The virtual reality revolution is underway with the first VR headsets hitting the market in the upcoming months. After a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and being acquired by Facebook, Oculus revealed the Rift to the public for $599 with a March ship date. Over the weekend, HTC unveiled the $799 Vive that will ship in April. With two high-priced headsets vying for the attention of consumers, here's what to consider with the Rift and Vive.
The Vive was announced Sunday with a hefty price tag of $799. Unlike the Rift, HTC wants to deliver a truly immersive experience beyond a headset. At launch, HTC Vive will include a headset with built-in phone and front-facing camera, two wireless controllers, and two 360-degree tracking and movement sensors.
HTC is selling a high-end VR experience with Vive. Set up will require some work in order to make sure the sensors are lined up. There's also more technology built within the headset. With Vive, the space around the user is incorporated in the VR experience.
The Vive includes "Job Simulator" and "Fantastic Contraption." HTC's VR system is bundled with Vive Phone Services so consumers can respond to calls, update their calendar and reply to text messages without ever leaving the virtual world. The SteamVR platform will function likes its PC counterpart to keep content organized and consumers updated with new releases.
PC recommendations are similar to that of the Rift in terms of graphics card — NVIDIA GTX 970/AMD R9 290 or equivalent — and processor, but with a slightly lower RAM recommendation of 4GB. There will also be a discounted PC bundle announced in the near future.
While Valve, the company behind the Steam platform, is best known for games, HTC said Vive will not be limited to interactive entertainment options. There will be movies, health content, educational content and business uses. One highlight of the HTC Vive, based on demos, is "Tilt Brush," which gives individuals the ability to paint in 3D space.
Developed by Google, "Tilt Brush" will be available at launch. Other games include the rhythm game "Audioshield," "Space Pirate Trainer" and the co-op "Hover Junkers."
- Pros: A high-end VR experience. SteamVR support. Better technology at launch.
- Cons: Expensive. Additional set up required. Not as many franchise games.
The Oculus Rift has been in development since 2012. VR creators have had access to an Oculus development kit beginning in 2013. A second development kit was released in 2014. Oculus Rift preorders started on Jan. 6 with a price set at $599. The Oculus Rift, in terms of components, is simpler than that of the HTC Vive. Out of the box, consumers will get the Rift headset, an Xbox One wireless controller, a sensor and the Oculus Remote. The headset contains a built-in mic and headphones. All Rift headsets will be bundled with "Lucky's Tale," a platform game, while preorders will also include "EVE Valkyrie." There will also be video content and an accessible Rift community that will be part of the VR experience.
"Adrift," where players are in control of an astronaut who has to survive after their space station is destroyed, will also be a launch day title for the Rift. Other titles for the Rift in 2016 include "Minecraft," "Rock Band VR" by Harmonix, the adventure RPG "Chronos" and "The Climb," an immersive rock climbing game.During the preorder announcement, Oculus stated there would be hundreds of games — including dozens of full-length games — by the end of 2016. The Oculus Touch controllers will not be available until the second half of 2016, which limits the overall VR experience.
The major setback for the Rift, and HTC Vive, is the PC recommendations. In order to get an ideal VR experience, most consumers will need to upgrade their computer. Oculus recommends at least 8 GB of RAM, an Intel i5-4590 or equivalent processor and a NVIDIA GTX 970/AMD R9 290 or equivalent graphics card. Consumers can see if their PC is compatible using this downloadable tool.
If you want to dive headfirst into the VR experience, there are Rift and PC bundles that start at $1,499. Consumers will receive the Rift and a compatible computer along with "EVE Valkyrie" and "Lucky's Tale." Asus has the two cheapest Rift bundles at $1,499 and $1,549.97. Alienware has a $1,599.98 bundle along with a $3,149.98 bundle.
- Pros: Least expensive option. Wide support from developers. Easy set up.
- Cons: PC compatibility recommendations. Lack of Oculus Touch at launch.