The technology behind virtual reality has come a long way since it was first introduced.
The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift S are two of the best virtual reality devices in the market. Both companies have come up with excellent products that give players a completely different experience.
No wonder then that tech giants are coming out with more VR headsets than we can wrap our heads around. And while the market gets flooded with innumerable models, it’s harder than ever to focus on the best ones for your needs.
However, it cannot be argued that HTC Vive and Oculus Rift S are two of the VR-headset industry behemoths. Both have several headsets lined up that are worth talking about, but today we will focus on the HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift S.
We're going to break down the details of these two headsets. Once you know what makes them tick, you can decide which one is best for your needs.
However, there are also notable differences between them. Therefore, it is essential to compare both models before choosing a VR device for your gaming needs.
Let’s talk about the HTC Vive first. One of the oldest VR headsets in the market, the HTC Vive was launched in 2016, and since then has been able to hold its own in the field.
Featuring dual AMOLED displays with a 90Hz refresh rate, this headset is designed for seamless VR experiences.
One of the highlights of the HTC Vive is the extremely high-quality tracking, courtesy of the external lighthouse base stations. It also comes with a lot of accessories, both third-party and official.
However, it needs to be tethered to a PC for power.
Intended as a replacement for the Rift CV1, the Oculus Rift S was launched in March 2019 by Facebook, its parent company. Similar to the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift S, too, is a PC tethered headset and works only when connected to a PC for power.
The Oculus Rift S is equipped with a high-resolution LCD, but compared to the HTC Vive, it has a lower refresh rate of 80Hz.
It provides you with an Insight tracking system fitted with five sensors and hence doesn’t require any external sensors.
However, it lacks manual IPD adjustment, which might be a damper for some.
From the above, it’s clear that both the headsets have a lot of similarities (like being PC powered). So, you should get comparable performance from both of them.
That being said, there are subtle yet essential variations between the two, which expert users might want to know about.
Keeping that in mind, in the following sections, we’re going to break down the details of each into different categories.
After going through the following, you’ll have a better idea regarding which one is the best fit for your needs.
The heart of any VR system is the perfection to which it can display video, so that’s why we’re going to focus on this first. While the Rift CV1 had dual OLEDs characterized by deep colors, the Oculus Rift S uses a single backlit LCD display. Here, you get a resolution of 1280x1440 in each eye.
This leads to a combined resolution of 2560x1440, which is slightly higher than the 2160x1200 total resolution of the HTC Vive. The higher resolution means that the Oculus Rift S would have a significantly lesser SDE (Screen-Door Effect) and provide a much clearer image on it's LCD Display.
However, when it comes to the refresh rate, the HTC Vive takes the cake, clocking in at 90 Hz. Compared to that the lower (80Hz) refresh rate of the Oculus Rift S might seem paltry.
Another aspect where the HTC Vive scores is that it has an AMOLED display, which means you can expect better contrast with the HTC Vive than the Oculus Rift S, especially in darker scenes.
One of the significant drawbacks of the Oculus Rift S vs HTC Vive is that it doesn’t have a manual IPD (Interpupillary Distance) adjustment feature. In the Oculus Rift S, the IPD is handled through software. This means that you might face difficulties getting the best view unless your eyes have an average spacing distance.
However, the HTC Vive comes equipped with a physical IPD adjustment knob that provides much better manual control.
This allows even individuals with non-conventional eye spacing to get a perfect view through the lens.
If the display defines what you see inside the virtual reality environment, the headsets’ design lends to its form and function. This section compares the two headsets’ designs and shows how they hold up against each other.
First, let’s take the case of the HTC Vive, which comes with an adjustable velcro strap. The strap ensures that the HMD (Head Mounted Display) is held secure against your eyes and can be adjusted for quality and comfort.
Though it doesn’t include a provision for built-in audio (as does the Oculus Rift S), it does have a 3.5mm audio jack included.
Coming to the Oculus Rift S, here Oculus designed the headset in collaboration with Lenovo, and this has led to a unique design combination. It has a halo headband that sits securely on the head and has an adjustment dial at the back of the band.
The HMD sits close to the face and can be moved to get a loose or tight fit, according to choice. At the same time, a band sits on the top of the head to ensure that the HMD doesn’t slip.
Compared to the Oculus Rift S, the HTC Vive has a single camera at the front that shows you the VR world in full glory. It’s not, however, used for any controller tracking.
The Oculus Rift S comes with an Insight tracking system that has five built-in sensors. These also allow you to see the real world and interact with peripherals.
Overall, among the two, the Oculus Rift S is less bulky despite having more add-ons and features. At just 1.2 pounds, it’s one of the lightest VR headsets on the market.
The HTC Vive comes close at 1.5 pounds, but the Oculus Rift S is decidedly sleeker with its fabric coated exterior design.
Now that we’ve got the display and design out of the way, it’s time to talk about the controllers and tracking mechanisms of each. Both headsets come with custom-made motion-tracking controllers, but they do differ in terms of construction.
Oculus has made a significant change regarding the tracking system and has ditched the external sensors in favor of the Oculus Insight built-in sensors.
The Insight Sensors work by scanning all surroundings, identifying physical objects in real space. This is then combined with the headset accelerometer and gyroscope data.
Accurate positional data is delivered once every millisecond, making the Oculus Rift S more straightforward to set up and use. Compared to the HTC Vive, this product gives you a much faster and more enjoyable VR experience in terms of speed.
When it comes to tracking between the Oculus Rift S vs HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift S falls a bit short. The Oculus Insight system is still a bit buggy, and the kinks need to be worked out before tracking becomes as flawless as with the HTC Vive.
Now, the HTC Vive makes use of a couple of Lighthouses, mounted on the edge of the VR space, for tracking headset and motion controllers (Wands).
These require an external power source and need slightly more time to set up. However, once done, they help to provide an impeccable tracking experience.
Special mention must be made of the HTC Vive Wands, which are flawless hardware pieces by any standard. The only drawback is that they don’t offer the same capacitive touch experience as the Oculus Touch controllers, which the Oculus Rift S comes with.
At the end of the day, which controller you prefer to use depends on your personal choice.
Both offer full-room experiences, come with six degrees of freedom, and translate real-world movements into virtual motion without a hitch.
We’ve already mentioned that both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift S require tethering to PCs. And while a lot of systems currently do support VR operations, you’re only going to have a flawless experience if your PC fits the VR requirements perfectly.
When it comes to processors, both headsets need at least an Intel Core i5 4590 (equivalent or better) for smooth VR processing. Graphics card options include NVIDIA GTX1060, AMD Radeon RX 480, or anything better.
Regarding the amount of memory, there’s a significant difference. The HTC Vive can offer an acceptable performance at merely 4GB of RAM, though more is always better when it comes to this aspect of computing.
The Oculus Rift S, however, requires a minimum of 8GB of RAM to function well. It also uses a DisplayPort 1.2 video output. In contrast, the HTC Vive works with both DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4.
In general, most modern gaming PCs shouldn’t have any trouble running either of these VR headsets.
However, the HTC Vive’s Lighthouses need Bluetooth functionality for communicating with the PC, so better check if your system has that feature.
Another difference between the two VR headsets is in terms of the USB interface they use. While the HTC Vive works well with USB-A 2.0, which is obviously upwards compatible with USB-A 3.0, the Oculus Rift S requires the 3.0 version to operate.
On that note, it’s best to mention that in relation to the Oculus Rift S vs HTC Vive, the HTC Vive also has a wireless adapter, which you can buy. This will allow you to remove the need for a cable connection to the PC.
What’s more, you can also use a TPCast Wireless adapter for the HTC Vive. Sadly, the Oculus Rift S doesn’t yet have a wireless adapter available, official or otherwise.
After the hardware, it’s natural to look at the software available for each VR headset. The Vive is designed to work primarily with the Steam platform by Valve as far as gaming is concerned.
The Steam catalog has a vast selection of games to choose from and allows you to make the most of Vive’s capabilities.
The Oculus Rift S is compatible with all Oculus Home store software and also supports Steam games. Although the Rift store currently has several titles, it’s considerably lesser than the options available for Vive.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the VR scene or an experienced pro, you’ve no doubt understood that VR headsets are highly sophisticated pieces of technology. But that doesn’t make them too complicated to use.
In case of the ones under our consideration, both the Vive and the Oculus Rift S have more or less straightforward installation methods.
But if you ask us, setting up the Oculus Rift S is a much smoother process than working with the Vive.
Let’s face it: wearing a VR headset can get uncomfortable, and so, you need to be aware of the comfort level of the device you’re pondering buying. This’ll help you decide whether you can function with the headset on your, well, head.
Since the Rift S is a cabled device, there remains the issue of wire management. The good thing is that since the device has built-in tracking, it does not need any external sensors for functioning. This eliminates the need for multiple USB cables.
Compared to the original Rift, the Rift S has a halo design, ensuring a highly comfortable experience during use. It’s also lighter than the Vive, which means you won’t have a hard time carrying it.
In addition to the above, the Rift S has a “pass-through mode” which allows you to view the real-world surroundings without taking the headset off. The Vive, like all other HTC headsets, also has this feature.
The Oculus Touch Controllers of the Rift S are also pretty lightweight and ergonomic, though the magnetic battery doors can come loose while using the headset. The only issue we see that is bad, is that it doesn’t have manual IPD adjustment; this takes away from the comfort factor significantly.
The Vive, though more weighty than the Rift S, can also be used with wireless adaptors, which is a good thing in any case. Its controllers are heavier than the Oculus Touch Controllers, but it has manual IPD adjustment, which makes wearing it a more comfortable experience.
When it comes to pricing, the Oculus Rift S is more affordable in that it includes the VR headset, controllers, and all essential accessories right in the box itself. Compared to that, the HTC Vive costs almost double the Rift S, and that’s for the headset alone.
So, seeing as you’ve made it till here, we guess you’ve got a clear idea about the features and specs of each of these headsets.
Still, to give you a more comprehensive picture, we’ve gone ahead and included a list of all the pros and cons of each device.
So, all that remains is the last question: which VR headset should you get between the Oculus Rift S vs HTC Vive?
If you’re a newbie to the VR field and don’t want to spend top dollar, then the Oculus Rift S is an affordable way to get your skin in the game. It’s got a great design, is more readily available, and indeed lighter and more comfortable.
However, if you’re willing to spend top dollar, then the HTC Vive is undoubtedly a better choice. It’s got an AMOLED display with a higher refresh rate than the Rift S. Plus, it also has a wide range of accessories available in the market.
That said, the Vive is certainly less portable than the Rift S, primarily on account of the external lighthouses it requires.
But seeing that you can use a wireless adapter with the HMD, this detail can be overlooked. At the end of the day, it all depends on your budget and preferences.
That’s all for now, till next time!