Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive vs Playstation VR: Which Should You Buy?

Image Credit: (L-R) Sony, Oculus, Future Publishing / Getty Images

The Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive vs PlayStation VR: which virtual reality headset would win in that fight? And by “winning a fight” we mean “be deemed the most sensible option in a feature outlining their respective pros and cons.” Just as exciting though, right?

With the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive having already been launched, the jury’s still out on the PSVR, so we’ve had to put in a little guesswork in regards to what kind of people it’ll appeal to, and how much it’ll be worth your money come its launch. So with that being said, here’s our rundown of which virtual reality headset your should buy:

 

Oculus Rift

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Games, games and more games

Oculus Rift has a major advantage in that it has the most robust line-up of games. While the HTC Vive’s library is nothing to be sniffed at, the Rift’s access to both the SteamVR and Oculus Store means that there are a plethora of titles already available at Rift owners’ disposal, more so than the owners of HTC’s headset. Games such as Lucky’s Tale have proven to be a big hit on the Rift, with it also boasting the wider variety of exclusives.

Vive owners were previously able to access these exclusive via the Revive app, though Oculus is working hard to prevent this from happening as of their device’s May software update, which now forces Rift-exclusive software to perform a background check in order to verify whether or not the VR headset is connected to the Oculus Platform DRM. That’s a big bummer for Vive owners, but it does inevitably make the Oculus Rift more appealing as a result.

Sit down and enjoy

The major selling point of the HTC Vive is its ability to track your movement throughout a room (we’ll get to that later), but this also presents an issue for those who simply don’t have the space to turn their living room into a makeshift VR alternate universe. The Oculus Rift is easier to set up in that it allows players to experience virtual reality from the comfort of a chair, with it capable of tracking head movement but nothing else. The addition of Oculus Touch controllers (whenever they eventually launch) will inevitably add another dimension to your virtual surroundings, but right now it’s just you, your Oculus Rift and the chair you’re sitting on.

Time for an upgrade

A large factor in whether or not you should purchase an Oculus Rift will ultimately be whether or not your desktop/laptop is capable of running it, and if you’ll have the extra cash to spend on making the necessary upgrades if that isn’t the case. The Rift has higher minimum recommended specs than the Vive, with it requiring Nvidia GeForce GTX970 or an equivalent/better GPU, 8GB of RAM, an  Intel i5-4590 CPU or better, two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI 1.3 port or better. It’s a lot to ask for and, if you don’t meet these minimum requirements, you could be looking at spending around $2,000 in total in order to make the necessary upgrades. However, its smaller price point of $599 (£499) is definitely more tempting.

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Potential Xbox One support

Now this one’s merely speculation and should be taken with a pinch of salt, but there are many signs pointing towards the upcoming Xbox One Scorpio – Microsoft’s 4K, VR-ready upgrade to its Xbox One console – supporting the Oculus Rift. The Scorpio is the most powerful console ever, according to Microsoft, and with the company having not outlined any plans to venture into VR with their own headset, it does seem possible that the console will work in tandem with the Rift. Microsoft has already partnered with Oculus in order to bundle an Xbox One controller with the VR headset, so the two companies are friendly with one another, and if Microsoft were working on a VR headset it’s imaginable that they would have announced it by now. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but if the Rift is compatible with the Xbox One Scorpio then it will be the most powerful VR experience available to console owners. We can only hope.

Also See: Is It Worth Buying a 4K TV Now? Pros and Cons of Moving to Ultra HD

Controllers

Unfortunately, the Oculus Touch motion controllers have yet to be launched, with the company having previously stated that we should expect them at some point in the latter half of this year, though with no set release date confirmed. For the time being, Rift owners have to make do with the Xbox One controller, which isn’t really a worthy substitute for the pair of controllers that are bundled with the Vive.

Who should buy it?

The Oculus Rift requires a demanding desktop setup, but its smaller price point and the ability to use it without dedicating an entire room to it certainly makes it an attractive option. It may not be as powerful as the Vive thanks to its lack of full-room movement tracking, and the absence of motion controllers available with the headset right now is a big downside, but for many without the space with which to wander around in a VR world the Rift is a great option. It’s also got the best line-up of software right now, which is a huge selling point.

 

HTC Vive

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Freedom of movement

The HTC Vive is the virtual reality headset for those who are very serious about VR. The most expensive model on the market, the Vive utilizes two base stations that are to be placed in the room you’re using the Vive, with them then tracking the headset within a 15 x 15 ft space to make for a more immersive experience than the device’s competitors. The headset’s Chaperone feature even uses its front-facing camera to detect nearby walls and objects, outlining them in blue in order to prevent its users from accidentally walking into their surroundings.

Monitoring your movement using invisible lasers, the addition of these two base stations essentially allows you to transform a space into virtual terrain, with it able to replicate your actions in VR with a much greater efficiency than the Oculus and the PlayStation VR. As such, it’s the most technically powerful VR headset around, but that comes at a steep price.

High requirements

The Vive is expensive enough on its own, retailing for $799 (£689), but you must then factor in the price it will cost to actually get the thing running. It’s a demanding piece of hardware, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 being the minimum requirements for a functional VR experience. If you’re looking to wing it and try it out on your underpowered desktop/laptop anyway, then no dice – virtual reality tech is very reliant upon consistent performance, and so using a Vive on hardware not technically capable of efficiently running it will, therefore, mean it will be useless.

In terms of CPU, you’re going to need to invest in an Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater, with 4GB of RAM also being a requirement. If your current desktop/laptop doesn’t meet these requirements, then you’re looking at investing over $2,000 in order to get the headset up and running. However, it is less demanding than the Rift, with it only requiring one USB port and an HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or better.

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Video quality

Both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift share the same resolution, offering a 1080 x 1200 picture for each eye that combines to form an overall 2160 x 1200 resolution, alongside a 90Hz refresh rate and a 110-degree field of view. It looks good, then, but shares the same specs as the cheaper Rift.

Prepared for the future

If one thing’s for certain, it’s that this generation of headsets won’t last. This is the experimental period for VR, and although it’s still hugely impressive technology, more VR headsets will be developed in the near future that will eventually retail for less money than the current versions of the Rift and Vive. With its room-sized motion tracking and front-facing camera, the HTC Vive is undoubtedly better prepared for a lengthier stay than its peers, given that the natural evolution for the technology is to incorporate more proficient motion-tracking. The Vive is already ahead of the curve in that department, and as a result, it’s predicted to outstay its competitors.

Controllers

The HTC Vive comes bundled with a pair of controllers for each hand, and they provide the games you’ll play in VR with an extra layer of intuitiveness. User-friendly button placements and precise touchpads makes using them to interact with your environment in a game both easy and satisfying, while they also expertly replicate the motion of your arms. Considering the Rift’s Oculus Touch controllers have yet to be launched, this is a big positive for the Vive.

Who should buy it?

If you’ve got the cash to blow, or already own a desktop/laptop that meets the Vive’s minimum requirements, then it’s a great option for your first true VR headset. The ability to physically maneuver around a VR world gives the Vive the edge in many respects, even if the wires attached to it does make this process a little more cumbersome than it will be when the technology eventually, inevitably goes wireless. It’s got a steep asking price, but with it comes the addition of two bundled controllers that really add some depth to each game. Unfortunately, you’re going to need a large playing space in order to effectively utilize the Vive, with it not being intended to be played with its user simply sitting down in their desk chair. If you have a room large enough to accommodate it and the money to spare, the Vive is perhaps the best option.

 

PlayStation VR

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The unknown

There’s still a lot that we don’t know about PlayStation VR, which is somewhat disconcerting considering that it’s so close to release. Sony has mostly kept quiet in regards to their headset’s specifications, though considering it works with the PS4, we know that it will be less powerful than both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. What we don’t know exactly is exactly how it stacks up to these devices in terms of raw power, but it’s already been made clear that visually, it’ll produce an inferior image to its competitors. 

The PSVR’s 5.7-inch OLED display opts features a 1080p resolution, with it split 960 x 1080 between each eye. However, unlike the Vive and Rift, it doesn’t feature separate displays for each eye and instead makes use of one screen. There’s a discrepancy in its field of vision, too, which is available to view in 100 degrees. It does have both beat when it comes to refresh rate, though, with it capable of running in 120Hz compared to 90Hz. 

Console VR

The key selling point for PlayStation VR is, of course, its compatibility with the PS4. Console gamers not looking to buy a PC/upgrade their current one but who are nonetheless very interested in virtual reality will see it as a great jumping on point, with it serving as a gateway to the new technology. Sony is also likely to bolster the tech with its upcoming PlayStation Neo, a 4K-ready PS4 that should provide an extra shot of power into the company’s VR sector. PSVR will be the first virtual reality option available to console owners, and that’s a big deal.

The price

PlayStation VR is not only the easiest virtual reality headset to own in terms of setting it up, but it’s also much more forgiving on your wallet. Priced at $399 (which translates to £349, because UK citizens are routinely screwed over when it comes to import prices with console games and hardware), you’ll also only need a PS4 in order to be able to play it, which retails for a little more than the GPU you’ll need to successfully run a HTC Vive/Oculus Rift. This is a key selling point for the PSVR as, much like consoles themselves, it will appeal to people who do not want the hassle of having to research and construct a desktop themselves.

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Exclusives

While the open-ended nature of PC development will mean that the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift will inevitably wind up having more games than the PSVR, there’s a lot to be said for quality over quantity and Sony are already securing some big names. Resident Evil 7 was prominently featured during the company’s E3 2016 presentation, and that game will feature its own PSVR mode. There’s also Batman: Arkham VR, which was said to be one of the Los Angeles expo’s highlights by those who got the chance to play it. We expect to see more big name developers working on VR titles for Sony in the future.

Who should buy it?

It’s impossible to recommend the PSVR right now considering that it’s the only one of the three headsets that haven’t yet launched, but those interested in the headset will likely fall into the camp of prospective or current PS4 owners who want to experience VR without the extra hassle. There’s no problem with this, and for what it’s worth the PSVR looks to provide a good, if comparatively under-powered, experience that is bolstered by a decent library of games. Hopefully, Sony’s history of providing disappointing support to its peripherals won’t be replicated here, and console gamers will be given a great alternative to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.