Virtual reality, often called VR, is still a relatively new technology. VR headsets will allow you to play games in virtual reality, giving you the feeling that you are ‘inside’ the game. But what is the best CPU for VR?
VR games are very demanding because most have advanced graphics and have to run at a higher refresh rate than usual to minimize motion blur and motion sickness. While VR games are usually more GPU intensive, you still need a good CPU to go with your graphics card for a few reasons. The best CPU for VR would be something high-end that does well in regular games as well. Here is a guide on how to buy the best CPU for VR.
Best CPU For VR
- Best AMD CPU for High-End Gaming in VR: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X.
- Best High-End CPU for VR Gaming: Intel Core i9-10900K.
- Best CPU for VR at a Feasible Price: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X.
- Best Intel CPU for VR: Intel Core i7-9700K.
- Best Entry Level CPU for VR: AMD Ryzen 5 2600X.
What to Consider Before Buying a CPU for VR
As mentioned before, VR games are usually more GPU intensive. What this means is that your graphics card will be the more important and more used piece of hardware, but it does not mean that your CPU can be some cheap budget chip by any means. You want to have a CPU that will not bottleneck your graphics card. In simpler terms, you want a CPU that is as powerful as your graphics card.
Also, VR games are very demanding because of all the things that are going on at the same time. The headset tracks your head movement, the joysticks track your hand and finger movement and button presses, and a lot of things and entities have to be rendered at the same time. How much computing power you will need depends on what VR games you plan to play as well as the headset you are getting.
Something like Beat Saber will run at recommended on a low-to-mid-end GTX 1060 or RX 580 and a Ryzen 3 3300X, but games like Half-Life: Alyx lists the aforementioned hardware as the bare minimum. A more pleasant experience would be when using something closer to an RTX 3070 and Ryzen 5 3600X. A more powerful graphics card and CPU would be welcome here as well if you want to get the best framerates possible.
Now that we got that out of the way, you need to bear in mind that your CPU has to be a bit more powerful than your GPU to avoid bottlenecks. That will mean that your GPU is the bottleneck, which is actually desirable. You should check the recommended system requirements for your specific VR headset as well, but the types of games that you plan to run are more important.
If you have already bought or plan to buy a specific graphics card model, choosing the right CPU for it can be hard. It is always a good idea to buy a more powerful CPU because you might be changing your graphics card sometime down the line. So, without any further ado, what is the best CPU for VR?
Top 5 Best CPU For VR
1- AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – Best AMD CPU for High-End Gaming in VR
This is one of the most powerful gaming CPUs that exist. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is a much more reasonable choice over the Intel Core i9-10900K. The two chips have similar performance, but the Ryzen chip can be found for almost $150 less. This means that the price-to-performance ratio is much better on the AMD CPU. The Ryzen 9 3900X has a boost clock of 4.6 GHz for its 12 cores and 24 threads. The number of cores will allow for great multitasking and streaming.
In addition to the lower cost, the Ryzen 9 3900X comes with the excellent RGB Wraith Prism cooler that not only looks good but performs well too, at least for a stock cooler. If you already have a good aftermarket cooler, we recommend that you instead grab the slightly faster Ryzen 9 3900XT that came out a bit later. The 3900XT is almost identical, but it does have a 0.1 GHz faster clock speed per core. Nonetheless, the two AMD CPUs are almost identical.
As far as VR gaming is concerned, the Ryzen 9 3900X is as good as it gets. You can throw the best graphics card out there at it and it will perform well without any issues. The 12-core, 24-thread CPU is a beast of a CPU which will ensure that all VR games you play are smooth and lag-free. This CPU does an amazing job at helping the graphics card render 3D graphics, which is essential for VR gaming.
2- Intel Core i9-10900K – Best High-End CPU for VR Gaming
This is the best CPU for VR that you can buy. It is slightly faster than the Ryzen 9 3900X and 3900XT. If you do not care about the price even a little bit or you already have a compatible motherboard and do not want to change it, you should get this one. It will only give you a few more FPS in VR games than the Ryzen 9 3900X and it is slightly worse at multithreading. And it is built on the 14 nm node vs AMD’s 7 nm. Nonetheless, a few more FPS might mean a lot to you.
This CPU is usually in the $500-$600 range, so it is not cheap by any means. But at least it is the best that money can buy. It comes without a stock cooler, so you will need to factor in the price of a decent aftermarket cooler as well. This CPU has replaced the i9-9900K, which can be found at much more reasonable prices nowadays. Remember that you will lose 2 cores and 4 threads if you go with the older 9900K, though.
The i9-10900K is a 10-core, 20-thread CPU that has support for Intel Optane memory and their new Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology. It can boost up to 5.3 GHz, but most people overclock these manually. It is important to note that it has a higher TDP than the Ryzen 9 3900X, sitting at 120 W vs Ryzen’s 105 W. That means that it will run hotter and will need better cooling for the best performance and stability. All things considered, his is the best CPU for VR gaming, but it comes at a high cost.
3- AMD Ryzen 7 3700X – Best CPU for VR at a Feasible Price
The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is almost as good as the Ryzen 9 3900X and Intel Core i9-10900K, especially at VR gaming. If you do not need the 12 cores (which games cannot use anyway), the 3700X will do an amazing job. Just like with the more expensive options, pairing this CPU with even the most expensive graphics card will not present a problem. This CPU can be combined with an RTX 3080 for a perfect VR gaming experience that makes no sacrifices while still costing significantly less.
The 8 cores and 16 threads on this CPU can boost up to 4.4 GHz, which comes very close to the Ryzen 9 3900X. You also have a little bit of overclocking headroom on this chip, so you can get even more out of it if you choose to do it. Overclocking on the great stock Wraith Prism cooler is possible and the RGB esthetic will go nicely with the rest of your build as well. Remember to pair this CPU with DDR4 3200 MHz RAM for maximum performance gains, but slower RAM will work fine too.
If you plan to stream your VR gaming sessions, this chip can do it easily. Remember that games only use a few cores at a time, so streaming with this CPU’s 8 cores will not be an issue at all. The CPU has a TDP of only 65 W, which is a great accomplishment thanks to the 7 nm process. Playing the most demanding VR games at ultra settings on this CPU will net you well above 60 FPS, provided that you have the right graphics card to go with it. All in all, this is the best CPU for VR overall.
4- Intel Core i7-9700K – Best Intel CPU for VR
The i7-9700K can often be found on sale nowadays, bringing the price close to the Ryzen 7 3700X. The biggest downside of this chip when compared to the Ryzen is that it has only 8 threads, but it has the same number of cores, which is 8. The benefit is that the cores boost up to 4.9 GHz, though comparing the two different architectures in that regard means nothing. Unfortunately, the CPU does not come with a stock cooler and it has a 95 W TDP.
In terms of real-world usage, this CPU has more or less the same performance as the Ryzen 7 3700X in almost all VR games. This CPU gets on average about 4-5 more FPS than the Ryzen, which is negligible above the 90 FPS mark. If you have to go with Intel for some reason, this CPU makes more sense than the newer i7-10700K because of the price. This CPU can often be found under $300, making it cheaper than the Ryzen 7 3700X, which is very surprising.
The motherboard situation on Intel’s side is much worse than on AMD. Only Intel 300 Series chipsets will officially work with this CPU, so your choice is limited. If you already have a motherboard that supports the i7-9700K, then this is a sensible upgrade. You will not be disappointed by this CPU’s performance in VR games. This is the best Intel CPU for VR because it costs much less than the i9-10900K without losing much performance. Just remember to get a great graphics card.
5- AMD Ryzen 5 2600X – Best Entry Level CPU for VR
The Ryzen 5 2600X is a beast of a CPU that can be found in the $150-$200 range nowadays. While it is a bit older, it still packs a punch. It is a 6-core, 12-thread CPU that boosts up to 4.2 GHz. Since it is from 2018, it does not support PCIe 4.0 and it is built on the 12 nm node, but this does not mean much for most consumers.
Just like with other Ryzen chips, the motherboard situation is great. Nearly all AM4 sockets support this chip without any issues, so if you have something like a B450, this CPU is an amazing upgrade. The Ryzen 5 2600 non-X variant can also be found in the same price range, but it only makes sense if it is much cheaper than the Ryzen 5 2600X. The non-X can be overclocked to match the 2600X performance, but the 2600X is still a bit better.
This CPU will work great with all low and mid-end graphics cards. Something like an RTX 2070 will max out this CPU in VR games, which is respectable. If you don’t mind lowering your settings or playing at a lower framerate, this CPU will be an amazing value.
VR gaming is very similar to regular gaming, but you will need to bear in mind that your computer should be a bit more powerful if you want to play the latest AAA VR games at 90 Hz or more. We do not recommend going with something slower than the Ryzen 5 2600X because VR gaming can make people nauseous at lower framerates. Just remember that VR gaming depends more on the graphics card, but you still need a CPU that will not bottleneck it.