If you are in a hurry and just want to know the winner without reading why my recommendation is the Samsung HMD Odyssey+.
It’s time to get out of the VR kiddie pool of cardboard cell phone holders and move to the big kid’s pool where you can move around and have some real fun.
If you’re going big, you want a great VR headset and don’t want to waste hundreds of dollars.
The Oculus Rift used to be the gold standard for virtual reality. Then the HTC Vive gave it a real challenge, but the Oculus remained the most popular, barely. Now, the Samsung HMD Odyssey+ is looking to unseat the Rift.
Let’s find out if the Oculus has become “too old for this…stuff” or if the newcomer falls short.
Getting Ready to Choose
Before you buy any headset, there are a few things you need to decide.
Both the Rift and Odyssey are excellent virtual reality systems, and both have their pros and cons. To some extent, your personal choices may make one headset better for you than the other, even if that headset doesn’t win today’s competition.
I want you to have the best VR experience for your situation. So, let’s think about a few things first.
1. Do You Want To Play With Your Friends?
Of course, you can play games with your friends on both devices, but one makes it a bit easier in certain circumstances.
The Samsung uses inside-out tracking, which doesn’t require base station sensors. So, you can easily take it to a friend’s house to use it there. The Oculus’ base station sensors make that impractical.
The other difference is with the headset padding. The Odyssey has soft leather covered padding that you can easily wipe off if you start to sweat. The Rift has more absorbent padding (no leather).
So, if you want to be able to pass your headset around between your friends, but don’t want to bathe in their sweat, you may want the leather option.
2. How Active Are Your Hands In VR?
Both virtual reality systems are excellent at tracking. However, the inside-out tracking of the Samsung creates blinds spots. When you move your hands (and thus your hand controllers) by your side or behind you, the Odyssey often loses tracking of them until you move them into view of the front-facing tracking cameras.
If you generally keep your hands in front of you or aren’t playing games that require hand tracking of intense hand movements, then Samsung’s tracking works just fine
Odyssey Vs. Rift...Begin!
Samsung and Oculus both have done an excellent job creating their virtual reality systems. They both have good visuals, are comfortable, and have great tracking. Without comparing the two, you’d probably be happy with either. However, when we compare them, they start to show some unmistakable differences.
In this comparison, I’m going to examine the following characteristics of the two headsets:
I think the area where there is a clear difference between the Rift and Odyssey is in the visuals. The Odyssey has twin AMOLED screens with 1,440px X 1,600px resolution (per eye). The Rift has OLED screens and only at a resolution of 1280px x 1440px per eye.
That may not sound like a big difference, but in experience, it is quite noticeable.
The Rift has issues with the “screen door” effect, meaning you can see the individual pixels, like looking at something through a screen door. The Odyssey’s increased resolution pretty much eliminates any screen door effect.
The Rift also has issues with “God rays.” Images that have a stark contrast, like white letters on a black background, it can look like rays of light are shining out of the lighter colors. It’s like when you see the sun behind a cloud and rays streak out from behind the cloud. There is hardly any god rays with the Odyssey.
The differences don’t stop there. The Odyssey’s colors are brighter and more vibrant. They look truer to reality. Seen side-by-side, the Rift looks a bit dull.
Finally, there’s the field of view. This is how fully the image fills your vision. The larger the field of view, the more immersive your experience is. Technically, they both have the same field of view, 110 degrees. However, when using the headsets, the Odyssey looks bigger. This may be because the Odyssey’s headset is shorter and its screens are closer to your eyes.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ – With its better resolution, brighter colors, and larger image, the Samsung clearly beats the Rift.
Both headsets have built-in headphones and deliver 3D spatial audio. In both headsets the audio is excellent. I would say they are basically the same except for one little, but very nice feature.
The Samsung Odyssey has volume controls built into the headset. They are located on the bottom side. So, rather than having to pause your game/video and change the volume in the software, you can simply reach up and click a button.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ – This one is almost a tie, but those volume buttons put the Odyssey over the finish line first.
Motion tracking is another area where there is a clear distinction between these two VR systems. They use entirely different tracking systems.
The Oculus Rift uses outside-in tracking, meaning there are sensors you put up in the room which track your movement. These base station sensors do an excellent job. However, they work even better if you add a third sensor, which I highly recommend. The additional sensor doesn’t cost much, and it expands your playing area and make the tracking nearly flawless.
The Samsung Odyssey uses inside-out tracking. This means there are cameras on your headset which “see” your hand controllers and other things in the room to track you. For the most part, this system works great and makes for a much easier setup.
The problem with the Odyssey’s inside-out tracking, however, is that there are only two cameras and both are located in the front of the headset. So, if your hands leave the visual range of the cameras, the system loses track of them. This can happen in games where you put your hands down to your sides or have to reach behind.
The Oculus Rift – The Rift has near perfect tracking, especially if you had the third sensor. The fact that the Odyssey can lose tracking of your hands makes Rift the clear winner.
Let me say right off the bat that both headsets are comfortable. There are differences which I’ll discuss, but you won’t find either headset uncomfortable. So, where are the differences?
The harness design for the two heads is different. The Oculus uses a 3-strap harness system which goes around both sides of your head and over the top. This strap system is also elastic, so it adjusts to the shape of your head and firmly holds the goggles to the front of your face.
The Samsung has a rigid band system that goes around your head and puts almost all the weight of headset on your forehead. This feels fine and keeps the headset stable. It’s not elastic, so some people have said that it didn’t fit their head well, but those complaints are not the norm.
There is also a difference in how you adjust the harnesses. The Rift’s three straps have velcro. So, you detach the velcro, pull the strap to the right length, and reattach. The Odyssey has an adjuster wheel on the back. So, you just use your finger to spin the wheel and adjust the size of the harness. The wheel a simpler way to adjust the harness size.
The padding on the two headsets is also a difference. As I mentioned earlier, the Samsung has soft leather padding that not very absorbent and is easily wiped off.
The Oculus has more absorbent padding, which can hold your sweat and become wet. This can become uncomfortable after a while if you sweat a lot while playing and it’s just gross if you are passing the headset between friends. That said, there are third-party leather replacement pads you can get for the Rift.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ – The easy adjustability of the harness and the leather padding put the Odyssey in the lead on comfort.
Both systems come with two hand controllers. Both systems also do an excellent job of tracking the hand controllers (with the exception mentioned above regarding Motion Tracking). Where the controllers distinguish themselves is in ergonomics.
The Rift has extremely ergonomic hand controllers which are widely considered the best of any VR system. Between their comfort, lightweight, and the way they freely sit around your hands, you can almost forget you’re holding them.
The Odyssey’s hand controllers are also comfortable, but you know you’re holding something. They don’t rest on your hand, you hold them. They are also heavier.
For most people, these attributes of the Samsung controllers are negatives. However, some people like it better. When they play games where they are wielding weapons, etc., these people feel like it’s more realistic to have something more substantial in their hands that they have to really hold. It’s more like holding those weapons. So, there is an element of personal preference here.
The Oculus Rift – They are light, intuitive, and ergonomic. Except for the few people who prefer having something heavier and bulkier, you can’t beat the Rift controllers.
Both systems use a tether system which requires you to install software and connect wires to your computer. Hopefully, one day they will get wireless setups, but for now the HTC Vive and Vive Pro are the only headsets that have that option.
Due to its inside-out tracking system, the Samsung Odyssey does not include setting up base station sensors around your room. This makes the Samsung’s setup much quicker and simpler. It also makes it mobile. You can easily disconnect your headset and take to a friend’s house to use it there. I guess you could do that with the Oculus, but it would take a lot more work.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ – Both systems have pretty intuitive software setup. It’s the base station sensors that make the difference here.
Technically, the Odyssey has two software version, the Basic and the Ultra. However, frankly, the Basic version stinks. The quality of VR and quality of the visual experience in the Basic version are much worse. Unless you have no other choice, I recommend always going with the Ultra version. For this article, I’ve been using the Ultra version as the comparison.
Tie – They are essentially the same as long as you use the Ultra version for the Samsung.
VR App Library
There are multiple places you can get virtual reality apps. Oculus has its store, Microsoft has its store, and then there’s SteamVR, one of the best sources for VR apps. The Odyssey is compatible with apps in all the stores. The Oculus is compatible with apps in the Oculus store and on SteamVR, but not the Microsoft Store.
It would be natural to think this automatically gives the Odyssey the edge since it has access to more apps. However, once you look at the apps in the Microsoft store compared to the other stores, you may change your mind. There aren’t many apps, and the ones they have aren’t very impressive.
There’s also one other thing to note. If you want to use SteamVR apps on the Samsung, you have to install Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR (WMRSV). You then run the Steam apps through the WMRSV app. This can be a little cumbersome at times and even affect button arrangement on the controllers, making them less intuitive.
Tie – The Odyssey does have access to more apps, but the Rift handles SteamVR games better.
Both VR systems are very good, and you would probably be happy with either (or both). They also each have their pros and cons. What is important to you in your virtual reality experience may be different than others. This may cause you to consider one better than the other where others may choose differently.
So, what do I recommend?
The Winner Is?
The visual experience of the Odyssey is much better and that tips the scales for me. I also like the idea of being able to take the headset with me when I go on vacation or if I want to play a game with a friend at their house.
This wasn’t an easy decision. The superior tracking of the Oculus Rift and its more ergonomic controllers are a strong argument for the Rift. If Oculus comes out with a new version of Rift with better resolution and brighter colors, that would shift my vote back the Rift. And, no, the Rift S doesn’t do that.
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What did you think of my analysis? Which headset do you think is the best? Let me know in the comments below.