Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Which high end VR headset is worth your cash?

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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 orHTC Vive?

OK, OK, there’s another potential question – PlayStation VR or PC VR? But assuming you don’t own a PS4, this is the versus for you. We will compare the two headsets, based on multiple demos with each one, in terms of design, displays, hardware, tracking, controllers, audios and games. We’ll also factor in price and release dates.

We won’t be making any verdicts until we’ve tested the Rift and Vive, of course. And for many, we’re sure this decision will be made based on factors including price and individual games that you want to play. If you are still open to being swayed one way or another, check out our in-depth versus.

Let us know anything we’ve missed or extra considerations in the comments. When we have reviewed both headsets, we will update this feature.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Design

HTC Vive SteamVR headset guide

Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive look and feel much, much better than their first iterations. Both VR headsets now feel like actual products, not proof-of-concepts. Despite the fact that the set up is very similar across both, there are a few differences.

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 sheath and the harness has also been modified from previous dev kits so the straps look ever so slightly less dorky.

It’s now covered in a fine fabric, there’s a removable fascia and – this is a biggie – there’s more room for glasses if you want to wear those while you spend time in VR. An adjustable dial accounts for different distances between users’ eyes too and the weight distribution is more centred 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 on straps. But the Vive Pre, the second generation headset which the final product should be based on, is much smaller, lighter and more comfortable than the first Vive headset. The finish is matte, black plastic and the front of the headset is a bit bigger and curvier than the Oculus with the headset’s own sensors making it look pretty cool. Again, it’s lighter than it looks so don’t let this put you off plus it has also been made glasses friendly.

In all our Vive demos so far, we’ve worn a pair of headphones whereas the Rift will come with on-ear headphones actually integrated into the headset, presumably to keep everything light, but these can be swapped out.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Display

Let’s start with the stats. The Oculus Rift’s two OLED displays have a total resolution of 2160 x 1200 and a 90Hz refresh rate – that’s apparently 233 million pixels a second. Whoosh. The HTC Vive uses two displays (we’re not sure if they are OLED or LCD yet) with a resolution of 1080 x 1200 each and the same 90Hz refresh rate. 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.

We are not going to make real picture comparisons at this stage when we have yet to use the HTC Vive Pre and consumer Oculus Rift on the same day, let alone with the same demos or games. If we’re pushed, we’d say that the HTC Vive has the edge – not in terms of pixels obviously but HTC has also made some improvements to the Pre’s brightness and clarity.

On the Vive, so far, there’s less of the dirty window effect too, but again we don’t know which display HTC will use on the final headset and we need to spend more time with both devices in the same environment. We’ve found that the Gear VR, for example, fogs up in the Wareable office but not so much back at home.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Hardware

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 onboard each accessory. TheOculus Rift comes bundled with a small 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, which also has an accelerometer and gyrosensor, combines these with a laser position sensor to track your head movements with 37 LED sensors on the headset itself.

One real hardware difference is that the Vive features a front facing passthrough camera. 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 for HTC’s ‘chaperone’ feature which keeps you from bumping into walls (more on that in a second) and has the potential to allow gamers to use say, a keyboard and mouse while they game.

If you’re looking for recommended PC specs, scroll down to the price and release date section for those.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Controllers

Oculus Touch controllers delayed

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.

For in-depth impressions, check out our Oculus Touch hands on and our HTC Vive Pre hands on, but for now it’s worth noting that the wireless Oculus Touch is more comfortable, user friendly and also allows users to do gestures such as thumbs up and pointing within games.

The two (also wireless) Vive controllers, which bring the total number of sensors up to 70, are larger and a bit more unwieldy, with slightly more of a learning curve. That said, we imagine it won’t take much to get used to them once you have a Vive at home – the controllers come with haptic feedback, dual stage trigger buttons and circular, pressure sensitive touchpads.

Valve’s big selling point for Vive is the roomscale tracking which can track all your movements – head, hands, body – over a 15 x 15 foot space so in a sense you become the controller. 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.

So far, a higher percentage of the HTC Vive game demos we’ve seen have supported the Vive controllers whereas Oculus Touch support is more limited, suggesting it will be more of an extra than an integral part of the whole experience.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Audio

Eyes-on Oculus Rift Consumer Edition

Another way headset makers can add to the immersion 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 has been quieter than Oculus on this front but the final Vive headset will support 3D, spatial audio so you can tell which direction sounds are coming from. We should hear more firm details about audio from developers, closer to April.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Games

Best Oculus Rift games

This is the fun part and Oculus comfortably caters better to the traditional gamer than Vive with a number of nice exclusives.

Let’s start with Oculus – it comes 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 Oculus itself.

In terms of exciting/mainstream Oculus titles, see also Rock Band VR, the gorgeous, (exclusive) cliff-scaling game The Climb from Crytek, the intense-looking (also exclusive) Edge of Nowhere, Chronos and smaller titles like the multiplayerKeep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Epic Games’ Bullet Trainis an awesome FPS that uses Oculus Touch really nicely andThe Witness, from the maker of Braid, is also on the horizon.

Xbox integration means you can also play 2D Xbox games in a 3D, virtual setting (like a virtual cinema) but there’s no word yet on an Xbox and Oculus partnership for VR games.

Plenty of developers are making games for both Oculus and Vive or both Oculus and Sony. But Oculus has more substantial exclusives than HTC and Valve and the Gear VRhas acted as a testing ground for apps and experiences on Oculus such as Oculus Social, Oculus Arcade and Netflix.

HTC Vive review

HTC is showing off seated demos of Elite: Dangerous on Vive as well as interesting indie titles which take advantage of the roomscale tracking such as Job Simulator, the Portal-inspiredAperture Science demo, Dota 2-style Secret Shop demo, The Room and The Gallery: Call of the Starseed.

Plus don’t forget this is a Steam VR headset and Steam is a community known for discovering fresh gaming talent and concepts and a really robust distribution system.

It’s early days and there is also a Steam VR Developer Showcase scheduled in for 28 January. We are not expecting a full game announcement from Valve itself but we should get much more information about actual titles to expect on Vive and hopefully more details on non-game content from HBO and Lionsgate.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Price, release date

The Oculus Rift will arrive first. But only just and only technically. Pre-orders are now open and have been since early January with the first headsets due to ship at some point in March 2016. If you order a Rift now (mid January), it will be shipped in July.

The price 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 and we don’t have a price yet.

As for the HTC Vive, we know that pre-orders will open at the end of February, probably on the last day of the month on the 29th. It will go on sale in April which is a month after the first Oculus Rifts are shipped but probably before many gamers get their hands on one or indeed, make a choice between the two.

It’s best not to pay too much attention to rumours that the HTC Vive could cost $1,500 at launch. Those rumours are based on estimates, basically, and we’d expect HTC and Valve to either match Oculus’ price of $599 (perhaps without the controllers and basestations) or at least keep the whole package under $1000.

A quick note: there’s also the small matter of your PC. Oculus has published a list of recommended specifications here and also created a compatibility tool for Windows. You’ll want an Intel i5 (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. HTC isn’t talking minimum specs yet but you could use the Oculus list as a guide.

Oculus Rift v HTC Vive: Initial verdict

We said at the beginning that we are not going to deliver a verdict, based on a few demos with each headset. Chances are, if you’re a traditional console/PC gamer, the Oculus Rift will launch with more titles not to mention tried and tested apps from Gear VR and 2D Xbox integration.

If you’re looking to jump head first into the future of VR, the HTC Vive’s room scale tracking and early efforts of interested developers are genuinely exciting. Still, we don’t even know the price of the HTC Vive yet – the biggest dealbreaker of all. We’ll update this when we get one, probably in February.




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