The Rift and Vive have a worthwhile competitor, at least when it comes to price.

Microsoft's Build 2017 keynote speech on Thursday brought virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality fans a pretty big surprise: Windows Mixed Reality is getting some cool new motion controllers to go along with the headsets.

Also announced was a $399 bundle containing the Acer mixed reality headset and the new controllers. A that's a pretty big deal. Let's have a look at exactly why this price is meaningful compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers

It's clear from the examples set by the Rift and Vive that motion controllers are required for a full VR experience, and Microsoft took note. The Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers follow a lot of the same rules that their new headsets do, namely the fact that you won't need extra sensors set up around your playspace to use them. Instead, they employ sensors on the front of the headset.

They still function mostly the same way as the Rift's Touch controllers and Vive's wands, and you still get six degrees of freedom (6DOF) control. No longer will an Xbox gamepad be required to navigate a virtual world.

For more information on the new Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers, check out VRHeads Managing Editor Russell Holly's analysis.

Here's how the new Windows Mixed Reality controllers work

Comparing the $399 Acer bundle to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

Acer Mixed Reality headset

There are a couple of aspects to look at when comparing these three systems; the bundle itself, containing the headset, controllers, and whatever else is required, and the PC needed to run it.

First, let's look at how the prices compare, and what is included in each bundle.

System Price What's included?
Acer Windows Mixed Reality bundle $399 Headset, motion controllers
Oculus Rift $598 Headset, Touch controllers, Xbox gamepad, two sensors
HTC Vive $800 Headset, motion controllers, sensors

The Acer Windows Mixed Reality bundle is $200 cheaper than the Oculus Rift, without figuring in the cost of a third Rift sensor (about $60) that's required for room-scale, and it is a whopping $400 cheaper than the HTC Vive. This already opens up mixed reality to a whole new fanbase.

Windows Mixed Reality minimum specifications

Next, we need to look at the minimum required specifications for Windows Mixed Reality.

  • CPU: Intel Mobile Core i5 (e.g. 7200U) dual-core with hyperthreading equivalent.
  • GPU: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 (GT2) equivalent or greater DX12 API capable GPU.
  • RAM: 8GB+ dual channel required for integrated graphics.
  • HDMI: HDMI 1.4 with 2880x1440 at 60Hz. HDMI 2.0 or DP 1.3+ with 2880x1440 at 90Hz.
  • Hard disk drive (HDD): 100GB+, solid state drive (SSD) [preferred] / HDD
  • USB: USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C Port with DisplayPort Alternate Mode
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories

These specs all come in below what the Vive and Rift require, opening up a whole new tier of PC to mixed reality. Ultrabooks with the hardware needed to run Windows Mixed Reality can be had for well under $1,000, and custom-built PCs would cost even less.

Realistically, you could be looking at spending somewhere around the $1,000 mark (or less) if you're buying the Acer bundle and a PC to run it. That might still seem like a lot but not when you compare to Rift and Vive. Also, many people might already have a PC that can run Windows Mixed Reality, further lowering the cost.

Oculus Touch

Oculus Touch controller.

The Oculus Touch bundle itself costs $600, and a laptop or PC to run it will realistically cost somewhere around $600 to $800. Toss in the third sensor for room-scale Rift-ing, and you could be looking at a final price somewhere around $1,300 to $1,500.

The HTC Vive, starting at $800 for the basic bundle, requires an even beefier PC than the Rift, pushing the total price to between $1,500 and $1800, and that's if you don't want the Vive Tracker (about $100) and Deluxe audio strap (also about $100).

Will Windows Mixed Reality be worth it?

It's still unclear just how well the motion controllers with the Acer headset will work, and there are some concerns about how they'll track when they are not in view of the headset. Regardless, Acer's $399 bundle that includes a headset and motion controllers is a big deal for one of our favorite hobbies, and we expect to see a lot of newcomers attracted by this more accessible price. As far as a release date, developers can preorder the bundle now and shipments should start this summer.