It’s been a year since the world was introduced to two very impressive consumer-grade VR headsets for PC: the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Oculus Rift VS HTC Vive:
The Rift arrived first — sometime around March 2016 — and it was a happy day for gamers. It had been four years of waiting for the ‘real thing,’ and people were tired of prototypes, developer kits, and pre-release versions. There was a lot of promise from the Facebook’s affiliated Oculus’s product.
Soon after, HTC, in conjunction with Vive, launched soon after.
The highly anticipated Oculus Rift didn’t really live up to the expectations of most gamers – the VR headset couldn’t handle room scaling and didn’t have motion controls. It was just an Xbox controller and a headset, all you could do with it was sit and play games – you couldn’t move around or anything. The arrival of HTC Vive was a welcome relief for many, and with its specs sheet, it wasn’t hard for it to assume the Rift’s place in leading the virtual reality revolution. But that was then!
Things Have Changed
A lot has changed since the two VR headsets launched last year. For starters, the introduction of touch controllers as well as the full room-scale capabilities on the Oculus Rift has made a lot of difference in the overall experience; the Rift is now much closer to what HTC Vive is offering. The stark differences between the two VR headsets have been removed, but some people are still having a hard time choosing between either of the two.
Using our experiences with both products, we will be putting the PC heavyweight VR headsets through their paces for anyone who may still be sitting on the fence about which one to buy. Keep in mind that the Oculus Rift with touch controllers goes for $499 and you can get the HTC Vive for $799. So, which one of these VR platforms should you bet on?
Both the Rift and the Vive have better designs than their first iterations. When they first launched, both VR headsets felt like a proof of concept, but now they feel like the actual products. The Rift looks heavier than it is; it’s actually light enough to be comfortable and have it on for an extended duration. It comes with extra ventilation to reduce the sweating. Weight distribution is centred, so the accessory doesn’t feel off balance.
The Rift comes with an adjustable dial to account for the distance between the eyes for different users. There is a removable fascia, but the headset is largely housed by a fine fabric. There is a simple Velcro system at the top of your head and on the sides which allows you to easily adjust the straps — it now looks a little less dorky thanks to the modified harness.
The HTC Vive isn’t much different design-wise. When compared to the Rift, the Vive is much larger and heavier, but it’s still smaller and lighter than previous iterations. The front side of the Vive houses a front-facing camera and a bunch of sensors. Overall, HTC Vive is a matte finish with black plastic; you will find no cloth or fabric on the front of the Vive. When it comes to design, the two headsets are essentially black boxes you can strap at the front of your head like a wearable brick.
The controllers on both the Rift and the Vive allow you to reach out and touch someone virtually. Controllers on the Oculus Touch are an absolute revelation; it feels like you are making a relaxed fist, thanks to the positioning of the analogue sticks and the buttons. You can point or wave realistically as the sensors can track your fingers from that position. This makes it easy to interact, reach out for something, or make a fist in-game.
When it comes to controllers, the Vive takes a different approach. Their functioning is more like that of a modified Steam controller. They are available at launch and are bundled with the headset. There is a pair of grip buttons on either side, trigger buttons, and under the thumb, circular pads. All buttons are touch sensitive. The Vive controllers offer a wealth of interaction despite having rather outlandish — sort of sci-fi — design.
Each headset has its own method of tracking motion. The Oculus Rift uses a motion tracking solution known as Constellation. Constellation uses a USB-connected optical sensor on your laptop or PC to track motion and enhance your experience. For better room-scaling ability, the Oculus Touch ships with an extra sensor. You will have to order yet another sensor for the full room-scaling experience.
HTC Vive uses Valve’s ‘Lighthouse’ to in motion tracking. The Vive comes with a bunch of light sensors placed strategically both on the headset and the controllers. These sensors which come in handy when it comes to motion tracking. Lasers are bounced off the light sensors to enable motion tracking. This approach is ideal in a room setting.
HTC Vive has a catalogue of more than 300 games and applications in its library. Some of the games available in the Vive catalogue include Arizona Sunshine, Hover Junkers, Budget Cuts, and Dangerous. Some of these games and applications don’t give a fully fleshed-out experience; in fact, most of them feel like shallow demos.
The Oculus Rift, on its part, has over 500 games and applications on its catalogue. In the Rift catalogue, you will find titles such as Harmonix, Insomniac Games, and other triple-A game developers. The Vive has more PC titles in its catalogue, though.
The differences between the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive aren’t so obvious, and if you are choosing between one of them, you may have to look a little deeper to before you make a decision. For instance, the Rift and Vive have nearly identical specifications including HDMI, 90Hz refresh rates, USB (2.0 and 3.0), and the 2160 x 1200 OLED displays. A few key distinctions exist in the sensors and tracking department.
All factors considered, HTC Vive edges out the Oculus Rift in plenty of ways. For instance, the pass-through camera on the headset allows you to interact with the outside world without having to take off the headset, syncs with your phone, and allows full-scale room tracking. Vive controllers and headset have two Lighthouse controllers that can track a space of 15 x 15ft when you place them in opposite corners of the room.
HTC Vive runs on the Valve platform, one of the most powerful game companies in the world. Therefore, the most popular PC titles can be found on Steam. In addition to that, any VR version of any game Valve creates will probably work best on Vive. People using Vive can text, make or receive calls without interrupting their VR experience.
While the specs of both the Oculus Touch and HTC Vive make a little difficult to declare a winner, our experience has been more favourable with the latter. If you are on an extremely tight budget — if you can’t exceed $600, going for the rift will help you save a few shekels. However, if the full VR experience is what you are after and you happen to have the extra coin to get it, HTC Vive is your best bet. So, ladies and gentlemen, the winner is – the HTC Vive VR gaming headset.