Article by SHERRI L. SMITH Mar 28, 2016 (source link)
The virtual reality era officially begins with the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on March 30 and April 5. But which platform should you bet on? Will it be the $599 Rift, with its slick design, large catalog of games and cheaper price tag, or the $799 Vive, with its impressive room-tracking technology, virtual controllers and unique camera?
Neither the Vive nor the Rift is the most fashionable piece of hardware. But if we had to hit the runway with one of these devices strapped to our heads, we’d prefer the Rift. It has a smooth, sleek, minimalist design that boasts clean lines and gentle curves, and it kind of looks like the headset from anime classic Ghost in the Shell.
The Vive has a funky, sci-fi design that’s intriguing, but the strategically placed divots give the impression that the headset is still in its prototype phase compared to the Rift’s polished, consumer-ready presentation.
But what puts the Rift over the top are the built-in headphones that fold down and gently press onto your ears to deliver an immersive audiovisual experience. People looking to use the Vive will have to supply their own headphones, which is nice if you have a favorite pair of buds or cans, but ultimately is another piece of hardware you’re adding to the whole setup.
Overall, the Rift’s design is more polished and consumer-ready than the Vive’s. Having a built-in audio system is a huge plus.
What’s Included (and What’s Not)
Each headset is set to launch with an assorted bag of goodies to enhance your VR experience. When it ships in early April, the Vive will include a headset, a pair of handheld trackpad controllers and two base stations, which provide 360-degree motion tracking using lasers and infrared.
Credit: HTCThose jonesing for the Rift will get the headset, sensor, remote, cables and an Xbox One controller. Notably absent from the Rift’s inventory are the wireless Touch controllers the company’s been demoing since last September, which won’t be available until an unspecified date in 2016.
The Touch controllers will not be available when Oculus Rift launches this spring. Credit: OculusBecause most games created for the Rift are programmed to work with a traditional controller, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey decided to cut costs and offer the touch controllers at a later date.
The Vive gives consumers everything they want right out of the box instead of making them wait and pay more down the line.
The Vive and the Rift have nearly identical specs, including 2160 x 1200 OLED displays with 90Hz refresh rates, HDMI, and USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. The few key differences are found in the sensors and tracking areas.
The Rift features an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and 360-degree positional tracking. The Vive swaps out the magnetometer for a laser-position sensor and front-facing camera. Most of the Rift’s experiences are seated affairs, meaning it doesn’t need more than 5 x 11 feet of space to operate properly. The room-mapping Vive needs a bit more space for users to walk around, which is why the headset needs an area of 15 x 15 feet.
Despite requiring a lot more space than the Rift, the Vive’s front-facing camera and laser-position system let you walk around the room without becoming the victim of an unfortunate pratfall.
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Oculus VR, HTC and Valve made it pretty clear that you will need powerful laptops and desktops to support your virtual adventures. On the laptop front, both headsets will require at least an Intel Core i7-6700HK processor, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 GPU, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4, a 1920 x 1080 display and Windows 7 or above.
There are a few key differences for desktops, namely RAM requirements and ports. The Vive can function with a minimum 4GB of RAM with either HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 and at least one USB 2.0. The Rift requires 8GB of RAM or more, HDMI 1.3, and three USB 3.0 ports plus one USB 2.0 port.
Although both headsets require high-end systems to operate, the Vive’s requirements are slightly less exacting than the Rift’s.
Each headset has its own method of motion tracking. Valve’s “Lighthouse” base stations bounce lasers onto the light sensors strategically placed on the Vive and the controllers.
HTC motion sensors. Credit: HTCIt’s an ideal methodology for room tracking, but for the tracking to work, the two base stations must be mounted on the wall or placed on a bookshelf. Oculus’ motion-tracking solution, called Constellation, employs an optical sensor connected to your desktop or laptop via USB, making Oculus more suited for a seated VR experience.
Although setting up the Vive will be more of a hassle, it’s worth it for the ability to physically walk around an area in virtual reality.
Both the Rift and the Vive allow you to have experiences in a new immersive fashion. Vive, however, enables you to walk around and explore this new space utilizing Valve’s proprietary Chaperone technology. Leveraging room-tracking capabilities, the Rift will project a blue-green grid when you’re getting too close to a wall or other errant furniture.
Valve has taken its safeguard technology to the next level with the front camera, showing the outside world in an inky blue tint, saving you from crashing into any nearby obstacles. The Valve’s camera can also be accessed by double-tapping a button on the controller. This comes in handy in case you need to find something in the room and would rather keep the headset on.
Chaperone is also coming to the Rift, albeit in a limited capacity. You’ll still get the Tron-like grid when you get too close to a boundary, which grants the headset a level of mobility it previously lacked. However, without a camera, you lose out on the pass-through ability.
The Vive’s camera, with its pass-through ability, gives the headset a distinct advantage over the Rift by providing a glimpse of the outside world for safety and mundane tasks like finding a lost remote.
Just because it’s tethered to your PC, that doesn’t mean your VR headset won’t work with your smartphone. When it launches, the Vive will have the ability to synchronize with your phone over Bluetooth to answer calls and messages while in VR land, meaning there’s one less reason to take the headset off. Oculus lacks a similar feature.
Having the ability to answer texts or phone calls without removing the headset is a useful feature.
Each device will ship with a pair of games at launch. The Rift will debut with the colorful platforming adventure title Lucky’s Tale and multiplayer galactic shooter EVE: Valkyrie. For a limited time, Vive will come with the darkly ironic sandbox title Job Simulator, 3D art program Tilt Brush and a surprisingly addictive building game called Fantastic Contraption.
You’d expect Valve to have the upper hand when it comes to games, since it has a massive catalog of PC titles. However, Oculus has been hard at work building up a formidable catalog for its impending PC launch. Securing a few platform-exclusive titles is an excellent strategy for bringing gamers on the fence to its side, but only if the titles are triple-A quality.
Price and Value
At first glance, this seems like a no-brainer. Priced at $599, the Oculus Rift is significantly cheaper than the HTC Vive ($799). However, the Vive is bundling its pair of virtual controllers with the system in addition to three free games. Rift fans will have to wait until a yet-to-be-announced date for the Touch controller and pay a yet-to-be-determined price for it, which could result in the Rift being more expensive in the long run. The Vive also offers a superior room-tracking experience that enables the wearer to walk around the space.
The Vive is much more expensive than the Rift at launch, but will ship with the virtual controllers while Rift fans will have to settle for an Xbox One controller.
On paper, there’s no question that the HTC Vive is the superior virtual reality headset. Although it’s pricier than the Oculus Rift, it’s shipping with three free games and two VR controllers. Plus, it allows wearers to physically walk around their designated spaces, which creates a much more immersive experience. The Chaperone technology and the camera will make sure you don’t trip over an end table while you’re exploring distant lands. Even better, the Vive can sync with your phone, allowing you to answer it without removing the headset.
However, the Oculus Rift is cheaper, with a better-looking design and will potentially boast a game catalog of over 100 titles, which is where the headset can win the VR war. Oculus has been consistently praised for the quality of its content, and titles like Rock Band and Minecraft only help to cement that goodwill. Owned by Facebook, Oculus probably also has some social experiences up its sleeve that we haven’t seen yet.
Even after the Touch controllers ship, the Rift still won’t match the Vive pound for pound in terms of capabilities, but Oculus could win the war if it has the better game and content catalog.