The Oculus Rift has the distinction of being the first viable and successful VR headset for the home consumer. From its announcement in 2012 out of Irvine, California, it generated a lot of viral social media publicity and has been hailed since as the standard for home gamer VR headsets. Since then, it’s gone through a few new releases, the latest being the Oculus Rift S. But the Oculus line might soon have to work harder to keep its lead, as market competition is closing in.
Differences From Previous Models
The Oculus Rift S is not just an upgrade from the original Rift, but a whole new re-design. The LCD panel has a resolution of 2560×1440, but at a slight downgrade in refresh rate from 90HX to 80HZ. The change in refresh rate is just barely noticeable.
The Rift S does away with the cumbersome camera stands of the previous Quest model entirely.
The Rift S loses the headphone model in place of integrated free speakers secured on the headband, with the option of a jack where users can substitute their own headphones instead.
There’s a new inside-out tracking system called “Oculus Insight,” which uses five cameras mounted around the exterior of the headband to track your movement.
The headset introduces a new halo headband, designed to be more comfortable for long-term wear.
The Rift S drops the adjustable distance between the lenses. This part is now fixed and cannot be adjusted.
The Rift S
The head band is more comfortable than the average headset, with an easily adjustable dial and padded interior. You can wear it for extended periods without it getting uncomfortable.
The content is where the Oculus system shines. All games and software made since the Oculus series will work on the Rift S, and more new titles are in development. The software support package on the PC is an easy install, providing a self-contained hub and home user environment. The system tracks your immediate room to ensure you don’t bump into anything while using the headset. No more camera stands!
The screen resolution is higher, with the trade-off as mentioned above with the lower refresh rate.
The Rift 5 has taken pains to remain compatible with PCs from five years ago when the Oculus was released, to maintain compatibility with the Oculus software catalogue.
The controllers are the same armband rigs worn in the Quest, with a slightly different configuration to match the rethought camera system.
Unlike the Quest, the Rift S still requires tethering to the PC using USB cables. However the trade-off here from the camera stand system is more than welcome for most users.
The standard with the new speakers might not sit well with some users, but you can always opt to use your own headphones with the plug-in jack. This actually adds an option, because now you can play the speakers and let others listen in on the audio, if that serves a purpose.
While it’s nice that Oculus can run on older computers, newer generation video cards will also have no impact on performance. The market around VR headsets seems to assume that everybody is maxed out on the latest hardware all the time, so this is actually some relief for your budget if you don’t habitually replace your PC every five years.
The Rift S headset now has a fixed width between lenses and can’t be adjusted to accommodate Inter-Pupil Distance (IPD), which is the measurement between your eyes. This was an understandable omission of a fine-tuned feature that doesn’t benefit anybody but the far statistical outliers on that metric.
At a price point similar to the Oculus Quest, but still a slight bump over the original Oculus, the Rift S is a solid entry in the Oculus line, but may leave some consumers wanting more. It’s been pointed out that this model could be a milestone model, intended for developers to experiment with the new features before moving on to further new releases.
The changes in Oculus’ design over the few years go to show that the company listens to its customers and tries its best to meet demands. All by itself, eliminating the pesky camera stands is a huge leap forward. And while Oculus is starting to face some healthy competition in the Virtual / Augmented Reality market, they have enough of a solid fan base optimistically looking forward to future developments. The Rift S is right where they need to be right now, which is actually a prudent position to take that maintains the value which oculus fans have come to expect from the company.