If you’re buying a high-end virtual reality headset in 2016, you’re probably not too concerned about money.
After all, the Oculus Rift system alone will cost $599, and HTC just announced an $799 price tag for its Vive VR system. Those prices don’t even factor in the souped-up gaming PC you’ll need for either set, so either way the cost will exceed $1,500 to enjoy state-of-the-art VR at home.
But let’s say you are prioritizing price, rather than the vastly different experiences that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will offer. Here’s a rundown of how these two VR headsets compare on value, beyond just the sticker cost:
HTC Vive: What’s included for $799
HTC’s big pitch is that the Vive—which ships in April—includes everything you need for a complete virtual reality experience (well, minus the PC, but we’ll get to that). To wit:
One head-mounted display with front-facing cameras
As Jason Cross noted on PCWorld, HTC’s approach resembles what Microsoft originally tried to do with the Xbox One. By bundling Kinect cameras—and making consumers eat the cost—Microsoft hoped lots of games would include motion-tracking and voice controls by default. Likewise, HTC and Valve are aiming for a big catalog of games that follow your hands and body around the room, so you can’t opt out of the Pre’s position-tracking controllers.
Oculus Rift: What’s included for $599
By comparison, Oculus is taking the minimalist approach with its Rift headset, which starts shipping in late March and comes in at a lower price than the Pre. Here’s what’s in the box:
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have similar spec requirements if you’re building your own PC. Both require an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 graphics card, and an Intel i5-4590 CPU (though HTC also supports AMD FX 8350 or greater CPUs). Oculus requires double the RAM at 8GB, and also demands four USB ports, including three with USB 3.0, compared to just one USB 2.0 for the HTC Vive. But either way, expect to spend $900 or more to build a VR-ready PC.
Alternatively, you can buy a ready-made PC with a stamp of approval from either VR vendor. Here, Oculus comes out ahead, with bundles starting at $949 with the purchase of a Rift. HTC hasn’t announced any bundles yet, and the cheapest “Vive Optimized” PCs start at $1,600.
All told, the Oculus Rift seems like a slightly better value, but with diminishing returns as you spend more for the full VR experience. Early adopters may be wise to bet on the system they believe in most, regardless of cost.
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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.
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