HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift: hardware showdown

HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift: hardware showdown

We're almost there guys. Commercial grade virtual reality is just a few months away and although you can pre-order the Oculus Rift now, there's a lot of ongoing debate about whether people should put down money for it or hold out for the HTC Vive pre-orders, which are set to go live in February.

Both have a relatively close early release, with Oculus and HTC promising shipping in March, with potentially early April arrivals. What's interesting about that though, is that while Oculus is said to have been manufacturing headsets since September, HTC has only just announced and begun shipping second generation developer headsets to its content partners.

If the Vive Pre, as it's known, is basically the same as the final version, this may not matter, but there is some suggestions that an April launch is very optimistic. Still, until we hear different that's what we're running with, so for the purpose of this comparison we'll be pitting the known specifications of the Oculus Rift CV1 with the HTC Vive Pre, to see how they stack up.

The Displays

For starters, let's look at the technology that's actually powering these headsets: the display. The Oculus Rift CV1 will use a 2,160 x 1,200 pixel set up spread across twin OLED displays, with a 90Hz refresh rate and a field of view of 110 degrees. In comparison, the HTC Vive is running a pair of OLED displays, with a combined resolution of 2,160 x 1,200 pixels and a 90Hz refresh rate.

Oh and its field of view is 110 degrees too.

At the display level at least, these headsets are virtually identical, though we have heard from people that have tried both that the field of view is slightly better on the Vive.

Both displays have practically eliminated the 'screen door effect' whereby users could see the pixels, but the Rift is said to have a clear and crisper picture. That may not be down to the display though, but the lenses.


Although HTC is a little quiet on the specifics of its lenses right now, they're thought likely to be fresnal, which help remove spherical aberration. They are what make it possible for the Vive to deliver a slightly higher vertical field of view compared to Oculus.

However there have been some reports that the lenses do suffer from the age old fresnal ridge issue of lighr-ray artifacts (as per RoadtoVR) in scenes with high contrast.

In comparison, Oculus' hybrid fresnel lenses don't suffer from this problem and to some testers can produce a slightly nicer image, but its viewing angle is lessened a little on the vertical.


Here the headsets really start to differentiate themselves. The Oculus Rift is tracked by its onboard sensors, as well as a free standing positional camera rig. This system needs to be connected to your PC via USB cable and has a somewhat limited scope. While only one is included with the headset, a second one will be bundled with the Touch motion controllers (more on that in a minute) and can scale up to Room VR with careful placement.

In comparison, the HTC Vive Pre uses Valve's Lighthouse laser system. They don't require a USB connection and can work at room scale right out of the box.

In this respect, the Vive seems to be the superior system, though due to the size and lack of a simple stand system, setting up Lighthouse is not as simple as the Rift's.


The Oculus Rift will ship with a wireless Xbox One controller and adaptor, as well as a wireless remote for media viewing. The HTC Vive will ship with its hand tracked VR wands. The Vive clearly wins out here, but it will really depend on when it ships.

If HTC can ship the Vive months before the Oculus Rift's Touch controllers land in the second half of 2016, it could have a significant advantage in virtual reality.

Other features

Other additional features include bundled headphones with the Oculus Rift, said to be on par in quality with $400 audiophile solutions, a built in microphone and a nice carry case to transport it in.

In comparison, the HTC Vive may have an audio solution (it's not been confirmed), a microphone and a front-facing camera to allow for real world interactions and to avoid bumping into walls and similar.

The HTC Vive's camera is a nice feature, but decent audio is a must in VR and Oculus' solution is much more detailed and sounds more promising.


When it comes down to it, the HTC Vive feels like the slightly superior hardware, if for no other reason than it will ship with the wand controllers ready to go, while the Oculus headset will not see them released until much later and even then, at an additional cost to the buyer.

But there is the question of the Vive's price. At $600 + shipping and taxes (and over $800 in some countries), the Oculus Rift isn't cheap. Rumors peg the Vive as being much more expensive. Some suggest around $1,000, others as much as $1,500.

In either instance, the Vive sounds like it will be the premium VR headset while the Rift is slightly more mainstream, though still aimed at enthusiasts. However if it's closer to the latter, HTC may not be able to sell enough headsets to recoup its investment in VR. It recently said it was considering shifting full production over to VR instead of smartphones.

That's putting a lot of eggs in a virtual basket.


So what's the verdict? If you asked us which headset we'd like to own right now, both would be the answer, but the Vive edges out the Rift just because it will ship with those motion controllers. However we do worry whether HTC's business is strong enough to sustain the platform in the future and its price could be out of this world.

What do you think of the two headsets on offer?