Tldr; Oculus and Vive both have lowered their price this summer, with Oculus bundle at $499 and Vive at $599! The difference between these Oculus Rift and Vive are purely of personal preference (these 2 systems still require strong compatible gaming PC). Playstation VR is acceptable as well if you already have a PS4 but there is no roomscale option. The mobile GearVR/Daydream is a cheap entry into Virtual Reality.
Link to HTC Vive $599 (Price decreased from $799)
Link to Oculus Rift $499 (Price decreased from $599)
Link to Oculus Mobile Samsung Gear VR $64 (now comes with controller)
Link to PSVR $399
Virtual Reality – A Whole New World
What is Virtual Reality? Virtual Reality is the concept of transporting the user into the digital world visually, through the use of Head Mounted Display (HMD). Instead of watching a flat screen, users are placed within a virtual environment, allowing for an interactive experience. Virtual Reality has recently hit the consumer market with major industry players behind it. Let’s break down the current VR market share: Mobile VR, Desktop VR, and Console VR.
This is the VR market with the lowest cost barrier for entry. By integrating a portable HMD with a high powered smart phone, people can easily get to experience VR anywhere without the complicated pre-setup. The best selling brand right now is the Samsung Gear powered by Oculus, with Google’s Daydream trailing behind. The HMD often comes free with the flagship phones of the year, with the retail price hovering around the $100 mark. Mobile Experience in the Samsung Gear is well polished with Oculus’s help, also holding the current highest market share. Tracking and resolution is limited and dependent on user’s phone resolution and power distribution. Each of the mobile HMD is only compatible with specified phones. Also take note, there is no current Mobile VR solution for iPhones (Sorry Apple users). Update: Gear VR now comes with a controller, very fun for shooting games
The only company participating in console VR right now is Sony with its Playstation 4. The entry cost is roughly $500 for the HMD, not accounting console cost. Playstation VR also offers front-facing tracking and movements through the use of the Playstation Move Controller. While the resolution of the PSVR is much lower than its desktop brethren, the high refresh and frame rate keep most games comfortable, while also having the most comfortable wearability among all HMDs. PSVR also holds some exclusive AAA title rights.
Link to PSVR $399
New in June 2017: Apple will now support Vive with iMac Pro. Other Mac book will be compatible using an external GPU coming Spring 2018.
Arguably the best full VR experience money can buy currently. The price for this entry is sitting at $499 for Oculus, and $599 for Vive HDM. This is not including the price of having a VR capable system. The fan base is strongly split between 2 major brands: the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Vive was developed by a joint partnership between Valve and HTC while Oculus was a startup venture that caught attention of Facebook and was bought for 2 billion dollars sequentially. The display on both headsets are very comparable and well respected. Let’s break down the strength and weaknesses of both devices further:
There is not much of a difference in terms of quality for either HMDs, both offering a 2160 x 1200 resolution, 90Hz refresh rate, and OLED display. In terms of FOV (field of vision), sweet spots and clarity, the Rift has a slight advantage. In wearability, the Oculus HMD is more comfortable than the Vive through design and weight (Vive is releasing an adjustable head strap for better comfort later this year.) If you’re one of those users that needs to use their glasses, the Vive is the better option as the padding and the depth of the lenses accommodate for it. Overall, both headsets are equally competitive in this area.
Oculus: To track the users’ position in the virtual space, the Rift uses a technique called “Constellation”. It uses infrared LED sensors contained in the base receivers (powered through the usb) to capture infrared LEDs contained in the headset . The user can start with front-facing tracking by using only 1 sensor, or expand into 360 play area with 3 or more sensors. Keep in mind, each sensor takes up one USB 3.0 port, so make sure you have enough either through the use powered-usb hubs or an additional usb 3.0 card controller. Tracking is very solid with the latest Oculus updates, however there are some instances of USB port power issues as some onboard usb controllers can not handle the bandwidth
Vive: Tracking is based on a technology called “Lighthouse”, which uses a combination of LEDs and laser emitters to track the users position. The room is flooded with light which activates the photosensors on the Vive headset, sending data back to a breakout box connected to a PC. In comparison to the individual sensors on the Rift, the two sensors only requires power through a wall outlet, while the included breakout box is powered through one USB 2.0 port.
Oculus: The Touch controllers in itself is one of the best selling points for the Rift, with game content heading that category. At fist glance the design can be confusing with the half-moon shape, but once in the users hand it offers the best comfortability and intuitive usability. Rather than an extension of the arm, it becomes part of the users body. The Oculus Touch controllers are arguably the best hand tracking system in place currently.
Vive: The Vive controllers are club-like devices, and while they work well in shooting and combat games, it is bulkier and less friendly than its Oculus counterpart. Think of a Wii controller on steroids.
Oculus: Oculus Studios is funded by Facebook, which invests heavily in VR Oculus exclusive titles. It offers its user base many free, full high-quality titles such as Robo Recall, Dead and Buried, and Lucky’s Tale by default. Other paid selections are also among the strongest to date such as The Climb, Chronos, Rockband VR, and Super Hot. Oculus Studios remains heavily invested in exclusive content with 11 more titles lined up this year. In addition, Oculus users can freely play on Steam VR library without the use of third party applications.
Vive: While the HTC Vive has a partnership with Valve, the VR library lacks strong, AAA titles. Some Vive users can choose to use a third party application called Revive to access Oculus game selections, however the Revive solution is unofficial and unsupported by Oculus. Valve is announcing the development of 3 full VR titles in the coming years, one of which will be a Fallout 4 remake for VR.
Link to HTC Vive $599
Link to Oculus Rift $499
So…. Which One Should I Get?
Summer 2017 update: We have to recommend the Oculus at this time over the Vive since it’s $399, effectively half the price of a $799 Vive and packed with many free content.
While both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have their own strength and weaknesses, it is largely based on user preferences on which one to buy. If your main criteria is having a refined game selection, including access to the Steam Library, the Oculus Rift is the way to go. If tracking and ease of setup is most important to you, then Vive is a good choice. Pricing can also play a big factor, as the the complete Oculus Rift system (including the Touch controllers) is $600, while the Vive itself is around $800. That concludes our VR systems review