Finding the Best Graphics Cards (GPUs) for Oculus Rift (S)
Virtual reality places high demands on the graphics card – but how much power does your GPU really need? A guide for the latest VR glasses incl. Oculus Link (Update: December 2019).
Even though mobile VR glasses like Oculus Quest don’t need a PC and therefore no graphics card: For the graphic splendour of many SteamVR titles, a sufficiently fast PC system is required. You have to make sure that your processor is not too slow and that you have enough RAM – detailed buying tips are available in our PC buying advice for VR PCs – but the GPU is still more important.
If you don’t want to play CPU-powered, breakfast consuming simulations in virtual reality, or if you want to stream in high quality (and without the help of the GPU), a halfway current quad-core processor from Intel or AMD will suffice, but in the meantime the trend is towards the cheap six-core processor such as the Ryzen 5 2600. In view of increasingly cheap CPUs with six and more cores, this requirement should be relatively easy to meet. The same applies to the RAM: With 8 GByte, you can just about manage, 16 GByte is much better. An SSD is now a must for a gaming PC, so we won’t waste a lot of words here.
At the end of the individual advice sections you can find the mentioned graphics cards conveniently linked, we only refer to reputable shops with reasonable prices. Since these are affiliate links, we earn a small commission on a sale – but this has no effect on your purchase price or our recommendations. But this shows up in the financing of the VR-Legion: We would actually have to move urgently to a more expensive server.
This buying advice is updated regularly. It can still happen that individual products change in price. The prices are valid as of May 12, 2020.
Test Results: Best Graphics Cards (GPUs) for Oculus Rift (S)
Ranking First (High-End): RTX 2080 Super and 2080 Ti
- Capable of 60fps in 4K with the majority of games
- Future-proofed with exciting features such as ray tracing
- Keeps cool and quiet all of the time
Best performing graphics card for Oculus Rift (S)
As already mentioned: Hands off the RTX 2070 without the “Super” add-on, with the 2070 Super you get the performance of an RTX 2080 (from which you should also keep your hands off) and pay noticeably less with 529 Dollars. The 2080 has also got a super counterpart, which reduces the distance to the RTX 2080 Ti – in price and performance. Whether the purchase is worthwhile itself in view of on the average under 10% increase in output to the RTX 2080 however heavily to decide – the still around and/or over 1000 Dollar expensive 2080 Ti remains however also further sovereign at the point.
If you can find a used GTX 1080 Ti at a reasonable price, it should be very inexpensive to compensate for the often missing warranty and the features of the new architecture. The performance of a RTX 2070 Super is comparable to the 1080 Ti – up-to-date. However, by optimizations of the GPU architecture like the VR-friendlier shaders, there could be much bigger performance differences per RTX in the future. For HP’s high resolution Reverb VR glasses the performance is still sufficient in many cases, the same applies of course to RTX 2070 Super and 2080.
Valves Index on the other hand can also make an RTX 2080 Ti sweat. The VR-glasses can be operated with up to 144 Hz, if you want to achieve fluid frame rates around 144 FPS, you need every percent of computing power. Don’t forget the CPU, slower processors often brake in these FPS ranges. Although Valve also offers options to run the index at 80, 90 or 120 Hz, Motion Smoothing is also supported – everything you need to be able to play decently even with smaller GPUs. Those who can and want to make compromises here will also be able to play well with the RTX 2060 Super.
But if you’re looking for super sampling and high frame rates, even with an RTX 2080 Super it might be tricky – we play with an RTX 2080 and rarely reach 120 FPS continuously, and if so, only with reduced resolution. In case of doubt you have to decide for yourself: Happy bank account, less supersampling or only 80-90 Hz/FPS.
Verdict: Best performing graphics card for Oculus Rift (S)
Maximum performance costs a maximum price: Starting at about 1000 Dollars you get the fastest graphics cards with RTX 2080 Ti GPU that are currently intended for gamers. Rumor has it that a faster super model will follow next year, but we fear a rather small performance advantage with a noticeable price increase. AMD might also surprise with “Big Navi”, whose performance is rumored to be able to keep up with the 2080 Ti – there are hints in a VR benchmark, the OpenVR benchmark from cyubeVR developer Stonebrick Studios. AMD is known for not necessarily playing along with Nvidia’s sometimes exaggerated price expectations. And to be prepared for a Pimax 8K X it can never be too little performance. Allin all the 20Ti offers the best performance for the Oculus Rift (S).
Ranking Second (GPU for VR middle class): RTX 2070 Super
- Excellent gaming performance almost on par with $700 RTX 2080
- A GeForce RTX 2080-sized cooler and trimmed-down TU104 processor translate to higher operating clock rates
- Superb Founders Edition design
- Best price-performance ratio
- Bigger and more power hungry than RTX 2070
Best price-performance ratio graphics card for Oculus Rift (S)
VR glasses like HTC Vive Pro, Cosmos, Samsung Odyssey+ and thanks to Link also Oculus Quest require a bit more GPU power than the Rift S, which is why the investment in a faster graphics card quickly pays off. In general, there is no such thing as too much graphics performance, and the power can always be converted into even nicer graphics, if necessary by supersampling.
AMD has only recently begun to offer something in this higher performance class: The RX 5700 duels with Nvidia’s RTX 2060, the RX 5700 XT takes on the RTX 2070 – they are still a few percent away from the new super models from Nvidia, whereby the gap is shrinking due to constant driver optimization. Due to exactly these RTX super mentioned cards our recommendations change in the middle class in relation to the previous month completely: RTX 2060 and 2070 without super fly out, since the super models take their place in price, but offer clearly more performance.
Although you can save a few Dollar compared to the 2060 super by purchasing an RTX 2060 – the 2060 is available from 329 Dollar, the super only from 399 Dollar. In return, however, the RTX 2060 Super offers performance on the level of the RTX 2070 and 8 instead of 6 GB of VRAM. We would therefore only recommend the 2060, which is badly trimmed under these aspects, in exceptional cases, especially since it will probably disappear from the market soon. Instead of a GTX 1660 Ti it looks good and only costs 30 Dollar more.
It looks similar with the RTX 2070 and the 2070 Super: The super variant performs on the level of the RTX 2080, costs with prices starting from 559 Dollar however well 100 Dollar less. A RTX 2070 is to be found already no longer so easily and if then in terms of price often uninteresting – a 2070 super is up-to-date actually always the better and faster choice.
At AMD you also finally have an alternative again: The AMD Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT, based on the new 7nm production and RDNA architecture, duel with Nvidia’s RTX 2060 and 2070, but without “Super”, because they were released in response to AMD. AMD has the older RTX models well under control, but the Super variants are still a few percent away. The custom models that have appeared in the meantime don’t provide much more power, but they do provide quieter and more efficient cooling solutions than AMD’s reference cards.
The difference between 5700 and XT shrinks in price, which is why we would strongly recommend the noticeably faster XT model. And even if the 5700 XT isn’t on the compatibility list for Oculus Link (Quest), it works perfectly with it. All in all the RTX 2070 Super is our price-performance winning graphics Oculus Rift (S).
Ranking Third (Entry-Level): AMD RX 5700XT
- Cheaper than the competition
- PCIe 4.0 support makes it future proof
- Best-in-class power efficiency
- Excellent gaming performance
- Blower-style cooler has higher temps than Nvidia’s FE design
Great performing graphics card for the Oculus Rift (S) for a fair price
The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT is a reference design for the current generation of graphics cards, which means that MSI has adapted all of AMD’s specifications in terms of board architecture and cooling solution and has not made any changes to the clock frequencies. So it is one of the first boards based on the current AMD RDNA architecture with Navi-109-GPU, which is not from the developer himself.
The graphics chipset is based on the 7-nm production, which AMD is the first graphics card manufacturer to use. Our test provides information about the strengths and weaknesses of the MSI AMD graphics card and where it fits in.
The most prominent new feature of the graphics card is the NaviChipset with more than 10,300 billion transistors. In contrast to the Nvidia RTX models, the AMD graphics chipset does not have any dedicated raytracing cores. Instead, the graphics card is one of the first to support the PCI Express in the 4.0 standard, which AMD introduced to the market with the current Ryzen processors and the X570 motherboard chipsets.
In opposition to competitor Nvidia, AMD specifies three standardized clock frequencies for its graphic cards. In the MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT the base clock is 1.605 MHz, the game clock is 1.755 MHz and the boost clock is 1.905 MHz – just like AMD’s reference model.
With its GPU power, the MSI graphics card achieves 19,600 points in the Fire Strike test, for example. This makes it nominally faster than the Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming OC, which scores 19,100 points in the benchmark. The result looks different when the DirectX interface comes into play, though. Because then the Radeon reaches a score of 7,800 points in 3DMark Time Spy under DirectX 12 – the Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming OC scores around 9,000 points.
When it comes to “gaming”, the results depend on the respective title and the set resolution. For example, the MSI graphics card achieves 114 FPS (frames per second) at Full-HD resolution in ” Shadow of the Tomb Raider” and 98.8 FPS in “Total War: Warhammer” – the values for the Gigabyte RTX 2070 Super are a little lower with 110 FPS in Tomb Raider and 96 FPS in Warhammer gaming.
If you switch to UHD or 4K resolution, the result turns around. In this case, the AMD variant reaches 40 FPS in the last Lara Croft adventure and 51.7 FPS in the Warhammer universe, while the Gigabyte graphics card offers 47 and 54.9 FPS, making it the winner on points in this area.
The comparison shows that the MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT often scores in Full HD resolution, while the Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is more often the winner of the direct comparison in 4K gaming. So, if you’re looking for a card for Full-HD gaming, the Radeon is a powerful alternative to its Nvidia counterpart, saving you around 100 to 150 Dollars.
As usual with most graphics cards, you have to make room in the case of the MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT, as it needs about 2 slots for installation. Once installed, you can connect your monitor to the PC either via a display port of type 1.4 or via HDMI 2.0b
Radial fan rotates under full load
Just like the AMD reference card, the MSI variant also has only a single radial fan and not, like the gaming variant, at least two adapted large fans. Accordingly, the card is loud with an average of 5.1 sone under full load – for comparison: a TV in room volume is given with 3 to 4 sone.
Let’s get to the temperature development. This is 30 degrees Celsius in Windows mode and is thus absolutely okay. Although the temperature in the torturous Furmark benchmark rises to 76 degrees Celsius, you don’t have to be afraid of too high a temperature development in your PC. This value is also perfectly ok and shows that the fans work reliably.
Our test system reaches a value of 328 watts under full load. This is 11 watts above the Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming OC with 317 watts.
Fair price for the bid
The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT sorts itself in terms of performance exactly where GPU manufacturer AMD wanted to place it: between the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 and 2060 Super. The card doesn’t offer a raytracing feature, but it does support Radeon Image Sharpening, FidelityFX as well as Freesync and FreeSync 2 HDR support, among others.
Radeon Image Sharpening is an algorithm that is supposed to provide a sharper and more detailed image. FidelityFX, on the other hand, is an open source toolkit that is made available to game developers. It is intended to improve the image quality while minimizing the load on the GPU. Freesync, in turn, delivers a smooth, distortion-free picture on monitors that support this feature. It is the AMD counterpart to Nvidia’s G-Sync. The further development is FreeSync 2 with HDR support. HDR effects are also shown here. This applies to movies as well as games, for example Borderlands 3, Far Cry 5 or Strange Brigade.
The price of around 400 Dollar is reasonable and fair for the whole package, as it is over 100 Dollar cheaper than the street price of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super.
Verdict: Great performing graphics card for Oculus Rift (S)
The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT with 8 GByte GDDR6 RAM shows a good performance in our test, which is roughly on par with a GeForce RTX 2070. The performance figures are a good level for Full-HD gaming, but at 4K the graphics card shows slight weaknesses and still offers a satisfactory solution. The relatively high volume and the somewhat meager equipment bother us. You can see how well AMD’s reference RX-5700 models perform in the test video. All in all, the RX 5700XT is a great performing graphics card Oculus Rift (S).
The Ultimate VR GPU & Setup Guide
Excursus for interested parties: VR system requirements explained
When HTC Vive and Oculus Rift were launched in 2016, the system requirements were on a high level: At least a GTX 970 or AMD 390 should be, but more suitable were expensive luxury GPUs like the GTX 980 Ti. Since then, the prejudice prevails that VR would overtax every available graphics card. However, this prejudice fades out some technical developments of the last years.
For example, ASW, Motion Smoothing and Brainwarp reduce the demands on the GPU quite massively, because thanks to interframe calculation, only half as many images need to be calculated – instead of 90 FPS, for example, 45 FPS. Pimax even offers a reduction of the display refresh rate, so that you can theoretically play smoothly even at 35 FPS.
Manufacturers like Valve and Pimax (but also Oculus on the Go and Rift S) have also understood that less fly screens don’t automatically require a higher resolution. LCDs with an RGB stripe matrix offer 33% more subpixels compared to the Pentile OLEDs in Vive and Rift, and thus also significantly less annoying screen door effects. In addition, RGB has a better arrangement of the pixel structure, especially for text readability: the image often appears quieter than with Pentile and this without placing greater demands on the GPU – the GPU no longer has to slave away for additional subpixels.
GPU requirements in VR
However, especially in view of the new generation of VR headsets in the form of, for example, Oculus Rift S (Test), Valve Index or HTC Vive Cosmos, the question arises for VR gamers as to which graphics card should be used for immersion in the virtual world, and knowledge from classic games cannot be transferred 1:1.
This is not only due to the APIs including their software tricks of the VR platforms, but also because V-Sync is inevitably active in VR. As long as all GPUs are able to keep within the V-Sync limit, a classic benchmark here is like a car race through a 30 km/h zone where all participants keep to the speed limit.
The “currency” in which test candidates are measured is different. In VR, one often wants to turn up the internally calculated resolution, i.e. the supersampling factor, as this makes the picture much clearer and reveals details that would otherwise be lost. It is important to avoid the unattractive synthetic intermediate images or even frame drops, which in the worst case can lead to “motion sickness”.
GPU benchmarks in VR
Not only are the requirements for your own computer different in VR, but also in the benchmark, deviations from the usual procedure on the screen must be considered. Classical FPS counters like Fraps are excluded here, because besides the really newly calculated pictures there may be only slightly adjusted old pictures – and distinguishing them is definitely relevant. As in previous VR benchmark tests, the editors have instead resorted to Nvidia’s FCAT VR, which has proven itself as a reference for benchmarks in VR since 2017 and, unlike its classic counterpart known so far, doesn’t need a high-end computer with RAM disk. HTC’s Vive Pro with 90 Hz and the Oculus Rift S with 80 Hz are used as VR headsets in the test.
Real new versus synthetic (old) frames
Basically there is no difference between the output on the screen and the output in the VR headset. In simple terms, the CPU supplies the data and the graphics card turns it into a picture (frame). But that is not enough for VR. Depending on the headset and the situation, the picture must be further adjusted before it can be displayed. Typical tasks are color adjustments and lens-specific corrections (warp). For both, the system has a good 11 ms time to deliver the 80 frames or 90 frames per second required by the headset. With FCAT VR from Nvidia, you can read out how long the graphics card took for each individual frame, and on this basis calculate how many frames would have been theoretically possible.
It becomes more interesting if the graphics card is not fast enough, i.e. doesn’t complete a new image in 11.11 ms (Vive Pro) or 12.5 ms (Rift S). In a classic PC game for the screen, the following would then happen: The old picture is displayed again and the user sees a short jerk. This is always annoying, but firmly anchored in reality, it doesn’t make the user sick. In Virtual Reality, on the other hand, the unchanged image no longer matches the user’s movements and the brain notices that something is wrong. The user feels unwell or even sick (“motion sickness”).
But both Oculus and Valve now offer software tricks in their SDKs that circumvent this problem. Here the synthetic intermediate images come into play again, which do not contain new information from the game, but new position data of the player. At Oculus this is called Asynchronous Timewarp (explanations in the developer blog), SteamVR offers a similar technology. FCAT VR makes it possible to measure the actually delivered frames per second, and shows exactly on the frame whether it was in time, interpolated by a synthetic intermediate frame, or if there was a frame drop.
Especially with a fast graphics card and without supersampling, this rarely happens and in most games everything simply runs constantly at the frame rate the headset requires. In these cases a fast current GPU is boring. The computing power that is left over here can and should be converted to supersampling when playing VR games, as this massively improves the perceived sharpness and quality of the image and often has a higher optical benefit than turning up the in-game settings.
The games in detail
How well a GPU performs in VR depends very much on the game in each individual case. AMD falls behind Nvidia in Trover Saves the Universe and Robo Recall, but beats the competition in Moss. In Skyrim VR, red and green are on a par in the high-end and entry-level area and AMD shows itself strong in the battle for the middle class, with the Vega 56 placing ahead of the GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1070. In Project Cars 2, all graphic cards actually deliver expected results, only the Radeon VII stays behind and sorts itself between high-end and middle class.
Radeon VII and Oculus Rift S do not get along well
Regardless of whether it is a pure VR game exclusively for Oculus, like Robo Recall, a VR port like Project Cars 2 exclusively for Steam, or a VR platformer available from Steam and Oculus like Trover Saves the Universe: As soon as Rift S is played on the Oculus, the Radeon VII performs poorly.
In order to enable an acceptable gaming experience on the new generation of VR headsets, which can score with higher resolution and in the future also with a higher frame rate in the Valve Index, an entry-level solution such as the Nvidia GTX 1060 or the AMD RX 580 is sufficient today, just like with the first generation. They presuppose that you play with low settings, don’t have any room for the super sampling so popular in VR or even have to fall back on downsampling. But VR works. The entry-level solutions are again saved by the synthetic intermediate images, which in many games still deliver a good result even at low FPS. Whether AMD or Nvidia is used in this area is practically irrelevant in terms of performance in VR.
In the middle class, the following must be currently maintained
Among the tested graphic cards in the medium price segment up to 300 Dollar , the aged GTX 1070 delivers the best result in the test. However, it is long out of stock in most retailers and the GTX 1660 Ti, which is an alternative for classic gaming, is surprisingly (currently still) slower in VR. The otherwise superior Radeon RX Vega 56 is also slower on average in VR than the GTX 1070, but supersampling is possible with all three GPUs.
Nvidia is currently the choice in high-end
Those who are willing to spend more money and want to buy a new graphics card directly with a new headset should currently look around at Nvidia. The performance crown goes clearly to the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti also in VR and one level below that, AMD obviously has to struggle with software or driver problems: AMD’s currently strongest GPU, the Radeon VII, barely delivers more than the midrange when using the Oculus Rift S, has problems with certain settings in Project Cars 2 and doesn’t offer any advantage in price compared to an RTX 2080, which couldn’t be tested, but should be on par with the GTX 1080 Ti.
The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and GeForce GTX 1660 Ti were lent to the editorial staff for testing by Nvidia and MSI, respectively. The other graphic cards used have been on loan to the editorial staff for a longer time.