Can the Oculus Rift work on a laptop that you connect it to? Does it matter which one is it?
Oh, yes it does.
You might as well connect your Oculus Rift to a toaster and expect miracles. The fact is, VR requires a lot of power and the laptops that are strong enough to power VR headsets only came out recently.
See also: Best Oculus Rift Laptops Of All Time!
Things to be Aware Of
The problem with the previous generation of laptops is that they didn’t have a GPU powerful enough for VR. Even if it did show a GPU like GTX 980 installed in them, they probably were 980″m” version, which means they are a mobile version of the originals.
That weakens them a bit.
But, the 10 series of Nvidia GPU’s were released without the “m” at the end and the reason is that the mobile GPU versions are almost as strong as desktop versions. Not completely there yet due to weaker cooling, but getting pretty close.
Another thing to be aware of is Optimus Technology. VR enthusiasts just hate it. Not only is it a horrible thing to discover when you do research on your computer whether you have it or not, but then you have to play around and find out if you can turn it off.
By the way, this Optimus stuff is mainly for saving battery life. It switches off the main GPU and uses the integrated one in the processor when you are just browsing the web or doing something low-key. Once you need to have more power (like gaming; video editing; 3D work), it turns the dedicated GPU back on. That process is working seamlessly behind the scenes and due to that, the battery life is extended enormously.
With VR, some complications come from it.
Let’s say you have a laptop that is fairly powerful for Oculus Rift headset, but it has Optimus Technology. Since you need to connect the Oculus Rift to HDMI output, and HDMI is connected to dedicated GPU, you will probably get the black screen because that GPU isn’t turned on. If the HDMI output goes through another integrated GPU, then the performance might be comparable to a PowerPoint slide show.
That’s why it’s extremely bothersome when the Optimus Technology is present. Luckily, some of the newest laptops are made so that the Optimus can be turned off, and the VR connection goes through the main GPU. If your GPU has a Displayport, you could always use a DisplayPort to HDMI converter, and connect your VR Headset that way.
But, it’s always safer when your notebook is just VR-Ready from the get-go.
Now, the last thing to keep in mind is ports.
Oculus Rift requires quite a lot of connection ports, and if you don’t have them in your laptop, you either won’t be able to see anything through your VR mask, or the room-scaled tracking is out of the question.
Luckily, I have a solution for it.
Just use a USB Hub. I cannot tell you which one, as you might have 2.0 or 3.0. There are some universal ones, so just buy them from wherever you can. They are not expensive and they will work. As it is a fairly popular topic I’ll probably make an article on USB hubs for Oculus Rift, so subscribe to stay tuned.
There are some concerns that the signal might get a bit weak from splitting the connection, but as far as I tested, it doesn’t really matter. Sensors don’t really need much. It might get troublesome when you connect more than 3 sensors, but you have to try it out yourself to be sure. It certainly can’t hurt.
No, not every laptop will work with Oculus Rift. If you haven’t chosen you model specifically for VR, and it’s more than two years old, I would bet that it isn’t Rift-Ready.
It is kinda unfortunate that VR experience costs so much, especially when you hear that the newest HTC Vive Pro requires a GTX 1070 (jump from 1060) graphics card. That raises the bar even more. But I am still certain that the overall cost for VR equipment goes down.
A few years ago, I did an article on laptops that were VR-Ready. The cheapest one had a $2,300 price glued on it. But now, you can get a laptop for Rift for $900 bucks. That is a huge improvement in price. It’s also good to know that the price for VR headsets has been dropping exponentially.
So, if you want a portable notebook for virtual reality, there are now some good and solid choices in front of you.
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