Do you want VR games with amazing graphics? Do you want access to an incredible variety of games, including AAA titles that you’ll never find on the Meta store? In this Quest 3 PCVR beginners guide for 2023, you’ll learn how easy and convenient it is to use PCVR in 2023, and why now is the most affordable time in history to get into PCVR.
Here’s the tutorial:
What is PCVR? Advantages of PCVR
PCVR means using your desktop PC to run the games, while your Quest is linked to your desktop VR (wirelessly or wired if you prefer). PCVR has many advantages:
Much better graphics: PCVR games generally have far better graphics than games made for the Quest. For some games like Beat Saber, the graphics don’t really matter. But for games that rely on storytelling, or on apps that are intended as experiences, better graphics provide a stronger emotional impact.
Variety of games: There are more PCVR games than Quest games, and games for PCVR are not screened as strictly, which means you’ll find a greater variety of games. While many of them are not good, there are also creative ideas and several gems, including VR ports of AAA titles (e.g. Devil May Cry 5, Monster Hunter Rise) that are only possible through PCVR.
Better deals: Even though PCVR games have better graphics, sometimes they cost less than the Quest version. For example, Carly and the Reaperman is $19.99 on the Quest store, but I got it on sale on Steam for $5.99.
What do you need for PCVR?
- Quest 3, Quest 2 or Quest 1 (note: for Quest 1, Meta recommends using a wired connection)
- 5Ghz wireless router. Note: you can instead use a good quality USB 3.0 Type C cable if you want a wired connection.
- a VR ready PC (see below)
What is a VR Ready PC?
In order to use PCVR, your PC has to be sufficiently powerful. A PC that meets the minimum specs for PCVR is called a VR Ready PC. While almost everything has become more expensive in the last couple of years, the good news is that a VR Ready PC has become cheaper than ever. Your PC might already meet the minimum specs:
- CPU: Intel i5-4590, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X equivalent or better
- RAM: 8GB or more
- Graphics card: GTX 1060 (6GB) equivalent or better
For most people, the bottleneck is the graphics card. You can test if your PC already meets these minimum specs with this VR performance test.
If your graphics card is not VR Ready, you can either buy a VR-ready graphics card and install it on a desktop PC or you can buy a VR Ready laptop or PC. A used VR ready laptop can be purchased for under $500 as of November 2023. Just search “GTX 1070 laptop” or “RTX laptop” (as of November 2023, RTX 2060 or above should be VR ready. RTX 2050 is not VR ready for Quest Air Link but may be usable with Virtual Desktop — see below).
How to use Quest Air Link for Oculus Desktop VR
Step 1: install Oculus desktop app and follow the prompts.
Step 2: when it asks you for a Wired or Wireless connection, choose Wireless (you can later use Wired if you want). You’ll be asked to activate Air Link on your Quest.
Step 3: how to activate Air Link on Quest —
- on Quest, click the Meta button on the right controller to bring up the Quick Settings.
- Click on the small clock on the left to bring up the Quick Settings panel.
- On the upper right corner, click on the cog to launch Settings.
- Click on System on the upper left corner to reveal the complete settings.
- Click for Quest Link on the left side, then togggle it on. Then toggle Air Link. Make sure that your PC is connected to your router via an ethernet cable, or is on the same 5Ghz Wi-Fi network as your Quest.
- After a little while, your PC should appear in the dialogue box. Click on your PC name and then click Pair.
- On your PC, confirm the 6-digit code is the same as your Quest. Then click Continue on the Quest.
- To use Air Link, click “Launch”.
Next time you want to use Air Link:
- click on the clock on the left side of the menu to bring up the Quick Settings panel
- click on the large Quest Link button on the right.
- click Launch.
If you purchased Quest 3 before February 27, 2024, you should have received Asgard’s Wrath Part 1 for PCVR:
What is SteamVR? How to install SteamVR
Not all PCVR games are on Quest. There’s another app store called Steam, which has far more VR games than Oculus. To use VR games on Steam, you’ll need SteamVR. Here’s how to install it.
Step 1: download and install Steam.
Step 2: connect your Quest to your PC via Quest Link or Air Link (see above). Confirm the connection by clicking Devices on the left side of Oculus desktop app. You should see a green checkmark beside your headset.
Step 3: on the Steam store, download and install SteamVR. You should see an icon showing your Quest and controllers, which confirms that SteamVR is connected to your Quest.
How to use SteamVR with Quest
After installing SteamVR (see above), you’re ready to launch SteamVR apps on Quest. Here’s how.
- Make sure your Quest and your PC are connected to the same 5Ghz router and you’re using the 5Ghz Wi-Fi network for your Quest.
- Launch Oculus desktop app on your PC.
- Launch Quest Link on your Quest (see instructions above).
- Launch SteamVR on your PC. Your Oculus home will be replaced with the Steam home. From here you can launch SteamVR apps (and some Steam apps).
What is Steam Link?
The new Steam Link is Valve’s free app for launching Steam and SteamVR apps on Quest. It has several advantages:
- no need to launch Oculus desktop app
- works with some non-VR Steam apps
Unfortunately, it hasn’t performed as well as the traditional setup above or Virtual Desktop (below) when the PC is wirelessly connected to the router. But one 360 Rumors reader said it performs well on his system. Anyway, it’s free so it’s worth trying. See Steam Link instructions here.
What is Virtual Desktop? How to install Virtual Desktop
What is Virtual Desktop?
Virtual Desktop is an app that let you use your Quest as a PCVR headset, similar to Air Link (in fact, Virtual Desktop made that possible long before Meta added Air Link to the Quest).
What are the advantages of Virtual Desktop over Air Link?
Unlike Air Link which is free, Virtual Desktop is a paid app but has several advantages over Air Link:
- You can activate the Quest video record feature anytime. With Air Link, you can only start the video recording before launching Air Link, and you can’t stop it unless you exit Air Link. With Virtual Desktop, you can press the Oculus menu button on your right controller to bring up the Quick Menu to start or stop recording anytime.
- Fine-tuning your PCVR settings. For example, you can adjust the resolution and framerate. If you have a more powerful PC, you can increase the settings for better video quality.
- Better performance for some SteamVR apps. Virtual Desktop now has native OpenXR support with a mode called VDXR. This means when launching any SteamVR app that is compatible with OpenXR, Virtual Desktop can launch it directly without running SteamVR. With lower overhead, VDXR enables up to 10% better framerates than SteamVR.
- Launch either Oculus or SteamVR apps from the same interface.
- Virtual Desktop has a VR passthrough effect which can be used to make certain games such as 3DSenVR appear to float in mixed reality.
- Virtual Desktop also has a utility to mirror your PC or Mac as a virtual monitor in your Quest.
- If your setup is marginally PCVR-ready (e.g. using Quest 1 or a GTX 1050 Ti laptop), Virtual Desktop may at least enable you to use SteamVR apps even when Oculus desktop app says you don’t have the required hardware.
What do you need for Virtual Desktop?
To use Virtual Desktop, you need the same requirements as for Air Link
- VR-Ready PC (see above)
- 5Ghz wireless router, preferably with ethernet cable.
- Quest 3, Quest 2 or Quest.
How do you install Virtual Desktop?
First, you need to have Oculus desktop app (see instructions above). Then follow these instructions:
- Download and install Virtual Desktop Streamer here. Beware of websites with similar names.
- Download and install the Virtual Desktop app (get 25% discount) from the Meta Quest store.
- For best results, connect your PC to your 5Ghz wireless router with an ethernet cable. If you don’t, it will still work, but the app will gibe you to use an ethernet cable.
- Make sure your Quest Wi-Fi is connected to your 5Ghz Wi-Fi network.
Now you’re ready to use Virtual Desktop:
- Launch Virtual Desktop Streamer on your PC. You do not need to launch Oculus desktop app or SteamVR.
- Launch Virtual Desktop app on Quest. You’ll see a mirrored version of your desktop.
- On your left controller, press the menu button, then click on “Games” on the left. This will show you all your Oculus and SteamVR apps. Click on any of them to launch the app.
What Virtual Desktop settings should I use?
In Virtual Desktop Streamer, you’ll see options for codec and OpenXR runtime. If you have Quest 3, change the preferred codec to AV1. Otherwise, choose Automatic. For OpenXR Runtime, choose VDXR for better performance. But if you want the SteamVR home environment and interface, then click on SteamVR. For gamepad emulation, choose Automatic, Xbox, or Dualshock, depending on which gamepad you have (if any).