It’s very likely 2016 will be the year gaming changed forever. That’s because there’s a slew of high profile virtual reality devices ready to launch this year including the Sony PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive. But without a doubt the biggest VR launch of the year will be the Oculus Rift. This is the device that most people think of when they think virtual reality”. It will immerse us heads first into a world where we can look around and see digital objects that are just as lifelike as physical ones.
Both headsets have IPD (inter-pupillary distance) adjusters, but the Vive’s isn’t quite as obvious. It’s a small piece of plastic you turn, as opposed to the slider on the bottom of the Oculus Rift. I found adjusting the slider on the Oculus Rift made a huge difference in focus and clarity, as I positioned the lenses properly for my eyes. I found the effect on the Vive much less obvious, and wasn’t even sure it was working, at first. It seemed to make a very small difference in focus, but perhaps I wasn’t adjusting it to its extremes (but I did turn the little knob a lot).
Despite using the IPD adjustment on the free Oculus Rift, I was seeing a half moon-like ring of the display on the left and right periphery of my vision, and it felt like i needed to be able to adjust the IPD outwards more to compensate. It’s a hard thing to describe—almost like a reflection from the edges of the lenses. I think this was an anomaly with the fit of the particular headset I was trying, as I haven’t always experienced this vision effect on other Oculus Rift Crescent Bay dev kits or the final consumer Rift. But the fit seemed right, as the display in the center of my vision was in sharp focus.
The Oculus Rift is absolutely the more comfortable headset. It’s lighter and much easier to keep in place, partially thanks to its strap system, but mostly, I think, due to its weight. It’s the more comfortable device to handle thanks to its fabric covering. The Vive really feels like development hardware, bursting with raw potential but still a bit ungainly. Putting on the Oculus immediately afterward makes it feel much more like a consumer-ready, heavily iterated piece of tech.
The hardware of these two headsets isn’t everything. Your decision about which, if any, to buy will be influenced by price, ease of use, and the games playable on each. I couldn’t begin to compare those elements in two short back-to-back testing sessions. But with the Oculus Rift only a couple months away, and the Vive following soon after, we’ll have that chance soon enough.