Which Virtual Reality Headset Should You Buy – Oculus Rift S vs. HTC Vive?

A tethered VR headset, like the Vive or Rift S, hook up to a computer and drop you into immersive digital worlds and experiences as you stand or sit in the real world. With a few clicks of controllers, you’ve got the tools, weaponry, or virtual hands to interact in VR. How do rivals – Vive Cosmos and Oculus Rift S – stack up against each other? Here’s how.

Both PC heavyweight VR headsets are out in the wild, so it’s time we put them through their paces to help you decide whether you should buy the HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift. When I first discovered that HTC was making a VR competitor to the Oculus Rift, I thought that the review I’d write of both products would take the form of a straightforward shootout. The reality is very different.

CONTROLS

Oculus Rift 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.

HTC Vive 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.

I wouldn’t blame you if you had absolutely no interest in checking out the Oculus Quest. VR’s reputation isn’t exactly great, after all. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which require powerful PCs, can be too cumbersome. Mobile VR doesn’t offer the same immersive experience. VR is far from dead, but it’s nowhere near mainstream, either. What VR needs is a hero. After spending a week with Facebook’s latest VR headset, read oculus quest review, I really think it could be VR’s knight in shining armor.

AUDIO AND CAMERA

Oculus Rift While the two headset’s audio specs are similar, there are a couple of important differences. The Rift includes stereo headphones on the headset itself. You can remove the headphones if you want to use your own.

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. Unlike the Rift, the Vive does not come with headphones so you’ll need to provide your own.

Pricing

The Oculus Rift bundle has settled on a competitive $400 for the headset, Touch controllers, and a second Constellation camera. You probably still want to spend $60 for a third one, though. The Vive is sold at a base price of $500. Both headsets come with motion controllers and room-scale tracking as standard, though the Vive’s tracking has fewer problems with controller occlusion.

That means that the Rift is the cheaper option, even factoring in the cost of an additional sensor. That price is narrower today than it was when both headsets first launched, though, and the Rift bundle does include less hardware — it lacks the Xbox One controller and wireless remote. When you factor in the cost of a third sensor for the Rift, which is recommended for large room-scale VR, the price difference is quite negligible.

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