A virtual tie? Rift vs. Vive – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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Just a week after Facebook released the Oculus Rift, the first high-powered virtual reality device for consumers, a less publicized contender has arrived: the HTC Vive.

Similar to the Rift, the Vive — a joint development by the Taiwanese manufacturer HTC and the video game distribution company Valve — is a virtual reality headset that connects to a powerful computer.

The Vive is even more expensive than the Rift — it costs $799 for the headset and $1,000 to $2,000 for a compatible computer. Facebook’s Oculus sells the Rift headset for $599, or $1,500 when the system is bundled with a computer.

There are plenty of other differences. Here’s how the Vive compares with the Rift:

What’s included?

The Vive system includes a pair of motion controllers for interacting with objects in virtual reality and a camera embedded in the front of the headset that lets you peek into the real world. It also includes earbuds for sound and two base stations for detecting motion. The computer must be bought separately.

In contrast, the Rift includes a Microsoft Xbox game controller and a remote control; the company delayed the release of its motion controllers until later this year. For sound, the Rift’s headset has headphones built into the sides. An external camera is used to detect your body. A computer can be bought as part of a bundle or separately.

What computer is needed?

HTC recommends a computer with a powerful graphics card, like Nvidia’s GTX 970 or AMD’s R9 290. It also recommends a powerful processor, such as Intel’s i5-4590 or AMD’s FX 8350. You will also need four gigabytes of RAM and two display ports.

For the Rift, Oculus recommends a similar setup: a computer with the same Nvidia or AMD graphics card and Intel processor. It requires eight gigabytes of RAM and four USB ports.

If all those numbers were overwhelming, Valve and Oculus offer tools for checking whether your computer is ready for the Vive or the Rift.

How many games are ready?

The Rift was released with about 30 games and a few apps. HTC said the Vive was released with about 50 games. The companies say they will regularly update their libraries with new apps and games.

Pros and cons

The main advantage of the HTC Vive headset is that it comes with motion controllers, which let you effectively reach out and grab objects in virtual reality. This kind of interaction feels much more natural for virtual reality than the game controller included with the Rift.

Also, the Vive’s motion-sensing base stations capture richer movements, enabling people to walk around in a larger space or crouch and grab something while using virtual reality; the Rift’s camera can detect movements, too, but the Rift was primarily designed to be used while standing or sitting.

Another benefit of the Vive is that the headset fits better. With the Rift, I could always see a small gap in the space beneath the nose. The Vive headset completely blocks the outside world. HTC also includes a piece of foam that can be inserted into the Vive for a better fit for a narrower face.

But a major downside of the Vive is the setup, which is more demanding than the Rift’s. HTC recommends that you drill mounts into the ceiling to install the motion-sensing base stations to ensure that the sensors have a clear line of sight with the headset and your body. In other words, to take full advantage of the Vive, you probably need to dedicate a room to virtual reality; to use the Rift, you can get away with clearing out a bit of standing space.

The other obvious downside of the Vive is the higher cost. With a computer and accessories included in the total price, the Vive will cost roughly $300 more than the Rift. Then again, if you are willing to spend more than $1,000 for virtual reality, that extra $300 might not matter much.

Should consumers buy?

This is Year 1 of powerful and capable virtual reality systems coming to the mainstream. Over time, the content that will become available for these devices will define their worth. There isn’t much to do with either system yet, and consumers would be wise to wait to see if any killer virtual reality apps or games emerge for the systems.

Gamers should keep an eye on another important virtual reality headset: Sony’s PlayStation VR, which is scheduled for release in October. The headset will cost $399; when combined with the price of a PlayStation 4 and other accessories, the total cost of a PlayStation VR system will be roughly $800. Sony says it is working with more than 230 developers on games.

A virtual tie? Rift vs. Vive – Sarasota Herald-Tribune