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Microsoft sets Windows 10 PC requirements for tethered VR headsets

Agam Shah | Dec. 15, 2016
Microsoft's minimum requirements for VR headsets will go up with Creator's Update next year

Microsoft's sending a strong message: You don't need high-end hardware to plug most VR headsets into PCs.

The company has established an amazingly modest set of minimum hardware requirements for upcoming VR headsets to be used with PCs. Microsoft believes mixed reality is the future of computing and wants to bring VR as many PCs as possible.

The requirements for Windows 10 PCs for tethered VR headsets do not apply to fully integrated headset computers like Microsoft's HoloLens. Companies like Dell, HP, Acer, Asus, and Lenovo plan to come out with headset accessories for PCs, and Microsoft has said prices for those VR headsets would start at US$299.

Microsoft's requirements are much lower than those for the high-end HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets, which require top-class GPUs and CPUs. By comparison, Microsoft's minimum hardware requirements make space to plug low-end VR headsets into PCs for movie watching, casual gaming, and basic applications.

The specifications are just a starting point, but the more loaded a computer, the better the VR experience will get, Mingfei Yan, senior program manager at Microsoft, said during a presentation at last week's WinHEC show in Shenzhen, China.

To support a VR headset right now, a laptop will need to have the equivalent of Intel's Core i5 7200U CPU based on Kaby Lake, Intel's HD 620 integrated graphics, and 8GB of dual-channel memory.

The hardware requirements get a bit more demanding next year, when Microsoft releases its Creators Update for Windows 10, which is built around 3D gaming, virtual reality, and 4K movies. There's a bit more flexibility in the CPU requirements, but a computer may need a discrete or powerful integrated GPU.

For Creators Update, the minimum laptop requirement will be an Intel Core i5 chip -- Microsoft provided the example of a Skylake-based Core i5 6200U. The laptop GPU will need to be an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M, AMD RX460, or DirectX 12-compatible GPU. A desktop will require a minimum of a Core i3 or an AMD FX4530 CPU equivalent, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 960/1050, AMD Radeon RX460, or a DirectX 12 compatible GPU.

PCs will also require a minimum of 8GB of dual-channel RAM and more than 10GB of storage. Additionally, PCs should have HDMI 1.4 for 60Hz head-mounted displays and HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort for 90Hz VR headset displays. Alternately, a PC could have or USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C port with DisplayPort Alternate mode.

Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connection for accessories like controllers. Faster storage like SSDs and DDR4 memory will provide a better VR experience.

AMD's mobile chips are still being tested for the specification, Yan said.


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