No Oculus Rift for the Mac, but your Mac couldn’t handle it anyway

Oculus VR RIft

We were so looking forward to the thrilling and nauseating experience that comes from the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. But alas, the company today announced the recommended specs for Rift, and Oculus’ Atman Binstock wrote that, “development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows.”

Bummer. But hey, Macs are so great, they can even run Windows. You can just use Boot Camp, launch Windows, and you’re all set to run the Oculus VR. Right?

Um, probably not. In case you didn’t click the above link to actually see the PC specs, here they are.

  • Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • At least 8GB RAM
  • Two USB 3 ports
  • HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

The story behind the story: Hayden Dingman points out at our sister site, PCWorld, that from a PC perspective, these are steep specs but within reach of PC users. But this is Macworld, and here’s the Mac perspective: it’s a different story for Mac users. Rift requires a desktop-level graphics processor, and almost all Macs rely on mobile graphics processors. Therefore, no Rift support on the Mac, even if you are using Boot Camp to run Windows.

Foiled by mobile GPUs

In his blog post, Binstock wrote, “almost no current laptops have the GPU performance for the recommended spec, though upcoming mobile GPUs may be able to support this level of performance.”

The Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro use Intel integrated graphics, which doesn’t have the oomph Rift requires. The 15-inch MacBook Pro and the standard iMacs use mobile graphic processors that don’t have the processing power of the desktop graphic cards in Rift’s specs. Even the Retina iMac uses a mobile GPU, the AMD Radeon R9 M290X.

The only Mac in Apple current lineup that could be able to run Rift is the Mac Pro. It comes with a dual workstation-level AMD FirePro cards that aren’t necessarily optimized for gaming.

Apple is dedicated to thin, lightweight computers, so chances are mobile graphics processors in Macs are here to stay. In other words, you’re probably not going to see a consumer-level Mac made that would meet Rift’s demands anytime soon. Maybe when future mobile GPUs match the performance of today’s desktop GPUs, we could see Rift on the Mac. By then, Rift could also be optimized and have less demanding specs.

That may takes years to happen if you’re willing to wait. While you’re waiting, you can watch this video of the PCWorld staff getting sick while using an earlier developer version of Rift.

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