Spec Comparison: Can the plucky PlayStation VR upset HTC’s Vive?

Virtual reality headsets are finalized. If you want in on the fun, you have a tough decision to make, and it’s not just a matter of console versus computer. Both products offer a profoundly different take on the VR craze – from tracking and feature set, to distribution and game support.

If you’re having trouble choosing, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve spent time with both devices, considered their specs, and hope to deliver an initial verdict on which of these VR headsets is the right one for early adopters.

HTC Vivehtc vive front shot

Playstation VRPlayStation VR thumb

Display  OLED 5.7-inch OLED
Resolution per eye 1,080 x 1,200 960 x 1,080
Field of view 110 degrees 100 degrees
Refresh rate 90 Hz 120 Hz
Latency 22 ms 18 ms
System requirements i5-4590, GTX 970/R9 290, 4GB RAM PS4 with PlayStation Camera (not included)
Bundled accessories 2 x HTC Vive Controllers, 2 x Lighthouse base station, earbuds Earbuds
Bundled games Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, Tilt Brush One unannounced PSVR title
Price $800 $400
Availability April 5, 2016 October 2016
Review Hands-on Coming soon!

Display

OLED is the final word when it comes to VR headsets. The display’s natural low-latency properties, combined with the best black levels in existence, make for a fully immersive, natural VR experience. Both headsets take advantage of that technology, but that’s where the similarities end.

Resolution on headsets is typically measured in pixels per eye, but astute readers will notice the PSVR’s pair of screens adds up to a full 1080p display. The HTC Vive, on the other hand, boasts a 2,160 x 1,200 total display ratio across two smaller screens, one for each eye. That makes it tougher to calculate the pixels per inch, but suffice to say it will be denser than the PSVR’s 386 PPI, already a strong score.

PSVRCable4

The HTC Vive also has a ten degree wider field of view than the PSVR headset (an advantage), and a four millisecond slower response time (a disadvantage). Without both in hand, it’s hard to say exactly how meaningful those seemingly slight differences are.

More noticeable will be the difference in refresh rate. The PSVR packs in a 120Hz display to the Vive’s 90Hz panel. That could be an advantage, but we are skeptical of it. Modern PlayStation 4 games are often locked at 30 frames per second — 30Hz, basically. If games are going to take advantage of the 120Hz display, they’ll have to dial back graphics significantly.

Sony has another curveball to introduce into the fray as well, and that’s the claims of a “full RGB” display in which each pixel has three full sub-pixels. Sony says other headsets skimp on the sub-pixels, which means the PSVR headset could have a wider color gamut. Again, this is tough to dispute without the headsets in front of us, but it’s worth taking note of.

Having spent hands-on time with the Vive’s high-resolution display, it’s tough to imagine that Sony’s single-panel, 1080p screen could beat it, no matter the brilliance of the colors. And we don’t think the PlayStation 4 itself has the hardware to make the most of the PSVR’s 120Hz refresh rate.

Winner: HTC Vive

Tracking and features

Despite their similarities, its feature set and tracking capabilities that really set these two headsets apart. The Playstation VR headset is an extension of the existing PlayStation experience. It plays games built for PSVR, with confirmed titles like EVE: Valkyrie, Harmonix Music VR, and Driveclub VR. It also plays movies and traditional games in cinema mode, a virtual theater.

If you haven’t heard of many Vive-specific games, it’s because many of them are still in development as well. Confirmed titles like the crowdfunded Hover Junkers, and the included games, Job Simulator, and Fantastic Contraption, take full advantage of the headset’s massive tracking area.
vivesetup
Which brings us to the Vive’s standout feature. Full room virtual reality. The lighthouse stations are able to track up in a 15 by 15 foot area, with the camera on the front tracking controller motion and any objects that enter the space.

It’s an astounding effect that allows you to paint in the air and then walk under or around it, or lets you explore a robot repair room in Aperture Science, crouching down to pick up objects and cart them to the other side of the room. Controls become completely intuitive thanks to custom wireless VR controllers with touchpads.

Winner: HTC Vive

Price and value

PlayStation VR, at $400, is obviously more affordable than the HTC Vive, which is $800.

But that $400 price point comes with a few caveats. One is that you still need a PlayStation Camera, which isn’t bundled with the device, and will cost at least $50. A PlayStation Move controller will cost another $50 at most retailers. That brings the total cost, with console, to at least $700 with just the one game that comes in the starter kit.

The Vive’s fees are decidedly less obfuscated. The headset includes two trackers, earbuds, and a pair of wireless controllers — everything you need to use the headset, except the computer.

In order to meet the Vive’s minimum requirements, a PC needs to pack hardware as least as powerful as the parts listed in the chart. Just the GPU, CPU, and RAM are going to run about $500, and that’s only an upgrade price on an existing PC. A completely new build could easily run over $1,000, which is coincidentally the cheapest system featured on HTC’s list of Vive-optimized systems.

Either way, diving into VR during these early days isn’t going to be a cheap endeavor. If you’re starting from scratch, the PlayStation VR setup, including a console, is less than just the Vive headset without the computer to use it.

Winner: PlayStation VR

Conclusion

This battle isn’t as simple as console or PC for VR gaming. Cost is a major factor for a lot of users, especially when they’re being asked to shell out for the first generation of VR devices. These are both early adoption devices, and users on both sides should know that going in. Game support is going to be lacking at first, and there are bound to be issues that spring up from the first hardware revision.

HTC Vive
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

The PlayStation VR is bound to be more game-ready on day one, a function of standardized hardware and a lack of driver or software control at the user end. PC gamers are more accustomed to peripherals that require some elbow-work, and the intrigue of full-room VR is likely to have some nerds already building out the perfect space for it.

Which means the Vive might be twice the price, but it offers a fully equipped VR headset for the coming years, while the PlayStation VR seems more limited. If you can splurge for it, the HTC Vive is clearly the most advanced headset on the market — and you want a full VR experience, not one that’s just good enough.

Winner: HTC Vive

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