In 2012 Oculus founder Palmer Lucky introduced the world to the Oculus Rift, and virtual reality has made huge strides since. Oculus is now owned by Facebook, and the Oculus Rift S represents the next step in the company’s evolution, promising high-quality, PC-based virtual reality experiences. Or at least it should. In reality, the Oculus Rift S is more of a baby step in terms of an upgrade to its predecessor, the original Oculus Rift.
However, if you’re looking to purchase one of the best VR headsets on the market today, then you should consider the Oculus Rift S. It is a valid contender for the best VR headset released recently, even if it doesn’t live up to the original Oculus Rift.
Below, we’ll review aspects of the Rift S such as design and setup, as well as answer a couple of frequently asked questions.
- No external tracking stations making for less obstructive wires and a more seamless experience.
- Improved visuals thanks to the higher resolution.
- Backwards compatibility for more accessibility.
- Reduced refresh rate which may cause VR-induced motion sickness.
- Prone to crashing
Design and Comfort
Let’s start with the fit of the Oculus Rift S.
Whereas the Oculus Rift used a thin rubbery strap that went over the crown of your head and around the back of your head to two firmer points over your ears, the Rift S also has a plastic curved mold that sits around your forehead and the base of your skull. While there is still a velcro strap you can use to position the headset, it’s mainly tightened by a dial on the back headrest.
The Rift S is fairly comfortable, but like with all VR headsets you still have the issue of a weight hanging off your face which can be quite irritating if you’re not used to using a VR headset. But this is not without purpose. With the Rift S, they have got rid of external motion tracking sensors that took up a lot of USB ports on your PC and made it so you had to trail cables around your room and desk. The Rift S has now replaced this nuisance with outward-facing cameras. These track your position in the room and the movements of the excellent Oculus controllers. This does make the Oculus Rift S’s design a little less aesthetically pleasing but creates a far more efficient way of tracking a player and makes the setup process a lot easier.
The Oculus Rift S controllers are slightly different from their predecessors. This won’t affect gameplay, but it does mean that the two generations of controllers are no longer compatible with each other, thanks to the tracking ring sitting on top of the controller rather than the bottom. The Rift S controllers are comfortable to use, as well as being lightweight and intuitive. Rather than being rechargeable, they use a single AA battery each.
Gone are the over-ear earphones of the Rift S’s predecessor. They have been replaced with directional speakers in the headband, and while they provide a reasonable sense of directional audio in relation to what’s happening in the scene in front of you (as well as letting your unobstructed ears listen to what’s going on in the real world), they do let slip a considerable amount of sound. This means that anybody around you can hear what’s going on in the headset which may be quite irritating. They also lack bass, which takes away some of the impact from epic scenes. You could always plug in your headphones to a 3.5mm port on the side of the headset, but this creates more obstructive wires.
Thanks to a release button on the underside of the headset, you can now slide the headrest back and forth, and off and onto your face. However, this does make it tighter around the front and may be difficult and uncomfortable for glasses-wearers.
Oculus has also done away with the IPD (Interpupillary Distance) on the Rift S, which is used to shift the lenses to accommodate those with broader or narrower distances between their eyes. This has been replaced with a software fix instead, as the Rift S uses only a single screen.
There haven’t just been aesthetic changes with the Rift S, but internal changes too. Unfortunately, these are changes that seem good at first but are debatable in practice.
Firstly, the Rift S has compensated for its single screen by increasing the resolution to 2560 x 1440 to create a sharper image. However, this reduces the refresh rate from 90HZ to 80HZ. These changes have been made to not only reduce the price but to make the headset more accessible to those who already have an Oculus Rift without having to upgrade their PC. But these changes only exacerbate VR-induced motion sickness, with the screens not updating at a speed in which your brain perceives to be natural.
To further keep hold of its fanbase that loved the original Oculus Rift, Oculus has made the Rift S totally backwards compatible with original Rift titles, while making the Rift forward compatible with the majority of games released for the Rift S and Oculus Quest.
As for the quality and quantity of the games, we can expect to be released, Oculus has already invested $250 million of its own money in development and is said to invest another $250 million in the coming years. Over 50 Oculus Studio titles have been released so far, and this news tells us that we can expect more.
With games like Lone Echo, Robo Recall, and From Other Suns, Oculus has plenty of strong, renowned games under its belt that are only enhanced by VR, and would not be as effective on other platforms. This is true for the interactive movies, social VR hangout spaces, and creative design software also available on the Oculus store. With all this great, exciting content available you won’t get bored of the Rift S anytime soon!
But there are exceptions. The titles funded by Oculus tend to be the most impressive, both in terms of visuals and gameplay. As with most online stores (especially ones that are still in their developing stages), the Oculus store does have filler that falls short of the quality of its most impressive titles.
Oculus does have a very generous returns policy though, and its store ranks and sorts its titles by user experience and how comfortable they are to use.
If you’re new to the world of VR headsets (or at least using them for a PC), you may be wondering how VR works. It’s understandable, a VR headset is a baffling but incredible piece of technology! Below, we’ll go into detail about how the Rift S works for a PC.
Just like its predecessor the Oculus Rift, the Oculus Rift S works in tandem with a PC to deliver virtual reality experiences.
It uses a USB 3.0 port and a DisplayPort connection to connect to your PC and is tethered to your machine by a long cable that can accommodate ‘room-scale’ experiences. While it is more restrictive in terms of movement compared to the Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2 (standalone headsets that use no wires), it is more capable of immersing you in ambitious VR worlds as it is powered by your PC.
The Rift S places two lenses in front of your eyes that look like goggles. These give you a stereoscopic 3D view of the world you’re placed inside. Then, sensors work to calculate your real-world movements and translate them into in-game movements to create extra immersion. So if you lift your right hand, your right hand in the digital world moves with it. If you crouch in the real world, you will be closer to the in-game floor, all in real-time. This can be quite surreal and disorientating at first, but while that feeling lessens as you soon get used to your virtual surroundings, you’ll never stop feeling awe-struck by the whole experience!
Is Oculus Rift S good for gaming?
Virtual reality can make a huge improvement to many experiences, such as watching movies or hanging out with friends if you can’t all get together in the same room. But no virtual reality experience is more immersive than playing a VR video game and with its intuitive sensors and high-resolution visuals, the Oculus Rift S is brilliant for gaming!
Can my PC run Oculus Rift S?
The more advanced your PC, the better the overall experience will be with an Oculus Rift S. The Rift S is most compatible with a 64-bit Windows 10 program.
Oculus Rift S
Affordable, high-end VR
If you’re new to PC-based VR, then the Oculus Rift S is the more accessible and less daunting headset to begin your VR journey. Before we give our final verdict, let’s break the Rift S down into pros and cons.
So while the Rift S is admirably focused on accessibility, the concessions it’s made to achieve this haven’t improved the overall experience.
In a lot of ways – especially the accessibility front – the Rift S is superior to the original Oculus Rift. However, this VR headset isn’t the huge step forward many were expecting in Oculus’s evolution. In some aspects, it even feels like a step backward.