Oculus Rift S

Today at GDC, Facebook announced a new version of their Oculus Rift headset that they're simply calling the Oculus Rift S. They announced a $399 (USD) price point for the device that will start shipping later this Spring.

On paper, the headset sounds like a decent device. It features an LCD 2560x1440 panel (1280x1440 per eye), better pixel density compared to the Rift, updated lenses, an 80Hz refresh rate, updated Oculus Touch controllers (functionally the same as the old ones), an adjustable halo strap similar to PlayStation VR.

It also features inside-out tracking, which means it utilizes sensors and cameras on the headset itself to track motion and eliminates the need for external sensor hardware. The removal of the external sensors also means you don't have to handle two to three extra USB devices, which can be a huge problem on some computers.

The problem here is the fact that in a lot of ways the technology is a small step backwards or even just a lateral step to the side.

The current Oculus Rift headset is 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye). Score one in favor of the Rift S, right? Not quite. The Rift S uses LCD compared to the dual OLED screens used in the original device. The Rift S also sports a slower refresh rate compared to the original device, 80Hz vs 90Hz. They're trading higher quality screen technology with deeper blacks and a higher refresh rate for a slightly higher resolution.

The field of view on the Rift S is bumped up from 110 degrees to 115 degrees. It also sports the second generation of their Fresnel lenses. This, in combination with better light shielding on the sides should make for a better overall viewing experience compared to the original. Definitely a boost in favor of the Rift S.

However, the original Rift allowed users to adjust the IPD between 58mm and 71mm which was a great thing to have when different people needed these fine adjustments to make the images more clear. The Rift S features a fixed 64mm IPD.

The removal of the need for sensors is honestly a massive plus in the Rift S's favor. This allows for all Rift S devices to be room scale out of the box without the need for three sensors also connected.

However, the Rift S does away with the stereo headphones. Instead, the Rift S pumps the audio through the straps on the device. Without testing the new method, I'm calling this one a bit of a draw.

The Rift S is also more bulky and a bit heavier than the old device, presumably due to the addition of the inside-out tracking. However, due to the new strap system, the weight should be more evenly distributed on your head.

So worse in some areas, better in a couple of areas, and mostly a change just for the sake of change in still a few other areas. Plus keep in mind that the original commercial release of the Oculus Rift was three years ago. In all that time, this is what they considered a worthwhile replacement? I can't help but feel like this would have been better priced about $50 cheaper at launch and then reduced down to nearer $300 shortly after. At $400, it's a hard sell in an ever growing market.

(Additional information via UploadVR)