The Oculus Rift costs $600, but you’ll likely have to drop another grand to actually use it

Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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Facebook’s Oculus has finally revealed the price tag of its highly anticipated virtual-reality headset. Starting today (Jan. 6), the Oculus Rift is available for preorder at $599, with the first shipments going out March 28.

That’s a steep enough price tag to deter almost all but the most hard-core gamers, but actually using it will cost a whole lot more.

The possibilities for virtual reality are countless. Already, there are applications to help train pro athletes, explore virtual worlds, and tour far-flung destinations like Mars. But in its early days, virtual reality is designed largely for video games.

And for immersive, graphics-intensive games, the Oculus is going to require a workhorse of a computer. According to an estimate by Nvidia, which makes graphic cards, only 13 million PCs—less than 1% of the PCs globally—in 2016 will be able to fully support the Oculus Rift.

Oculus, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for $2 billion, has detailed the recommended requirements to run the Rift:

  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 970, AMD R9 290, or another with equivalent or greater performance
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • Memory: 8GB or more of RAM
  • Video output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB ports: three USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port
  • Operating system: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer (Windows 10 is compatible with the right drivers but is generally not recommended)

These specs will make it possible for the Oculus Rift to render heavy, 360-degree graphics smoothly without making users feel motion sick (hopefully, since results will vary). But expect to shell out at least $300—about the cost of an Xbox One or Playstation 4—for a compatible graphics card. It is possible to meet the minimum specifications by building your own computer with about $650 worth of parts, though it might not necessarily be future proof. Forbes has outlined different price points for building an Oculus-compatible PC ranging from sub-$1,000 to more than $2,000.

It’ll obviously be much simpler to buy a computer that’s ready out of the box. The VR company has worked with some PC manufacturers to offer “Oculus Ready PCs,” which start at $949. In February, users will be able to preorder bundles that include both a PC and Rift headset starting at $1,499—a slight discount over buying the two separately. (Oculus says those who preorder a Rift now will be able to opt for the bundle next month without affecting the ship date.)

In time, the price of hardware is expected to go down. But the current cost means it’ll be a while before there’s a VR headset in every home—something even the founder of Oculus admits: