HTC and Oculus remain at the forefront of PC-based virtual reality. When first released, their headsets, the Rift and Vive, had some stark differences. With the release of Oculus’ Touch controllers just on the horizon, however, is that still the case? Check out the spec comparison below for an in-depth look at how we think the two kings of VR stand up against one another.
Related: HTC and HP team up for Vive starter kit, complete with gaming laptop
2160 x 1200
2160 x 1200
Field of view
5 x 11 feet
15 x 15 feet
Oculus Touch, Xbox One controller
Vive controller, any PC compatible gamepad
Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, Constellation tracking camera.
Accelerometer, gyroscope, Lighthouse laser tracking system, front-facing camera
HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater
Intel Core i3-6100 / AMD FX4350 or greater
Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
2x USB 3.0 ports
Windows 7 SP1 or newer
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 /AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or greater
Intel Core i5-4590 equivalent or greater
4GB+ of RAM
Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
1x USB 2.0 port
Windows 7 SP1 or greater
$600 + $200 (+$80 for third sesnor)
2.5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
Let’s be honest, neither the Rift or Vive is going to win any fashion awards. Both are bulky, yet lightweight devices you strap to the front of your head like a wearable brick, which then allow you an unobstructed view into the world of virtual reality.
That said, the Rift and Vive both utilize adjustable Velcro straps and comfortable padding on the interior faceplate. The Vive is still a bit on the heavy side, which makes sense given it touts 37 visible sensors on the front designed to connect to wireless cameras within the tracking space.
The Rift, on the other hand, showcases a sleeker, fabric-coated exterior design and smaller footprint. Both models accommodate glasses (though with some added discomfort), connect via USB and HDMI to your PC, and feature integrated audio with the option to plug in your own headphones if desired.
As important as the headset is to your virtual experience though, the way you interact with it is equally so. The Rift and the Vive both utilize custom, motion tracked controllers — known as Oculus Touch and Vive Controllers, respectively. Although a standard Xbox One controller initially shipped with the Rift, the Touch controllers are now just a few weeks away from release and we have a much better idea of how they will look, perform, and cost. Read our hands-on for the details.
The half-moon controllers are made up of a joystick and button setup. They utilize the same low-latency tracking technology that determines the relative position of the headset and allow for some simple gesture mapping based on how you’re holding the controller. The design will allow the pair of controllers to function more like your real hands when gaming, capitalizing on internal tracking sensors and haptic feedback, which can help differentiate between different kinds of impacts in game and translate them to your real hands.
Pricing was finally announced at this year’s Oculus Connect 3 event, giving us a final price of $200. Pre-orders began on October 10 and will begin shipping on December 6. The bundle will come with a secondary constellation tracking camera, though we’ve been told that having a third wouldn’t be a bad idea to improve tracking throughout a room-scale space — if that is the kind of set up you’re going for. Those will begin shipping on the December 6, too, priced at $80 each.
Related: HTC unveils its second Vive VR headset, and it has a camera on it
The Vive takes a different approach. The device’s controllers, available at launch and bundled with the headset as part of its $800 price tag, function much like a modified Steam Controller. They sport touch-sensitive, circular pads under your thumbs, and trigger buttons that act as primary selection buttons. There’s also a pair of grip buttons on the sides, which some developers have used for in-game grasping mechanics.
Two “lighthouse” sensors track the controllers and headset. They’re designed to handle roomscale, so the two bundled sensors are all that’s needed for it, and the size of the play space that can be used is larger than with the Rift and its Touch controllers.
Both devices also support gamepads, though only the Rift ships with an Xbox One controller and most Vive games are designed with the bundled controllers in mind.
Though Oculus has been grabbing headlines with its upcoming Touch release, HTC and Valve haven’t been sitting idle. At a recent Steam DevDays event, Valve showed off a new controller design that takes some of the wraparound elements found on the Touch controllers and streamlines them with the Vive’s penchant for ergonomics, helping to create an interesting new design.
We’re told from developers who attended the event that the new Vive controllers can be half-held for a more realistic, in-game grip. Supposedly, you’ll also be able to let go of them entirely, which means that you can “throw” in-game object by actually throwing the controller. With the straps in place, you won’t have to worry about finding the controllers buried in your TV after you’re finished either.
There is not release date or official information available at this prototype, however, so don’t expect it to appear soon.
Display and tracking
Virtual reality headsets are only as good as the display they utilize. The Rift and Vive both come outfitted with vibrant OLED displays, each of which offers 1,080 x 1,200-pixel resolution for each eye. Said displays bring the final resolution to 2,160 x 1,200, with 90Hz refresh rates, thus ensuring the frame rate is high enough to prevent motion sickness and provide a smooth experience overall.
HTC Vive controllers
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
By the specs sheet, both headsets also offer a 110-degree field of view (FOV), though in actual usage there’s a lot of subjective evidence (and some slightly more scientific) to suggest that the Vive offers a slightly wider and certainly taller field of view. It’s not hugely noticeable when you’re in the midst of gunning down robots or exploring abandoned buildings, but it is there.
In terms of figuring out just where you are in the real and virtual worlds, the Rift set up uses a Constellation tracking camera, which uses infrared light to offer 360-degree positional head tracking in a short, but broad and deep play area. In comparison, the Vive uses a combination of 70 sensors, with its laser-based Lighthouse tracking system to map out your room (up to 15 x 15 feet). Both headsets also utilize magnetometers, gryoscopes, and accelerometers built directly into the headsets to augment head tracking.
Because of these differences in tracking systems, the Oculus Rift has been primarily designed for seated and standing experiences, though as mentioned in the previous section, room-scale experiences are possible — the tracking just isn’t quite as versatile. Oculus also recommends at least three Constellation cameras for room-scale tracking. In comparison, the HTC Vive has been capable of room-scale since it was initially released, so many of its games and experiences are built with that in mind.
Oculus Touch controller
One of the features that really sets the two headsets apart, however, is the Vive’s front-facing camera that allows the user to see real-world objects while in VR. At the press of a button, users can get a look at the real world to make sure they aren’t going to bump into anything.
The Vive also has a “Chaperone” system, which amounts to virtual grid that maps out your real-world space, making it very unlikely you’ll leave the safe confines of your cleared floor. Oculus has something akin to this in the works, known as Guardian, and it will be available with Touch controllers.
Performance and requirements
So, how do the Rift and Vive perform in real-world scenarios when stacked directly against one another? That’s a difficult question to answer, since virtual reality is really one of those technologies you have to try before you really understand how immersive it can be. That said, there are some differences between the two offerings from the industry’s biggest players.
When it comes to minimum requirements, Oculus has the lowest, but there is a caveat. To get the Rift running comfortably on your PC (and face), Oculus recommends an Intel i3-6100 or AMD FX4350 or better processor, at least 8GB or RAM, and Windows 7 SPI. You’ll also need a GTX 960 or AMD RX 470 graphics card and a few USB ports.
The caveat is that, with this hardware, your PC will likely have to make use of something called asynchronous spacewarp, which essentially renders the games at half the minimum frames per second and uses some clever guess work to make it feel like it’s running at the typical 90 FPS. This is great for comfort, but if you want the full experience, you need similar hardware to that recommended for the Vive.
The Vive’s requirements are a little heftier and more in line with what the Oculus Rift requires for solid, 90 FPS gameplay. You’ll need either an Nvidia GTX 1060 or AMD RX 480, along with an Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 processor, at least 4GB of RAM, and Windows 7.1 or later.
If you need to build your own VR rig, check out our PC build guide to see the hardware we suggest.
The Oculus Rift is compatible with software through the Oculus Rift store, as well as supporting games through Steam — though, the latter took some “encouragement.” The headset now comes bundled with Lucky’s Tale for free, and if you pre-order the forthcoming Touch controllers, you’ll also get a copy of The Unspoken and VR Sports Challenge.
The Rift store has a decent library of titles, though the total is noticeably less than that of the Vive’s catalog.
The company is also developing its own VR browser, called Carmel, but details are currently rather thin. Something we saw a lot more of at Connect 3 was the Facebook Avatars social app, which it sounds like everyone with a Rift will be able to access. It will allow for quick and easy avatar “in person” conversations, as well as virtual sight seeing using 360-degree videos and images. Video calls to those outside of the VR world will also be possible.
HTC’s Vive, meanwhile, is designed to primarily work with Valve’s Steam platform, though HTC recently introduced a more Oculus Home-like experience called Viveport. Viveport offers a VR distribution system and marketplace that isn’t quite as gaming-focused as Steam, with a wider selection of experiences and short films.
Steam does have a catalog of more than 400 games and experiences to enjoy, and when combined with Viveport, the Vive has the most extensive content library of any VR headset right now. When you buy the headset, you also get free copies of The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, Tilt Brush, and Zombie Training Simulator.
Pricing and availability
The Rift headset bundle is $600, plus another $200 for the Touch controllers, and $80 for each extra Constellation camera. In comparison, the Vive is sold at a base price of $800, but works with room-scale tracking directly out of the box. While the Rift may offer a cheaper entry point into virtual reality, both are comparable.
For the best tracking solution, however, the Vive arguably remains slightly cheaper, since a Rift really requires a third Constellation sensor, which is $80, for a total price of $880 to purchase the Rift, Touch Controllers with the second Constellation sensor, and the third Constellation sensor.
Of course, none of this factors into the cost of the powerful PCs required to run them.
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the still the two flagship VR headsets, even now that the PlayStation VR is available for $400.
Many of the hardware specs, such as the internal display and field of view, are comparable between the Rift and Vive. Other facets — notably the controllers and tracking system on each device — differ, even if they aren’t that far apart in price.
While the specifications make it difficult to declare a winner, our personal experiences with the Vive have been more favorable, as you can read in our review. Even though the Oculus Touch controllers will bring the experience up to par with the Vive in many ways when they launch in December, the room-scale focus of the HTC headset still feels like the better choice. Even with comparable hardware, the Steam setup and game library are better on the Vive, with a larger array of motion-tracked, room-scale content available.