What the inflated cost of GPUs means for VR — and what you can do about it

Some of the best VR experiences a person can have come from a system that's hooked up to a PC. Whether it's Windows Mixed Reality (WMR), HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift, the library of high quality, AAA titles available continues to grow, many requiring beefy hardware in order to run properly. The RAM and processor (CPU) are both important, but the main piece of a high-end VR-ready PC is the graphics card (GPU). If you've been shopping for a gaming PC lately, you've no doubt discovered that GPU prices are awfully inflated, often to the point of being prohibitively expensive. While high-end GPUs usually don't come cheap, there's a primary reason why you now have to re-mortgage your home to buy an NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti ... if you can find one at all.

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Related: Best deals on graphics cards you'll find right now

Cryptocurrency mining has taken off in a big way


If you look at where most GPUs are going these days, it's into the cryptocurrency mines. There's been a lot of press surrounding Bitcoin and its ups and downs, but for the most part, it's not being mined with the GPUs we've come to expect at a consumer level.

However, there are plenty more cryptocurrencies getting a start, and some, like Ethereum, can be mined with GPUs that would normally drive a great gaming and VR experience. Buying a new GPU (or eight) isn't as big of a deal if you expect to get a massive return on your investment, so they're being gobbled up a lot quicker than ever before.

An average gamer won't turn a profit by running a Vive or Rift, so it's more difficult to justify a purchase.

Even as prices rise, crypto-miners will continue to buy out stock since the return on investment remains high. Most gamers who are looking to upgrade an existing PC or build a new one from scratch generally take time and care to plan out a build, but when it comes time to pick a GPU, there's likely going to be a big letdown.

An average gamer won't be turning a profit by running a Vive or Rift, so it's much more difficult to justify a purchase. VR games and headsets are only going to become more GPU-intensive, and there doesn't seem to be much of a stopping point to crypto mining, at least until (or if) the bubble bursts.

Don't buy a graphics card right now unless you really have to

Can you still have a virtual good time?

If you were lucky enough to upgrade your PC before the crypto-GPU inflation, you're likely sitting pretty, enjoying an awesome VR experience. If, however, you were waiting to upgrade and are now stuck in limbo with an old GPU that can't quite break into the VR sweet spot, all hope is not lost.

Software updates, including asynchronous reprojection, asynchronous spacewarp, and asynchronous timewarp, have increasingly brought down the minimum system requirements for the Rift and Vive. You still need a decent PC to run the higher-end games, but at an entry level, you'll still be able to find some affordable GPUs. WMR, the lightest (on paper) of the VR systems when it comes to PC requirements, is still beholden to the requirements of individual games.

WMR system requirements (and how they compare to Rift and Vive

For a PC that's seemingly just on the edge of a decent VR experience, you might be able to eke out a bit more performance with some tweaks. Use our guide to your advantage!

How to ensure the best VR performance from your PC

Buy an interim GPU


While upgrading your PC with a new GTX 1080 Ti GPU likely won't happen for quite some time without seriously damaging your budget, there are still plenty of affordable options that sit lower on the performance spectrum. You might not have the best VR experience possible, but you'll still be able to have a lot of fun with a headset strapped to your face.

Be sure to check out our continuously-updated roundup of the best deals on GPUs for anyone who can't wait for prices to return to normal.

Best deals on graphics cards we could find

If you're curious about other GPU options and upgrading your PC, crypto-inflation or not, have a look at these other articles that contain way more information.

Buy a pre-built PC

People without a PC that can properly power VR might also be interested in a new pre-built rig. You don't get the same satisfaction from powering on your creation for the first time, but ultimately it's going to deliver the performance needed to have a good experience.

Whereas you or I walking into a store and picking out a GPU will see a certain price, huge manufacturers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo aren't quite as beholden to the inflated market. If you don't mind buying a completely new setup, have a look at our collection of laptop and desktop PC roundups of devices suitable for VR.

Your thoughts

What type of GPU are you using in your gaming rig? Are you stuck with what you have because of inflated prices? How soon do you think the cryptocurrency bubble will pop, if at all? Let us know in the comments section!

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.