I started with lower-end models to try VR headsets, but I wanted to go further and see what premium VR offers users. I set off looking for higher-end headsets that have better visuals, immersion, and features.
I decided to look at the Samsung HMD Odyssey versus the HTC Vive. Following an enjoyable introduction to virtual reality with the Oculus Go, I hoped that one of these models could satisfy my thirst for deeper and more interactive virtual reality experiences.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Virtual Reality Headset
Virtual reality headsets can be virtually anything you want. Whether it’s gaming, music or films, VR headsets open up a world of new possibilities. As a result, VR headsets are increasingly becoming appealing to a wide range of people as all-encompassing entertainment devices.
Typically, early adopters of virtual reality are teenagers and young adults that are gamers and tech-savvy. However, as the market grows and expands, more and more devices are being produced suited to the everyday user.
When buying a virtual reality headset, you should consider the following key features before making your decision:
Presenting the Samsung HMD Odyssey and HTC Vive
For each attribute listed above, we will compare the Samsung HMD Odyssey with the HTC Vive and declare a winner. The Samsung HMD Odyssey is often described as the ultimate Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) headset while the Vive is seen as one of the most immersive and interactive headsets on the market. The tracking and experience you get with the HTC Vive is what sets it apart from its competitors.
Both devices are similar in the quality of the visuals, as they boast OLED display technology. The Odyssey and Vive are also very similar in their offering of apps and games, with a wide range of entertainment available on both headsets.
Another similarity relates to comfort. Unfortunately for people who wear glasses like me, you will not be able to comfortably wear your lenses while using either of these VR headsets. Thankfully, my glasses are not that strong, so I can cope without them, but if you are farsighted and your glasses are essential, I’d recommend looking for other VR headsets.
Finally, both headsets have built-in headphones so you don’t have to fiddle around with earphones or headphones of your own, which is a plus for someone like me who is a melophile.
The lists below provide a quick overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the Odyssey and the Vive respectively.
Samsung HMD Odyssey
Ease of Set Up and Use
The setup for the Odyssey is relatively straightforward compared to the HTC Vive, as you just have to plug in two cables into your PC or gaming laptop. Whereas with the Vive you have to set up two base stations for tracking as well as set up the headset itself.
If you are using a desktop computer, then it is important to know that you will need Bluetooth capability or you will need to buy a Bluetooth dongle to use the Odyssey headset. It is not made clear enough by Samsung that you need a Bluetooth dongle to get started and it’s disappointing that they just assume their customer already has a Bluetooth-enabled connection.
When setting up the Odyssey or the Vive, you will be asked to create a virtual boundary so that you are safe when you are playing with the VR headset. Say you are in a virtual world with swashbuckling pirates, the headset will give you a notification once you are near to the boundary and guide you back into the space you set out initially.
Remember, people have injured themselves severely just by playing Pokemon Go and not paying attention to what’s going on around them. It is reassuring to know that HTC and Samsung have thought about safety. However, thanks to the easier setup and smoother experience, the Odyssey wins this round.
Winner: Samsung HMD Odyssey
User Experience - Hardware
In terms of the hardware, both models have an adjustable InterPupillary Distance (IPD) and The Odyssey has a proximity sensor so the headset knows when you are about to wear it or take it off so it can save energy and turn the display on and off accordingly.
In terms of display, there are god rays with the Odyssey, but they’re less pronounced than with the Vive. However, the so-called screen door effect is much more noticeable for the Vive, which makes it seem like you’re watching the experience through your grandma’s nasty screen door.
The field of view is very similar for both models at around 110 degrees, but the Odyssey does not have the same immersive feel as the lens of the Vive is noticeably closer to your eyes. This means that with the Odyssey, you can see the black edges when you are using it and feels like you are watching something through a box of some sort.
There are nice colors with Samsung’s headset, with a similar brightness and vividness as the Vive or Oculus. In terms of resolution, the Odyssey feels like a 1080p display whereas the Vive is more like 720p. But when it comes to brightness, I would say that the Vive is slightly better in this regard.
Overall, the tracking of the Odyssey is decent, but it may disconnect if you turn around too quickly. There are some issues with above head tracking but shouldn’t restrict your gaming too much. In any case, it readjusts quickly. The Vive is clearly superior in this regard, as the tracking is accurate to the millimeter thanks to the two base stations that track your headset and controllers.
The Odyssey’s touchpads definitely have some room for improvement. The feel and response of them may not be uniform on at least one of the controllers and they are rounder than other WMR headsets. The triggers do not click when pressed fully, unlike the Vive’s controllers, which are more tactile and responsiveness.
Then there’s the slightly odd design of the Odyssey’s controllers, with an unfavorable angle on the inner side of the controller which means you cannot grip with your middle finger in a comfortable position. At least that was my experience. I felt like the Vive’s controllers were easier and more comfortable to handle and use.
Another drawback of the Odyssey’s controllers is that the back cover for the batteries may pop off when you are using the headset, along with the hassle of replacing batteries or buying rechargeable ones. Whereas the Vive’s controllers are much easier to charge since it uses a USB interface.
Winner: HTC Vive
User Experience - Software
With the Samsung Odyssey, there are free games you can download from the Microsoft Store and you also have access to SteamVR. Similarly, the HTC Vive boasts a large number of games, more than 2,700 to be precise.
Two of the best games I checked out on the Odyssey were Space Pirate Trainer, which has excellent tracking, good graphics and was quite entertaining, and Archangel, which provided excellent immersion and gameplay. As a music fan, I also couldn’t resist a go on Beat Saber. With free games on the Steam app, including paintballing and bowling, the Odyssey provides a lot of choice for gamers, whether casual or experienced.
For the Vive, I couldn’t stop playing the Chair in the Room. As a kid, I have loved horror games like Resident Evil, so to experience a horror game in VR was very refreshing and enjoyable. At times it was so good, I forgot I was in virtual reality and started getting really spooked as the game progressed and the haunting soundtrack pulsed in my ears.
In terms of the software experience, I would say that the Odyssey is almost as good as the Vive, with the HTC Vive just eeking out the win in this category.
Winner: HTC Vive
In terms of comfort, we want to look at the headset’s material and whether sweating becomes an issue. The Samsung Odyssey’s headset padding is nice and soft, but firm as well and the entire face pad and other bits of padding and earphones are all the same material. The Vive is pretty comfortable and comes with a replacement face pad to ensure that no matter what shape or size your face is.
For the time it takes to start sweating, the Odyssey and Vive are pretty similar. But the padding of the Odyssey is better as the inner material does not absorb any sweat, so it is much more convenient to clean and is more hygienic.
The material on the HTC Vive soaks up your sweat making it harder to clean and more awkward. Imagine, after I’ve been playing for a while and my dad comes by to have a go, he’ll not only play a game on my VR headset but he’ll get some of my sweat added in too!
The process of cleaning the Vive and waiting for the inner face pad to dry just seems like an unnecessary process and lack of thought on behalf of HTC. Nevertheless, the nose area of the Vive is much more functional while the Odyssey’s is a bit awkward, as the multiple flapping pieces feel like they could break easily.
Another aspect to consider is the headphones and the cable that come with both of these headsets. The headphones for the Vive are much better than the Odyssey’s since they click onto your ears and are much easier to adjust.
The cable for the Odyssey is about three meters long while the Vive’s is one-meter longer, allowing for more room to maneuver. However, the Samsung model’s cable is much more lightweight and flexible.
If glasses are a necessity for you, you will hate both of these headsets. While you may manage to get the Odyssey onto your head, your glasses will touch, and eventually scratch, the lenses. The Vive does not perform any better either.
Winner: Samsung HMD Odyssey
Value for Money
The Odyssey is slightly cheaper than the Vive, but both are close to the cost of a new console. The Odyssey is more comfortable, easier to set up, matches the Vive in terms of software, and provides a better visual experience in some ways than the Vive.
While the Samsung headset is easy to set up and is portable, the downside is the limited tracking and the headphones are not as great as the Vive’s. But for the price you pay, the Odyssey delivers value for money, much more so than the Vive.
Winner: Samsung HMD Odyssey
Both the Samsung HMD Odyssey and HTC Vive are very good VR headsets but based on the value for money, range of software, comfort, and portability, I prefer the Odyssey.
While it costs a bit more and takes a bit more effort to set up, the HTC Vive offers a great experience for the power users and VR experts taking you toward the upper limits of what virtual reality can offer in terms of immersion and interactiveness. Unless you’re really hardcore into VR, the Odyssey is the way to go.