Best Graphics Cards for VR Windows Central 2019
Not just any old PC can run VR — whether you’re looking at Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive, Vive Pro, Valve Index, or the Windows Mixed Reality headsets — and you might be wondering about a graphics card (GPU) upgrade to get your PC up to snuff. While the AMD Radeon RX 5700 is likely the best bet for most people due to its performance-to-price ratio, we’ve rounded up a bunch of options here that fit different budgets and needs.
Best Overall: Sapphire Radeon RX 5700
AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 is one of two new GPUs based on its 7nm Navi architecture, bringing the performance you need for smooth VR at a reasonable price. It can handle 1440p gaming when not in VR, it has a quiet blower design, and it uses a relatively low amount of power and keeps cool under load.
Like the NVIDIA RTX 2060, which is our other top pick for a GPU, it’s not the most powerful option you can buy, but it sits in the sweet spot for those who are starting out with VR and don’t mind not fully going in with some of the demanding effects and modifications that require more robust hardware.
The Sapphire RX 5700 here has 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM, has support for PCIe 4.0, and for ports you get a single HDMI and three DisplayPort. You won’t get some of the same features found on RTX cards, like ray tracing, but you do get FreeSync2 HDR support for compatible monitors.
- Right performance for smooth VR
- Great price
- Runs quiet and cool
- Three DisplayPort, one HDMI
- 8GB GDDR6 VRAM
- Won’t have enough juice for power users
The right GPU for a lot of people
With Vega 64-esque performance at 1440p and without the heat and power draw, the RX 5700 is an extremely attractive GPU.
Runner-up: MSI Ventus RTX 2060
While there are still plenty of other GPUs that deliver better performance, the RTX 2060 — much like its older GTX 1060 sibling — sits in a bit of a sweet spot when it comes to price and performance. Those of you who are looking for the advertised VR experience and don’t feel the need to experiment with more demanding effects and modifications will find that the RTX 2060 is perfectly capable. It’s also significantly cheaper than the higher-end hardware.
Our pick for an RTX 2060 is the MSI Ventus, which brings dual fans, 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM, three DisplayPort and one HDMI port, and all the extra benefits of RTX cards, like ray tracing and deep learning super sampling (DLSS) for times when you’d rather play standard 2D games on a monitor.
- Strong performance
- Price is still reasonable
- Three DisplayPort and one HDMI port
- Dual fans and compact size
- 6GB GDDR6 VRAM
- Not as future-proof as higher-end GPUs
- Not as powerful as our top pick
A great pick for those on Team Green
The RTX 2060 sits in a sweet spot for VR, offering excellent performance but still coming in significantly cheaper than higher-end cards.
Best Entry-Level AMD: Sapphire Nitro+ RX 590
Investing in a VR headset and the PC hardware to power it can be a pricey situation, which is where the Sapphire Nitro+ RX 590 comes in. You’re not going to get a perfect experience with maximum framerates with every VR game out there, but you should be able to play just about everything on offer, if at reduced specs.
The Nitro+ RX 590 has 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM and dual fans help keep it cool. Its dual DisplayPort and HDMI ports allow easy connectivity, and its size allows it to fit into most PC cases. If you’re on a budget and love what AMD is doing with its GPUs, the Sapphire Nitro+ RX 590 should be a great choice.
- Affordable price
- Power to get Rift S, Vive, WMR off the ground
- Two DisplayPort, two HDMI ports
- Compact size
- 8GB VRAM
- Won’t deliver optimal performance
Best Entry-Level AMD
Affordable GPU that will get VR off the ground
Sapphire’s Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 GPU comes with a dual-fan setup and compact build to fit a lot of cases, yet it offers respectable performance.
Best Entry-Level NVIDIA: Gigabyte OC 6G GTX 1660
Like the AMD RX 590, the GTX 1660 is a great way to get in at the entry VR level, especially for anyone who is partial to NVIDIA hardware. Its abilities will likely not offer a flawless VR experience with maxed framerates, but it will save you a load of money and allow you to play just about every title out there, if at reduced specs.
Its dual-fan build keeps things compact, allowing it to fit into more PC cases, and three DisplayPort and one HDMI port allow for VR headset and monitor connectivity. If you want to keep things affordable and prefer NVIDIA, this Gigabyte GTX 1660 should be a great choice.
- Affordable price
- 6GB VRAM
- Dual fans
- Three DisplayPort, one HDMI port
- Power to get Rift S, Vive, and WMR off the ground
- Won’t deliver optimal VR performance
Best Entry-Level NVIDIA
Affordable GPU for VR
With 6GB of VRAM, two fans for cooling, and multiple ports, this is a great card for those partial to NVIDIA’s hardware.
Best For Enthusiasts: Gigabyte RTX 2070 Super
Investing in a brand new GPU for VR can be a tough process, especially if you’re looking for something that will hold over for years to come and through the next generation of headsets. NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 Super is a great choice for exactly those reasons, and it comes in way cheaper than something totally overkill like the NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti. You’re still getting the perks of RTX cards for times when you’d rather enjoy 2D games on a standard monitor.
The Gigabyte RTX 2070 Super delivers optimal VR performance (around the same range as the RTX 2080) for smooth framerates, and you shouldn’t have much issue getting into intensive tasks like supersampling. It has three Windforce fans for excellent cooling, and it has a great selection of ports, including USB-C VirtualLink, allowing you to connect VR and standard monitors without much issue.
- Impressive VR performance
- Three fans run quietly
- 8GB GDDR6 VRAM
- RGB lighting
- One HDMI, three DisplayPort, one USB-C (VirtualLink) port
- Might not fit all PC cases
- Price may be restrictive
Best For Enthusiasts
A great GPU for VR enthusiasts
If the introductory options don’t quite have the performance you’re looking for and you have the money, the RTX 2070 Super should make a great choice.
Best Overkill: ASUS ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti
Let’s say you have deep pockets and can shell out more than $1,000 for a GPU. The RTX 2080 Ti immediately comes to mind, considering it offers ridiculous performance of which VR enthusiasts can take advantage. No matter the VR headset and no matter the game or app you want to enjoy, this GPU, with its 11GB of GDDR6 VRAM, is going to deliver the best experience possible.
We chose the ASUS ROG Strix model for its quiet three-fan cooling, its customizable RGB lighting, and its port selection, which includes two HDMI, two DisplayPort, and USB-C VirtualLink for easy connectivity of multiple monitors and VR. As long as you have the budget and a PC case that can fit the sizeable card, this remains an outstanding option for those who don’t mind overspending.
- Absolutely ridiculous performance
- Customizable RGB lighting
- Three quiet fans
- Two DisplayPort, two HDMI, one USB-C (VirtualLink) port
- 11GB GDDR6 VRAM
- Very expensive
- Might not fit all PC cases
Peak performance at a steep price
It doesn’t matter what VR headset you have, the RTX 2080 Ti is going to power it to its full potential with headroom to spare.
There are plenty of great GPU options that will get you going in VR, from budget cards all the way up to total overkill cards that cost thousands. If you’re an average VR user and just want solid performance for most games and apps, the Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 offers an amazing price-to-performance ratio, as well as the right ports for connecting your headset.
It’s affordable, it runs cool and quiet thanks to the new 7nm design, and it will also handle standard 1440p gaming with ease when you’re not inside a virtual world. It supports the latest PCIe 4.0 standard to match up with motherboards featuring the high-performance interface (rest assured the GPU will still work with PCIe 3.0), and it features three DisplayPort and one HDMI port for connecting peripherals, including VR headsets. If you’re using a standard display with FreeSync compatibility, the GPU supports FreeSync2 for tear-free visuals.
Looking for something that comes built and ready to play straight from the factory? Have a look at our roundup of the best desktop PCs for VR.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Rich Edmonds is a word conjurer at Windows Central, covering everything related to Windows, gaming, and hardware. He’s been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a device chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
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