Virtual reality is here, but there’s a good chance that you’re way more ready for it than your laptop. If you’re thinking about buying a VR setup, you probably need to be thinking about a new laptop that will actually be able to support it for seamless play and a truly immersive experience.
Overlooking the need for sufficient power will invariably lead to plenty of lagging and crashing, which definitely aren’t experience that you want when you’re interested in virtual reality.
Up until recently, powerful desktops were the preferred systems for use with VR sets – but not everyone wants something so cumbersome.
Technological advancements mean smaller and more powerful laptops than ever before, so if you don’t want to be confined your bedroom on a desktop, then it’s best to go for a laptop that can handle the job.
While most consumer level laptops on the market lack sufficient power, there are a number of gaming laptops and mobile workstations that will prove themselves powerful enough to give you an immersive and seamless VR experience that won’t leave you disappointed.
The Lineup At A Glance
The Contenders For Best VR-Ready Laptop
1. Razer Blade – Editor’s Choice
This is the top option because it gives you the power to do whatever you want with it and yet it’s not exactly a massive behemoth that’s impossible to shove into your backpack.
- Comes with all of the features you need to run pretty much any VR application, isn’t too gigantic, and seems to be popular with reviewers.
Our editors pick is the Razer Blade, which is arguably one of the best gaming laptops on the market right now. This might be out of your purview if you have limited funds, but it’s hard to go wrong with this one if you can actually afford it.
The Razer Blade comes with a 15.6 inch screen and weighs in at 4.63 pounds, so it’s not impossible to take with you on the go. It comes with the RTX 2080 inside – paving the way for excellent VR performance.
The SSD is only 512GB instead of a full 1TB, and you’ll only get 16GB of RAM instead of 24. Still, this also finds itself among the top choices if you have the budget for it.
- 15.6” display
- RTX 2080 graphics card
- 16GB RAM
- 512GB SSD
- 4.63 pounds.
2. MSI GS65 Stealt – Best Stealth Option
If you want a laptop that runs all of your VR applications with ease and doesn’t scream “I AM A GAMER!!” to everyone in the coffee shop, go for this.
- A great laptop for VR and general gaming purposes that doesn’t announce itself to everyone in the room.
- It tends to overheat enough to cause male infertility, and the audio quality leaves much to be desired.
The MSI GS65 Stealth balances the top capabilities with a stealthy package that won’t make it obvious to everyone in the room that you’re a gaming geek.
It offers a gorgeous display and excellent performance, uses very effective thermal management to keep the thing from overheating, and it looks quite a bit better than most gaming laptops out there.
With lacklustre audio and the tendency to get pretty hot on the bottom, this device does show that there’s still some way to go before we see the perfect laptop for VR.
Comes with a 15.6” display, GTX 1070 graphics card, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 4.14 pounds.
3. Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 – The Ultimate Pick
This is a massive gaming laptop that can replace your desktop, and it comes with the specifications that anyone looking to get serious about VR would simply drool over.
- Beautiful display, more power than anything else on this list, surprisingly thin and light for a laptop the size of your desk.
- Gigantic, expensive, and somewhat prone to overheating.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is another great laptop for VR, and a massive and beautiful screen makes it excellent for non-VR games It’s thin and light in spite of being a colossus with a 17 inch screen, and offers you the power of the Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics card along with 8GB of VRAM and a whopping 24GB of RAM.
The 1TB SSD just adds to this massive laptop’s desirability as the ultimate laptop for gaming and VR applications, but of course this comes at a cost. If you can afford it without selling your kidneys or your firstborn child, this should be one of your top choices.
Comes with a gorgeous 17” display, slim and light for the size, RTX 2080 graphics card, 8GB VRAM and ,
4. Acer Nitro 5 AN515 – The Cheapest VR-Ready Laptop
Undoubtedly the best option for getting started with VR without breaking the bank, this laptop comes in at less than $700 and is still packed with the minimum requirements to run VR headsets without too much lagging. It’s obviously not the top performer, but it is a solid option when everything else on this list is too expensive.
- Affordable and more than capable for the VR noob or anyone on a strict budget.
- Battery life sucks, dim display, and a little underpowered for the most intensive VR applications.
Many gamers are still stuck with limited funds, so your dream VR-ready laptop may well remain out of reach due to financial concerns.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get into the action at all, and there are definitely cheaper options out there which still carry specs that are good enough to get you started with virtual reality applications.
At less than $700 on Amazon, the Acer Nitro 5 AN515 is the cheapest VR-ready laptop actually worth buying.
You’ll get only 8GB of RAM and a mere 256GB SSD (which are pretty average specifications with consumer laptops), but it comes with a 15.6 inch display at 1080p and NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 Ti graphics card.
This will be enough to get you started with VR without breaking the bank, but it will not give you the same performance as a high-end VR ready laptop and this is a pretty noticeable difference during gameplay.
In spite of the fact that it’s prone to overheating when overstressed and has limited storage, this remains one of the best gaming laptops in its price range.
The RAM is also upgradeable, so there’s absolutely no reason to worry about being stuck with seemingly mediocre performance. Indeed, it’s advisable for many gamers to upgrade to at least 16GB RAM when you get the means to.
Since you’ll be getting what you pay for, it’s important to note that this laptop has a somewhat disappointing trackpad and speaker system, and the reportedly dim display may annoy some users when playing non-VR games on it.
While most gaming laptops have a disappointing battery life when you’re using VR, this one will only last you an hour or two at most. Battery life is significantly better for other tasks, but will still only last about 4 hours at best.
All in all, it’s worth the money that you’ll end up paying – and this remains a solid budget option in spite of a few drawbacks.
With VR becoming more affordable and thus more popular, a number of gaming laptops available on the market seem to be suitable for the job.
Laptops not specifically designed to be powerful gaming devices are almost certainly unsuitable for the task at hand, and even some high-end laptops might not work for you either.
Finding the best VR ready laptop for your needs means doing your own homework so that you actually know what to work for, and nothing’s going to matter in the end if your headset isn’t compatible with the device you ultimately end up choosing.
While there are a few factors involved in making the right choice for a gaming laptop, the most important factor by far is the GPU inside of the device.
Therefore, any laptop with the proper specifications will be able to handle the job. While a number of gaming laptops still allow you to upgrade the RAM, the GPU is almost always soldered into place and thus you won’t be able to switch it out.
Therefore, investing in a gaming laptop with a powerful GPU makes a lot of sense if you intend on spending the next few years using VR applications.
The manufacturers of Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive both recommend at least the power of a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or an AMD Radeon RX 480 for smooth and consistent performance.
Oculus has also added the GTX 1050 Ti and RX 470 to another list of minimum requirements, which won’t give you the same performance as their larger siblings but will still give you the minimum requirements for the least investment if you just want to get started with VR.
The GTX 1060 and RX 480 are both popular in modern gaming laptops, but it’s important to keep in mind that even they may give you dropped frames when used at maximum settings.
This is a problem that is particularly noticeable in VR, rather than on a screen which isn’t right up against your face. For maximum performance, you’ll want to look at even more powerful GPUs, like the GTX 1070 or 1080.
Going for a more powerful graphics card will definitely give you increased performance, but it will just as certainly add quite a bit to the investment cost. Weigh your options carefully here.
Most VR headsets are designed to display 90fps, which is vital in preventing motion sickness or simply disorientation in many users.
Even the recommended minimum GPUs above are designed for displaying 60fps at 1080p, which is the target for non-VR gaming.
These frame rate goals won’t translate directly between non-VR and VR gaming, but it’s definitely important to keep in mind the VR headset manufacturer’s stated requirements if you want everything to run smoothly and not get motion sickness from a lower frame rate.
Another important factor is the available storage on the device, since games take up a lot of local storage space and this is even more the case with VR applications than with ordinary games.
The ideal arrangement would be to go for a hard drive with a capacity of at least 1TB for your most-played games, and to keep your OS and other applications on a fast SSD.
Larger gaming laptops and mobile workstations can support a dual-drive setup like this, while others may only have an SSD that may be faster but also would tend to lack the same capacity.
Consider your needs carefully – if you have only a few games that you actually play and thus can rotate your selection, then you can get away with less storage space than otherwise.
Choosing the right screen depends on whether you want to play on the go or intend to mostly keep your laptop on a particular desk. A 15 inch screen or less will inherently make your device more portable, and most laptops in this range will be slightly thinner and lighter than those with a larger screen.
That being said, a larger laptop will have more room for a larger battery and will tend to come with a better resolution and better storage options.
While using VR means that you’ll be looking at the headset and not the screen, a larger screen will still be useful for any non-VR games that you play.
Another consideration when buying a gaming laptop is the battery, since using VR will drain your battery within 3 to 4 hours when it’s not connected to a charger.
Many games already demand a lot of power, and so you will probably notice diminished performance when you’re using the battery – no matter how big it is.
Gaming requires a lot of power, and high-end graphics still basically require you to remain tethered down to a charger if you don’t want to sacrifice performance.
Both VR technology and battery technology might be improving, but the fact remains that VR uses a lot of power and batteries still haven’t caught up with that yet.
While a proper gaming laptop will inevitably be a bit heftier than a MacBook Air, advancing technology does mean thinner and lighter gaming laptops than ever before.
Going thinner has traditionally meant compromising on power in the past, but that is becoming less and less true in the last few years.
Gaming laptop manufacturers might have long understood that their products are often a bit too bulky and cumbersome to carry around for many folks, but this is changing now that technology has caught up and offers viable solutions without compromise.
There are a number of gaming laptops on the market today that offer a lot of power in a relatively compact body, but larger desktop replacements also remain some of the best devices out there for gaming on.
Finding the right gaming laptop for VR requires a careful consideration in terms of both specifications and budget, and you probably won’t find anything suitable for less than $1000.
While there’s a general trend in consumer laptops where manufacturers are moving more and more towards soldering everything in place, most gaming laptops still allow users to upgrade things like RAM and storage.
If you’re on a more limited budget, don’t fret too much because there’s still the possibility of going for a more affordable model today and upgrading a few things down the road.
CPUs and GPUs generally aren’t easily replaceable though, so you should keep this fact in mind during your initial investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
The GPU and CPU in virtually all modern laptops are soldered in place, and generally not at all upgradeable. This should be your priority when looking for any gaming laptop, be it for VR or otherwise, since you will almost certainly not be able to change it later.
Other features like the RAM and storage can often be upgraded in gaming laptops, but it’s absolutely vital to look over this information before making a purchase decision.
Not all manufacturers encourage their customers to change things around, and more and more companies are taking the same route as Apple where they force you to shell out more money at the time of purchase if you want more storage or more power. It’s bad for consumers, but this practice is great for profit margins.
You might already be aware that even the best gaming laptops have traditionally been considered a step down from their desktop counterparts, and this still remains the case. A desktop tower will still have more ports and more room for more fans to keep everything cool.
Large gaming laptops might offer better batteries, but the reality is that most gaming laptops do a lot better in terms of performance when they’re plugged into an adaptor rather than running on the battery.