The two big contenders in the PC virtual reality world are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Both products will be launching in 2016, so how are you supposed to choose between them?
To help you make your decision, here's a quick look at how the Rift and Vive stack up in a few big areas.
The good news is 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 Rift will ship with an Xbox One controller when it releases in the spring, with its Oculus Touch controllers coming sometime later in the year. While the Xbox controller layout is well-known in the gaming world and likely familiar for many gamers, the real potential of intuitive touch controls in VR won't be possible until the Touch ships.
The Vive ships with a pair of flashlight-shaped controllers which have received rave reviews from most who have tried them so far. 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.
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.
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.
Unlike the Rift, the Vive does not come with headphones so you'll need to provide your own.
Here are the PC requirements for the Oculus Rift, which were announced in mid-2015:
The system requirements for the HTC Vive are similar to those of the Rift, with a few minor differences:
At launch the Oculus Rift will include two games, EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky's Tale, bundled with the headset itself. EVE: Valkyrie is a multiplayer spaceship battle, while
Oculus has spent a lot of money on VR game development, and has already announced partnerships with an impressive lineup of studios to ensure their games come to Oculus. Exclusive titles include mountain-climbing simulator The Climb and the action-packed Edge of Nowhere, while games that are confirmed for the Oculus (but which aren't necessarily exclusives) include Rock Band VR, Bullet Train, and more.
Oculus is also officially partnered with Microsoft and the Xbox team, which means the headset will allow you to stream Xbox One games to your headset as well.
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.
Oculus is owned by Facebook, which means VR-adaptations of that social network and its associated properties will most likely be designed with the Rift in mind first and foremost. Whether that translates into better performance or extra features remains to be seen, but if you're a big fan of Facebook you might want to check out the Rift to get the best experience in VR.
Oculus has also partnered with Samsung and Microsoft to provide VR solutions for those companies. In the case of Samsung it's the Gear VR, which runs on compatible Samsung devices and uses Oculus technology and software. On the Microsoft side, your Oculus will allow game streaming from your Xbox One, will ship with an Xbox controller in the box, and will support Microsoft's Minecraft title this spring.
Valve is one of the most powerful game companies in the world, producing extremely popular titles, development tools, and Steam. The VR versions of everything Valve does will probably work best with the Vive, though the Rift will also have access to Steam VR and the compatible games that will be released for both devices through that software.
The Vive also comes from HTC, a Taiwanese company best known for their smartphones and tablets. HTC has announced the Vive will include Bluetooth-enabled features which will permit users to text and take phone calls without interrupting their VR experience.
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