Valve SteamVR Performance Test

Valve Software released on Monday the SteamVR Performance Test, a downloadable two-minute sequence from the company’s Aperture Robot Repair VR demo. Valve says this test will determine if your computer is capable of running VR content at 90 frames per second, and if VR content can crank up the visual goodness to the recommended level on your current hardware.

According to the hardware specifications, Valve recommends Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 as the operating system of choice, powered by an Intel i5-4590 or better CPU, or an AMD FX 8350 or better CPU. On the GPU front, Valve recommends a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or better, or an AMD Radeon R9 290 or better. Rounding out the specs is a minimum 4GB RAM.

“For machines that are not VR Ready, the tool can help determine whether capabilities are bound by Graphics Card, CPU, or both,” Valve says.

Once downloaded and installed, the (nearly) 5GB SteamVR Performance Test loads up in a window and provides a two-lens sequence yanked from Portal 2. After that, the test will display the results, listing Not Ready components in red, Capable components in yellow, and Ready components in green. The results will also show the average fidelity, the number of frames tested, the number of frames that fall below 90 fps, and the number of frames that are CPU-bound.

We ran the test on an older laptop running Windows 10 just for kicks. While the AMD A8-4500M APU was presented as a capable four-core processor, the AMD Radeon HD 7640G was in the red, proving that this laptop will never be VR Ready. The test suggests updating the GPU (which won’t happen), the GPU’s drivers, closing performance-heavy applications, and then running the test again. Sure thing.

Take note that this test is free, and doesn’t require the user to own a VR headset. However, you’ll need to have a Steam account and the client installed in order to use it. The test is designed specifically for the HTC Vive, but presumably can be used with other similar VR headsets.

“The test employs a technique called dynamic fidelity, which automatically adjusts image quality as required to avoid dropped frames that can break the sense of presence critical to VR experiences,” says AMD’s corporate VP of technology and VR Roy Taylor. CPU and GPU hardware is then assigned one of three categories (VR Recommended, VR Capable, or VR Not Ready) based on the average fidelity level attained.

Taylor adds that AMD’s Radeon R9 390 and Fury series of products (such as the R9 Nano) are “Recommended for VR” thanks to a collaboration between AMD, Valve, and other “technology partners,” along with the LiquidVR initiative. The demo actually includes AMD’s Affinity multi-GPU feature, which uses one GPU to render frames for the left eye and one GPU to render for the right eye. To enable this support (which isn’t fully finished as of this writing), use “-multigpu” as a launch option (without the quotes).

Valve’s tool arrives just days after HTC revealed the final retail price of Vive, which will cost a meaty $800. The company said that for a limited time, the HTC Vive consumer edition will ship with two “VR experiences” to get customers started, including Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs and Fantastic Contraption by Northway Games. Pre-orders will begin on February 29 while the full commercial availability will start in early April 2016.

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