VR Compatability with XMG Laptops Occulus Rift and HTC Vive
Posted by Neil Richards on 04 February 2016 04:55 PM
To ascertain the compatibility of VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive with our notebooks and desktop PCs we must address two aspects: display connection and 3D performance.
Both headsets will come with a resolution of 2160x1200 pixels and a refresh rate of 90Hz. To drive this resolution and refresh rate, the laptop or PC requires at least DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 2.0.
The data sheet of the Oculus Rift states "Compatible HDMI 1.3 display output" as a minimum requirement, but this is a little confusing. Very few notebooks that were released with HDMI 1.3 or HDMI 1.4 have enough graphical power to meet the display bandwidth requirement for VR. To be on the safe side, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 should be the minimum specification that you look for in a VR ready machine.
The graphical signal path is critical: the hybrid graphics solution NVIDIA Optimus (also known as "MSHYBRID") is explicitly not supported. The VR headsets must be directly connected to the dedicated NVIDIA or AMD graphics card; Optimus/HMHYBRID systems which route the Nvidia dGPU output through the Intel iGPU are not supported.
In terms of display connectivity, the following models are therefore, according to current information (Jan 2015) compatible:
However, this applies only if corresponding powerful graphics cards are installed. This brings us to the second part of the FAQ:
NVIDIA and Oculus Rift have defined that at least the desktop graphics card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 is needed to get the full VR Experience. By comparison, the notebook graphics card GTX 980M is about 5-7% below the GTX 970 desktop graphics card.
Officially, "VR Ready" in the notebook sector are therefore only machines with the GTX 980 (without "M") in the XMG U716 and XMG U726.
But what is meant by "Official VR Ready Experience"?
Although the technology will run and work at lower FPS, from testing the recommendation is that a target of 90FPS should be aimed for in order to enjoy the full immersive VR experience. In addition, the headset should always be operated at its native resolution since the image quality deteriorates very noticeably at lower resolutions. This helps explain the minimum “official” requirements, because not only will you be running today’s triple-A titles (the Oculus Rift is being bundled with graphically demanding games such as "EVE: Valkyrie”), but also at 2160x1200 resolution. One can conclude that future VR titles will exploit these minimum requirements fully.
As with non VR hardware, there are many performance enhancing settings in-game which can be tweaked in order to reach a high FPS but also preserve image quality. For example texture settings, shader effects, lighting effects and so on can be adjusted and optimised in order to give the best VR experience
In addition, we expect a certain number of independent games which will be developed firstly for VR (over standard non-VR gaming displays) which will be considerably less graphics-heavy and thus run more efficiently on VR devices.
Nevertheless, considering the purchase price of €699 / £500 for the Oculus Rift it should be supported and driven by the best graphical hardware available. The XMG U716 or U726 XMG with the GTX 980 therefore provide the ultimate VR mobile experience.
At the moment there is no certainty over GTX 980M compatibility. This is due to the fact that the GTX 970 desktop GPU is the “official” minimum requirement and that the 980M is slightly less powerful. We do not expect to see hardware lockdowns and compatibility restrictions on sub-official performing graphics cards, however at this point in time the actual compatibility across the whole 9**M series has not been confirmed.