When can I get VR on my Mac?

Mac VR
Mac VR

Are you ready to grab an HTC Vive, load up Star Trek: Bridge Crew, and blast Klingons into next week on your Mac? Well, no. At least, not yet. Apple announced SteamVR support is coming to the Mac with the macOS High Sierra update, but it's a little more complicated than just installing the beta and having a Vive overnighted to your house.

Want to download High Sierra to your Mac? We've got a guide for that!

VR for Mac is going to be awesome, but the experiences most people want will not be available for a little while still. Here's what you need to know!.

VR for Mac is technically available right now.

Surprise! If you have MacOS 10.11.6 or higher, you can install the Steam .dmg file from Valve and access SteamVR. There are important features, like direct-to-display, available if you are using the macOS 10.13 High Sierra beta, which you will also need for things like Unity and Unreal support.

Basically, if all you want to do is connect a Vive and test out tracking or explore simple VR experiments, you can technically connect an HTC Vive directly to your Mac and do some basic things right now. In fact, according to Valve's Nat Brown, developers don't even need a headset to get started.

If you are not developing for VR on a Mac, and you are not planning on tinkering with potentially unstable VR experiments for fun, you'll not only need to wait a bit but you'll need some additional hardware to make all of this work.

Graphics and VR for Mac

VR for Mac

The GPU onboard your MacBook or iMac is enough for very simple VR experiments, but if you want to draw complex VR worlds and play the games available in the Steam store, you will need something more capable doing all of the pixel drawing. Apple has presented a pair of solutions, and it's up to you to choose the one that works for you.

Solution One - Grab a new iMac! The Mid-2017 iMac announced at WWDC includes an AMD Radeon Pro 580 GPU, which meets the recommended specs for VR usage. If you're looking for something a little more capable, you could also wait for the new iMac Pro. The Radeon Vega GPU inside this $5,000 All-In-One is more than enough for VR, and will be available this Fall with the launch of MacOS High Sierra.

Solution Two - A Thunderbolt 3 eGPU connected to your Mac. Apple's demo stations at WWDC were almost all set up like this, with kits available for developers to purchase. This kit includes a VR-capable graphics card meant for desktop computers, an enclosure to hold the card, and the necessary tools to connect this card to your Mac. When your Mac is connected to an eGPU, it will be able to handle VR with no problem.

The second solution here is the least expensive and allows you to use your existing Mac for VR. But there's a wait, since eGPU support will not be a part of MacOS High Sierra until Spring 2018{.nofollow}. Apple wants to make sure using an eGPU is as bulletproof an experience as possible, which in this case means waiting for Apple to get it right.

Great news for developers, less great for eager enthusiasts

Vive on Mac

Apple has done a great job working with all of the companies involved to make sure developers have the tools necessary to start testing VR apps and games for SteamVR on the Mac right now, and that's fantastic. Consumers, on the other hand, have quite a wait ahead unless you have an extra $5,000 lying around for the new iMac Pro.

The best news of all? By the time Mac owners are able to really dig in to VR the Steam store should be filled with lots of compelling options to enjoy.

More VR on Mac

The great Virtual Reality buyer's guideVR on the Mac: Hands onWhen can I get VR on my Mac?Apple's VR Dev Kit eGPU enclosure: The Ultimate GuideBest VR Apps for iPhone

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!