HTC is finally firing back at Oculus Rift with a $200 price drop on the HTC Vive, bringing the price down to $599! Here’s how the desktop VR options currently compare!
THE DESKTOP VR MARKET
The desktop VR wars are heating up with HTC finally responding to two rounds of price drops from Oculus Rift. The Vive and Rift are fierce rivals for the desktop VR market. The largest market share currently belongs to Sony’s Playstation VR, but the PSVR provides a significantly different VR experience — and arguably target market — compared to the Rift and the Vive, which are both designed for high quality VR experiences on PCs.
HTC had the early lead due to its superior tracking when the systems were first released. Oculus assumed at first that users would only want front-facing VR experiences and only later on added support for roomscale VR. It would take another few months before Oculus was able to tweak the Rift’s software to provide nearly identical performance to the Vive. But by then, Vive had already built a substantial lead over the Rift.
In an attempt to take the lead, Oculus decreased the price of the Rift by $200 in February. Notwithstanding the price difference, it appears from industry estimates that the Vive continued to lead the Rift in market share. This past summer, however, Oculus announced an eye-popping summer sale for $399 for the entire Rift + Touch package, bringing the Rift + Touch to just half the price of the HTC Vive. The summer sale is still going on at the time of this writing but after the sale is over, the price will then be $499 – still a substantial savings over the HTC Vive.
No one knows for sure what was the impact of Oculus Rift’s summer sale, but the buzz among users and bloggers seems to be that many first-time desktop VR users decided to snap up the Rift at its $399 price, and those users appear to be happy with their purchase.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s VR headset — rebranded Windows Mixed Reality — is looming, and will be priced starting at $299 when it is released at the end of this year. Besides the price difference, it will also offer inside-out tracking that won’t need external sensors and which could be used for augmented reality or mixed reality, in addition to VR.
In response to these threats, HTC has now finally decided to drop the Vive’s price to $599. The price drop appears to be permanent. At the new $599 price, it’s still 50% more ($200) than the Rift’s summer sale price, but at least the gap isn’t as gigantic as it was before.
WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU GET?
I had the Vive for a few months before I got the Oculus Rift, which I still have. I also have the PSVR, Gear VR, ad Google Daydream. Here’s my suggestion:
First, let’s talk about Playstation VR: yes it’s the most popular, but it has the smallest game library compared to the Rift and Vive, so it’s not what I would recommend unless you are fine with its limited selection of games, or you absolutely do not want to play any kind of games on a PC. (FYI, I don’t play any PC games except for VR games.)
As for the Vive and Rift, they are very similar in terms of performance and now even the software. The Rift and Vive can play each others’ games for the most part, except that the controls can be a little bit awkward for one or the other.
The Rift has a slight edge on software because there are still a few games for the Rift that won’t readily run on the HTC Vive. By contrast, Oculus now allows Steam VR games to be launched from Oculus Home, making it convenient to play games for the Rift and the Vive.
The Rift also has more polished bundled games including the amazing Robo Recall, which was estimated to cost $10 million to develop. However, ultimately, if you don’t mind buying some games that are otherwise free for Rift users, Vive users can enjoy most Rift games.
Finally, the Rift also benefits from Oculus’ asynchronous spacewarp, which allows the Rift to run more smoothly on lower-end hardware. My Rift can run on a desktop PC that cost me around $400 all-in.
What’s the Vive got going for it then? The biggest difference is ease and convenience of setup. Setting up the Vive is still significantly easier than on the Rift, with less need for long cables. It’s also easier to track a larger play area compared to the Rift. Vive’s lighthouse system has also been selected by many third parties for developing accessories in the future (emphasis on future).
Some people also prefer the Vive’s wand-like controls which are similar to holding instruments or objects, compared to the Rift’s controls which are designed to simulate hand and finger movements.
The ultimate question therefore is, whether the Vive’s easier tracking and setup (and your possible preference for wand-like vs. grip-like controls) are worth the $200 price difference (plus the cost of any bundled Rift software that you plan to buy, e.g., Robo Recall). That’s entirely your call. To me, you can’t go wrong either way.
Oculus Rift + Touch ($399) is available from Amazon. B&H isn’t selling the Rift at the time of this writing.
Playstation VR Launch Bundle ($499) is available from Amazon or from B&H Photo.
HTC Vive ($599) is available from Amazon. B&H is selling Vive parts but isn’t selling the Vive at the time of this writing.
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