Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive

Oculus Rift and HTC Vive head to head: Prices are lower, but our favorite remains the same

oculus rift amazon sale 350 on matt wideview

Although there are new and exciting VR headsets on the horizon like the HTC Vive Pro and Oculus Go, the original Vive and Oculus Rift remain two of the best entry-points for high-end virtual reality experiences. They both have motion controllers, comparable display features, and roomscale tracking. Now that the prices are much closer too, which is the best option?

Check out our Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive spec comparison below for an in-depth look at how we think the two long-standing kings of VR stand up against one another.

Oculus Rift

oculus rift front shot

 

HTC Vive

htc vive front shot2

 

Display OLED OLED
Resolution 2160 x 1200 2160 x 1200
Refresh Rate 90Hz 90Hz
Platform Oculus Home SteamVR, VivePort
Field of view 110 degrees 110 degrees
Tracking area 5 x 5 feet (two sensors), 8 x 8 feet (three) 15 x 15 feet
Built-in audio Yes Yes
Built-in mic Yes Yes
Controller Oculus Touch, Xbox One controller Vive controller, any PC compatible gamepad
Sensors Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer,  Constellation tracking camera. Accelerometer, gyroscope, Lighthouse laser tracking system, front-facing camera
Connections HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Requirements NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater

Intel Core i3-6100 / AMD FX4350 or greater

8GB+ RAM

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

Price $400 $500
DT review 3 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design

Neither the Rift or Vive are 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.

The Rift and Vive both utilize adjustable Velcro straps and comfortable padding on the interior faceplate. The Vive is still the heavier of the two, which makes sense given it touts 37 visible sensors on the front, designed to connect to wireless cameras within the tracking space. Although the Vive was originally a little awkward, the Deluxe Audio Strap was a big improvement when it comes to fitting the headset on and off — though it is an extra $100.

The Rift, on the other hand, showcases a sleeker, fabric-coated exterior design and smaller footprint. It’s easier to get on and off, and may feel more comfortable over time due to its lighter weight. While the Vive still looks a bit experimental, the Rift looks like a futuristic device you’ll be happy to show off.

Both models accommodate glasses (though with some added discomfort), and connect via USB and HDMI to your PC.

Winner: Oculus Rift

Display quality, field of view

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.

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’s there.

One aspect that does affect the visuals of each headset is their lens designs. While there are some differences in manufacturing style, the only time it’s noticeable is when bright objects appear on darker backgrounds. The Vive has somewhat obvious concentric rings that appear due to the lens’ machining. In comparison, the Rift has a more general aura around the bright objects.

Both detract from the visuals in that particular setting, though neither ruins the experience in any meaningful way. Overall, the two headsets are evenly matched in visual quality.

Winner: Draw

htc vive hardware bundles box set hero
HTC Vive Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Controls and tracking

As important as the headset is to your virtual experience, 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 an Xbox One controller initially shipped with the Rift, the Touch controllers now come as standard. Read our hands-on for the details.

The Touch controllers have 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 allows the pair of controllers to function more like your real hands when gaming, capitalizing on internal tracking sensors and haptic feedback. They help differentiate between different kinds of impacts in game and translate them to your real hands.

The Vive takes a different approach. The device’s controllers, available at launch and bundled with the headset, 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 Vive controllers and headset and when placed in opposite corners of a room can track a space that’s 15 x 15ft. They were designed to offer roomscale tracking from the get go, so the two bundled sensors are all that’s needed for it. With a combination of pulses and sweeping lasers and the 70 sensors on the headset and controllers, the Vive tracking works near flawlessly most of the time.

The lighthouse trackers and wand controllers will also support the upcoming HTC Vive Pro headset and will be a requisite of its usage until the second generations of each are released sometime later this year.

In comparison, 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. The second camera bundled with the Touch motion controllers improves that tracking space depending on placement. However, three are still recommended for a solid playspace and even then, Oculus only recommends a maximum tracking space of eight by eight feet to avoid occlusion.

Despite their external sensor differences, both headsets utilize magnetometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers built directly into the headsets to handle tilt tracking.

While the Vive offers a larger and, in our experience, more reliable roomscale experience, both headsets support a digital safety grid to prevent you bumping into anything. The Vive has its Chaperone, while the Rift has its Guardian. Both throw up a translucent grid near the edge of your playspace so you don’t hit the walls when trying to take out your next VR enemy. The Vive’s Chaperone is a little more customizable, and can also make use of its front-facing camera to give you a better view of the real world outside the headset.

Winner: HTC Vive

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.

Winner: Draw

Software

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 currently comes with seven games: Lucky’s Tale, Medium, Toybox, Quill, Dead and Buried, Dragon Front, and Robo Recall.

The Rift store has a decent library of titles, though the total is noticeably less than that of the Vive’s catalog.

Oculus has been helping to develop the WebVR standard too, which makes it easy to jump into quick VR experiences such as 360-degree photos and videos from within your browser. Oculus also hopes that developers will begin using its React, a Javascript interface that aims to make the web a comfortable place to browse while in virtual reality.

HTC’s Vive, meanwhile, is designed to primarily work with Valve’s Steam platform. Steam does have a catalog of more than 2,800 games and experiences to enjoy, and ultimately gives the Vive the most extensive content library of any VR headset right now. When you buy the headset, you also get a free copy of Fallout 4 VR, as well as a free subscription to its Viveport game rental service and a code to buy additional games there.

Winner: HTC Vive

Pricing and availability

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 third one though. In comparison, the Vive is sold at a base price of $500 thanks to a recent price drop following the announcement of the Vive Pro. Both headsets now come with motion controllers and roomscale tracking as standard, though the Vive’s tracking has fewer problems with controller occlusion.

That means that for now, the Rift is the cheaper option, even factoring in the cost of an additional sensor. However, that price is narrower today than it was when both headsets first launched, though the Rift bundle does include less hardware — it lacks the 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 roomscale VR, the price difference is quite negligible.

Of course, none of this factors in the cost of the powerful PCs required to run them.

Winner: Draw

The HTC Vive is still the best

HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Although the HTC Vive Pro’s launch in early April steals the crown from the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in terms of visuals, they’re both still fantastic VR headsets for the money — even now that the PSVR can be had in bundles for $300.

When pitted head to head, 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 bring the experience up to par with the Vive, 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.

Overall winner: HTC Vive