HTC Vive

An all-en­com­pass­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Hyper - - RIFT VS VIVE -

No­body ex­pected Valve’s VR gu­rus to team up with mo­bile phone maker HTC to de­liver the Vive, but that they did. The re­sult is the most com­pre­hen­sive VR ex­pe­ri­ence cur­rently on the mar­ket, though it doesn’t come with­out a few down­falls.

Set­ting up the Vive is a bitch of a job. This is be­cause of the room-track­ing scal­ing. Twin light­house scan­ning boxes need to be mounted on op­po­site sides of the play­ing area, the min­i­mum play size is 6 feet 6 inches by 5 feet, but it can go even big­ger. You’ll need to mount each track­ing box close to the ceil­ing – brack­ets are in­cluded for per­ma­nent in­stalls, but they’ll also fit onto stan­dard cam­era tripods. If there’s any­thing in the way of the two boxes, such as a light fix­ture, you’ll need to con­nect them via a syn­chro­ni­sa­tion cable, and each track­ing box re­quires its own power sup­ply.

The HMD plugs into a spe­cial link box, which then plugs into your PC. The handy thing about this is that if you ac­ci­den­tally pull out the Vive cord, it just comes out of the link box, rather than yank­ing out a USB or HDMI port on your PC. Once ev­ery­thing is in place, you’ll prob­a­bly need to do an oblig­a­tory firmware up­date, which we found failed a cou­ple of times. Only then can you map out your play space, sim­ply by walk­ing around the play­ing area while hold­ing a mo­tion tracker. We’d highly sug­gest a buf­fer zone be­tween the play space and your wall though, as many games will see you swing­ing wildly out­side of the play zone – we man­aged to bruise more than a few knuck­les. The HMD it­self has iden­ti­cal specs to the Rift, though weighs a lit­tle more. That means twin 1080 x 1200 screens run­ning at 90Hz, with a field of view of 110 de­grees. Yet putting the Vive on re­veals a slightly wider field of view, mak­ing it feel like you’re wear­ing less of a mask. This is a good thing, but on the other hand it makes the pix­els and pixel struc­ture a lit­tle more ob­vi­ous – we’d go with the Rift if you’re look­ing for the finest of de­tail. The Vive also suf­fers from the same god rays as the Rift, but doesn’t tend to be quite as no­tice­able.

As far as com­fort goes, the Vive loses hands down. The strap sys­tem sits too high on the back of the users’ head, while it’s quite front-heavy. It’s also slightly heav­ier, and the lack of any slot around the eyes means that sweat of­ten causes the lenses to fog up. There’s also that huge tether that al­lows it to do room-scale track­ing. You can and will trip over it many a time. Thank­fully there’s a small cam­era built into the front of the HMD, so a quick tap of a but­ton al­lows you to see the world around you. An easy so­lu­tion to this prob­lem is to in­stall a ro­tat­ing hinge in the ceil­ing to hold the tether out of the way, but it’s a big com­mit­ment for a gam­ing room.

So the head­set might not be quite as good, but where the Vive blows away the Rift in terms of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity are the twin mo­tion con­trol wands that it in­cludes. Look­ing sim­i­lar to a Wii-mote with a donut glued to the end, they al­low the player to reach out and grab ob­jects in the vir­tual world. From sword fights with skele­tons to shoot­ing bal­loons with bow and ar­rows, the in­creased im­mer­sion com­pared to a crappy Xbox One con­troller is ex­po­nen­tial. We did find they’d oc­ca­sion­ally lose track­ing, drift­ing off into space and re­quir­ing a re­boot, but it was the ex­cep­tion not the rule. We also found our play­ing area would drift on a daily ba­sis, re­quir­ing it to be re­cal­i­brated.

Then there’s the room scal­ing, which again opens up a whole other door to im­mer­sion. Sure, you’ll walk into stuff all the time, but be­cause you’re ac­tu­ally walk­ing around and your in­ner-ear can de­tect this, the chance of sim­u­la­tor sick­ness is greatly re­duced. I man­aged to play for around six hours straight with­out feel­ing any nau­sea what­so­ever.

In terms of hard­ware re­quired to drive the Vive, it’s very, very sim­i­lar to the Rift. An Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD 290 or greater is re­quired, along with an In­tel i5-4590 or equiv­a­lent. How­ever, the Vive only needs 4GB of mem­ory, along with one HDMI 1.3, 2 x USB 3,0 and a USB 2.0 port. What the specs don’t in­clude are the num­ber of power ports – one each for the track­ing boxes, one for the link box, and two for the con­troller recharg­ers. Once this thing is in­stalled, your room is go­ing to look like a spaghetti-like mess, un­less you’re a pro at hid­ing cables.

It might not have quite the same qual­ity head­set as the Rift, but as an over­all VR ex­pe­ri­ence the Vive blows the Rift away. It’s all about those twin con­trollers – rather than be­ing a pas­sive by­stander inside these vir­tual worlds, you’re an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant. It shows just how im­por­tant the full VR kit is, and not just a great HMD. There’s also the added ben­e­fit that SteamVR is an open plat­form, which should al­low for a much wider range of games than the Rift. BEN­NETT RING

SURE, YOU’LL WALK INTO STUFF ALL THE TIME, BUT BE­CAUSE YOU’RE AC­TU­ALLY WALK­ING AROUND AND YOUR IN­NER EAR CAN DE­TECT THIS

Mo­tion con­trollers Room-track­ing Solid HMD qual­ity

Less com­fort­able More pix­i­la­tion Tether is an­noy­ing

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