Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Which VR headset should you get?
If you’re a gamer and looking to get into VR this year, there’s one big question you should be asking yourself: Oculus Rift or HTC Vive?Actually, there’s another potential question – PlayStation VR or PC VR – but assuming you don’t own a PS4, this is the versus for you. Based on several weeks of usage, we’ve compared the two headsets looking at design, comfort, displays, tracking, controllers, audio, set-up and games. For many, we’re sure deciding on a headset will be made based on the factors mentioned above and of course the big one: price. However, we’ve also factored in different types of VR experiences that may fit your lifestyle because after spending lots of time with each headset, it’s clear the Rift and Vive won’t be able to work well in every situation. If you are still open to being swayed one way or another, check out our in-depth versus feature below. Let us know anything we’ve missed or extra considerations in the comments. Both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive look and feel much, much better than their very first iterations. Both VR headsets now feel like actual products, not proof-of-concepts.The consumer Oculus Rift is light enough to be comfortable (it looks heavier than it is) and the extra ventilation added to the headset makes it less of a sweat fest. The HDMI/USB cables are now housed in a single cord and the harness has also been modified so the straps look ever so slightly less dorky.The straps themselves are also easily adjustable thanks to the simple velcro system on the sides and top of your head.It’s now covered in a fine fabric, there’s a removable fascia and there’s a bit more room for glasses – though it’s not the easiest to put on if you have large specs. An adjustable dial accounts for different distances between users’ eyes too, and the weight distribution is more centered so you don’t feel like the accessory is off balance.The HTC Vive isn’t radically different in design – they are both essentially black boxes with straps. While the Vive is much smaller and lighter than its previous iterations, it still remains larger and slightly heavier than the Rift headset.You’ll find no cloth on the front of the Vive. Instead, it has a matte finish with black plastic and the front of the headset houses a bunch of sensors plus a front-facing camera. Again, it’s lighter than it looks and sounds so don’t let this put you off.The Vive is also glasses friendly – even more so than the Rift. There are notches on the sides of its face foam that allow spectacles to slide in more easily than with the Rift, and there’s also another set of squishy foam you can stick in if the other doesn’t quite fit your face right.
The straps aren’t as refined as the ones on Oculus Rift but they get the job done with two adjustable side pieces of velcro. The one on top is a little obstructed by the fat cord but with some finesse, you can readjust it as well. Because of all the foam on both, the headsets sit comfortably on the face, and the weight is hardly noticeable on either. Since you’ll be sitting or standing with Rift, there’s no problems with sweat or it feeling heavy over time. It may feel a bit warm if you wear it for hours and you’ll get indentations on your cheeks, but that seems to be about it.With Vive, walking around, ducking, turning and so forth may take a toll and make the headset feel overly sweaty and possibly cumbersome after several hours. Oculus Rift definitely wins for its sleek design and easy-to-use head straps. HTC Vive wins for glasses wearing comfort. That said, overall comfort is a toss up. Since you’re just sitting with the Rift, games can last much longer without needing to take it off. With the Vive, we’ll have to remove it if it’s a particularly rigorous game so we can take a break. Let’s start with the stats. Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have two OLED displays with a total resolution of 2160 x 1200 and a 90Hz refresh rate – which is apparently 233 million pixels a second and the minimum spec to keep you from spewing everywhere. An added bonus is that the Vive’s screen ratio is 9:5, not 16:9, which means you get a taller field of view. Horizontally, both headsets offer a 110 degree field of view.The dreaded screen door effect, where you see lines in between the pixels, isn’t super noticeable in either display, but you can catch glimpses on occasion (if you’re looking really hard).Latency hasn’t been a problem either. Whether you’ll feel sick or not is really dependent on the game. Tie. You’re not really going to see huge differences between the headsets. Maybe if you’ve shelled out extra cash for a high-end GPU and CPU, but in general, both provide sharp image quality.Your computer does the graphical heavy lifting with both headsets so what’s important in terms of hardware, apart from the displays, is the tracking tech. A big selling point for Vive is the roomscale VR which can track all your movements – head, hands, body – over a 15 x 15 foot space. That means you can duck, dive and turn around in a virtual space but also means it might make more sense to stand up as you play. This won’t work for everyone, or every game, but being able to walk around a ship/planet/lab is kind of magical. Oculus can do this with its tracking system, in a 5 x 5 foot space, but so far there have mostly been sitting or standing still experiences.The Oculus Rift comes bundled with a positional tracking sensor that sits on your desk (looking like a microphone) and monitors your movements. It does this by tracking the infrared LEDs – what Oculus calls its Constellation Tracking System – embedded all the way round the headset so you can look behind you in VR.The HTC Vive houses an accelerometer and gyrosensor, two laser position sensors (or Lighthouse stations) and tracks your head movements with 32 LED sensors on the headset itself.Read this: The best HTC Vive games to look out for
One real hardware difference is that the Vive features a front facing passthrough camera to allow its Chaperone software to work. This allows you to see a fuzzy, blue outline of objects in front of you and people in the same room, while you’re in VR, at the touch of a button. It’s helpful in keeping you from bumping into walls (more on that in a second).Because Rift is tracking your head and not controllers in your hands, spinning around and looking behind you while sitting hasn’t been a problem. With Vive, the sensors are doing a bit more work. So far, it’s been able to keep up with fast movements like shooting arrows, sword fighting and building things (The Lab, Vanishing Realms and Fantastic Contraption respectively).This is another toss up because again, it’s dependent on what you’re looking for. In our time with the headsets, both tracked well for their own experiences – Rift with sitting and Vive with walking around and using the controllers. If you’re lacking space, tracking for Vive won’t go well as there are some games that require a lot of room. Rift seems to be the best option for tight quarters if you want the best of both worlds but as it stands, there aren’t a lot of titles for standing and ‘walking’ just yet.
Oculus and Vive can both be played with traditional controllers – the Rift comes bundled with an Xbox One controller – but much is being made of the new handheld motion controllers.It’s worth noting that in our demos, the wireless Oculus Touch has been comfortable and user friendly while also allowing users to do gestures such as thumbs up and pointing within games. But it may be a different story when it arrives at home.The two (also wireless) Vive controllers are larger and a bit more unwieldy, with slightly more of a learning curve. That said, it hasn’t taken long to get used to them especially if you’ve been playing video games for a while. The controllers come with haptic feedback, dual stage trigger buttons and circular, pressure sensitive touchpads.So far, the Vive controllers have been responsive, tracked well and durable in gameplay. That last one has definitely been tested after playing violent rounds of #SelfieTennis without a single dent or scratch on the controller. Our hands have another story to tell, though. This one goes to the HTC Vive. The difference between the Xbox One controller and Vive controllers is drastic. Though you’re not using your hands in VR with either piece of plastic, Vive still lets you reach out and move your arms around as if your hands are doing all the work. Having two controllers also provides the deeper sense of immersion that’s so very crucial to VR – without it, you might as well be playing games in VR with sticks.For obvious reasons, we’ll review again once Oculus Touch arrives.Another way headset makers can add to the immersive experience is audio. Oculus has its Head-Related Transfer Tech (HRTF) which combines with the Rift’s head tracking to create spatial, 3D audio. It’s impressive in use and gives the impression that you are surrounded, in 360 degrees, by realistic sounds. An Oculus Audio SDK gives developers the chance to take advantage of the software but again, it’s not guaranteed for every title. HTC didn’t package up nice headphones like Oculus did but you do get decent earbuds in the package. They’re not on a particularly long wire which is nice since you’re already dealing with lots of long cables. Both headsets let you switch out their hardware for your own set of headphones – which you may have to do with the Vive if the earbuds aren’t cutting it.Oculus Rift wins for audio, because man, does it sound incredible. Two big thumbs up to Oculus for making its tiny headphones blast so much sound into your ears all the while making you think it’s coming from all sorts of directions. HTC Vive earbuds, while good, don’t do a great job blocking out ambient noise. Also, having to spend even more money on bigger ear cans is just downright annoying.Right off the bat, Oculus came bundled with the multiplayer space shooter EVE: Valkyrie from CCP Games, which is damn high profile in VR terms, as well as Lucky’s Tale, a platformer from Playful. In terms of mainstream Oculus titles, see also Rock Band VR, the gorgeous, (exclusive) cliff-scaling game The Climb from Crytek, the intense-looking (and also exclusive) Edge of Nowhere, Chronos and smaller titles like the multiplayer Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes. Epic Games’ Bullet Train is an awesome FPS that uses Oculus Touch really nicely and The Witness, from the maker of Braid, is also on the horizon.There are more interesting titles being announced (most being exclusives) like ones from Insomniac Studios: Feral Rites which uses the One controller and promises to be an fun exploration/fighting game, and The Unspoken which uses Touch controllers to turn you into a legit wizard.So despite the controversy over exclusive titles, the Oculus collection has done well in creating well-rounded experiences with full stories that leave you satisfied. You’re not looking at the typical eight hours and more kind of gaming, but they’re much longer than an average demo.Read this: The best upcoming Oculus Rift gamesSpeaking of demos, despite Valve’s big library most of its games are short and leave you wanting. Finished titles like #SelfieTennis and Cloudlands: Mini Golf are more like mini-games and aren’t exactly fulfilling if you’re looking for something well, complete. With your Vive purchase, you do get Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption while The Lab is free to download. All of them are great but again, they’re more like mini-games (heck, both Job Simulator and The Lab are basically comprised of smaller games).There are promises of installments like The Gallery: Call Of The Starseed and Vanishing Realms with longer gameplay down the line but right now, it’s a bit lacking. Still, there are already fan favourites like Hover Junkers and Valve has updated The Lab already with more content and better features so there’s hope. The most recent E3 has already given us teasers of what to expect for Vive including Fallout 4 and Doom – however it’s likely we’ll see these in VR next year.There’s no clear winner in this category since it’s dependent again on what you’re looking for.Oculus has fewer games but richer stories and longer hours clocked in VR – but right now, they’re just sitting experiences. HTC and Valve have produced shorter titles, demos, installments and mini-games but all of them let you use roomscale VR to move around and controllers in each hand. The price of an Oculus Rift is $599 which some people think is ludicrously high and many think is actually pretty great value. This includes the headset, the sensor, the remote control, the necessary cables, an Xbox One controller and two bundled games – EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale. Oculus Touch is coming later in 2016, which we don’t have a price for yet. Tally all that up and you’ll likely get numbers closer to $700 with shipping factored in.The HTC Vive headset costs $799 which is a good $200 more expensive than an Oculus Rift but it does include two controllers, the Lighthouse base stations, some ear buds plus copies of the games Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption, while The Lab is free for everyone. Despite Vive’s higher price, it’s yet another tie here if you factor in the future cost of Oculus Touch controllers. But if you don’t have a lot of room to use Vive (see below for more on that) then you may be better off with Rift. Set-up marks a huge difference between the two headsets. As mentioned, the Oculus Rift doesn’t need a lot of physical space. Rather you’re just looking at clearing out part or all of your desk to make room for the sensor. Then it’s a matter of plugging in the sensor, headset and Xbox One adaptor which is followed by completing the set-up through online prompts. Later on, you may need a bit more room for standing experiences (5 x 5 feet of space to be specific) but even then, you probably won’t have to move too much furniture.
HTC Vive is a different beast that for some, is simple enough and for others, requires a lot more work. You’ll have to clear out 15 x 15 feet of space and decide whether you want to drill holes in the wall for the base station sensors. If drilling holes isn’t an option, then you’ll still have to figure out where to put the sensors since they can’t be 16ft apart, must angle down a certain amount and should be stable since they vibrate. Phew.
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Figuring out the PC set-up is slightly easier. If you’re building your own computer or upgrading, there are lists from each company you can follow. Oculus has long since published a list of recommended specifications and also created a compatibility tool for Windows. You’ll want an Intel i5-4590 (or more powerful) processor, an NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 graphics card or better, 8GB+ of RAM, a HDMI 1.3 output, 3x USB 3.0 ports and 1x USB 2.0 and you need to be running Windows 7 64-bit or later. Valve and HTC also published their own list (albeit a lot later than Rift) with a SteamVR system compatibility check. For the most part, this list pretty much matches up with the one from Oculus: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater, 4GB+ of RAM, HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer, 1x USB 2.0 or greater port and finally Windows 7 SP1 or newer.You can definitely build a budget PC for VR that’s under a grand, however, if you’re not willing to spend that time on it (or have the patience), there are options to buy compatible PCs as well.Set-up here goes to Oculus, especially if you don’t have a lot of room to spare. It’s also a lot easier to get going compared to Vive. For PCs, it’s a tie since you’ll pretty much have to upgrade and update everything to get both headsets running smoothly.We decided to go with ‘overall’ instead of final verdict for a few reasons. Firstly, Oculus Rift is basically an incomplete product without Oculus Touch. There are many more games and a lot of testing we’ll have to complete that should hopefully boost our opinion of VR with Rift. Secondly, there is no actual ‘winner’ as to which VR headset is best. It’s not a matter of pragmatism either, rather it’s practicality. Oculus Rift is best for people who don’t have a lot of room in their homes. It provides great games, solid head tracking and a comfortable experience. It just isn’t as immersive as HTC Vive’s roomscale abilities.However, HTC Vive asks a lot from you to use its system. Along with rearranging your house, you’ll have to account for accurately positioning the base stations to track you. If you can manage all that, in addition to throwing your money in for an updated PC (which you’ll have to do for Rift too) then you’re left with a pretty incredible time in VR.In the end, it’s a matter of what you’re willing to sacrifice (money, time, walls without holes, etc) and whether you’d prefer to sit, stand or move around to get a glimpse of what the future of entertainment will be like. Let us know which headset you’re leaning towards in the comments or on the Wareable Forum.
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