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The Real Cost of Virtual Reality (Hint: It Isn’t Just the Headset)

test - MDR-177

Published: Updated:
03/13/2015 -

Virtual reality headsets are coming. Facebook’s much-hyped Oculus Rift is already available for pre-order, with the first units hitting the street on March 28, while pre-orders for HTC and Valve’s Vive are set to begin Feb. 29, with headsets reaching buyers in April.

But these headsets won’t come cheap. The Oculus Rift costs $600, and the Vive is expected to cost at least as much. And those prices don’t even tell you the whole cost.

That’s because to use these headsets, you’ll also need a high-powered gaming PC — which most consumers don’t already have. Sony’s PlayStation VR requires you to have a PlayStation 4 console.

So what kind of setup do you need to use a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and how much will it actually cost you? Here’s a rundown.

Oculus Rift

According to Oculus, to use the Rift, you’ll need a system with an Intel Core i5-4590 processor or better, at least 8 GB of RAM, and — most importantly — either an Nvidia GTX 970 or an AMD R9 290 graphics card or better. In addition, you’ll need a free HDMI port, three USB 3.0 slots and 1 USB 2.0 slot. Oh, and you’ll need to be running Windows 7 at least.

That’s more firepower than your average home desktop can provide. Hell, even my own PC — which has the Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card and can run all of today’s newest games on their highest settings — fails to meet the minimum processor requirement.

You’ve got two options when it comes to upgrading your system to meet the Rift’s requirements:

If you want to buy one, Oculus has teamed up with Alienware, ASUS, and Dell to offer special pricing on Oculus-ready PCs when you buy a Rift. Both the Alienware and Dell PCs start at $1,000, while the ASUS starts at $950.

Throw in the actual price of the Rift, and you’re looking at $1,600 for the Dell or Alienware PCs and the Oculus. The ASUS package will set you back $1,550. That’s a lot of bones.

Alternatively, you could take matters into your own hands — and save some money — by building your own Rift-ready PC.

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