The home virtual reality market might be a long way from mature, but the two main players on the PC side are firmly established: Facebook-owned Oculus and its Rift headset, and HTC’s Vive platform partnered with Valve.
Like gaming consoles, both the Oculus Rift and Vive come with their own set of unique specifications, system requirements, and exclusive games. Which headset you eventually decide on will be influenced by an array of different factors, so it’s important to stay educated on the pros and cons of each system and how they’ll fit your home best.
The Minimum System Requirements for Each
Because of their high resolution displays and accelerated refresh rates, both the Oculus and the Vive will need some serious PC hardware to power their virtual experiences.
Both will require at least an Intel Core i5-4590 processor (or equivalent), and an Nvidia GTX 970/AMD Radeon R9 290 GPU just to get up and running. The Oculus requires twice as much RAM as the Vive (8GB or greater), and both need a graphics card capable of supporting HDMI 1.3 out.
Lastly, the Vive needs a lone USB 2.0 port to communicate positional data back to the PC, while the Oculus will need two free USB 3.0 slots to do the same. Most modern desktops have at least two USB 3.0 ports, but you might need to run the cable to the back of the machine.
The Vive Has Better Tracking Technology
Both the Vive and the Oculus use an array of cameras and sensors to detect where you are in the real world, and translate those movements into actions inside the virtual environment. The main difference between each system is how wide of a field of view the sensors have.
The Oculus has a maximum tracking field—5×11 feet (width-to-length)—compared to the Vive’s symmetrical maximum field of 15×15 feet. The Rift base stations can only see what you’re doing from a front-on angle, so if you stray outside its narrow field of vision, the detection accuracy of your movement will quickly fall off. Oculus says it has plans to incorporate larger tracking footprints in the future, but users will still have to deal with these limitations for now.
The Vive, on the other hand, opens things up a bit, and lets you track a larger space using two “Lighthouse” camera towers. The increased tracking footprint allows you to walk, zig-zag, and dodge between any part of your game space without losing detection, and interact with virtual objects in a truly 360-degree environment. For gamers with a bigger available space to play, the Vive is the clear winner.
The Oculus Controllers Are Slightly More Versatile
Both the Vive and Rift utilize their own proprietary set of movement-based controllers that take the place of your hands while you’re inside the virtual environment.
The Oculus Touch controllers feature three touch-capacitive buttons and a joystick on each hand, a trigger on the back, and can be tracked anywhere within the camera’s range.
Unlike the Vive’s Steam VR wands, the Touch controllers can track your hands with a 360-degree spatial representation of your finger movements. In layman’s terms, this means that if your finger turns one way, the object you’re holding will turn with it. This increases the precision you’ll have while interacting with in-game elements, and help add to the immersion effect overall.
The Vive’s Steam VR controllers work a bit differently, in that they only track on a 1:1 basis. If you swing your arm one way, the Lighthouse towers will see it, but using your hands…
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