Oculus Link for PC is live: Everything we know about cables, GPU support

Oculus Quest owners, your chance to dive into the world of PC-VR gaming has begun.

The Oculus Home app on Windows PCs has just been updated to support the standalone Oculus Quest, two months after the “Oculus Link” feature was teased and demonstrated at the most recent Oculus Connect conference.

(If you’re unfamiliar with the slightly confusing Oculus ecosystem of virtual reality, the above sentences are likely a bit confusing.

If so, head here for a refresher on what the Oculus Quest headset is, then here for an explanation of why this new Oculus Link update is a big deal.)

With Oculus Link enabled, the standalone Quest can now connect, via USB Type-C 3 cable, to a PC of your choosing and access the higher-powered VR library on PC storefronts like Oculus Home. We’ll return after testing to confirm whether SteamVR also works properly via Oculus Link.

AMD, for now, is DOA

In the meantime, Oculus has confirmed a jump in required PC specs for Oculus Link use, which we knew might be coming due to Link’s additional rendering pipeline demands. AMD-graphics-card owners get some lousy news today: your systems will  work with Oculus Link at launch. Higher-end AMD cards will eventually be supported, Oculus reps tell Ars, while weaker Nvidia cards like the GTX 970 and GTX 1060 models will likely not be compatible with Link in the future.

That change in rendering pipeline also means PC-VR games, as rendered by a wired Quest, will look blurrier than on native PC headsets. Our tests at the last Oculus Connect event revealed tolerable VR performance on Quest via Link, but I called the results “a killer perk, not a PC headset replacement.” Link’s apparent downgrades to resolution and frame rate were significant enough at the time to reassure any owners of new kits like the Oculus Rift S to not regret their purchases.

We’re still waiting for a release date for the official Oculus Link Headset Cable beyond “2019.” When it launches, this $79 fiber-optic cable will offer a significant length for the sake of real-world movement—five meters, roughly the same as most wired VR kits—and a crucial right-angle connector to prevent awkward cord dangling. The Quest’s USB Type-C port is placed high on one side, which isn’t ideal for a jutting cord to be connected at all times; as a result, I strongly warned against plugging Quest hardware into a wall plug during standard play.

But you’ll need to settle on standard cords at this point in the Quest Link beta period, and Oculus recommends a “high-quality” USB 3.0 cable. This brings up a huge catch: the USB Type-C cable that comes with every Oculus Quest system is actually rated for the USB 2.0 spec, so it won’t work. If you’re eager to dive into Oculus Link today, look out for a Type-C cable rated for either USB 3.1 or USB 3.2 speeds. (Oculus is currently recommending that members of the press try out this 10-foot cable from Anker.)

Oculus made clear during September’s conference that the Quest headset’s few months of existence had driven significant software sales: $20 million of software in four months, versus $80 million of Oculus Rift software sales in over three years. Hence, it makes sense that Oculus is bullish on unlocking further software sales opportunities via today’s new Link feature.

This holiday season includes two huge game launches for the Rift PC platform: , a guns-and-flight action-adventure, and , a -like fantasy RPG. We’ll have more on both of those large games by year’s end, along with advice on whether either scales well to the inherent limits of Oculus Link’s visual downgrades on Quest headsets.

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