Oh, what a time to be alive in this virtual world. While the COVID-19 pandemic has all had us locked inside way more than we’d like, virtual reality has stepped up and given us a way to explore without leaving the safety of our homes. There are games that offer immersive worlds, natural movement, and experiences that are truly only possible within VR games.
While the Oculus Quest and Quest 2 (now rebranded the Meta Quest 2) have made a strong case for standalone VR headsets, the games with the most expansive worlds, and the most mind-blowing graphics (such as Half-Life: Alyx, which really does live up to the hype) still require a robust PC to run. But if you’ve always been a portable person, I have good news for you: Laptops have really leveled-up, and many are now capable of running high-end games. Want some recommendations? We’ve gotcha covered.
Once you know which VR headset you want to buy, the very first thing you should do is look up what that headset’s minimum system requirements are, as well as its recommendations. Not all VR headsets have the same basic needs. For example, Oculus Rift (which is now Meta Rift, I guess?) wants an NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti or an AMD RX 470 graphics card, while the HTC Vive wants an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or an AMD RX 480, but it requires just 4GB of RAM, while the Rift asks for 8GB.
Slightly confusing, I know. Just start with the headset minimum requirements as your baseline when you start your search. You’re primarily going to be looking at the graphics card, the processor (CPU), and the amount of RAM, though ports are important, too! I would also add that you want the fastest Wi-Fi router possible. Your internet speed isn’t necessarily important, but if you want to wirelessly stream PCVR games to a wireless headset (like the Quest 2), then you need a quick router.
Here’s where things get trickier. While the headset requirements might not be such a high bar to clear, those flagship games are going to be far more demanding. Again, using Half-Life: Alyx as an example, it wants a Core i5-7500 or Ryzen 5 1600 processor, an Nvidia GTX 1060 or an AMD Radeon RX 580, and a whopping 12GB or RAM. But here’s the thing: that’s just to get the game to run in a lower-fidelity mode. Yeah, you can still play it, but if you want all of the incredible, detailed textures then you’re going to want something more like an RTX 3080 GPU, which can be hard to find, not to mention pricy.
This is a tough one because who knows what the future holds, but you can bet that games are only going to get bigger and better, and they will require faster and faster hardware to run. If you just want to buy a laptop and have it last for years, then you’re better off looking at a system that has recent-generation components, like the GPU and CPU. It will cost you more now, but it may mean you don’t have to replace it as soon. One thing to note, though, is that gaming laptops are not known for their battery life, and those high-speed CPUs/GPUs can drain them mighty quick.
Acer Predator Triton 300 SE
This laptop has a killer balance of power and price. A speedy Intel Core i7 haves the way for Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 laptop GPU. It’s noticeably more incognito than your typical gaming laptop, and it wouldn’t look out of place at a conference table. The screen is a bit on the small side, but that doesn’t really matter if you’re going to be gaming with a VR visor. It’s not the fastest laptop on our list, but it’s fantastic for the price.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
If you prefer AMD’s CPUs to Intel’s, look no further. This laptop is nice and light, coming in at just over four pounds, and it looks fantastic (a 165Hz 1440p display certainly helps with that). You can max it out with the blistering AMD Ryzen 9 and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080, and it will tear through even the most complex VR games on the market. The one weird oversight is this laptop doesn’t have a webcam, which might make it tougher to use as a work computer, too, especially in the age of Zoom, but you can always get a USB cam.
Alienware m17 R4
If you’re not too worried about the price, then maxing out the specs on this monster will net you the best VR laptop currently possible. You can get it with an Intel Core i9 CPU, an Nvidia RTX 3080, and 32GB of RAM, which makes it more powerful than a lot of the gaming desktops out there. Couple that with a stunning, 17.3-inch 4K display, and this beast is a real beauty. It does weigh 6.6 pounds and battery life isn’t great, so don’t expect to game your way through an international flight, but in most ways this laptop can’t be beat.
Razer Blade 15 Advanced
This might be the sweet spot between power and portability — this puppy can fly. With an Intel Core i7 and a Nvidia RTX 3070 along with 8GB of RAM you might not be able to push the graphics settings to the absolute max, but you won’t be far off. The 1080p screen has a refresh rate of 360Hz, which means action will be mighty smooth when you’re not in VR, too.