Buying a desktop-class VR (Virtual Reality) headset right now is a big, expensive choice. You have to have a powerful PC capable of driving the VR experience before you even plug a headset in. But, when you finally reach that point you'll find yourself faced with a pair of excellent choices – Oculus Rift & HTC Vive.
These two are the two big contenders in the PC virtual reality world.
Let's see their specs:
OCULUS RIFT vs HTC VIVE
Both PC heavyweight VR headsets are now out in the wild. They both take the great first steps in a world where virtual reality is a commonplace.
This makes deciding which one is better is a tricky proposition. Both have strengths and weaknesses but the nub is this: where you can walk around when using the HTC Vive, resulting in a more immersive and truly ground-breaking experience.
The Oculus Rift lets you play sat down for hours at a time, but the experiences are less incredible. Choosing between these two incredibly capable headsets is no small task, and has a lot to do with knowing how you're going to want to use your VR headset before you buy it. That's not always easy
According to vrheads.com, the two systems are fairly similar. When it comes to the resolution of the headsets, they're identical: 2160x1200 pixel OLED screens, 110-degree field of view, and 90Hz refresh rate.
Additionally, both systems are powered by PCs, not proprietary systems. Finally, most VR games are designed using open standards that work for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Now let's get into the differences:
The good news is both headsets come in great big boxes. Taking these two headsets out of the box couldn't be more different, though.
Oculus Rift can be removed from its packaging and be ready to go within 20 minutes. It takes up three USB ports and an HDMI port on your computer, and once everything is connected and the software is installed, you're good to go. This setup is almost portable, assuming you have a monster laptop capable of powering the headset, and there's no significant set-up time.
Setting up an HTC Vive is a little more complex. There's a pair of small black boxes that need to be installed diagonally from each other on separate sides of the space you're going to play in, each requiring their own power outlet. The headset connects to a sync box that requires a USB port, an HDMI port, and a third power outlet. Once the hardware is connected, you'll be treated to a calibration setup that involves tracing the play area by walking around with the controller out in front of you. The instructions make it all very simple, but the total time from opening the box to playing a game is upwards of 40 minutes.
The Vive ships with a pair of flashlight-shaped controllers. Pads on the side and top of the controllers allow for natural squeezing motions, while triggers under your fingers can simulate guns in a pinch. If you want the most advanced VR controller experience possible at launch, the Vive will provide it.
The Rift will ship with a normal Xbox One gamepad and Oculus Touch controllers. Oculus Touch will also give the same feel of the HTC controller. Just they have a different design
DESIGN & COMFORT
If you're spending this much money on a VR experience, you're going to want to use it a lot. And that’s why comfort is important. You need to be able to comfortably put the headset on, and you need to know you're going to be able to wear the headset for extended periods of time without discomfort.
Oculus built Rift to be super simple to put on. For most folks, you almost put the headset on like you would a baseball cap. The rigid back section lines up with the back of your head, and you pull the bulky display section down until you reach your nose. The headset is on elastic rails, so it stretches to fit over your face and then hugs you head once you let go. If you don't wear prescription glasses, this is perfect. If you do wear glasses, you'll need to put the headset on eyes first. This is considerably less comfortable, especially since the eye sockets on this headset don't leave a ton of room for glasses.
Putting a Vive on involves holding the bulky display part up to your face, pulling the strap down onto the back of your head, and tightening the large elastic straps until everything is comfortable. Now the headset is wireless. The previous one has a back strap for connection to the PC which was a little bit uncomfortable. Vive is a little more 'glasses friendly' thanks to its wider eye socket opening, but the overall setup is a little tedious.
AUDIO & CAMERA
While the two headset's audio specs are similar, there are a couple important differences. The Rift includes stereo headphones on the headset itself. You can remove the headphones if you want to use your own. It doesn’t have a camera like HTC Vive.
Vive includes a forward-facing camera that provides "augmented reality" within the Vive's virtual reality. At the moment, the augmented reality prevents you from running into real world objects while in a virtual environment. You can also "see" the world around you while in the Vive, allowing you to pick up a glass of water and take a drink. But the Vive does not come with headphones so you'll need to provide your own.
GAMES & SOFTWARE
There were 30 Oculus Rift (and 53 Oculus Touch) launch games, and a whole bunch more came subsequently. That count is bound to be significantly higher by the end of 2017.
Early Oculus Rift buyers have been graced with two of the best pack-in games as well: a mascot platforming game in the style of a classic Rare game called Lucky’s Tale and a dogfighting space shooter dubbed Eve: Valkyrie.
The Vive doesn't have any confirmed "exclusives" at this point, but since the headset is produced in part by Valve, the company behind Steam, you can bet the Vive will be the best way to experience any Valve titles or other games made with Valve's VR development tools. The Vive's main attraction when it comes to games is that its room-sized tracking capabilities might provide for a better gaming experience with titles that support it than the more limited tracking of the Rift. Vive demos of games like the artistic Tilt Brush, Valve's own Aperture Science, and Job Simulator have focused on the freedom of movement the Vive's larger tracking area provides.
WHICH SHOULD YOU BUY?
Off the shelf, Oculus Rift costs you $600. You get the headset, camera sensor, Xbox controller, and a mini remote. It's everything you need to get started.
An HTC Vive will cost you $800. You get the headset, lighthouses (the two sensor boxes), two hand controllers, and everything needed to connect to the headset to your computer. This is everything you need to have room-scale VR, which means you can have a totally dedicated VR room where you walk around and enjoy every game, or you set up in your living room and pull your gear out when you want to play.
If you're looking for the best possible VR experience you can buy today, the HTC Vive is where it's at. HTC and Valve have created a wholly unique experience, and developers of every skill level have flocked to the platform.
Oculus Rift may be more expensive than an HTC Vive setup once you add everything, but it's a fantastic overall experience once you do. The Touch controllers are exceptional, and Oculus as a company is working hard to create unique social experiences inside VR that may one day turn out to be the killer feature everyone really wants.