Installing a virtual reality gaming system in your home is no longer the stuff of science fiction or tech billionaires. With an estimated 6.3 million VR headsets sold in 2016, the age of accessible virtual reality is officially here. For roughly the price of a new iPhone, beginners can set up a functional VR system in their own home.
The accessibility of VR hardware has led to an explosion in VR games and experiences, and each headset has a dedicated app store with hundreds of games. With a game for every type of player, and the 360-degree visual and auditory experience of your VR headset—your gaming experience will never be the same.
With so many options, though, it can be hard to know exactly what you need to get started. That’s where this guide comes in. Keep reading to learn more about setting up your first VR system.
What You Need for Your Home VR System
While each proprietary system will have its own specific accessories, most comprehensive VR setups will need the following elements:
- Hand controls
- Gaming computer
- Reliable internet and network equipment
Choosing the VR System Best for You
When shopping for your VR headset, you have a couple main options to choose from: the high-end headsets of HTC Vive ($499) and the Oculus Rift ($399). The Vive is a bit more expensive, but reviews indicate that it’s a bit more immersive than the Rift, though your game preferences may sway your decision somewhat.
There are other lower-cost options for VR experiences, like the headsets from Samsung and Google, which utilize your smartphone as the screen (and processor) inside the viewer. But for a truly immersive VR experience, you’ll want to invest in a tethered PC headset.
The controllers you use should also align with the headset you pick, so realize that you’ll effectively be buying into a whole system when you pick a brand.
Headphones, luckily, aren’t as affected by the system model you pick, so you have a bit more freedom to go for comfort here. Just make sure the earphones can fit over the headset you use.
Not All PCs Are VR Capable
Before you invest in an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset, you need to verify that your PC has the processing power to create a lag-free, seamless virtual environment. Both Oculus and Vive have pretty hefty requirements. A NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card is recommended for both systems, as well as an Intel i5-4590 CPU (or better). You’ll also need between 4 and 8 GB of RAM, depending on the system—though more is generally better in either case. Each system also has specific requirements around HDMI ports, operating system, and more, so read up on what you’ll need before making the choice.
If you don’t know the specs of your PC off the top of your head, you can use this benchmark test to see if your PC is VR compatible.
High-Speed Internet for the Best VR Experience
A lot of current VR games are made to be downloaded and played offline, meaning that you’ll need a decent internet connection to download the games you want to play.
Additionally, it’s likely that online multiplayer VR games will really catch on in the near future, and that will require a good bit of bandwidth. A 720p VR video stream will require at least a 50 Mbps connection according to Charles Cheevers, CTO of ARRIS, but higher-resolution experiences could require even more speed and bandwidth. Twitch streaming will further eat into your available bandwidth, so don’t forget to take that into account.
Plenty of providers offer variable plans of up to 1 Gbps, so opt for a plan that will give you as much speed as you need to future-proof your setup. You can find out if your current internet connection can support a VR adventure by running a speed test, and also get more tips on maximizing your internet speed in our recent how-to guide.
Mac Users Need Not Apply—Yet
For Mac aficionados, Oculus and Vive are still beyond reach. Apple has stated they are collaborating with HTC to enable Vive Pro support in the new macOS Mojave release, but that capability has not materialized yet.
It’s Your Move Now
You now know the basics to begin your VR gaming experience. Let us know where it takes you on our social channels.
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