Latest Rift from Oculus

Oculus Rift S

Premium VR headset

HTC Vive

The Oculus Rift S is a replacement for the original Rift CV1, and it too requires a connected PC to power it. Compared to the HTC Vive, it uses a higher-res LCD display, but it has a lower 80Hz refresh rate and it doesn't have manual interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment. You get full access to original Rift titles, and there's no need for external sensors thanks to an Insight tracking system with five sensors.

$399 at Amazon

Pros

  • Less expensive than Vive
  • No external sensors required
  • Touch controllers are excellent
  • Higher-resolution display
  • No need for extra headphones

Cons

  • No manual IPD adjustment
  • Colors not as deep on LCD display

The HTC Vive has proven itself since its release in 2016, bringing AMOLED dual displays with 90Hz refresh rate, outstanding tracking thanks to external Lighthouses, and plenty of official and third-party accessories. However, new models are hard to find or overly expensive, and it's not nearly or portable due to the external sensor requirement.

From $491 at Amazon

Pros

  • AMOLED displays with deep color
  • Nearly flawless tracking
  • 90Hz refresh rate
  • Tons of available accessories
  • Official wireless adapter available

Cons

  • More expensive than Rift S
  • Not as portable or mobile
  • New models hard to find and expensive

These two PC-powered VR headsets have a lot in common, and you should ultimately get a similar experience with either headset that includes a ton of content and quality room-scale movement. However, some differences might sway you one way or the other when making a final decision about which to buy.

If you're in search of a new VR headset for Black Friday, keep in mind that the aging HTC Vive is more likely to see a discount, especially on refurbished models from Amazon. You might see a discount on the more recent Oculus Rift S, but you'll likely have a better chance with the older Vive.

Oculus Rift S vs. HTC Vive: Tech specs

Both of these VR headsets are available for purchase right now. Here's a breakdown of the tech specs that make up each system.

Oculus Rift S HTC Vive
Display resolution 2560 x 1440
Single LCD
2160 x 1200 (combined)
Dual AMOLED
Refresh rate 80Hz 90Hz
IPD Software Manual
Audio Integrated
3.5mm jack
3.5mm jack
Tracking Oculus Insight
5 internal
Lighthouse
2 external
Degrees of freedom (DoF) 6 DoF 6 DoF
Controllers Updated Touch Vive Wands
Cable 5 meters
DisplayPort 1.2
USB-A 3.0
5 meters
HDMI
USB-A 2.0

Oculus Rift S vs. HTC Vive: Display

Oculus Rift S and HTC ViveSource: Windows Central

The Rift S's display has been changed since the Rift CV1, ditching the deep colors of dual OLED for a single LCD display with a backlight. Each eye sees a resolution of 1280x1440 — 2560x1440 combined — which is higher than the Vive's combined resolution of 2160x1200 (1080x1200 for each eye). While the Rift S has a higher resolution and should show a lot less screen-door effect (SDE) for a clearer picture without as much of a grid over what you're seeing, it has a lower 80Hz refresh rate and won't quite have the same contrast as is seen with an AMOLED display. If you enjoy a lot of games with a black background, like Elite Dangerous, the Vive is probably better suited as you'll get a truer color.

One of the biggest complaints we've seen stemming from new Rift S users is the lack of manually adjustable interpupillary distance (IPD). IPD is handled by software on the Rift S, and if your eyes don't fall in a common spacing distance, you will have a tougher time finding a perfect view. The Vive, on the other hand, has a physical IPD knob on the side that offers more control, allowing for a better chance of achieving a perfect view even if your eyes have uncommon spacing.

Oculus Rift S vs. HTC Vive Design

Oculus Rift SSource: Windows Central

The HTC Vive comes stock with an adjustable head strap that sort of holds the head-mounted display (HMD) against your face and can be adjusted with Velcro. It does not include built-in audio (there's a 3.5mm audio jack for third-party headphones) though you can splurge and pick up an HTC Deluxe Audio Strap that has an adjustment dial on the back for easy fitting and built-in headphones. We've used the stock Vive strap for years and haven't had any issues, but if you prefer something closer to a Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) design with a halo headband that the HMD sort of hangs off of, the Rift S is probably more your speed.

Oculus teamed up with Lenovo — which has its own WMR headset — to design the Rift S, and the influence is clear. A halo headband with an adjustment dial on the back sits securely over your head, and the HMD, which can be moved in and out to get a tight fit, sits against your face. There's still a band that runs along the top of your head to keep it from slipping down.

The Vive has a single camera on its front that can be used to see the world around you while in VR, but it's not used for any controller tracking. The Rift S is overall less bulky despite having a total of five sensors that make up its Insight tracking system, with two on the front, two on the side, and one on the top. These can also be used to see the real world around you, which is handy if you need to quickly use a keyboard and mouse or see who's tapping you on the shoulder to get your attention.

Oculus Rift S vs. HTC Vive: PC requirements

Vive base stationSource: Windows Central

Both the Rift S and Vive require a tether back to a PC, and while you can get VR running on a lot of systems, you're only going to have a good time if your PC hits certain requirements. Recommended PC requirements are about the same across both the Rift S and Vive.

Oculus Rift S HTC Vive
Processor Intel Core i5-4590
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
(equivalent or better)
Intel Core i5-4590
AMD FX 8350
(equivalent or better)
Graphics NVIDIA GTX 1060
AMD Radeon RX 480
(equivalent or better)
NVIDIA GTX 1060
AMD Radeon RX 480
(equivalent or better)
RAM 8GB or more 4GB of more
Video output DisplayPort 1.2 HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2
USB USB-A 3.0 USB-A 2.0

Most people with a gaming PC with dedicated graphics should have no issue with the 8GB of RAM for the Rift S (the Vive is going to run much better with 8GB as well), and for the Rift S, you also have to be sure you have a DisplayPort and USB-A 3.0 output. The Vive's Lighthouses do require Bluetooth to communicate with the PC, but again that shouldn't be an issue for most modern PCs.

If you're worried that your current rig won't be able to handle the demands of a quality VR experience, have a look at our roundup of the best desktop PCs for VR. If you'd rather have something you can easily carry with you, we've also collected the best gaming laptops available now.

The Vive also has an official wireless adapter available for purchase, which removes the need for a cable back to your PC. There's also a third-party TPCast wireless adapter available for the Vive, and also for the original Rift CV1. However, there is not yet a wireless adapter made for the Rift S.

Oculus Rift S vs. HTC Vive: Tracking and controllers

Rift S and Vive motion controllersSource: Windows Central

The Rift S made a significant change to its tracking system, eschewing external sensors for built-in sensors known as Oculus Insight. Insight scans your surroundings and identifies physical objects in space, and combines it with data from the headset's accelerometer and gyroscope, giving your exact positional data once per millisecond. This makes the Rift S a lot easier to set up, and you'll no doubt be enjoying VR action quicker than with the Vive, though overall tracking won't quite compare. Oculus Insight is still new and has a few bugs to work out, but it's a great feeling knowing you don't have to contend with extra cables and setup, and for the most part, you shouldn't notice the lack of external sensors.

The Vive uses two Lighthouses (which require an AC power source) that are mounted on the fringe of your VR space to track headset and motion controllers, often called Wands. They require a bit more time to set up, and they lend themselves more to a permanent situation, though in our experience, tracking is nearly flawless.

The Vive's Wands are stellar pieces of hardware, though they don't offer the same capacitive touch capabilities as the new Oculus Touch controllers that ship with the Rift S. Which controllers suit you better will likely come down to personal preference. However, know that both systems are going to deliver a full room-scale experience with six degrees of freedom, allowing you to move naturally in real space and have it translated into a virtual world.

Oculus Rift S is an affordable way to get into PC VR

The Rift S is a PC-powered VR system that does not require external sensors, making it a better choice for those who plan on bringing VR with them wherever they go. It has been redesigned with a halo headband, it features integrated audio, and you have access to the ever-growing collection of games from the Oculus Store (including many exclusives) and from Steam. The LCD display might not offer the same deep color as the AMOLED displays in the Vive, and tracking might not be quite the same (though still good), but it's also far more readily available than the Vive, which will no doubt be a huge deal for a lot of people.

Latest Rift from Oculus

Oculus Rift S

The next evolution of the Rift brings improved lenses, a display with a higher pixel count than the original, and a redesigned head strap and tracking system, but you're still tethered to a PC.

HTC Vive offers premium PC VR with external tracking

The Vive has been around for a while now, and it has proven itself as a premium VR system. It's not as easy to pack up and transport as the Rift S due to external Lighthouses. Still, tracking is nearly flawless, it has dual AMOLED displays with deep color, it has a higher refresh rate, and there are a ton of official accessories available, including a wireless adapter, that can take your VR experience to the next level. You also have access to a large VR library on Steam and Viveport. If you don't mind a refurbished model or shelling out extra for a rare Vive that's still new; it should serve you well.

How to find the best Black Friday deals on Oculus Rift S or HTC Vive

Black Friday is an ideal time to shop for a new VR system; they're generally expensive products, and any money saved is a total bonus. We're expecting to see sales on the aging Vive and newer Rift S, as well as other setups, like the Vive Pro. If you're considering picking up one of the VR systems featured in this comparison, keep in mind that both are still going to deliver a quality VR experience despite any differences. However, the Vive is much harder to find new, so you'll have to decide whether or not you trust a refurbished model. Any discounts will no doubt make this an easier decision.

Major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy are expected to deliver discounts on VR systems for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be sure to check Windows Central often for the best deals.

Veteran PC VR headset

HTC Vive

The tried-and-true Vive is an excellent VR headset for those who don't mind external sensors and who can take advantage of a ton of accessories, including a wireless adapter. It is more expensive than the Rift S, though, which will no doubt play a factor in your final decision.

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