HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Playstation VR

All you need to know before you preorder a VR headset

Playstation VR headset with console and other items and accessories

Oculus Rift VS HTC Vive VS Playstation VR: The Ultimate Guide

Finally, the three main virtual reality headsets have revealed their consumer versions including launch dates and the content that will accompany them.

If you are looking at buying a virtual reality headset but you do not know which to get, then this is the guide for you. We will go through every bit of information meticulously and help you arrive at a decision.

Oculus Rift

When a lot of people talk about virtual reality headsets, they probably mean Oculus Rift. The Kickstarted wonder, Oculus Rift is the first headset to be released later in March. Acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, many people still wonder if this will be the piece of hardware to shape the future of virtual reality.
Specs

Oculus Rift Consumer Version 1

After many revamps to the initial design of the headset and changes to the hardware’s specifications, we finally have the consumer edition in our hands. Oculus Rift can be broken down three main items, starting with the headset itself.

The machine is capable of high-end virtual reality experiences. For it to work smoothly, you will need a computer with the following:

  • Windows 7 or newer operating system
  • 8GB RAM or more
  • Intel i5-4590 CPU or equivalent
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or better
  • HDMI 1.3 video output
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports to connect and power the machine

Let’s face it, this is a pretty demanding setup. But then again to really immerse yourself into a virtual reality world, you definitely need smooth HD graphics and a high refresh rate. If your rig is not able to produce enough power to meet the headsets requirements, then your experience with the Oculus Rift will be terrible.

If you are thinking of investing your money on a new computer but you are not technically adept, Oculus VR has come up with a solution for you. Working together with some of the biggest brands in PC hardware (Alienware, Asus, Dell) Oculus VR came up with three Oculus Ready PCs capable of running the Rift.

Returning to the headset, it sports a 2160 x 1200 shared resolution (two OLED screens at 1080×1200 per eye resolution) and will work at 233 million pixels per second. Both screens refresh at 90Hz globally rather than the usual line-to-line method.

It is vital for the screens to work at low latency, displaying an image at 2 milliseconds of each frame. Every part of the Oculus Rift headset works at rendering a smooth and stutter-free experience that could easily inflict a person with motion-sickness.

Inside you’ll find removable and replaceable soft padding that adds to the comfort of the headset. The headset itself is now built with high quality materials that are removable and replaceable. ‘3D Sound’ headphones were part of the Crescent Bay prototype, but we will now get an improved pair. And yes the headphones are removable.

Most of the parts can also be readjusted to perfectly fit the user’s needs. It would not be much of a virtual immersion if you could feel your head squeezed into an uncomfortable headset. Everything about the consumer version is built with immersion and comfort in mind. But it doesn’t stop there.

Constellation System

Oculus VR came up with a positional tracking system able to incorporate physical movement into a virtual reality environment. The headset comes with a tracker resembling a sleek, discreet desk lamp. Using IR-LED technology, the Constellation system will be able to track your headset’s movements and reproduce them into the virtual environment. The small, lamp-like peripheral will track your movements in a limited area in front of you (around the size of a desk).

Oculus Touch, a set of motion tracking controllers that will offer a more intimate way of controlling your games, will also use the same system to expand the tracking scale of Oculus Rift into the size of almost a whole room.

This is the latest configuration to the elaborate system, one that Oculus VR came up with to deal with a certain hindrance in the machine’s design. With Oculus Touch getting on the way, the system would end up getting confused from having to track two different peripherals. The solution was to expand the tracking space by adding a second IR-LED sensor in the Oculus Touch bundle.

Software

After many GDC 2016 reveals, we now have a detailed list of the games that will launch with the headset on March 28th. The following picture contains all the games that will be available the day of the launch.

Oculus Rift 30 games.

30 games coming with Oculus Rift consumer version release

 

Oculus VR will also have Oculus Cinema, a software that will enable you to see movies and other media in a virtual cinema. This app will have online capabilities, enabling movies and 360-degrees videos in virtual reality easy.

Oculus VR is a part of Facebook and the company had made it clear from the start that the headset will also explore many social applications.

Price

We have known for some time now that Oculus Rift would be expensive. Contrary to the initial premise of mainstream and affordable virtual reality, Oculus VR decided that quality should be the main factor over price.

Then we also need the computers. The prices of hardware parts change regularly and the current life cycle of a high end PC is around two years. The real problem is that if you want to take part in this generation of virtual reality, you need to aim for a high-end rig.

According to Oculus VR you’ll probably need around $1000 for a computer capable of running the headset at the desired performance. The headset itself is priced at $599 (USD, before taxes and shipping) making the total price over $1600. It is a high price to pay if you are not deeply passionate about virtual reality. Maybe even more so if you haven’t had a chance to try the headset yet.

Point to note, the Oculus Touch is not included in headset price. These controllers will come later and sold separately.

Some potential concern with Oculus Rift could be lack of content as well as the infamous Facebook intervention. It is still too early to jump to any conclusions, but even though Oculus Rift may seem expensive or relatively new but so were smartphones before they became a necessity.

Oculus Rift is ready for preorder here.

HTC Vive

A major player in virtual reality scene that got everyone turning their heads. A late entrant in the race but at the same time potentially the most promising of big three is HTC Vive.

HTC in collaboration with Valve decided to come up with their own design for a virtual reality headset. That’s how the HTC Vive and its ‘Lighthouse’ system came to be.

Specs

HTC Vive virtual reality headset, controllers and sensors

HTC Vive design is focused on comfort and low-latency. With a refresh rate of 90Hz and two screens with 1080×1200 resolution per-eye rising to 2160 x 1200 combined resolution.

In combination with Lighthouse, HTC Vive uses more than 70 sensors, including the usual gyroscopes and accelerometers to track your position in a stunning 15×15 feet space. Yes, you need a small room to completely enjoy your HTC Vive experience. The headset also takes advantage of laser position sensors to enhance the Lighthouse effect.

To be able to run a headset like HTC Vive, you will need a strong PC. The HTC Vive official site states these as the minimum recommended specs for the headset to run smoothly:

  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 970, AMD Radeon™ R9 290 equivalent or better
  • CPU: Intel® i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better
  • RAM: 4 GB or more
  • Video output: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
  • USB port: 1x USB 2.0 or better port
  • Operating system: Windows® 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10

There is always the option to go on with a HTC Vive virtual reality ready PC but if you know how to build your own PC then you can save up to $200 by buying the right components at the right price.

Lighthouse

The Lighthouse system is the name of a tracking setup that Alan Yates came up with. In short, the system uses photosensors emitting light on any object that needs to be tracked so that you can have a smooth and safe experience while inside the virtual reality environment. To avoid occlusion problems Lighthouse also uses two structured light lasers that sweep the place.

It is truly a marvel, one that could potentially revolutionize the industry. With HTC Vive many virtual reality games will have an added layer of immersion that will allow you to actually move in the virtual space. The effect is enhanced when paired with the two stick controllers that let you interact inside the game using hand gestures.

Software

 

During GDC 2016 and just days before the official release of the final product, we got our hands into the list of games that will come at launch day with the headset. HTC Vive will have 50 games to choose from, although ‘no exclusives’ will come to the HTC Vive at this time. HTC and Valve want to see the virtual reality gaining traction as a whole. They don’t want consumers to choose between headsets because of an exclusive app or game.

The detailed list below has many well-known titles and studios. Headset will also come with some free content (Google Tilt Brush, Job Simulation, Fantastic Contraption). The Lab, a Valve developed game that packs 8 mini-games taking place in the Portal universe will be free with all preorders.

  • #SelfieTennis
  • Adventure Time
  • Altspace
  • Arizona Sunshine
  • Audioshield
  • The Brookhaven Experiment
  • Budget Cuts
  • Cloudlands Minigolf
  • Elite: Dangerous
  • Envelope Eve
  • Everest
  • Fantastic Contraption
  • Final Approach
  • GiantCop
  • HoverJunkers
  • Job Simulator
  • John Wick: The Impossible Task
  • La Peri
  • Marble Mountain
  • Modbox
  • Pool Nation
  • Raw Data
  • Roadside
  • Space Pirate Trainer
  • The Gallery: Call of the Starseed
  • The Lab
  • The Rose and I
  • The Wave
  • Thunderbird
  • Tilt Brush
  • Time Machine
  • Universe Sandbox 2
  • Unreal Editor
  • Unseen Diplomacy
  • Vanishing Realms: Rite of Steel
  • VirZoom
  • Waltz of the Wizard

HTC Vive has a cinematic option available, called SteamVR Desktop Theater Mode. This app will let gamers play any game in their Steam library in a big virtual screen. Imagine playing your favourite games from a different perspective, one that puts you in front of a large screen for you to enjoy the action. It’s a great addition to the headset, not only because Steam is the biggest digital game contributor in the world but also because many gamers will revisit some titles in the virtual screen.

Price

HTC Vive is great. It is probably the most complete virtual reality solution we have. Room-scale virtual reality gaming, Desktop Theater Mode, precise tracking; everything is finely tuned and cutting-edge.

You will probably need a new rig to run the headset. For HTC Vive ready and tested PCs, the price starts from high $800s. This is of course without the headset which retails at $799. It seems expensive but it is a complete bundle which includes controllers.

HTC Vive is by far the best virtual reality headset coming on the market. It is an all-around choice that is made for the most passionate of virtual reality gamers out there.

HTC Vive is ready for preorder here.

PlayStation VR

PlayStation has one of the bigger and most active communities around.  As of this year some 36 million people own a PlayStation 4. Last year it was around 16 million. And with PlayStation Plus to add to the whole experience, the community is still getting bigger every month. Now PlayStation VR is the next big thing coming for this successful console.

Specs

Playstation console with Playstation VR headset

The headset’s design resembles that of the other two contestants. However, the specs for the headset are a bit different, due to the limited processing power of PS4. PlayStation VR will use two 5.7” OLED screens, with 960×1080 resolution per eye (rising to a combined 1920×1080 resolution). Another big difference is the elevated refresh rate, which hits a stunning 120Hz in an ideal environment. For most games to utilize the full strength of that refresh rate would put the console under a great deal of pressure so developers will stick to 90Hz capable games.

We still don’t know exactly what the headset is capable of, but it still remains one of the most noted headsets in the industry. If you already own a PS4, then you only have to acquire a PlayStation VR headset and you would be ready to play. The basic kit will also come with an extra processing unit the size of a Wii U that will supposedly enhance the 3D sound effects and amongst other things but will not add to the processing power of the console.

Accessories

PlayStation VR is a peculiar case. It’s not only capable of running a perfectly smooth virtual reality experience with the limited power of PS4 but it also has a set of accessories that really complement the headset.

You will want PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move before owning a PlayStation VR headset later this year. PlayStation Camera is a vital part to the headset’s positioning system, since it’s the main peripheral that tracks your head’s movement. Without a PlayStation Camera, your virtual reality experience will be greatly diminished. Recent rumours also state that the headset won’t be able to work without one.

PlayStation Move on the other hand is closer to an amenity than an actual necessity. With these controllers, you can interact with the virtual environment in a more immersive way. Similar to Oculus Touch and HTC Vive’s stick-controllers, the Playstation Move will enhance the immersion by creating a better way to interact with your virtual environments. However, if you would want to prioritize your buys, Playstation Camera is the thing to go.

Software

 

The headset has a launch window set in October 2016. During the recent Sony event on GDC 2016 the company confirmed that it will be launching with 50 games getting released from October to the end of the year. The full list is not yet revealed, but the games that are already confirmed are:

  • Allumette
  • Driveclub
  • Gary the Gull
  • Golem
  • Harmonix Music VR
  • Job Simulator
  • Joshua Bell: Immersive Experience (tech demo)
  • Megaton Rainfall
  • Playroom VR
  • Star Wars: Battlefront VR experience
  • SuperHyperCube
  • Thumper
  • Tumble VR
  • Valkyrie
  • Waltz of the Wizard
  • Wayward Sky
  • Xing: The Land Beyond

Most of the titles are not exclusive to the PlayStation VR headset but Sony stated there are 230 developers working for content exclusive to the PlayStation VR.

Another great addition to PlayStation VR is a cinematic mode that will work with every PS4 game in your library. A 225-inch wide virtual display, at a 2.5 meter distance from the user, is the biggest the cinematic mode you can experience. It’s great to see additions like this to the already pricey hardwares. You’ll be able to visit all your favourite games using a ginormous monitor, making playing on your console more exciting.

Price

PlayStation VR is definitely among the high-end headsets of the industry but it’s currently ranked as the least-powerful. If you want totally immersive experience with high-end graphics and an endless library of games, then PlayStation VR may not be the headset for you. However, its price will probably make it the most attractive headset.

Taking into account the price of a new PS4 console ~$350 and the price of a PlayStation VR headset, we are looking a total of around ~$800, almost half the price of the other two headsets.

However, PlayStation Camera and Move are not included in the basic kit, so you could be looking at around $1000.

PlayStation VR is ready for preorder here.

Final thoughts

Oculus Rift and HTC Vive utilize the strength of high-end PCs. For this reason, their total prices are significantly higher than PlayStation VR ~$1500. If you are looking for a truly immersive experience, one of these headsets is your obvious choice. HTC Vive is currently sitting above Oculus Rift in raw-strength and performance. It is also backed by the massive steam library but Oculus Rift is slightly better priced and backed by Facebook and its social features.

It also comes down to how you want to experience virtual reality. HTC Vive’s Lighthouse System is dazzling, but to use it to its full extent you have to reserve a 15×15 feet (4.6×4.6 meters) space in your house to set up the two sensors.

If you are able to compromise with lower processing power but a more wallet friendly solution to virtual reality, then PlayStation VR could be your headset. PlayStation has its own extensive list of games that you can enjoy on a 225 inches’ virtual display, it is affordable and PlayStation VR is backed by one of the most experienced tech companies in the world.

It’s now up to you to decide which of the above headsets better suit your needs and style. It is still pretty early in the year to have definite results about the performance of each headset, but with Oculus Rift launching on March 28th, HTC Vive launching a week later on April 5th, and Playstation VR launching in October 2016, this year could turn out to be the start of next big thing.

Let us know your opinion on the comments section below.

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