Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive

Both headsets are finally out, but which one rules the early VR roost?

Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive officially launched just a week apart from one another, and just like that, high-end consumer virtual reality had finally arrived. Doesn't it feel great just to say that?

Well, truth be told, it feels even greater to savour it: both the Rift and Vive pack plenty of wow factor into their immersive experiences, even in these early days. But while there are commonalities between the two pricey headsets, there are also a number of ways in which they stand apart, whether it's general VR approach, controls, or game selection.

Actually getting your hands on either headset right now can be a challenge, and we're not just talking about cost and hardware requirements. Both are dealing with lengthy pre-order lists and shipping delays, and it could be months before you see either on store shelves. Fortunately, that gives you plenty of time to do your homework.

We've been head-on with both devices in recent weeks and have lengthy individual reviews of both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive – but if you want a to-the-point matchup of their current strengths and weaknesses, look no further: this is what you need to know.

The experience

With Oculus, you're very much chair-bound

Whereas Vive offers a full-room experience

While both headsets have some similar hardware and capabilities, they have very different aims for now. The HTC Vive is all about room-scale VR: that means that games may offer an experience that requires as much as 15x15ft for you to move around in, deftly maneuvering the virtual worlds while you carefully navigate your own. With a headset on, of course. Even with a smaller space, the sense of scale is astounding.

By comparison, the Oculus Rift is currently focused on the seated VR experience: your backside is in a chair, you've got a very traditional Xbox One gamepad in hand, and you're free to look around the game world. But looking around a virtual world and moving around it are two very different things, and it comes through in the play experience.

Allowing roaming doesn't automatically make Vive games better than comparative Rift ones, but when it really works, it offers a more transformational gaming leap than the Oculus Rift currently provides. When the Rift's Touch controllers come out later this year, that should change. But for now, the HTC Vive hits higher heights.

Winner: HTC Vive


The use of an old-school controller on the Rift is a bit of a downer

The Vive's controllers, in comparison, are futuristic and 'next-level'

As hinted above, there's a very large difference in the way you interact with games on either headset, and it's not just about sitting versus standing/moving. The Rift ships with a plain 'ol Xbox One gamepad, which is a very fine game controller, but you're essentially still playing games the old way while getting a much-enhanced visual experience. You also get a small touch remote, but it's just meant for menu navigation and video controls.

By contrast, the HTC Vive comes with a pair of motion controllers that are simply brilliant – we likened their use as being like "going from an Atari joystick to a PS4 controller" when compared to what the Rift has on offer. The sense of immersion is just incredible, and the motion tracking means they appear right in the games with you, only increasing the illusion and saving you some time spent fumbling around for them.

Again, the forthcoming Oculus Touch controllers may well bring the Rift experience in line with the Vive, or even surpass it. But right now, in the launch window, it's not even close: using the Vive already feels like next-level VR, while the Rift offers more of a compromise.

Winner: HTC Vive

The games

Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have a nicely broad selection of early games and experiences, but when it comes down to it, the Rift feels like it has proper, meaty games on offer. As of this writing, the best Vive moments come from shorter experiences.

On the Rift, longtime VR demo showcase EVE Valkyrie delivers amazing space shooting thrills, while Chronos is an impressive role-playing dungeon explorer, Adr1ft delivers both terror and serenity alike as you float through a damaged space station, and Project Cars amps up the immersion as it moves over from flat screens into the VR world.

By contrast, the best Vive games don't always feel fully-formed: Valve's Portal-inspired The Lab delivers what may well be the most incredible VR experiences yet available, but they're very much short and sweet demos. Games such as Job Simulator, TheBlu, and Tilt Brush are all likewise very neat, but aren't necessarily the sort of thing you'll be absorbed in for long stretches of time.

Oculus seemed to put more effort into cultivating larger, exclusive games for the launch, so for now, the Rift's game selection has a slight edge. But while the Vive's games tend to be smaller in scope, the room-scale VR can often make them feel larger in impact, and the SteamVR platform should ensure that we have lots more to play before long.

Winner: Oculus Rift

Setup and requirements

Setup on the Rift is fairly fuss-free...

...but on the Vive it's much more involved

No doubt about it: the Oculus Rift is a breeze to set up when compared to the HTC Vive. With the Rift, you can plug in a few USB3.0 and HDMI cables into your PC and that's the bulk of the setup done. Easy as pie.

The HTC Vive, on the other hand, has two wireless sensors (that it's recommended you mount on a wall), a breakout box, and lots of cables to contend with. You get a larger-scale VR experience with the Vive, of course, but getting to that point requires some hassle – it's not nearly as straightforward or intuitive, and once installed in one room it's a pain in the rear to move to another.

As far as PC requirements go, both the Rift and Vive share the basic requirement for an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 GPU or AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater, but the Vive's minimum spec suggests it can work with less RAM and a slightly weaker processor.

Truth be told, the Rift will run at a slightly lower spec than listed, too, but we'd aim for what Oculus recommends for either of these system to ensure you get a quality VR experience across the board and into the future.

Which means the real differentiator is the setup, and in that department the Rift is the fuss-free victor.

Winner: Oculus Rift


The Rift will set you back £500

The HTC Vive comes with a hefty £689 price tag

Well, this one's straightforward: the Oculus Rift sells for £500, while the HTC Vive sells for £689. Both come with everything you need other than the PC, including the controller(s) and even a couple of games. So when it comes to headset cost, the Rift is obviously cheaper.

As noted above, the Vive's required specs are slightly less in some regards than the Rift, so you might avoid needing computer upgrades in the process. But if you need a new gaming PC to run either headset, you're probably looking at a £1000 or higher cost. Welcome to the future.

Winner: Oculus Rift

And the winner is...

And the winner is... the incredible HTC Vive

If you're the kind of person who loves a little counting, you may well have noticed that the Rift takes more section victories here than the Vive does. But here's the thing: some categories are worth more than others as far as we're concerned.

When it comes down to it, if you're looking for the most impressive and awe-inspiring virtual reality experience on the market today, it comes from the HTC Vive. The ability to move around your physical room in VR adds a whole extra level to the immersion, and the best Vive games push barriers in ways that Rift games currently do not.

Granted, the trade-off comes in added headset expense, some setup clunkiness, a slightly less comfortable device on your skull, and an early game selection that feels a bit like a collection of demos. So, there are drawbacks - but at its best, the Vive and its motion controllers stand tallest.

Still, the Oculus Rift delivers some truly great VR experiences, as well. Using a seated approach with a gamepad, there's less of a sense of immersion – but the games look great, the headset is more comfortable and refined, and it's much easier to set up and use. It's also cheaper than the HTC Vive by nearly £200, and has more robust games at present. And you don't need a large space to use the Rift, either.

Both have their upsides and downsides, and the conversation could be very different in six months' time when the Touch controllers are released and many more games fill both headsets' lineups. Check back with us then – but for now, we're more wowed by the HTC Vive.

Overall winner: HTC Vive

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