In the realm of gaming PC’s, you’ll find that the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are the two most popular options. Heck, I’ve owned them both at different points!
Both headsets are great.
But when it comes down to choosing one or the other, there’s a clear winner: the HTC Vive.
In this HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift comparison, I’ll break down each section and tell you why I think the Vive is better.
Things to Consider Before Buying a PC VR Headset
Gaming on PC is great, but when you go into VR, things hit a whole new level. Of course, this isn’t as simple as popping a CD into a game console and hitting the start button.
You’ll have to put in some work with these headsets to get a great experience. Because of this, I put together a list of things to think about before getting into the VR market.
Your PC Rig
Having a PC is a requirement for VR gaming (unless you go with a PSVR or Oculus Quest), but a basic computer won’t do. You’re going to need a PC that can handle the high load that VR technology puts on the rig.
This means having a decent amount of RAM, a good processor, and high-end graphics card, as VR requires double processing (one for each eye). If you don’t have this type of gaming rig, you may want to upgrade in order to get a good (or even great) experience.
Believe it or not, but motion sickness in VR is a real thing. You can see videos of people standing up in a rollercoaster app falling over and puking from the motion. It’s wild!
If you’re prone to motion sickness, I’d see if you can try a demo unit before plopping down hundreds of bucks on a headset. There’d be nothing worse than milking a virtual cow and barfing your guts out on your cat.
Both the Rift and Vive have six degrees of freedom (6DOF), which allows for movement in all vertices.
This opens the devices up to room scale play, where you can essentially walk around large play boundaries that you set up. If this is something you want to do, you’re going to need to set up space to play.
Make sure you have a nice size cleared out (at least 6 foot by 6 foot), and spots to put the tracking gear.
If you have a gaming PC, you likely have some technical prowess when it comes to installing and maintaining equipment. You’ll almost certainly have issues from time to time that requires things like installing new drivers.
If you aren’t comfortable doing this, then PC VR gaming may not be for you.
Without a doubt, the ideal VR headset consumer is someone that can deal with these issues and afford to keep up with buying new equipment for their rig as it’s needed.
Presenting the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
When you think PC VR, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are probably the first two devices that pop into your head.
Without a doubt, these are the two best selling VR devices that serve the PC market, but more competition is coming and things can change.
The HTC Vive
HTC released the Vive in April 2016, coming just a few weeks after the Oculus Rift officially launched.
The product is similar in scope to the Rift, and it brings Pentile OLED display at 2160 x 1080 (1200 x 1080 per eye).
The headset is tethered, uses base stations for tracking, and includes two Vive Controllers for accurate VR representation of your hands. The device has proven to be a success and is often considered the “high-end gamer’s” choice.
The Oculus Rift
Oculus was founded by Palmer Luckey, who eventually went on to sell the company to Facebook for $2 billion before eventually being fired. The company revolutionized VR by introducing the Rift, which was shown off before the Vive or any other high-end VR headset.
The consumer version of the device launched in March 2016 and has been a consistent top-seller in the industry since.
The Rift has its own curated store, but users can use outside software like SteamVR to get games.
The headset has camera tracking and also has two Touch Controllers, which have a wonderful feel, and are comparable to the Vive’s controllers.
The headset has an identical resolution of 2160 x 1080 (1200 x 800 per eye), and delivers visuals at 90Hz. While a lot of gamers say they prefer the Vive, the Rift has a strong fanbase itself, and it’s perfectly capable of delivering high-end content.
Now that we’ve gotten a decent look at the basics of these headsets, let’s dive in and see how they compare head-to-head.
As we cited in the specs above, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have the same display resolution at 2160 x 1080 on an OLED display. They also have the same 90Hz refresh rate and field of view of about 110 degrees.
This essentially means that the visual quality for both devices is about identical, without a real clearcut winner.
Your PC VR experience largely depends on your PC rig, and if you have a great graphics card, you can squeeze out better performance on your headset. I could argue that this is the bigger factor than the headset you choose.
Audio quality is a spot where I give the edge to the Rift. Both have about equal audio quality if you use third-party headphones, as you get 3D spatial audio that sets you in the environment.
The edge goes to Oculus here, as they include awesome over-the-top headphones that attach right to the headset. These are wonderful and are a nice bonus. If you don’t like them, you can detach them and use your own headphones.
Both headsets come with controllers, and both controllers are excellent. The Vive Controllers are a bit longer than the Rift Touch Controllers, and they have about 6 hours of charge on a battery (which is rechargeable). There are 24 tracking points and this leads to excellent accuracy.
Rift’s Touch Controllers have rings that go underneath for tracking, and they run on a AA battery.
The tracking is good, albeit not as good as the Vive’s controllers. Still, the controllers are awesome, and I only give the edge to Vive because of the rechargeables and better tracking.
Motion tracking seems like a boring detail, but it really does make a difference with VR.
The Oculus Rift uses a Constellation tracking system for motion, whereas the Vive has a series of base stations that allow for playspaces up to 15 feet by 15 feet.
I don’t usually have issues with either headset, but there have been a few times when the Touch Controllers have glitched for tracking, while I’ve never had an issue with Vive. This is another big win for HTC.
Both devices can be worn for a long time without too much discomfort, but I feel that the HTC Vive is more comfortable. The Vive’s head strap is better and provides a nice fit around my large skull.
The Rift isn’t bad in terms of comfort, but the head strap isn’t quite as nice. Similarly, I found the Vive sealed to my face better, and the foam on the device is better.
I also ended up having some condensation form up in the Rift when I used it, which becomes a major pain in the booty. I hate having to take off my headset during an intense experience in order to wipe out the lenses, so needless to say this rubbed me the wrong way. I never had this issue with the Vive.
Both Oculus and HTC have their own software for curating games and apps. The software is decent enough on both sides and functional, but I like the internal system of the Rift a bit more. Viveport from HTC does have one killer feature that sets it ahead of what Oculus has: Viveport Infinity.
For those that don’t know, Viveport Infinity is a Netflix style service that allows you to pay a monthly membership for access to hundreds of titles. This service is actually available to owners of the Rift, but is included in the Vive’s software. Infinity is a wonderful service and I use it regularly.
This pushes the Vive ahead, as it is integrated, whereas you have to seek it out for the Rift.
Over time, both the Rift and the Vive have seen price drops, with the Rift coming in at a lower price at most points of time. Both pieces of hardware are very close in terms of performance and specifications, so the big price difference between the two doesn’t make that much sense to me.
You’re going to get everything you need in the box to play VR on your PC, including the headset, tracking system, and controllers. Occasionally you can find some bundles that include different pieces of software, but if we’re going on the base systems, the Rift is a better value as the price is lower.
The Big Winner
When we look at all of the combined areas above, the HTC Vive comes out as being better than the Oculus Rift. Once again, I want to be clear here: the Rift is an amazing VR headset and if you choose to go that route, you’re going to likely love your experience.
I think that the small little areas like tracking and room scale are a bit better with the Vive, and the Vive Controller is the best VR controller I’ve ever used. These help contribute to make the whole system the best in terms of the above categories.
I should point out that Oculus updated their Rift platform in 2019 to the Rift S, which upgrades the resolution and tracking aspects. These may end up giving the edge to the Rift S over the HTC Vive, but that argument is to be made in another article. As of right now, the Vive stands out as being superior to the Rift, at least in my eyes.
If you’re interested in purchasing the HTC Vive, you can click here to find it for a great price.
If you decide to go with the Rift, you can find it available here.