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AMD wants to bring down the cost of Oculus and Vive VR gaming

New cards from AMD promise mainstream PC gaming performance for less at the annual PC Gaming Show.

A couple of lower-cost options are joining the AMD RX line of desktop graphics cards, aiming to both make mainstream PC gaming more affordable, and also take some of the sticker shock out of virtual reality.

The previously announced Radeon RX 480, coming at the end of June, promises to support both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in a card starting at just $199 in the US and £160 in the UK (about AU$310). At the PC Gaming Show, a fan event happening in Los Angeles concurrently to E3, AMD says the RX 480 is being joined by new RX 470 and RX 460 cards.

The VR-ready AMD RX 480.

The former is aimed at mainstream gaming at HD resolutions, and the latter is aimed at speedy performance in e-sports games, which generally have very modest graphics needs but have to run at very high frame rates for smooth competitive gaming. AMD says the RX 460 is so thin the same part can fit into slim gaming laptops as well.

Final pricing was not available for the new RX 470 and 460 cards yet, but they're expected to cost between $100 and $200 in the US (roughly £70 to £140 or AU$135 to AU$270).

By way of comparison, the recently announced Nvidia GeForce 1080 desktop card sells for around $600, close to the top end of the market, but AMD thinks there's a lot of room for growth in less expensive cards. "This is our opportunity to come in and be aggressive in the $100-300 space, which is 84 percent of the market," AMD marketing director Chris Hook said.

Hitting the VR angle is important for AMD. "We want to jumpstart the VR ecosystem which is now stalled," Hook said, because of sky-high hardware costs. "That's what the RX480 does, it's the catalyst for the VR ecosystem." And if PCs with less expensive GPUs can pass Valve's SteamVR benchmark, then, "suddenly the industry goes from 13 million VR-capable PCs to 100 million," he said.

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The Alienware VR backpack.

CNET/Dan Ackerman

Also at the PC Gaming Show, AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su took to the stage to very briefly show off a prototype Alienware VR-ready backpack, with an AMD-powered Alienware desktop built into a wearable backpack. HP had a similar reveal earlier in June, and both models are described as "reference designs," which means something like them may or may not ever see the retail light of day.

CNET's Sean Hollister contributed to this report.