate or 5K resolution at 120Hz. Refresh rates play a key role in VR gaming since a low refresh rate could leave players with motion sickness and a less immersive VR experience.
The only drawback to the RX 5700 is its lack of ray tracing, but if that’s not a concern, this is a great option if you’re looking for a midrange AMD graphics card that is VR capable.
Best mid-range Nvidia graphics card
If you’re looking for something that isn’t too expensive but still delivers impressive quality and performance, consider the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition.
The 3060 Ti is a midrange card that delivers great performance whether you’re playing a VR game or a non-VR game. Nvidia’s 3060 card has 8GB of video memory, which is more than the 2060 Ti Founders Edition’s 6GB. According to PCMag, the 3060 Ti Founders Edition performs 40 percent faster than the 2060 Ti Founders Edition in 4K, showing that it’s making full use of that boost in memory.
A trademark feature of several Nvidia cards is Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). Nvidia’s DLSS uses AI rendering technology to boost graphics with the help of Tensor Core AI processors used in the GPU. VR games have started to take advantage of this feature. DLSS support was recently announced for VR-ready titles like No Man’s Sky, Into The Radius, and Wrench. This is an important feature since VR games typically have low graphics quality to maintain a high frame rate. With DLSS, that trade-off becomes a thing of the past.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition is a great midrange choice for a graphics card if you’re looking for an Nvidia graphics card with great performance, visual quality, and a lower MSRP.
Best budget graphics card
The graphics card is for gamers on a budget and utilizes Nvidia’s Turing architecture. The Zotac GeForce GTX 1650 Super Twin Fan released in 2019 but still runs the latest games. Zotac’s GTX 1650 runs most games at 60 frames per second in 1080p and can handle 1440p.
When it comes to running VR games, this is where the budget part comes in. This card should be able to run VR games at low settings. For some players, this may be passable. For others, it might just be downright unplayable. This is likely due to the card’s 4GB of video memory, which is the minimum video memory required for the Vive headset.
This card also sports a very compact design at only 6.2 inches long. At this length, Zotac’s GTX 1650 should be able to fit in most PC cases.
As its name suggests, Zotac’s GeForce GTX 1650 Super Twin Fan comes with a dual-fan design that provides more airflow and circulation. This graphics card also comes with a program called Zotac Gaming Firestorm, allowing users to monitor the status of their GPU.
Zotac’s GTX 1650 Super Twin Fan may be the right choice for gamers looking to build a VR-ready PC on a budget. Due to the limited availability of graphics cards in general, you will have to pay significantly more than its regular price.