After the price slashes, should you buy an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive?

We all know that Oculus and Vive are now discounted to $399 and $599, so they cost a lot less than when they originally came out. On all VR communities there are people that now are willing to buy a headset due to the cheaper price and are unsure which one to buy. Oculus or Vive? Which is the better? I’ll try to make an updated answer on this topic.

First of all, as I always say, they’re two awesome products, so whatever you’ll buy you’ll be happy with it. Trust me, I’ve tried both and there’s not an experience that is far superior to the other.

Vive Oculus comparison vr
Exactly (Image created on Imgflip)

So, don’t worry: you can’t do a wrong choice.

That said, let me illustrate you the reason why you should pick one over the other, so that you can choose by yourself.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift front
Oculus Rift CV1 Headset (Image by Oculus)
Price

Oculus Rift is damn cheap: $399 for such a high-quality VR system is really an incredible price. Vive costs $599, that is half a Rift more. For the price of two Vive you can buy three Rifts, so the price of the Oculus is really unbeatable. The problem is that when the “Summer of Rift” promotion will end, Facebook headset will cost $499, that is only $100 less than the Vive.

To this mere price comparison we should add all considerations about what accessories to buy to have an optimal VR experience: Oculus to have proper room scale needs at least 3 sensors, so you should add $60 for a third sensor and this makes its price advantage to reduce to only $40. On the other side, Vive hasn’t integrated headphones, so if you want them you have to add $99 to your shopping basket.

Then there is to consider the price of a VR-ready PC, whose specs are almost equivalent. To my knowledge, Oculus has made a slight better work with ASW to lower the specs for a VR-ready PC, so if you use Oculus you may be able to buy a slightly cheaper PC.

Anyway, in any case, Oculus is cheaper than Vive by at least $40.

Comfort & Design

Oculus Rift is far more comfortable than Vive and has a sleeker design. Even the box where Oculus is shipped is very well crafted, I love it. The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap makes the overall appearence and comfort of Vive better, but at the price of $99.

Oculus box design
Oculus is awesome even in packaging
Touch Controllers

Oculus Touch are currently the best VR controllers out there: Vive controllers are big and quite heavy, PSVR controllers are very rough, upcoming Microsoft VR headset controllers are cheap and tracked only if in sight of the user.

Touch are very well tracked in the game area and are able to emulate some fundamental hand poses, like fist, thumbs up, pointing with index. You can actually grab objects inside the VR environment, you can throw them, you can fire bullets with a good degree of hand presence. Vive controllers are good to emulate wands, instead. A game where you have to take guns and shoot at enemies like Robo Recall is cool especially thanks to the Oculus controllers.

RoboRecall review of VR game
This kind of shooting in VR with Oculus Touch is really immersive! Playing Robo Recall I’ve disconnected my cable a bazillion times! (Image by Oculus)
Awesome integrated audio devices

Oculus has integrated headphones, meaning that you can just wear one device and have great visuals and sound. With Vive you have to buy separated earphones or the Deluxe Audio Strap for $99. Quality of audio is great. Not only the quality of the earphones, but also the one of the microphone: Oculus’s one is able to remove all noise and when you play social VR experiences, the other people can hear your voice very neatly. With Vive you have not the same quality, the other people may hear you breathing and some other kind of slight noises.

Better visuals (maybe)

Specifications of Rift and Vive visuals are identical, but someone says that image quality on Rift is slightly better than on the Vive. I admit I’ve never noticed this difference, but I’m reporting this to you anyway.

Play games from all the stores

If you have a Rift, you can play all games from the Oculus Store (and this includes awesome titles like Robo Recall, Dear Angelica, Echo Arena) and from SteamVR. Nowadays almost all SteamVR games are compatible with both the Rift and the Vive, so with an Oculus Rift you’re able to play all games available from all stores. If you have a Vive, instead, you can only play SteamVR games, since Oculus Store games can’t be made Vive-compatible. And considering the fact that Oculus is investing a lot in Oculus exclusives, with Vive you’ll miss some great games.

Of course the community has created a hack, called Revive, to make people with a Vive play all Oculus Store games… but this is a hack, with all problems this means: for instance at a certain moment, Oculus decided to shut down the backdoor used by Revive and for some days no Vive owner was able to play Oculus games anymore.

Interferences resistance

Oculus Rift is more resistant to IR interferences than Vive. When working with Kinects, for instance, I never had a single problem with the Rift, while I had a lot with the Vive. So if you plan to use your headset with an external IR device, the Rift is the way to go.

kinect v1 htc vive vr
Me, using Kinect v1 with the Vive. Things are all right, but using the v2 instead is really a PITA
Palmer Luckey & John Carmack

Oculus has been the company that, thanks to Palmer Luckey, has started this new VR renaissance and that has made me fall in love with VR (at the times of DK2). The reason why in 2016 I bought a Rift and not a Vive has been this one. Then it is the company where a programming god like John Carmack works and whatever thing Carmack makes is always awesome!

HTC Vive
Vive front
The HTC Vive headset (Image by Vive)
Best tracking technology

HTC Vive uses the best tracking solution out there. It is able to track with great accuracy a big space (up to 4m x 4m but someone has made it work even for larger spaces) just with two “cameras” (actually they’re only two light emitters). And this technology is even evolving: in the next times a new improved version able to support larger spaces at a reduced cost will be available for developers.

Oculus tracking in comparison is bad: it is precise, but tracks in a smaller volume. Furthermore, to have a full 360-tracking, you need at least a third sensor, plus an USB extension cable and start messing around with lots of cables. Its setup stresses a lot the USB controllers, because Oculus cameras are just IR cameras, so they continuously transmit to the PC all the camera stream (in comparison, Vive only tracks some points on the headset and the controllers, so consumes far less bandwith). Furthermore Oculus can track only headset and controllers, while Vive solution tracks even additional elements like Vive Trackers.

Frontal camera

Vive has a handy frontal camera, that can be used to look at the world around you and also to create some kind of AR/MR applications. Oculus has not, so these kind of apps are not possible.

Accessories

Vive has an incredible number of accessories. Some are made by HTC, some others by third parties. When someone creates an add-on for a headset, usually makes it for the Vive first, since it offers a more open ecosystem. Along these accessories we have:

  • The Deluxe Audio Strap, to add integrated audio to the Vive headset;
  • The Vive Tracker, that you can use to track additional elements inside the gaming area. For instance it can be used inside arcades to track guns or game props; or it can be used as a cheap solution to perform full body tracking. If you’re a maker, you’ll surely love the Tracker;
  • TPCAST / Displaylink: two accessories that will make the Vive wireless. They require you to add some other boxes here and there in the room, but will completely free you from having a cable! (UPDATE: a Redditor has made me notice that TPCAST will support Oculus too, later on and Displaylink will too)

    Vive Wireless by displaylink
    Displaylink wireless add-on (Image by Engadget)
  • Vive ‘n Chill: a little device able to keep your head fresh while you play inside VR.
  • Tobii eye tracking: Tobii is creating an accessory that you can install inside the Vive to have eye tracking. I’ve seen a Youtuber already receiving such a set;
  • Neurable: a device able to read brainwaves and let you play just exploiting the power of your mind. It’s still a prototype, but has been showcased using a Vive.

Clear enterprise solution

If you need something for an enterprise use case, go to the Vive, for sure. It has a clear business licensing model with clear rules. Furthermore, being the system so open and so full of accessories, it is super-appealing for enterprise uses like VR arcades.

Knuckles controllers

Oculus Touch are better than Vive VR controllers, but Valve is about to release a new type of controllers: the Knuckles. Knuckles should be controllers at least equivalent to Touch, maybe even better: for instance you’ll surely be able to grab and throw away objects using completely natural gestures. I’ve not tried myself, but selected devs that have received them have reported enthusiastic feedbacks!

OpenVR

Vive runtime is open source and this is amazing, because this means not only that all the community can contribute to it, but also that you can customize it to your needs if you wish.

Everything is customizable and I’ve seen someone that has been able to transform their cup into a SteamVR controller just by adding sensors on it and configuraing some stuff! It is the right solution for makers.

Furthermore, the technology is hardware agnostic: you can buy Vive system and then use the same Lighthouse stations to work with the upcoming LG headset. Oculus can work only with Oculus, while OpenVR is a completely open platform. At the moment there’s only the HTC Vive, but more headsets are to come (like LG one). This means that you can buy Vive now and then be free to choose whatever SteamVR future headset you will like to buy.

Multiplatform support

HTC Vive works with PC, Mac and Linux. Oculus was like that only in the early days, now it is Windows only.

If you are a Mac or Linux user, Vive is the only choice for you. If you have a Mac, you can also buy an external box to make it compatible with your HTC headset.

AAA Games

The announced Fallout 4 VR and DOOM VFR will be surely available for the HTC Vive. Bethesda has said that will want to support other platforms, but who knows when this will happen.

Gabe Newell

Vive is sponsored by the lovely face of Gabe Newell, the man that takes all our money during the Steam Sales. Furthermore, while it is true that the VR renaissance has been started by Oculus, it seems that part of their tracking technology was actually developed by Valve engineers (but there are different versions on this story).


Hope to have given you a clear idea of why you should buy one or the other headset. If you want some rules of thumb:

  • If you’re a maker inside, go for the Vive
  • If you like customizations, go for the Vive
  • If you use Mac or Linux, go for the Vive
  • If you want to use VR in commercial installations, go for the Vive
  • If you have a big room to dedicate to VR in your house, go for the Vive
  • If you love comfort and design, go for the Rift
  • If you want the maximum number of playable games, go for the Rift
  • If you want to use a Kinect in the same room, go for the Rift
  • If you want to spend for VR the least money possible, go for the Rift and buy it NOW (before the $399 promotion ends)

If you don’t fall in any of these categories, just toss a coin and pick what comes 😀

Hope you liked this little guide. Whatever you’ll choose… welcome to virtual reality!

 

Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I've still not waken up...