The Oculus Rift headset was the pioneering device that kicked off the relatively recent virtual reality revolution. It started as a Kickstarter project in 2012, eventually going on to fund over $2.4 million to have the product made. It showed that people were ready to give VR a chance, while simultaneously demonstrating the power of crowdfunding for tech projects. In 2016, after a $2.3 billion acquisition of Oculus by Facebook, the Rift finally launched. Over the last two years, the headset has seen a variety of improvements that made it a more appealing prospect, not least of all a price reduction.
We got a hands-on look at the headset to see how far it’s progressed over the last two years. Given its price point and tech requirements, the only real rival is the HTC Vive. In this review, we outline how the Oculus Rift stacks up in terms of hardware, features, performance, design and content. It’s a headset that we really like, but there a few issues with it, as we’ll see.
Oculus Rift Pros and Cons
Simple to set-up.
Fantastic range of VR games and apps.
Excellent controllers bundled with the headset.
PC requirements are prohibitively high for most.
Needs additional equipment for room-scale tracking.
Oculus Rift Key Specs
One of the first things that impressed us with the Oculus Rift was the high-quality specs. It’s clear that Oculus has spared no expense when it comes to creating their VR headset, as we’ll see below:
Similar to the HTC Vive, the Rift has a PenTile OLED screen with a resolution of 2160×1200, 90Hz refresh rate, and 110-degree field of view.
As the Rift is reliant on a powerful PC to run it, there are a few minimum requirements in terms of OS. It will run on Windows 7, 8 or 10, as well as Mac OS 10.6 or higher. The device also requires its own drivers and runtime services, which are provided.
The requirements for processing power are fairly high. The Oculus Rift requires an Intel Core i3-6100 / AMD FX4350 or greater, marginally lower than the Vive.
Your PC should have at least 8GB of RAM to power the headset.
Games and apps will be installed directly on your PC’s hard drive. An SSD hard drive would be preferable.
The Oculus Rift uses HDMI 1.3 video output as well as two USB 3.0 ports. It’s surprisingly easy to connect and set up the device, which we were definitely pleased about.
PC-based Wi-Fi and wired connection.
Two IR LED sensors are included, but you’ll need to add another one of these to get full room-scale tracking.
171 (216 including headphones) × 102 mm
470 g (1.04 lb)
Around £399/$399 plus the cost of a PC to run it and an additional sensor.
There’s no doubt the Rift is a powerful piece of hardware. What’s more, after its considerable price reduction it’s now more affordable than ever before, and considerably cheaper than the Vive.
Oculus Rift Hardware
There can be no denying that the Oculus Rift is an innovative piece of technology. Everything about the device is revolutionary and has set the trend for VR headsets that we’ve seen develop. Each part of the system feels well-made and is designed specifically for the purpose. One of the complaints we had about the PSVR was that it had reused some older tech with mixed results. The quality of the screen is just as good as that of the Vive, making the two headsets the very best on the market today. We felt totally immersed when using it, particularly with a good pair of headphones.
The touch controllers are also excellent. Initially, the device didn’t come with any, which was incredibly disappointing. However, Oculus is finally bundling them as standard. They’re quite possibly the best VR controllers available, even surpassing those included with the Vive. Their ergonomic design means they fit perfectly in our hands, and they give an intuitive and immersive experience.
One slight downside is the sensors. Not only does the system require a third sensor for full room-tracking (sold separately), but they’re just not as good as what we experienced with the Vive or PSVR. It takes slightly longer to set up the three sensors, but even then we experienced the tracking dropping out at times. It’s a real shame because it does intrude on the whole experience. Aside from that, the hardware is of the highest quality.
Oculus Rift Key Features
Let’s turn our attention to some of the unique features of the Oculus Rift. Aside from being the first of its kind, there are some aspects that make it stand out from the crowd. We’ve touched on some already but will go into more detail here.
Yes, the controllers for the Rift are unrivalled in the VR space at the moment. Although they were slow to release them as part of the base package, it’s evident the Oculus spent a lot of time perfecting them. They use both a joystick and buttons and use low-latency tracking to determine where they are in relation to the headset. They also allow the user to make simple gestures. We found them to be incredibly immersive when used for a variety of VR tasks. It’s just so disappointing that the tracking is as unreliable as it is.
We’ll touch on this in detail further down, but available content is one of the features that distinguishes the Rift from competitors. There are so many great apps available for the system. Many of them number among the best VR experiences we’ve had.
In the box
Now that the controllers are bundled, the only extra you’ll need to get the most out of the headset is an extra sensor. In the box you get the headset, 2x Oculus sensors, 2x Touch controllers, all required connecting cables, and seven free VR apps if you order direct from Oculus.
Key Features: 8/10
Oculus Rift Design
Although the Oculus doesn’t quite have the same level of aesthetic as the PlayStation VR’s sci-fi chic, it’s still a visually impressive headset. The Vive is quite bulbous and odd-looking, so the Rift’s sleek lines and soft finish give an overall feel of quality. It’s comfortable too; we found that it fit on the face comfortably and could be adjusted to fit various head sizes. Due to the way the straps are designed, the Rift’s weight is fairly well distributed, meaning you can wear it for a long session without issue.
One slight issue we had was with the headphones that are included. They’re not always the most comfortable, and their positioning sometimes seemed a little off. However, thankfully you can switch them out for your own pair with minimal effort, which we did.
Oculus Rift Software and Content
It’s the range of apps, games, and other experiences where the Rift excels. The Oculus store is positively brimming with VR content specifically designed with the headset in mind. Not all of it is fantastic or worthwhile, but a good portion is. One of the things that disappointed us the Lenovo Mirage Solo was the lack of outstanding content that pushes the boundaries of the device. There’s no such worry with the Rift. No matter what kind of VR experience you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.
Visually, many of the games look great and are immersive. It’s still not quite at the level of full immersion, but it’s about as close as you can currently get. We think the HTC Vive and HTC Vive Pro are probably better for the overall experience, but it’s a closer matter when you take into account the huge price difference. Games like Skyrim, Star Trek, and Superhot VR will transport you to totally different worlds. It’s not just the visuals either; the touch controllers are the perfect conduit for interacting with the world around you. There are so many other great titles we could mention, but the praise we’d shower on them would be superfluous. The Oculus Rift VR headset is perfect for gaming if you can afford to run it.
Oculus Rift Review: Final Thoughts
Although it was the first headset of its kind to be announced, the Oculus Rift has been in constant competition with the HTC Vive. One of the reasons Oculus dropped the price and included the touch controllers was that HTC was pulling ahead in popularity and sales. Recent months have seen the field become more level, however, and the Rift has come into its own. There can be no denying it’s expensive; the PC you’ll need to run it alone will set you back hundreds of pounds/dollars. However, we found that it was just about worth it.
The design is well considered and gives the user everything they need to dive into a virtual world; it was easy for us to get it configured and start playing. The only frustrating part is the sensors. Not only do you not get enough sensors to have full-scale room tracking from the start, they can be a bit hit and miss in terms of picking up movements. Despite this, it’s an excellent VR headset, and we can’t wait to see what’s next from Oculus.
Needs additional equipment for room-scale tracking
The design is well considered and gives the user everything they need to dive into a virtual world; it was easy for us to get it configured and start playing. An excellent VR headset, and we can’t wait to see what’s next from Oculus.