Comparison: Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive

HTC Vive Specs:

  • Approx price: $800
  • Display: OLED
  • Resolution: 2160 x 2100
  • Platform: StreamVR
  • Field of view: 110 degrees
  • Tracking area: 15 x 15 feet
  • Built-in mic/audio: Yes
  • Controller: StreamVR controller, compatible with any PC
  • Sensors: Accelerator, gyroscope, laser position sensor, front-facing camera

Oculus Rift Specs:

  • Approx price: $600
  • Display: OLED
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1200
  • Platform: Oculus Home
  • Field of view: 110 degrees
  • Tracking area: 5 x 11 feet
  • Built-in mic/audio: Yes
  • Controller: Oculus Touch, Xbox One Controller
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, 360-degree positional tracking


Virtual Reality (VR) emerged this year as the new must-have in gaming technology - a $1 billion industry according to Deloitte’s recent predictions for 2016. Like any emerging technology trend, leading brands now compete for dominance of the new VR consumer market with their flagship products, such as: Samsung, Sony, Facebook/Oculus and Google.

In March 2014, Facebook forked out $2 billion to acquire a Virtual Reality startup company called Oculus. “We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games,” said Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg at the time of acquisition.

Fast forward to 2016 and Facebook/Oculus released its flagship Oculus Rift VR headset; sleek and polished, coated with fabric, with a head-strap and built-in headphones. The device was always expected to win over the VR market. The headset clearly reflects the determination and effort from Oculus to create an iconic device to lead the VR industry. But does it measure up to its competitors?

The Oculus Rift is light and compact. It’s able to be worn loosely with comfort, with the only downside being that if you wear it loosely, light will flood in from the bottom. If you tighten the straps, lens fog can become an issue.  On the upside, the Rift is sleek, polished, engaging and great for gaming.

Unfortunately for the Oculus, many reviews have compared it to its HTC rival, the Vive, which seems to have emerged as the better option, according to reviews by Digital Trends, Gizmag and Wareable. Both devices require the same gaming PC which would set you back around US$950 or more – dedication to the VR experience! The Rift is about $200 cheaper than the Vive; however, the Rift’s motion controllers are purchased separately, to be released later this year, whereas the Vive’s controllers come in the initial package.

So what makes the HTC Vive so great? Because of the hype about the Oculus Rift before it was released in January, it would’ve seemed unreal that it could come out second best to HTC’s version. Oculus is attributed to “rapidly spreading virtual fire” says a review by Gizmag, “snatching VR out of a vaporwave purgatory and molding it into something that we’d want to bring into our homes.” Yes the Oculus’ hype certainly got people interested, but in terms of getting the most for what you pay for, the HTC Vive has emerged as the overall better option.

HTC takes the crown because the SteamVR-powered HTC Vive lets the user walk around 360-degree spaces, where the users’ entire body is immersed in the VR experience. In comparison, The Oculus Rift experience isn’t quite as immersive, and acts more like a game console, where the user has to be seated, as opposed to a virtual reality machine drawing the user into another world.

With the Vive, the user can virtually walk around in a digital atmosphere, where the users’ hands control virtual hands that are able to pick up virtual objects, swing around a sword, or shoot an arrow – all the things that make gaming fun, but in a super realistic way! On the other hand, the Oculus acts as a traditional game console, with a controller in hand, playing console-type games which just happen to be in visual VR.

There is still hope for the Oculus to level up with the Vive when the Oculus Touch motion controllers are launched, but there will still be a significant gap between what the Rift is capable of compared to the Vive. At demo events, the Oculus Touch-based Rift games have managed to handle larger-space tracking nicely.

However, HTC Vive’s Chaperon system, where virtual boundaries signal when the user is getting to close to the edge of a playing space, is what makes it more immersive. The Oculus user is limited to standing with restricted movement when using the Rift VR headset. Then again, users experiencing the Vive have to be careful that they don’t walk straight into a wall!

"Oculus is already aware that using VR can cause problems with hand-eye coordination, and it warns Oculus Rift users about potentially dangerous symptoms of VR use," says Paul Lee, Global Director for Deloitte Research, Technology, Media & Telecommunications, speaking about the potential hazards of using VR.

It does feel weird when you leave VR. I don't mean motion sickness, rather that my eyes are extra tired and I feel the need to drink a giant glass of water. It's not anything out of the ordinary though – I get the same fatigue playing countless hours of games on the computer or console,” says Lily Prasuethsut in her review of the HTC Vive for Wareable, further highlighting the strange after effects of using VR.

For an impressive VR experience, headsets are only as good as the display that they utilize. Both the Vive and Rift come outfitted with premium OLED displays, and each offer 1,080 x 1,200-pixel resolution for each eye. This brings the final resolution to 2,160 x 1,200 with 90Hz refresh rates, which ensures the frame rate is high enough to prevent motion sickness and provides an enjoyable, safe experience.

Comparing the two devices, the Rift replies on 360-degree positional head-tracking and delivers a 110-degree field of view. The Vive uses laser positioning and over 70 sensors, including a gyroscope and accelerometer. One of the best aspects of the Vive is its front-facing camera, which allows the user to see real-world objects in VR mode. With the push of a button, the user can activate the ‘chaperone’ which makes any object seen by the camera appear in the virtual world – truly remarkable!

In terms of software performance, both the HTC Vice and Oculus Rift headsets and their accompanying controls function as peripherals as opposed to standalone devices, which makes both of them heavily reliant on the functionality of other technologies.

Requirements for the Rift and Oculus aren’t too different. Oculus recommends an Intel i5-4590 processor, more than 8GB or RAM and Windows 7 SPI. Additionally, the user will need a GTX 970 or AMD 290 graphics cars with multiple ports. Without these, the Rift experience will be glitchy.

Requirements for the Vive are almost identical to the Rift’s with one exception: the AMD Radeon R9 280 is the minimum recommended card, as opposed to the R9 290. HTC reportedly wants to further reduce the minimum system requirements as refinements to the hardware allow it.

To conclude, when comparing the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, it really comes down to getting the best for what you pay for. Both are premium devices, fabulous for gaming and immersive entertainment. But because the Vive offers a full-VR experience, with the ability to walk around and interact with a virtual world, as opposed to sitting down, it has emerged somewhat as the better option of the two.

The Rift and the Vive are two of the most prominent VR headsets available, aside from the PlayStation VR which was recently announced starting at about $400 and the Samsung Gear VR. While the Vive is more expensive than the Rift, you still need to purchase the Rift’s additional controllers, which pretty much make them equal in price. Therefore, if you’re prepared to spend up on one of these amazing VR headsets, it really comes down to a matter of taste.

HTC Vive Pros:

  • Comfortable headset
  •  Excellent tracking
  • Front-facing camera
  • Very immersive
  • Room-scale VR

HTC Vive Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Available games aren’t polished
  • Occasional lagging
  • System setup can be messy
  • Needs a lot of room space for experience

Oculus Rift Pros:

  • Appealing, comfortable design
  • Exciting, engaging games
  • Built-in headphones
  • Simple setup
  • High-end VR experience

Oculus Rift Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No room-scale capabilities
  • No motion controllers at launch
  • Lens fog when worn tightly
  • Gamepad not very immersive