The Vive Focus was most probably the best VR standalone on the market when Oculus last week announced what will be the first consumer 6DOF VR standalone headset. And so here we are again: Oculus vs HTC, America vs China, Hugo Barra vs Alvin Wang Graylin. The never-ending story. A commercial war that has given us lots of high-quality virtual reality products for always decreasing prices (ehm, cough cough Vive Pro excluded… cough cough). And now the battle is on standalone headsets: Oculus Quest vs Vive Focus. And in these days a lot of people are asking: what are the differences? Which one is better?
I own a Vive Focus since seven months; I’m also a developer for Go and a Rift and I have read everything I could about the Quest (if you have missed the super round-up article on it, run to read it). I’m a huge fan of the Vive Focus and I’m hyped about the Oculus Quest. So, I think I am a good candidate to write a preliminary comparison post between them, to let you understand the differences and potentialities. Be careful that I haven’t tried the Quest myself and in any case, the Quest has still not released and the Focus has only been released in China, so both devices could see future impredictable updates. As I have said, this is a preliminary comparison using the info that I have, useful to starting having an idea about the differences of these two devices. I will write a more precise one when I’ll be able to extensively try both together next year.
Let’s start from a stupid detail: “Vive Focus” sounds good, “Oculus Quest” is a “meh”. I don’t know who came up with the name, but I think that whatever name was in the rumors: Action, Move, Sprint would have been a better name than Quest.
HTC has also been smart because every time someone says “Focus” during some VR event, he’s doing some hidden advertisement for its product. At OC5, a lot of people went on stage and said: “Our Focus is to…”. And my first thought was “ah, cool, so have they a Vive Focus, too?” 😀 . I don’t think that on the contrary, someone from Vive would take the stage to say “My quest is…”, since it would have no sense.
One little point for the Focus.
The Vive Focus is fantastic to wear because of its instant-on feature. You put it on your head, close the knob and you are done. It is very fast to wear for me and it is very easy to put on the head of other people as well, and this is very handy during demos. I really love it. It can be worn by people with glasses as well.
Feedbacks from Quest say that it is very light, comfortable and that it can be worn with glasses. Reviews say that it is a bit heavier than Go, and I’d bet it is a bit lighter than the Focus since the Focus is made with a big block of plastic. But I have to say that the Rift has those terrible straps to fit it on your head and no instant-on feature.
It’s a tie: both of them are comfortable. Maybe the Focus has just slightly more my appreciation.
The Focus has a very original shape with two lateral wings that go up from the two sides of the device. It comes in two color, azure, and white so that you can pick the one that is more close to your personality. The azure one is more friendly and makes the device look like a toy, while the white one is more classy. I prefer the blue one, of course. The two frontal cameras, that are in the same position of the eyes, make the user look like Bender of Futurama for a very funny effect.
The Oculus Quest has the classical hyper-refined classy look of all recent Oculus devices. Oculus knows how to delight the eyes of its customers and it has made a very well crafted headset, that looks incredibly elegant. The shape is not original and recalls the one of the Rift. While Oculus has showcased some colorful devices at OC5, the Quest will come only in black color.
It’s a tie: it is a matter of tastes. Both companies have made a design choice and implemented it well. If you are more for classy things, the Quest is better; if you are more akin to a toyish look, the Focus is better.
Both headsets feature a pentile AMOLED display with 1440×1600 resolution per eye. According to some reviewers, the display may also be the same one made by Samsung. It is a very good screen… the SDE is still visible, but it is less than on Rift or Vive. Both headsets have configurable IPD. The difference is made by lenses: Quest features the good Oculus Go lenses, while the Focus seems to have the Vive 1 lenses, that show god rays.
The Focus may feature a slightly better FOV: it is reported to have 110° FOV, against the rumored 95-100° of Quest (even if when speaking about FOV it is never clear if companies give data in term of horizontal or diagonal FOV). Then the Focus has a 75Hz display vs the 72Hz one of the Quest: I guess that lots of people will notice this 3 Hz difference.
It’s a tie: better lenses with Quest, but a bit better FOV with Focus.
Both headsets come with integrated audio features, with the possibility to add your own earphones. Oculus has this original thing of having two 3.5mm jacks on the headset and Oculus has still not unveiled what they are for.
It’s a tie, but when Oculus will reveal the reason for the two 3.5mm jacks, this could become a half point for Oculus.
Both devices are made on the Snapdragon 835 VR reference design, so they feature exactly the same processor and the same 4 GB of RAM.
Guess what? It’s a tie.
The base model for the Quest features 64 GB of internal memory and this makes us think that there will be models that will have more memory (I bet on a 128 GB model).
The Vive Focus has only 32 GB. But it has a slot for an SD Card that can contain up to 2TB MicroSD™ external memory (yikes!). Of course, the 2TB stuff is a theoretical limit, there are not such SD Cards available for the general public. The best that I have found is a 512 GB one, but it costs more or less like a VR headset! (300€ or such) Having an SD Card slot offers some interesting possibility, like shooting photos with your camera and then move the SD Card on the Focus to see them in VR.
It’s a tie: having internal memory without adding external cards is better, but SD Cards offer some more flexibility
USB, Wi-fi, Bluetooth for both of them. USB supports OTG on both.
Tie, tie, tie.
The Focus has an expected battery time of 3 hours when in use. It has a very smart battery saving mode, so basically, I never turn it off: when I remove it from my head it goes in standby and after too much time in standby, it turns automatically off.
Oculus said that for Quest aims at a battery time in the same order of magnitude of Go, that is 2-3 hours.
It’s another boring tie: times are comparable.
Vive Focus has a well made 6 DOF tracking technology, even if, as I reported, the tracking sometimes doesn’t feel completely smooth and drifts on long distances (like 20m). The management of the Chaperone that defines your safe area is very rough, with a two meters per two meters area counted from the point where you put the headset on your head.
Oculus Quest has been reported to have a great tracking technology, but it’s true that it has been tried only in ultra-controlled settings, with environments that made the tracking very easy. It has to be tried in the wild to judge it properly. But it features four cameras and not two, so I can expect that it will gather more data and so will make the tracking more stable and reliable. The real cool stuff is that the Guardian has to be set only once for room and can remember up to five rooms. This is damn comfortable.
Half a point for Oculus. It may become one if the tracking proves to be that good even in standard environments.
Oculus Quest will be the first 6 DOF standalone headset with two 6 DOF controllers. Oculus Touch are very ergonomic controllers and let the user have a rough emulation of using his/her own hands in VR.
Vive Focus has just a single 3 DOF controller. HTC is working on transforming it in a 6 DOF one thanks to a special hand tracking technology (basically, the system sees where the hand of the user is and thanks to the hand position, it can infer the controller’s position), and for sure it is also experimenting in emulating two 6 DOF controllers. But even if it would succeed in accomplishing this, this technology would be a bit worse than the one of Quest because it would consume the computational power of the device and it would offer a tracking FOV that will be more limited than the one of Oculus. Furthermore, Focus remote is not ergonomic like a Touch.
This is a big point for Oculus Quest. If HTC will manage to create the 6DOF emulation, it will have our esteem and would reduce the gap with Oculus, but Oculus solution seems able to guarantee less computational burden, more accuracy, and more comfort. We’ll see.
We still don’t know the system UX of Oculus Quest, so I won’t assign this point… but usually Oculus is great in creating good-looking interfaces, so I would bet that Quest will be better than Focus on this point.
Oculus can count on years and lots of money (at least $500M) spent in creating a great ecosystem with a great number of games. At launch, Oculus Quest will come with more than 50 games, all curated to be wonderful. Quest will feature famous franchises like Robo Recall, Rec Room, The Climb. And will have a Star Wars-themed exclusive game. Furthermore, being the Quest very similar to the Rift, I expect lots of Rift games being ported to the Quest in very little time.
Vive Focus uses Viveport M store, that is a new and unripe ecosystem. I have to say that in these months, Viveport M has grown a lot, but it has still a long road to go before reaching Oculus levels. For sure on Focus, you can also use SteamVR games through Riftcat VRidge, but I bet that Riftcat will make a porting for the Quest, too. You have also a feature to cast the content of your HTC smartphone to Focus so that you can see every app on a big VR screen, but this is really compelling IMHO only for few apps at the moment.
Another sure point for Oculus Quest. It will feature from Day 1 the kind of content that most VR users want, with a selection of great titles. Vive can hope in growing Viveport in the long run.
The general impression is that the Oculus SDK is a bit more polished than the Vive Wave SDK and it is a bit better to be used. It exists from more time, so we are all more used to it. To me the situation seems similar to the one of the store: Vive Wave is an interesting project, because it plans to become the SteamVR of standalone headsets (at least all the Chinese ones), but it is still unripe (at the time of writing, it doesn’t even appear in the list of Unity VR SDKs). But HTC may be in par with time
Half a point for Oculus. But HTC may be in par with time.
Regarding the commercial aspect, of course for a developer, the Quest is more appealing because the Oculus marketplace is more mature and titles there sell a lot more than on Viveport. Also Oculus every year funds a lot of interesting games, so as a developer you may get some money to develop for the Oculus Store. But Oculus strategy is now funding bigger titles and is not interested in little experiments anymore. So, if your plan is doing some little crazy experiments or little original apps, in my opinion Viveport is the way to go: recently I’ve published two little experimental mixed reality apps on Viveport M and they have both been featured in home page because they are innovative… this would have never happened on the Oculus Store, where only very cool and big games get the featured badge. If you want to make a big game, instead, the Oculus Store is the perfect place: if Oculus likes what you do, it can also help you with visibility and this, summed with the fact that people on Oculus Store tend to spend more than on Viveport, can give you a lot of success.
Vive is very strong in the enterprise sector and bets a lot in education because this is a strong interest of the Chinese government. So if you plan to develop some experiences of this kind, you had better contacting HTC and listen if they are interested in helping. In the end, consider that most probably Quest will sell more in the Western world, but unless Oculus makes a last-minute partnership with Xiaomi, it won’t be allowed to enter in China, because it is a device by Facebook. And always consider that if we sum USA + Europe population, we don’t arrive at 1,1B people, while Chinese people are more than 1,3B… so if you are doing an app with 6 DOF support that can appeal the Chinese market, going on Viveport can be an opportunity to consider. The advice is always the one of creating cross platform content, of course.
In the end, it depends. If you make games and you aim more at the Western market, the Quest is the device to go. No doubts. But if you aim at the Eastern market or you need something for enterprise usage, HTC is worth a shot. In general, I think that Oculus Quest will offer some more opportunities, so half a point for the Quest here.
Special Features (MR)
Here we enter in the realm of things that may be or may happen and are experimental in both headsets.
Both devices have hinted that will have Mixed Reality features: HTC has released SRWorks SDK for mixed reality on the Vive Pro and for sure it is working under the hood for a porting for mobile. Oculus has showcased a prototypical mixed reality solution at Oculus Connect 5, making people try it in the Dead & Buried demo. We don’t know if it will ship at Oculus launch, though (most probably not).
Thanks to the two frontal cameras that are roughly in the same position of the eyes, the Focus allows for passthrough vision, with also the possibility to create with it augmented reality and mixed reality apps thanks to a dirty hack I created myself and released opensource. The Quest has the cameras in the “wrong” position, so this is not possible in a satisfactory way, even if Carmack is working on some magic to make it happen. But thanks to Quest’s environment mapping, it is possible anyway to make the user see something about the reality surrounding him. Anyway, I think that the Focus has more potential for Mixed Reality…also because it is already available!
The Focus has a gesture tracking in beta, close to release. Facebook has years of expertise in hands tracking and Carmack has hinted that if he will be able to optimize it, it could come later on the Quest. Oculus has also shown some foundations of body tracking in the Dead and Buried demo.
There’s a game for Focus that lets you use your phone as a controller. Facebook has shown a prototype of a local multiplayer framework to play together in an arena using the Quest.
When I visited 7Invensun, the company has made me see a prototypical Vive Focus hacked to add eye tracking inside. I guess that Oculus is working on the same thing, even if I guess that we’ll see this feature more in a v2 version of both headsets.
All these companies are working on a lot of cool stuff for the future! It’s a great tie 🙂
Oculus Quest will be released for $399 for its basic version. Vive Focus costs $600 in China for its less expensive version… if we remove Chinese taxes, we are at an equivalent price of circa $500.
No way to see it in a different manner: Oculus wins. For sure Facebook deep pockets are helping in keeping the price artificially low, but who is going to buy the headset doesn’t care about politics at all. $100 less is a lot of money to save.
Vive Focus is already on sale in China, while it is distributed as a dev-kit in the rest of the world. The official worldwide release date is “soon”.
Oculus Quest will be sold worldwide in Spring 2019 (most probably in May during F8 conference). I guess that China will be excluded by the distribution regions.
Focus wins because it is already available.
Summing the above points, we have a winner: the Oculus Quest. Analyzing the various points, I noticed that it is not extremely superior to the Vive Focus, but it is better in some key points like content, price, and tracking. As someone said, the Quest looks like a finished consumer product, while the Vive Focus like a cool dev kit. I guess that many things also depend on the release date: The Oculus Quest will be put on sale probably in May 2019, while the Focus has been distributed in China since January 2018. 16 months is a very long time and for sure Oculus has exploited this time to be able to lower the price and integrate more features.
I think that on the consumer side, there will be no match: $399 with great content and ergonomics is enough for Oculus to stay ahead of the competition. Regarding devs, enterprises, and innovators, I think that it will depend on a per-case basis. For this categories of people, the Focus may still be more appealing than the Quest. For instance, if Oculus won’t release its hand tracking tech and HTC will finalize its gesture tracking SDK, people interested in doing applications featuring hand gestures will have to buy the Vive Focus. People wanting to enter the opportunities of educational market in China will have to buy the Focus. Developers that want to develop with a 6 DOF headset now, have to buy the Focus, because the Quest will take various months to be released. Creatives wanting to create MR apps with the passthrough vision now, will choose HTC. But people having to develop a training application where 6 DOF tracking of both hands is necessary, will have to buy the Quest. Everyone will have to decide in base of his/her own requirements.
Personally, I’ll continue experimenting with my Focus, because I like its design, its openness and the mixed reality capabilities of its frontal cameras that are already available. And at the same time l will buy the Quest as soon as it Will come out.
Today Oculus wins. But I am sure that sooner or later, HTC will answer with other innovations and price cuts. And then Oculus will answer again. And so on. Let’s all enjoy this wonderful technological battle and hope that the final winner will be the whole virtual reality ecosystem 😉
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