Virtual reality has come on bounds and leaps since Oculus founder and controversial VR poster boy Palmer Luckey first introduced the world to the Oculus Rift back in 2012.
Now owned and operated by Facebook, the Oculus Rift S must represent the upcoming leap forward for the company’s high end, PC based virtual reality experiences.
But in practice, this’s much more of a baby step – the Oculus Rift S isn’t a real “Oculus Rift 2” successor.
In case you follow along with technology, the title must ring a couple of bells.
Both Microsoft and Apple append an’ S’ to their products to denote an iterative improvement (like the Xbox One S and iPhone XS, for example) ,and to show that the product is backwards compatible and will, in time, change the original. Almost all of that’s correct for the Oculus Rift S.
And therefore we’ve a virtual reality headset which in most aspects, especially pertaining to accessibility, is better than its predecessor, but one which is not a generational leap forward, making trade offs which really feel like a step backwards.
The Rift S is good – but not’ next-gen’ good.
Table of contents
- Accurate motion tracking for both headset and controllers
- Full software library
- Easy to set up
- DisplayPort-only; no HDMI
- Still uses a physical cable to connect to a PC
- Lower resolution than the Oculus Quest & Oculus Quest 2
- SteamVR requires tinkering to use
Oculus Rift S price and availability
You are able to get the Oculus Rift S at this time just for $399, and that is pretty affordable for VR once you determine the price is close to that of current gen consoles as the Xbox One X ($399), PlayStation 4 Pro ($399) and Nintendo Switch ($299).
We actually saw the Oculus Rift S go down to $349 over Black Friday, as well as given the cost of its current competitors, like the Vive Cosmos ($699) and Valve Index ($999), it is probably the most affordable PC powered VR headset you are able to purchase.
What is the Oculus Rift S? And what is VR?
The Oculus Rift S, like the Oculus Rift before it, works in tandem with a personal computer to provide virtual reality experiences. It links to your PC over a USB 3.0 port as well as a DisplayPort connection, and also is tethered on the machine by a long cable that is much more than enough to support the’ room-scale’ experiences which Rift S is capable of supplying.
it is a lot more limiting in terms of totally free motion compared to great wireless Oculus Quest & Oculus Quest 2 however, the trade off here’s that, when it is driven by your PC, It is able to putting you inside advanced and ambitious VR worlds.
Like any other VR headsets, the Rift S puts 2 goggle like lenses in front of your eyes, that is giving you a stereoscopic 3D view of a world you are placed inside.
A mix of sensors then calculate your real world movements and also convert them into in game movements – turn your head left, and the digital world moves with it, crouch, and the in game floor draws closer, in real time.
It is still a wondrous, almost sci-fi like experience, particularly when the interactive world around you proves to be a unique one.
But when you go past the general “where it on your head” similarities, the Rift S’s industrial design is drastically different to its predecessor.
Visuals & Audio
One of the biggest changes from the Rift to the Rift S is a brand new screen which bumps the resolution up from 1080 x 1200 to 1,280 × 1,440.
The brand new screen additionally drops from a 90Hz to 80Hz refresh rate.
While the real difference is not stark, those used to 90Hz headsets could possibly feel like everything is a little less smooth, in addition to a few of extremely sensitive individuals might notice more flicker in extremely bright scenes (80Hz did not bother me on the Rift S, however,I’ve felt uncomfortable because of flicker on some other headsets with lesser refresh rates).
80Hz on the Rift S, to me, does not feel like an important downgrade from the 90Hz of the first Rift.
The screen also moves from OLED to LCD which has advantages and disadvantages.
On the positives side, the LCD screen uses an RGB sub pixel structure and that could mean it actually has a lot more sub pixels than an OLED screen of the identical resolution. This means both better fill factor (less screen door effect) and also increased sharpness.
In terms of screen door effect – even when it’s at 1,280 × 1,440 – the Rift S’s LCD screen looks about just like the Vive Pro’s 1,400 x 1,600 OLED display.
Between the Rift and the Rift S, the improvement in fill factor appears to me to become more significant compared to the improvement in sharpness.
In darker scenes and against high frequency textures, the display screen door effect may almost melt away in case you are not searching for it.
Brighter scenes and also flatter textures are going to make it much more obvious.
On the disadvantages side, LCD is lacking in the dynamic range of OLED, that means that colors do not pop so much and dark scenes are usually more washed out on the Rift S.
That said , OLED is frequently prone to significant black smearing that’s most prominently seen when there is very dark objects against extremely bright objects (for example, a black colored square against a white-colored background).
While it usually has less smearing as the Rift or many other VR headsets with OLED displays, the Rift S remains susceptible to some smearing, however, for some reason it happens|occurs much more when the background is in the grey range instead of white.
This is not obvious in case you are not searching for it, but it crops up from time to time.
While mura (inconsistencies in color and brightness from one pixel to the next) was not good on the Rift, it is greatly improved on the Rift S, to the point of being nearly invisible.
Mura is usually most visible in dark, lower contrast scenes, but on the Rift S it seems to be effectively non existent.
The brand new lenses in the Rift S (which, as far as we know, are the same to those used in Quest 1 and Quest 2 and Oculus Go) do result in a decrease in internal reflections and god rays, however, they stay bothersome in high contrast scenes (especially when brighter objects are near your peripheral view while darker objects are near the center).
When it comes to area of view and’ sweet spot’ (the perfect optical center), Oculus says each are considerably improved over the Rift, but in my experience these 2 elements are appreciably affected by how close you are able to get the lenses to your eyes and how well you are able to get your eyes in the sweet spot, which has everything to do with fit and ergonomics, therefore we will dive directly into that section right after a quick note on audio.
The Rift S does away with the Rift’s on ear headphones and rather employs hidden speakers in the headband.
Theoretically, that means nothing in your way when placing the headset on, and absolutely nothing to press against your ears (potentially causing long term discomfort) when you play.
But, the speakers on the Rift S are a major step backwards in sound quality, and also results in positional audio becoming much less clear directionally.
Even if not looking at the Rift S speakers to the original Rift’s pretty darn good headphones, the Rift S sound quality still leaves me wanting; even Oculus Quest‘s hidden speakers appear to do a greater job because of offering up a little more bass.
Of course, there is a 3.5mm jack, and of course you can plug in your personal good quality headphones.
But not only are lots of headphones unlikely to fit well over the headband, it is well developed that nearly no one would like to deal with a separate set of headphones when it comes to VR headsets except the most adamant audiophiles.
For what Oculus says is their “most advanced, PC powered gaming headset,” the sound quality is not exactly where it has to be. Oculus has said they are considering an official headphone accessory for Rift S, and also I believe they ought to get that out the door fast and make it a part of the default package.
Oculus Rift S Design
That is exactly why, while the headset is simple, black, and also curved similarly to the original Rift, it has some design elements reminiscent of the Lenovo Mirage Solo and Explorer headsets (and includes a Lenovo logo on the right side).
The front panel includes 2 prominent outward-facing cameras, and they work with 2 more on the lower right and left corners as well as a 5th facing upward to deliver positional tracking and environment recognition without the use of external sensors like the earlier model requires.
Aside from the sensors, the harness is the Rift S’ biggest departure from its predecessor.
It is still a three point headband with a strap which goes over the top part of your head, however, its design is usually much nearer to the Sony PlayStation VR or perhaps the Lenovo Mirage Solo.
The visor is mounted on a big, curved piece of plastic which rests against your forehead, with side straps that will extend around to another padded plastic arch which runs across the back of your head.
A wheel on the back arch tightens and loosens the whole assembly, that may be further changed with the elastic best strap’s hook and loop fasteners to find a good match.
Rather than attached on ear headphones built into the headset like the Rift has, the Rift S uses speakers which project sound into your ears, comparable to the Oculus Go as well as the Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2.
A 3.5mm jack on the side area of the headset enables you to begin using your own headphones.
You want a computer to use the Rift S. Oculus recommends at least an Nvidia GTX 1060 or maybe AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card, an Intel i5-4590 or perhaps AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or maybe higher CPU, and at least 8GB of RAM.
Those were pretty beefy specs 2 years ago, but in case you have purchased even a midrange gaming capable computer since then you are probably already covered.
Simply make sure you’ve Windows 10, a DisplayPort or maybe Mini DisplayPort port, and a single USB 3.0 port.
The Rift S uses an all new’ inside-out’ tracking system and that does not require any external sensors, bringing a lot of convenience benefits.
There are 5 cameras on the headset that look at the environment around you and discover the way your head is moving through computer vision. The cameras on the headset also understand your controllers to discover how they are moving.
The first Rift uses an outside in tracking device which needed setting up external sensors, which just offered front facing tracking (unless you are ready to set up a more complex sensor configuration for higher coverage).
With the inside out system on Rift S, anything from basic setup to session-to-session use is made a lot more convenient.
Also a plus for the inside out tracking device is that it is inherently’ room-scale’, that could mean it tracks in all directions and across room sized or perhaps larger) spaces.
Room-scale tracking out of the box is good to have, although heritage of the Rift means this feature will not probably be effectively utilized for some time to come because nearly each one of the present VR games created specifically for Rift assume the vast majority of consumers will surely have a front facing tracking setup, and this also will probably still case for the foreseeable future since there’ll be many more Rifts out there compared to Rift S for some time to come.
That said, there is several games that do benefit from having room scale tracking today, and the Rift S tracking system is going to make it simpler to get perfect experience outside of those games.
From a performance perspective, the Rift S tracking device is pretty darn good.
As compared to the Windows VR headsets (which all use similar two camera inside out tracking system), Rift S is a major improvement, particularly because its 5 cameras provide a drastically larger controller tracking volume which dramatically reduces the frequency of controllers losing tracking.
That said, Rift S tracking is not really as robust or perfromant as the tracking system on the first Rift.
I was a bit of disappointed to find out that the Rift S does not fare very well on the’ tap test’ (tapping the visor with your finger to check for instantaneous latency).
Doing this can cause the world to jolt briefly in response to the taps, that suggests the instantaneous latencyis a bit slower than you would see on other headsets or the Rift with outside in tracking.
In the majority of cases this is not a problem – prediction quickly catches up to the initial movement impulse to make the tracking feel tight – however, you might discover it during moments of sharp and fast head movements (like when really going really hard on Beat Saber, or perhaps head banging to the beat in Electronauts).
The Rift S also demonstrates a little more jitter compared to the Rift.
Jitter is from the limit of precision in the tracking system, and may be viewed as the regular variation between tracking estimates of an object that is entirely still in reality.
An perfect tracking system will have 0mm jitter, which means that whenever the tracked object is sitting absolutely still, the device is shooting the identical position from just one measurement to the following.
This’s extremely hard to realize in practice, and nearly all tracking systems have some amount of imprecision, and that helps make the process believe that the object is jumping or’ jittering’ in place.
In the context of a VR headset, jitter means that your virtual perspective is going to shake in the same proportion to the jitter of the tracking system.
The gold standard for tracking precision in VR is frequently said to be’ sub-millimeter’ jitter, which means the variants in tracking estimates of a still object are a bit less than 1mm from just one measurement to the following.
At this level, it is very difficult to see the jitter because it is so minute.
Oculus claims sub mm precision on the Rift, as well as Valve claims the same about their SteamVR Tracking system.
Although it is close, the Rift S does not appear to reach this sub mm mark.
In case you keep your head steady and look at a virtual object several inches from your face, you will have the ability to view it shake slightly.
In the majority of cases this’s something you will never see unless you’re searching for it, and usually will not be a problem. however, too much jitter (even when it does not look clearly visible) is mot comfortable, particularly in situations where you’ve fixed virtual objects very near to your face (as your brain will normally use them as a fixed frame of reference). With the Rift S, the actual level of jitter appears to be more likely to be impacted by just how great (or not) your environment is perfect for tracking.
I’d venture to say this will not be a problem for the majority of individuals, however, it is much less than ideal for anyone particularly sensitive to motion sickness.
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For the great majority of consumers, Rift S tracking is likely to be totally good enough for the great majority of content.
It is good enough to play Beat Saber’s greatest difficulty with no frustration.
However, as the inside out system has a few inherent blind spots on controller tracking (like in case you keep your controller behind your back), you will find some edge cases where it might be problematic.
In my tests so far this has not presented any real issues (and to be fair, the default front facing tracking on the Rift would in addition have difficulty with a controller kept behind the back!).
This’s likely to be content specific, of course, however, I was truly amazed to discover just how well the system held up to a bow game in which you draw the arrow right under your chin – maybe even in this specifically challenging situation, the tracking held up the great majority of time and also did not prevent me from enjoying the game.
Testing the exact same situation with a Windows VR headset left me disappointed at how frequently the controller tracking was lost.
Similar to basically each and every inside out tracking system out there, Rift S might have difficulty tracking when there is some confounding environmental factors.
Things like extremely bright lights or perhaps windows, large mirrors, and moving shadows might toss it for a loop.
In my tests on the Rift S, I have not found the tracking outright fail (and drop me to a black screen), however, you are going to see the unexpected hiccup either in the controllers or may be the head tracking.
Generally however, it feels like an extremely powerful system that is approximately the challenge.