Both of these VR headsets are going to deliver a stellar virtual experience, but the final decision will likely rest heavily on whether or not you have a PC ready to power VR. The Rift S still relies on external hardware to operate, while the Quest has everything built-in and doesn't have any external tether. The differences go deeper than that, though, which is what we examine here.
A significant change to note is that Oculus Link, which allows you to connect the Oculus Quest to your PC to play PCVR games. While this feature is in beta, it greatly changes the comparison between these two devices. If you want the best PCVR experience, you should grab the Oculus Rift S, but if you're planning for the future or willing to wait for Oculus Link to mature, the Oculus Quest will be a significantly more versatile headset.
Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest: tech specs
Both VR headsets were released on May 21, 2019. Here's a breakdown of the tech specs that make up each system.
|Oculus Rift S||Oculus Quest|
|Degrees of freedom (DoF)||6 DoF||6 DoF|
|Controllers||Updated Touch||Updated Touch|
|PC requirements||Same as Rift CV1||None|
Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest: Display
The Rift S has a significant display update over the Rift CV1, ditching the deep blacks and light whites of dual OLED for a single LCD display that's essentially the same as the one used in the Oculus Go. It has a combined resolution of 2560x1440 (1280x1440 for each eye) that is lower than the Quest's 2880x1600 resolution (1440x1600 for each eye), but the Rift S does offer a higher 80Hz refresh rate compared to 72Hz in the Quest. If you prefer the look of an OLED display, the Quest is really your only option.
Both the Rift S and the Quest deliver a picture that has less screen-door effect (SDE) than older models, meaning you won't see as much of a grid over the presented picture when you focus closely on the display, though you likely will still see more god rays in the Quest than in the Rift S.
Perhaps the biggest complaint many users will have about the Rift S is that IPD adjustments are handled by software. IPD is the distance between your pupils, and being able to manually set it with a slider — like on the Rift CV1 and Quest — opens the headset up to a lot more users. There is some sway with the Rift S thanks to software, but if your eyes aren't in the common distance spacing, you will have a much tougher time getting a perfect view. The Quest, on the other hand, lets you adjust IPD with a slider, giving you a much better chance of getting a perfect view even if your eyes have uncommon spacing.
Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest: Design
The Oculus Quest more closely resembles the Rift CV1 than the Rift S, no doubt due to the Rift S being designed with help from Lenovo, which has its own line of Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) headsets. The Rift S brings a halo headband with a dial on the back to get the right tightness, and the headset kind of hangs down over your face. There's still a band that runs along the top of your head to keep it from slipping down.
The Quest sticks with a headband like the Rift CV1 had, with dual Velcro adjustments on either side and a top strap to keep the headset from slipping down. The design means the display is stuck straight onto your face instead of hanging down, and comfort-wise it doesn't quite compare to the Rift S. The Quest has four sensors — one in each corner of the front plate — with no bottom ledge like on the Rift S, giving it a true Oculus look.
Both headsets have gone the route of integrated audio. There are no longer headphones or earbuds hanging down off of the headband as we saw on the Rift CV1. Instead, audio feels like it comes out of nowhere. Speakers are embedded in the headband and don't touch your ears, so if you want better immersions and to cut out external audio completely, you can plug in third-party headphones to the devices' 3.5mm audio jacks.
Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest: Performance hardware
The Rift S is a PC-powered experience, meaning you'll still have a tether back to your computer. The tether is five meters long, compared to four on the Rift CV1, so you get a bit of extra leeway, but it does rely on DisplayPort instead of HDMI. Luckily, because the Rift S uses the same core software as the Rift CV1, system requirements haven't really changed other than the required video port. If you have a PC with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon R9 480 graphics card (GPU), you're already hitting the recommended specs, though better hardware will give you the best experience possible. If you're interested in extending your Rift S cables, you can do so successfully for about $15.
Unlike the Rift S, the Oculus Quest is a self-contained VR headset. There's no cable back to a PC, and all performance hardware is housed with the display and lenses. This makes the Quest a lot more portable and gives you a lot more freedom, though the Snapdragon 835 processor (CPU) understandably won't deliver the same performance as a full gaming PC. This means that the current Oculus Rift library won't be available on the Quest, though it's safe to assume that a lot of popular titles will be ported to the standalone headset.
Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest: Tracking and Touch
Both headsets feature the new Oculus Insight tracking system, which works with built-in cameras and sensors on the headset itself. Insight scans your surroundings and identifies physical objects in space, and combines it with data from the headset's accelerometer and gyroscope, giving your exact positional data once per millisecond. You won't need any external sensors with either headset.
Oculus Quest uses four sensors, one in each corner of the headset, for tracking, while the Rift S relies on five, with two on the front, two on the side, and one on the top of the headset. Some of the tracking issues we experienced when testing the Quest weren't apparent with the Rift S thanks to the different positioning, so if you plan on playing a lot of games where perfect tracking matters, the Rift S might give you a slight edge.
You'll get the updated Oculus Touch controllers with either headset, which have been refined for better tracking and for more intuitive button placement. Both VR systems bring six degrees of freedom (6DoF) to the table, meaning you can move naturally in three-dimensional space and have it all translate into whatever experience you're enjoying.
Oculus Rift S delivers a PC-powered VR experience
If you're interested in a VR experience that works in tandem with your PC, the Oculus Rift S is the better choice. You still have a tether, and you won't get a display with as high of a resolution, but five Insight sensors mean tracking without the need for any external sensors. The bonus of having access to the existing library of Rift games means you shouldn't have any issues with lack of content.
The next evolution of the Rift brings improved lenses, a display with a higher pixel count than the original, and a redesigned head strap and tracking system, but you're still tethered to a PC.
Oculus Quest brings freedom in a self-contained headset
The Oculus Quest does not require a PC to run thanks to having performance hardware built into the headset, meaning you'll have much more freedom. It also features Oculus Insight though it has one less sensor. The Oculus Quest has a growing library of games, as well as support for dozens of Oculus Go games. While Oculus Link is in beta, it gets you access to the existing library of Rift games when connected to a capable PC.
Standalone VR headset
The Oculus Quest delivers an untethered VR experience with 6DoF and Touch controller support. If you'd rather not rely on a PC and can take advantage of manual IPD adjustments and an OLED display, it's no doubt the better choice. Grab it with either 64GB or 128GB storage.
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