Oculus Rift Vs HTC Vive -Visual Clarity

Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)


I sit here as a Vive developer in somewhat of a state of shock at the clarity of the Oculus Rift headset. There is no screen door effect or at least it's not as visible to me, and the difference in visual clarity is striking. Even more thought provoking is the fact that my Vive is powered by a newer 980 video card where the Rift is hooked up to an older 970! Both are on i7 chassis but I was ready for a downgrade in visual quality and certainly wasn't prepared for the sharper image of the Rift.

The Vive is housed in my living room and enjoys a custom built Cyberpower PC with liquid cooling and the aforementioned nVidia 980. My work computer in my studio while a comparable i7 (an HP HPE) had the older 970 that dated back to the days of Windows 7 yet it was much clearer. The overall improvement in quality over the Vive was readily apparent. I know there have been a few Rift Vs Vive articles but I have avoided them as I knew I'd be doing my own comparison eventually. I didn't want to be even slightly influenced by the articles so as to not form any preconceived notions.

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I was in absolutely no hurry to order the Rift even though it was budgeted for projects. I waited till the last minute and had it within a few working days. Then it sat there on the table as I finished up other chores for approaching deadlines. There was just no real desire to get my hands on the Rift as the Vive was satisfying enough and it still is as I have no problem going between the two.

I first noticed the visual difference when Oculus Home spooled up and everything seemed crystal clear. In fact, the clarity was breathtaking. Enough to make me just soak it in even though I had spent hours and hours in VR in the past few months. So here I sat in my office chair looking around like a kid that just discovered a new candy store as I was anything but prepared for the stunning visual quality of the consumer version Rift.

Not only are the visuals better but the Rift is much smaller, lighter and easier on the head and neck for extended play than the Vive is. It slides on and off easier due to its light weight and adjustable head strap system. Both give extremely immersive VR experiences and the Vive still has a strong hand with room scale and motion controllers that arguably give it the edge over the Rift for many of us. However, clarity is very important for some things such as education and training. Seems I had to strain or work at reading text in the Vive which is not a problem at all with the Rift.

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Now to my sticking point, the lack of tracked motion controllers. Well... so far... that has been more drama than substance as I have not missed them that much yet. I haven't really played a good shooter in the Rift yet which begs for the hand controllers and for all I know the Oculus Remote might work for that as it seems to be a capable though less robust alternative right now. So basically this has not been a big deal so far. I was unable to get the wireless Xbox controller to work so I just plugged in my old wired controller and I'm good to go with the content I've downloaded so far. I'll go back and take a look at the wireless controller later.

For the most part it has been a pleasant experience so far. Setup was straight forward and easy... about 35 minutes or so and I was in Rift land. Having directly compared titles like Apollo 11 in both HMDs I can safely say that HTC has some catching up to do in the clarity department but other than that Oculus has to release their motion controllers before they are really in the game. If you are looking for an HMD now and want the full experience, then this reviewer would pick the Vive. However, if a higher quality view is what is important to you then the Rift wins out on that argument.

Oculus Rift Website

HTC Vive Website

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M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.