Your Best VR Experience Starts with The Best CPU for VR [2020 Update]

If you are a computer enthusiast, and you’re looking for the ultimate VR experience, you could either build your own PC specially or customize your existing PC into a VR PC.

At the end of the day, you do not want to end up spending more than you have to on a set of VR goggles and not be able to operate it using your own computer.

If you’re looking for suggestions, then I’ve got some great news for you. Take a look at our list of recommendations below for the best CPU for VR!

VR gaming

Product Roundup

Product

# of Cores

# of Threads

Base Clock

Max boost Clock

Default TDP

Thermal Solution

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

6

12

3.6GHz

4.2GHz

65W

Wraith Stealth

Intel Core i7-9700K

8

8

3.6GHz

4.9GHz

95W

PCG 2015D

Intel Core i7-8700

6

12

3.2GHz

4.6GHz

65W

PCG 2015C

AMD Ryzen 5 2600

6

12

3.4GHz

3.9GHz

65W

Wraith Stealth

Intel Core i9-10900X

10

20

3.7GHz

4.5GHz

165W

PCG 2017X

Similar to the lineup of the Ryzen 3000, this 6-core and 12-thread edition comes equipped with a 7nm compute die coupled with a 12nm I/O die. The major components are packed into a sole 65W TDP chip, which makes it indistinguishable from one of its siblings, the Ryzen 5 3600X 95W.


The memory has been unloaded from a basic single massive die and is now separately modified to the fabric clock, and due to the nature of this upgrade, the processor is competent to run at rates upwards of 5GHz, which is a hefty upgrade over its predecessors.

However, the most noticeable upgrade has been in the electronics department of Ryzen. They evolved from the Ryzen 5 2600X’s 226W under load x264 v.5 to the Ryzen 5 3600’s 143W. The shift to the 7nm processing node has demonstrated once again to be useful and worth your time in decreasing the original Zen design’s unsatisfiable appetite.


This processor comes armed with the Wraith Stealth cooling solution which is more efficient yet slimmer and less bulky and ideal for VR gaming. If required you could move up to a 3rd-party cooling system, however, you do not need to overspend on any high-end cooling systems as it would be wiser to spend that money on something more useful. You could make do with a basic air-cooler if necessary, for this processor.

Sale
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core, 12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler
The world's most advanced processor in the desktop PC gaming segment; Can deliver ultra-fast 100+ FPS performance in the world's most popular games

The Intel device falls exactly where you would expect any high-end Core i7 processor to land. It exhibits a countless number of enhancements when compared to its predecessors. The CPU comes in fiercely with enhanced multi-core Turbo Boost ratios, 8 physical cores, advanced clock speeds of 3.6GHz, and an improved thermal transfer mechanism, giving it a leading edge over its competitors.

The Core i7-9700K is priced quite fairly, among the Intel line-up as it falls in-between the Core i5-9600K and the Core i9-9900K. Similar to the other K-series, the Core i7-9700K is constructed on Intel’s 14nm process, which includes an incorporated UHD 630 graphics engine, assists a twin-channel DDR4 memory and also allows for easy overclocking. These specs are more than enough for an immersive VR experience. The Meltdown and L1TF vulnerabilities have been taken care of due to the inclusion of in-silicon modifications.

The i7-9700K boasts an impressive L3 cache of 12MB, identical to the i7-8700K, however, due to the increased core count, it means that each core ends up with less cache than any of their predecessors. To have variations, Intel consciously knocked out on-die SRAM, to be able to differentiate from the i7-9700K and the Core i9-9900K.

Intel also severely improved the heat management between Intel’s die and heat transmitter, allowing it to add twofold more cores without exceeding the TDP of 95W, at basic clock speeds.

Sale
Intel Core i7-9700F Desktop Processor 8 Core 3 GHz speed (Up to 4.7 GHz) Without Processor Graphics LGA1151 300 Series 65W (BX80684I79700F)
8 Cores /8 Threads; Up to 4.7 GHz; Discrete graphics required; Compatible with Intel 300 Series chipset based motherboards

This unique processor boasts 6 hyper-threaded cores, 12MB of L3 cache, greater turbo boost clock speeds of 3.2GHz, and 14nm of manufacturing all into a 65W envelope. It may seem like it is handicapped, however, the i7-8700 processor can be overclocked to almost 5GHz and is still priced fairly.

Similar to other products on the Intel line-up, the Core i7-8700 is equipped with a UHD Graphics card and DDR4-2666-capable memory. This gives it a major advantage over its competitors such as the Ryzen 5 and 7 processors.

Intel is well-known for reducing its clock speeds, on lower-end models, enables overclocking on certain superior models, and sometimes reduces the number of cores to create cheaper alternatives. However, the CPU has not been restrained too much as the 4-core upper limit is 4.4GHz, whereas the 6 cores could achieve up to 4.3GHz. This minor difference is almost unnoticeable when the Turbo boost is initiated and doesn’t even matter when it comes to VR.

Intel designed their thermal power specification according to the base frequency of the CPU. So, it tends to get overheated and can swamp the cooling fan during particular heavy workloads which can hinder the performance of the processor in the long run. Hence it is advisable to buy a more effective cooling system if you want to use your PC for a long time. 

Sale
Intel Core i7-8700 Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.6 GHz LGA 1151 300 Series 65W
6 Cores / 12 Threads. Intel UHD Graphics 630.; 3.20 GHz up to 4.60 GHz Max Turbo Frequency / 12 MB Cache.

This chip is probably one of the finest CPUs available today. It offers an extensive core count, substantial gaming experience, and most of all it is priced reasonably, making it one the most affordable processors available.

The processor is centered on the updated 12nm FinFET Zen+ layout, and it has the 4.8bn transistor. It also comes with the 6 core and 12-thread chip which places it at the pinnacle of the Ryzen series 5 line-ups.

As it is on the cheaper end of the rice spectrum, AMD is unavailable to rack up all the specs. However, it does come with a base clock speed of 3.4GHz which can be boosted up to 3.9GHz. Due to the reduced clock speed, the TDP on this chip has been reduced to 65W from its advanced siblings’ 95W. The only drawback to this is that it does not get a state-of-the-art cooling system, which gives you a somewhat softer CPU overall but yet more than capable to handle VR games.

We’re now moving into the Core i9 territory with Intel’s Core i9-10900X, which caters to the high-end users. This series of CPUs have been manufactured with developers in mind and power-hungry applications, as they come equipped with no fewer than 10 cores and 20 threads.


This processor supports DDR4 256GB Random Access Memory with a clock speed of 2.93GHz. This may seem like a lower than usual clock speed, however, we can add much more RAM as this can tolerate more than the average 128GB of RAM a regular motherboard offers.

This device casually boasts a base clock speed of 3.7GHz which can be boosted to 4.7GHz. It also offers an L3 cache of 19.25MB and a thermal design power of 165w which is on the higher end of the spectrum, allowing the processor to perform well under high duress tasks, especially in VR gaming. For its small size, it requires a substantial power while generating a substantial quantity of heat which can be eliminated with the help of third-party cooling systems, especially water-cooled systems.

Sale
Intel Core i9-10900X Desktop Processor 10 Cores up to 4.7GHz Unlocked LGA2066 X299 Series 165W (BX8069510900X)
Up to 4. 7 GHz unlocked; Discrete graphics required; Compatible with Intel x299 Chipset based motherboards

FAQ & Buying Guide

What system specs do I need to look for?

When purchasing your VR headset, the manufacturers release an official report stating the recommended specs your PC is meant to have for a reasonable VR experience.

In terms of Oculus, you would require a GTX 970/R9 290 standard or a higher GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) for you to reach the refresh rate of 90Hz. This is because regular PC games work with a refresh rate of 60Hz, and therefore comes with an inadequate GPU.

As we know, the HTC Viv end Oculus Rift both require a consistent refresh rate of 90Hz to provide you with the magic of VR. Therefore, when companies release the statement with the recommended specs, it is the minimum requirements that need to be met by your PC if you would like to have a substantial virtual reality adventure. 

If I already own a gaming PC, can I still use it for VR?

It varies. The technology used in VR headsets and VR games can be quite demanding on your computer.

Firstly, when using VR headsets on a pc, you are required to use applications that support a 360-degree display at all times. Moreover, the displays being used are of a high-resolution nature, and you will be running two of them simultaneously, which does take a toll on your GPU.

As mentioned, the majority of VR headsets work with a refresh rate of 90Hz, which means that the image you are seeing is being refreshed 90 times per second, when a regular gaming PC only operates at 60Hz.

What does this mean to you?

Having a PC that runs at 60Hz is more than sufficient as our senses are used to it. However, in the world of VR, a refresh rate of 60Hz can take a toll on your senses, resulting in a feeling of nausea and headaches as the displays are stuffed in front of your face. In conclusion, if you can play regular video games on your computer well, it could very well manage VR games as well. However, this is not guaranteed.

Bottlenecking

Have you ever been driving back from work and got stuck in unbelievable traffic out of nowhere? This could have possibly been because many lanes would have merged into one.

This exact scenario can occur inside your CPU as VR demands a lot from your processor. While your PC is trying to operate the software and processes required for the VR game, it could tend to backlog some processes especially if your CPU is slow.

This is what is known as bottlenecking, and it can trigger some lag in your VR experience and cause some frames to be dropped in the images being shown to you. This is why it is vital to upgrade your PC with the best processor for VR for the full experience.

Cores? And how many do I require?

What’s a core you ask? A core is located in your CPU, and it handles all the calculations necessary for your applications. Every core can only handle one computation at any given moment.

In theory, the higher the number of cores your processor has, the faster your CPU will be. Be that as it may, this is always not the case as other factors come into play. Firstly, the clock speed of your CPU plays a significant role which we will get into in just a minute.

Next, any game being played needs to be configured to its optimal settings to use multiple cores, and experience VR in all its glory.

You might be asking yourself, how many do I need?

We recommend using a quad-core processor, as these are the most common for quite some time now and a majority of virtual reality games are designed to run on quad-core processors. Frankly, these contribute to finding the best CPU for VR gaming.

 If you are looking to future proof your computer then by all means choose a CPU with 6 or 8 cores. However, at the time being you can get the most out of your VR experience with a quad-core processor.

What is a processor’s clock speed? What’s the optimal speed it should be?

The clock rate or speed of your CPU indicates the number of calculations your processor can handle per second. A single processor in a computer runs at least billions of computations every single second. Therefore you would tend to look for a processor with higher clock speed. The greater the clock rate in Gigahertz (GHz), the greater number of calculations each core can handle.

Now that you’ve been brought up to speed on clock speed, you may be wondering what the optimal speed should be. In our opinion, it is always beneficial to have a superior clock speed as your processor can perform more calculations which are highly required by VR games, therefore we recommend a minimum clock rate of 3GHz to smoothly run VR games.

Boosting

When you take a look at the spec sheet for your PC, the clock rate mentioned there is just the base clock rate, but the CPU can tend to increase the clock speed if it deems it necessary. This brief period when the CPU racks up the speed are only referred to as boosting.

Generally, it is also possible to overclock your CPU. Overclocking varies slightly from boosting, where you increase the base operating rate of the processor. There is a little risk involved in this as the higher the base speed of the chip the warmer it gets.

Hence, we do not recommend overclocking as it could tend to burn out the processor and cause your PC to overheat unnecessarily. If you would like to overclock your processor we suggest you look for VR ready processors which do not heat up too much once they have been overclocked.

Threads

The number of threads on a single chip refers to the number of processes it can manage at any given time. A vast majority of processors are equipped with multi-threading ability, which allows a solo core to form 2 threads.

This sequence referred can also be referred to as Simultaneous or Hyper Multi-Threading. When taking a look at the specs of the CPU, it is beneficial to have more threads as it results in advanced multitasking features and heightened performance.

Budget

When it comes to spending money on a PC you should not be looking to compromise one factor for another. If you were to pair the best CPU for VR gaming with insufficient RAM, storage, or even a poor GPU, you are doing it all wrong. You need a VR ready processor, coupled with sufficient RAM, storage and a powerful GPU suitable for VR gaming.

TDP

Thermal Design Power measured in Watts directly relates to the quantity of heat being generated by a single chip. It is advisable to know the TDP of your processor before purchasing, for you to pick the correct cooling equipment. We recommend choosing a greater TDP, as a higher TDP usually corresponds with superior performance.

Picking a good CPU for VR is quite difficult due to all the technical jargon that goes alongside a processor. Most users just visit a computer shop and get recommendations for the best ones. But with our article, we’ve simplified all the things you need to know and reviewed our favourite CPUs for an out of this world VR experience.

Share this post with others if you’ve learned something new!


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