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Windows Mixed Reality vs. Oculus Rift: Which should you buy?

Oculus Rift was the first VR headset that many people got their hands on, but Windows Mixed Reality (WMR), released just over a year later, is proving itself as a worthwhile alternative. There's a wide selection of WMR headsets to choose from that range in price, making it more accessible, but the Rift does have a huge library of games and experiences that only comes with time. Not sure which is the best for you? Let's break it down!

Windows Mixed Reality vs. Oculus Rift ports and space

We already know quite a bit about the hardware between these two headsets, so lets to a quick recap to get everyone on the same page.

  • Most WMR headsets have a noticeably higher resolution (1,440 x 1,440 x 2) than the Oculus Rift (1,080 x 1,200 x 2). The Samsung Odyssey has a resolution of 1,440 x 1,600 x 2, putting it closer in line with the HTC Vive Pro.
  • The minimum system requirements for WMR seem lower than Oculus Rift, but Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs are nearly identical to Rift-ready PCs.
  • Oculus includes headphones along the rails of its headset, while WMR headsets have headphone jacks. The Samsung Odyssey does also have built-in headphones.
  • WMR headsets are easier to put on or share with others, but the Oculus Rift moves around on your head a lot less while playing.

HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality system requirements

The important difference between these two platforms from a hardware perspective is the setup process. When setting up a WMR headset, you connect a single HDMI cable and a single USB-A 3.0 cable to your PC, you connect motion controllers with Bluetooth, and you're ready to go. Oculus Rift uses those same cables for the headset, but you then need an additional USB port for each of the sensors needed to "see" the headset and controllers in VR.

Out of the box you have two sensors for Oculus Rift, which is enough for most spaces. If you have a bigger room and want to make sure there's no tracking loss when turning around, you need a third sensor. That means you need four USB-A ports and an HDMI port on your PC, which is more than your average gaming laptop has available without a hub of some kind. Clearly, Windows Mixed Reality is more convenient in most cases.

During setup, both systems allow you to choose a sitting or standing-only setup, making it simple for those who won't be moving around while in VR. In this case, WMR asks you to look around while it scans your surroundings before dropping you into the Cliff House. In the Rift's case, setup is nearly as easy, though you have a few extra hoops to jump through to ensure the external sensors are tracking properly.

Windows Mixed Reality vs. Oculus Rift motion controllers

Motion controllers play a huge part in a quality VR experience, and both systems have options. Oculus Touch was carefully engineered to fit your hand comfortably and offer full touch sensitivity, meaning individual fingers are tracked separately, allowing for gestures. They're likewise sturdy and track exceptionally well, especially with a three-sensor setup.

WMR controllers are definitely a bit clunkier, though they're comfortable when used for long periods of play. They're extremely easy to set up, and for the most part, they track well, at least until you get into frenetic play. At that point, the two cameras on the front of the headset can have a hard time keeping track and you'll see disembodied hands floating or flying away. Overall, Oculus Touch wins, but the WMR controllers put up a good fight.

How WMR motion controllers compare to the competition

Windows Mixed Reality vs. Oculus Rift game exclusivity

How to play Oculus Rift games on Windows Mixed Reality (Image credit: Windows Central)

One of the big things that Oculus has over WMR is games. Yes, the Microsoft Store has a small but quality selection and SteamVR integration means you have access to most VR titles published there, but Oculus has some knockout exclusives, like Robo Recall, Lone Echo and Echo Arena.

Oculus has put an end to the 'no games for VR' argument

There is luckily an unofficial way to get Rift games working on WMR, but it does take a bit of time and know-how to get it all set up. If you're interested in dabbling with the crossover program called Revive, be sure to check out our step-by-step guide.

How to play Oculus Rift games on Windows Mixed Reality

So how does Microsoft catch up in the exclusive arena? At first, it was believed that Xbox would play a big part in WMR, but that no longer really seems to be the case, at least from the perspective of most VR enthusiasts who were hoping to hear some related news at E3 2018. Microsoft undoubtedly has the resources to fight a content fight, but WMR, thanks to that SteamVR integration and unofficial methods of making exclusive Rift games playable, seems more poised to be a cheaper and more convenient option to the other PC-based VR headsets on the market.

Windows Mixed Reality vs. Oculus Rift price

HP Windows Mixed Reality

HP Windows Mixed Reality (Image credit: Windows Central)

When WMR was announced, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were expensive headsets with expensive accessories. Several price drops later, Oculus has made sure competing on price is much less of a problem. You can now get a Rift and Touch bundle for about $400 (opens in new tab), which is not a bad price for what you're getting.

WMR headsets range in price depending on the manufacturer and the retail outlet, but you can expect to pay anywhere from about $260 (opens in new tab) for the Acer headset up to about $500 (opens in new tab) for the Samsung headset. These bundles have everything you need for a quality VR experience, including motion controllers.

Which should you buy?

If you're eager to get into VR and check out some quality games, these two options are incredibly compelling. Oculus Rift has a lot of polish and a lot of great games, but WMR headsets can be had for quite a bit cheaper and do offer an excellent experience. If you want some exclusive games right now without any extra hassle, Oculus Rift has you covered, but WMR is kind of like a multipurpose tool that can be used across platforms (with the right tinkering).

On the other hand, if an easy setup and undemanding port needs are more what you're looking for, WMR will do you well. Head on over to our WMR headset comparison to get an idea of what each individual headset has to offer.

See WMR at Microsoft Store (opens in new tab)

Updated June 27, 2018: We refreshed this article to ensure you're still getting up-to-date information about WMR and Oculus Rift.

Russell is a tech nerd who chases the best of everything, from phones to game consoles to laptops and everything glowing or beeping. He's the Managing Editor of gaming content for Mobile Nations and can be found contributing to all of the Mobile Nations sites. Reach out on Twitter!

39 Comments
  • I didn't see an article about this here on WC, but yesterday the Dell device went up for preorder. The Oculus with built in headphones would definitely be a drawback, as I would suppose they would not be that high a quality. I bought some Bose earbuds with a mic, it is not the best sounding but would still be better than the Oculus. The one on the Oculus look like the on ear headphones we used back in the '80s.
  • They mentioned the Dell pre-order yesterday
  • I just looked it up - I read the article just before that one, and the article just after it, but somehow missed that one.
  • The headphones on the oculas are of very decent quality I was very surprised.
  • The Oculus Rift headphones deliver surprisingly good sound but I recently ordered the JBL OR300 (https://www.jbl.se/over-ear-horlurar/OR300.html).
  • What comes with the Oculus is actually really good and it's pretty convenient. I feel this all in one integration is less clunky.
  • They are actually much better than they look but are also easily moved and taken off so you can use any headphones you want.  The benefit to using the Oculus headphones is simply not running out of USB bandwidth.  Really just depends on how many 3.0 and 2.0 ports you have.  They are also compatible with the new virtual atmos from Dolby.
  • I'm looking at the Windows Mixed Reality for the reason of being able to use it for both gaming and productivity. Brainstorming in VR remotely using the upcoming whiteboard app seems like a perfect scenario case for this device. Until the SteamVR announcement, I was holding back on this device, but when that comes it feels like a good time to jump in. I'm also hoping the same device will be compatible with Xbox One, which means I won't have to buy an additional accessory for that :)
  • I agreed. This is pretty much the thing that completely set it apart from the competition. The fact that windows itself will be available in a holographic Format makes all the difference
  • Totally, with this move by MS, VR stopped being an expensive gimmick and turned into something to look into, if still early in its life. Next year this will be bigger than it has been all this time with Oculus and Vive struggling.
  • Seems to make more sense for your average consumer to go with the more integrated and more supported MS MR HMD. Oculus is a 3rd party and with UWP expanding you may see compatibility with Xbox One X down the line. Not to mention the ease of setup where you don't have to have USB sensors running all over the place.
  • Call me interested, maybe. Right now I'm looking at both Asus and Dell's offerings. Hopefully you guys will do comparisons as far as the screen quality, comfort, etc.  On the room front, 6x6 is not that big. That's basically close to an average sized person. What exactly does this mean? Do you need to have 6 feet of space every which way or what?
  • The Windows offering is simpler to use and set up and while OR has more games now people will likely hack a way to use their stuff too. They did for Vive and OR so ...
  • Windows Mixed Reality are much more promising.
  • Its not a tough call. Neither of these are worth the money and HoloLens is worth even less. The technology is there but there is no vision for this. Zilch, Nada. We are caught up yet again in some 3-D stuff in the same way Sprint was all gaga about the Evo 4G. Which if you remember went nowhere either mainly because its a lonely baron place. The only person experiencing this is you. Now, if you could get others in the room or you could share this experience with others, then you'd be on the trail but until the, this choice is no choice at all. Leave all this stuff on the shelf until there is a purpose.
  • Sorry but with the way you are thinking nothing would ever leave the shelf. People that invest in new technology give support for it to grow.
  • You do realise you've just described something that Microosft has demoed with the Hololens quite a few times, right? The only thing making the Hololens a non-starter is the price.
  • Not sure about how the Hololens develops, it's still a bit early and probably the FOV is too limited. But I'll definitely buy a VR headset to play games. I love simracing and after trying a VR headset there is no turning back. VR allows me to experience being in a real-size car, and makes driving/racing way more natural. There are already a few killer gaming titles for VR. It may be a "niche" area but VR is already a compelling product for gaming. Also, what do you mean "the only people experiencing this is you?" Have you ever heard about multiplayer? Gaming aside, i have tried also a Mixed Reality headset with the Holotour app from Microsoft and it's absolutely great for educational stuff, really brings things to life. Prices are also going down. I also think PC OEMs will push hard on this because VR headsets are a good reason to buy a new PC. If you make 1+1 you see that it's no gimmick, in this couple of years we are seeing VR coming into our houses.
  • Wow I disagree so much lol.  I absolutely love VR and we are only seeing the 1st generation of what modern VR can do.  Imagine a year from now when HMD's are 4k with Crystal clear 4k visuals at 90hz.  It's already impressive at the low resolution they operate at now, add in the new tech a company I forget invented that removes the screen door effect on any resolution display and...well wow   As for hololense that's more for education or pro use.  It's not for consumers.  NASA has been using it for nearly 2 years now to explore Mars Rover footage.  Other companies use it as well.  We use it with CAD so we can walk around models and check spacing for body parts without having to build anything.
  • Why would you waste money on either of these when you can get the HTC Vive, nothing comes close to that currently;    
  • I wouldn't say nothing comes close, but yeah it is the superior HMD at the moment it also comes at a superior price as well. I own one and I don't think the tracking will ever be as good as the Vive from anything lauching on the market. It is expensive though I think it is worth the price, but that is subjective. Since Oculus is in the price range I guess that is why they're comparing the two.
  • Disagree the Oculas Rift hand controls are a lot better then the HTC. I have spent hours trying both? And now own the Rift.
  • I agree, the Oculus Touch are wonderful controllers!
  • Yeah the OR hand controllers are way better. The headset overall is also much more comfortable. Other than that the headsets are very very close, but Vive is better at room scaling.
  • When I tried the Rift and Vive, the main thing that I wished was better was the resolution, so I am really wanting to see the new Windows headsets....and the inside out tracking also seems like a step forward.
  • Thats true, it gets a lot better with Vive if you bump up the super sampling. I don't personally mind it too much when action starts I am too immersed to really care.
  • This is a joke, right? Have you ever seen the kind of setup you need to build in your room to even use Oculus? That's already the past, inside out tracking is the only natural evolution. And cables are next. So imho, if you buy an Oculus or vive now that better hardware is coming, you're crazy.
  • It's the best experience at the moment for a price that is half what it was one year ago. Not everyone wants to wait until a technology is totally polished. Otherwise this market would never have a chance to exist.
  • The real killer feature for Windows Mixed Reality is its ability to be used with a laptop computer by plugging in just two cables. That means you could use it in an airport or even on a plane. Combined with noise cancelling headphones and you can watch your movies or play games on a big screen in privacy wherever you happen to be.
  • I hate to say it, but for sometime my choice between any product coming from any company vs a product coming from Microsoft, is going to be go with the non-Microsoft device. Microsoft has always showed it's willingness to dump product support easily, but under Nutella it has gone to the point of being insulting.
  • I hear you. I like the MS approach to VR, and I really want to believe in it and support it, but in my heart I doubt MS have the same level of commitment. It really saddens me, but every time I've thought 'This time MS will be different' they've let me down. It makes buying anything requiring ongoing MS support such a nerve wracking experience. But... perhaps this time...? [Arrgh! You addict Andy, wake up!]
  • Hopefully as microsoft is not making hte headsets these external companies will put presure on microsft to keep the support good, or it might be microsoft shoving all the responsibility off early
  • Every single product that MS has put out and then canceled was failing in the market for years before being terminated with the exception of the Band. And I'd point out that they're doing work on creating VR business apps, like SharePoint, which signals a very long term commitment to the space. The consequences of dropping support on something that's part of a business workflow without very significant lead time is far more drastic than anything that can happen in the consumer space. If WMR goes away, it'll be because no one wants VR. Otherwise MS will be pushing for whatever devices take off to have WMR support, and will be making sure Windows stays the best place to do VR. They already more or less have a lock on the VR market, with really only PSVR truly competing against Windows. But honestly? Right now my bet is on consumer VR failing to take off for a lot longer than people are expecting. I would put money on significant business adoption being more likely than mainstream consumer adoption for as long as we need to strap screens to our heads to make it work.
  • Resolution and no controllers; that's where the Windows based headsets win the game. Hopefully they'll get the games and programs shortly, but Steam VR did a lot to move things in the right direction!
  • So is Mixed Reality AR or VR or both? I want the thing that vive and rift do for gaming.
  • Microsoft Mixed Reality is what Microsoft is using to identify a range of possibilities from VR to AR and in between.   The headsets reviewed in this article however are simply VR headsets (or as Microsoft calls them Mixed Reality Immersive Headsets).
  • To me it's a no brainer, I find it insane how complicated it is to set up a room for Oculus/Vive. External tracking is already a thing of the past, as it will soon happen with cables (well, eventually). I'm gonna go with Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Maybe not the very first wave.
  • My question is can I use my Oculus rift to take advantage of these "windows" HMD's? For example every movie in the Microsoft store shows it's compatible with hololense/mixed reality and the platform is compatible with steamvr and Oculus is compatible with steamvr because steamvr is just the open vr standard that Oculus and valve agreed to support. I know I can play most games that say vive only on steam.  In fact only 1 VR game has not worked for me and it's fully Oculus compatible and on the Oculus store so I haven't got a clue why it doesn't work. But what about this?  Will I need a windows branded HMD?  Will I need to switch to the vive because that will end up being the standard if it's the only one that also works with windows mixed reality apps....sigh not enough info despite this having already been released
  • I have an Acer set that my wife bought me as a surprise. The only thing I use it for is Elite Dangerous (and it is absolutely amazing for that!). I have yet to run across anything aside from gaming that VR sets are actually value-added for. Since I'm extremely picky about what kinds of games I am even interested in--and none of the Oculus-exclusive games are worth a darn to me--I can literally play every game I'm interested in via the Acer rig. And cheaper.