After years of anticipation, the Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR are nearly here. The former is set to launch at the end of the month, and the latter? Well, Sony outlined a October 2016 release window during a recent presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. We now know nearly everything about these headsets — from their hardware specs and design to their pricing and peripherals — but which one seems more likely cement VR as the future? Below, you’ll find a side-by-side comparison of the hardware in both headsets, along with a discussion on how the two stack up against one another when it comes to display, performance, and availability.
Update March 15, 2016 by Brendan Hesse: Updated article with release date, price, and other information for PlayStation VR as announced at GDC 2016.
|Pricing||$599 (requires PC)||$399 (requires PlayStation 4 consoles, Move controller, and Playstation Eye camera)|
|Panel size||TBA||5.7 inches|
|Resolution||2160 × 1200||1920×RGB×1080 (960×RGB×1080 per eye)|
|Refresh rate||90hz/eye display||120Hz, 90Hz|
|Field of view||Approximately 110 degrees||Approximately 100 degrees|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, external Constellation tracking sensor array||Accelerometer, gyroscope, PlayStation Eye tracking system|
|Connections||Requires HDMI 1.3 output, three USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port||HDMI + USB|
|Audio||Built-in headphones and mic, 3D audio|
|Input||Oculus Touch, Xbox One controller (included)||PlayStation Move, Dual Shock 4 controller|
|Release date||Pre orders available, shipments begin March 28, 2016.||October 2016|
|DT review||Hands-on||Coming soon|
The design is difficult to make definitive claims on, as we’ve yet to really test either headset side-by-side, but on paper there appear to be numerous similarities. The Rift and PlayStation VR have single display split between two screens, with the Rift featuring a combined screen resolution of 2,160 x 1,200, and 1,920 × RGB × 1,080 (or 960 × RGB × 1,080 per eye) on the PSVR. Both headsets use HDMI and USB for display and interface connections, respectively, however the Rift features built-in speakers for audio while the PSVR relies on a pair of bundled stereo earbuds for sound. Both use similar sensors, too, though the Rift has a magnetometer and the external tracking system while the PSVR uses the PlayStation Eye camera as its tracking system.
These elements combine to give you an unparalleled sense of audio and visual immersion with both headsets (or so we hope). We do not yet know the weight of either, and until we actually wear them, we won’t know which offers the most comfortable wearing experience. What we do know is that both also have the same forms of input interaction via gamepads and motion controllers.
The Rift will come standard with an Xbox One controller, and can use the Oculus Touch motion controller for deeper spatial presence. The PSVR will be usable with both the Dual Shock 4 controller, and the PlayStation Move motion controller. In virtually every sense, the two headsets are at least comparable on paper.
Display is paramount to successful immersion in VR; if the resolution, refresh rate, or latency are too low — or, in certain instances, too high — it can break the sense of “presence” that virtual reality strives to attain. In terms of material, both the Rift and the PlayStation VR use OLED screens, which means both should have rich color and contrast, and both offer a vertical 100-degree field of view.
However, the Rift beats out the PlayStation VR in the resolution category, with a 2,160 x 1,200 total resolution across two displays, versus PlayStation VR’s 1,920 x 1,080. That, theoretically, would mean less of a “screen door” effect — where solid black squares visibly separate each pixel, as if looking through a screen door — affecting immersion, and breaking that precious sense of presence.
We won’t know which headset offers the better experience until we get our hands on both sometime next year, but judging by the released specs, the Rift seems to have the edge thanks to the higher screen resolution.
Winner: Oculus Rift
VR is notorious for causing motion sickness, and this is due to having an improper refresh rate. If it’s too slow, the image will appear swimmy and sluggish, and cause nausea in the wearer. Fortunately, this seems to be a problem VR manufacturers are confident they’ve overcome.
Both the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR run at a 90Hz refresh rate per eye display, meaning there won’t be a major difference between the two headsets in terms of image movement fluidity, though the PSVR can render games at up to 120HZ. Of course, what will matter in terms of graphical fidelity is up to the hardware the headsets are used in conjunction with. The PSVR will be used as a peripheral with Sony’s PlayStation 4 console and a small external processor, while the Rift will need to be used with a beefy gaming PC. Oculus has said Rift-ready PCs will be offered by third-party partners starting around $1,000, which is a far steeper price point than a $300 PS4 and $60 camera. Oculus’ recommended hardware includes an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD 290, an Intel i5-4590 processor, at least 8GB RAM, and Windows 7 SP1 or greater. The headset will also require and HDMI 1.3 output, three USB 3.o ports, and one USB 2.0 port in order to be hooked up to the PC. There is a handy tool over at the Oculus Rift website that will gauge your PC’s Rift readiness.
If Sony is planning on the PSVR to work solely with the PS4, they may be at a bit of a disadvantage. While the PS4’s hardware is static, a PC can be upgraded and modified with more powerful components to exceed the PS4’s power, and the above required hardware for the PSVR is much more powerful than a PS4. Still, all things considered, the refresh rate is what is going to matter most when it comes to the actual VR experience and sense of immersion, and in this regard the two headsets are seemingly equal.
Price and Availability
The price of the Rift was finally unveiled on January 6, 2016. The headset will be available for $599. This price is of course in addition to a powerful enough PC to use the Rift, which could pose a major hurdle for those without a Rift-ready PC looking to jump into VR from day one, especially when the recommended Rift-ready PC runs about $1,500. At the very least, the Oculus Rift will cost you $599 for the headset and the included sensor array, Xbox One controller, and copies of Eve Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale. In terms of availability, the first pre orders ship on March 28, 2016.
The PSVR, on the other hand, is a cheaper investment given the headset will cost you $399. In addition to the headset, you’ll also need a $300 PlayStation 4, $30 Move controller, and $60 PlayStation Eye camera. While a PS4 is an expensive investment, there’s a strong chance you could already be among the 35 million PS4 users out there. Even if you aren’t, it’s far cheaper than building or upgrading a PC, and that price gets even lower if you happen to already own the camera and controllers. The PlayStation VR will be available in October, 2016, which gives you some time to save up for the headset, console, camera, and controllers. Sony also recently confirmed the release of a PSVR bundle — one packaged with a Move controller and the Eye — though price remains unknown.
Making a decision mostly comes down to when you want to join the VR revolution. If you’re eager to get in on the ground floor, and don’t mind paying an arm and a leg, then the Rift’s fast-approaching release date will likely tip the scales in its favor. However, if you’re worried about cost, and don’t mind waiting, then the PSVR is probably right for you. Furthermore, if you’re a PS4 user, the PSVR could be even more appealing. That said, given the power and flexibility of PCs, the Oculus’ performance and longevity could likely beat out the PlayStation VR. So, it’s a toss up.
A commonly uttered phrase by those interested in VR trying to convey the experience to others is “you won’t get it until you try it,” and that goes doubly so when discussing unreleased hardware. Both headsets seem to be very similar on paper, save for a few idiosyncrasies here and there, specifically in terms of controller and required hardware. But when it comes to which is better, we have yet to make our decision. Even if one has a better “feel” than the other, there may be a difference in terms of available games, apps, and other experiences that could give one an edge over the other. With the release of the Oculus Rift imminent and the PlayStation VR just a few months away, we’ll know for certain which is the prefered VR experience very soon.
Updated January 6, 2016 by Brendan Hesse: Updated Oculus Rift price and availability, and updated article to reflect new information released during CES 2016.
Update 12:01PM September 25th 2015: Thanks to user comments, some errors in this article have been corrected. Digital Trends regrets the errors.