Earlier this week, Oculus openedpre-orders for systems and configurations that it believes will deliver an acceptable VR experience. Overall, it’s probably best if consumers hold off onpre-ordering VR equipment — but since we’ve spent most of our time discussing the GPU side of the equation, the CPU deserves some love as well.
Jason Evangelho of Forbes sat down with AMD to talk about its processor support for VR and whether the company’s FX and APU families can drive headsets like the Oculus Rift. The good news is, they absolutely can, even if the current version of the Oculus hardware tester claims otherwise.
Originally, AMD told Forbes that there were a variety of AMD FX processors that could handle VR, as well as some of the highest-clocked APU processors. The company has since walked back its APU claims, however, and is now saying that only the FX chips have been validated. If you have an eight-core or six-core AMD CPU with a base clock no lower than 3.9GHz, you should be good to go with VR.
The fact that AMD is still validating VR on its APUs doesn’t mean those chips can’t handle the technology, but it may be difficult for them to do so. Even AMD’s upcoming A10-7890K, with a supposed 4.1GHz base clock and 4.3GHz boost clock isn’t all that powerful compared to Intel’s Core family. Since AMD CPUs can’t match the single-threaded performance of Intel chips, which is why AMD positions its multi-core offerings against Intel processors with a lower core count. According to Oculus’ recommendations, the minimum Intel chip you should use is a Core i5-4590. That’s a 3.3GHz quad-core with a 3.7GHz Turbo clock, 6MB of L2 cache, and no Hyper-Threading.
AMD’s six and eight-core processors leverage multi-threading to counter Intel’s strong single-thread performance, but a quad-core APU only has four threads to work with and can’t match an i5, core-for-core.
If AMD does manage to validate its APUs, it could mean that we’ll see broader compatibility than Oculus is currently recommending. If a quad-core APU can handle VR, older CPUs ought to be able to do so as well. Heck, we may even see some Nehalem-era hardware compatible, though I don’t know how far we can push that particular envelope. And of course, it’ll be important to test hardware from both companies to make sure older chips can actually handle the workload. VR support for AMD could wind up depending on DX12 support, too, since DX12 relieves pressure on CPU architectures.
I suspect we will find that the Intel Core i5-4590 was a very robust minimum recommendation — and to be fair, that’s the kind of minimum recommendation we like. I’m sure at some point, somebody will write a demo that lets you use VR on an old AMD K6 or a TRS-80 — hackers tend to be nuts like that.