Oculus VR LLC started operations in 2010 as a company geared towards manufacturing virtual reality (VR) headsets.
In April 2012, the company produced its first VR headset, the Oculus Rift, specifically geared towards video gaming. It started a Kickstarter campaign in August of the same year to help developers access VR headsets.
In March 2014, Facebook Inc. paid the owners 2.3 billion to acquire the company, making it a subsidiary of Facebook Technologies, LLC.
The new owners continue releasing impressive headsets for VR-ready PCs, including the Oculus Rift S. In this Oculus Rift S review, we introduce you to one of the significant VR gaming headsets. Let's delve right into it!
What Is the Oculus Rift S?
Oculus Rift S is a VR headset that comes hot on the heels of the Oculus Rift. It is for use with a VR-compatible PC to deliver the virtual reality experience to gamers of all kinds.
The VR headset connects to your PC via a USB 3.0 port and a Display Port. It comes with a long cable, through which you can tether it to a PC and move around the room while enjoying the VR experience.
While it might seem a little limiting, the wired connection ensures the VR headset can put you right inside more advanced VR environments.
It comes with two goggle-like lenses that go right in front of your eyes for a stereoscopic 3D view of the world.
The headset has several sensors that translate real-world movements, translating them into practical in-game actions—for instance, turning your head to the right triggers the digital world to move with it.
It is as if you are a character in the game which you are playing. For that reason, you get a more immersive experience than if you were only playing the game on a screen-based platform.
Many gaming enthusiasts had expected the Oculus Rift S VR gaming headset to upgrade its predecessor, the Oculus Rift. However, there aren't many differences between these two, especially when it comes to performance.
The Oculus Rift S has a more practical design compared to its predecessor's industrial strategy. When you wear it, you may end up looking more like a robot with an extended forehead.
The following are some of the most impressive features of this particular gaming headset:
Comfort, Design, and Fit
The Oculus Rift S provides enough comfort for individuals looking for pain-free gaming sessions.
It has a padded plastic curved mold that holds around the base of the skull and the forehead, protecting you from unnecessary pressure.
That's compared to the thin rubbery strap that goes over the crown and the back of the head, above the ears. The Rift S also has a Velcro strap that positions the head and tightens via a dial on the headrest.
Previously, the elastic strap had external motion tracking sensors that required a USB connection using trail cables running across the room.
Now, the device tracks motion using front-facing, side-facing, and upward-facing cameras that point out your precise position in the room. It also comes with hand-operated oculus controllers that help point out the in-room position.
Even though the Oculus Rift S design is a little less attractive, the headset is more efficient in tracking a player's in-room position than before.
It has two separate touch controllers that look slightly different from those used with the Oculus Rift. When it comes to functionality, the new controllers don't seem to have an advantage over the older ones.
Once you wear them, the thumbs press the face buttons and push the thumbsticks, index fingers use the trigger buttons, and hands grip the in-handle button.
The lightweight, intuitive touch controllers require one AA battery each and aren't rechargeable. Compared to the original Oculus Rift, the tracking ring is on top and not the bottom. However, you can still use the old controllers with the new VR headset.
Directional In-Headband Speakers
Instead of using the old over-ear headphones, the Rift S has directional speakers built into the headband. If you cherish directional audio in your video games, this particular feature is going to work for you.
However, your ears will remain open to all the ambient sound from the environment, which will diminish your in-game engagement.
Some would argue that your mind would be so focused on the VR experience to care about the environment's sounds.
However, the speakers' sound leaking can annoy other room occupants while diminishing the bass output from the device.
If you have a pair of headphones, you can plug in two of the 3.5mm ports on the headset only that it will result in you having to contend with even more running cables.
While the previous Oculus Rift has two OLED screens, the Rift S features one LCD screen with 2560 by 1440 resolution. That makes the image from the newer device to be sharper than that from its predecessor.
However, the refresh rate for the Rift S has reduced from the previous 90Hz to 80Hz. Why would a manufacturer downgrade such a critical aspect instead of improving it?
It turns out that the makers of this device wanted to keep the price down while ensuring many people join the VR bandwagon without upgrading their PCs.
However, the diminished refresh rate may exacerbate VR-induced motion sickness by refreshing the screen slower than your brain naturally would.
One of the significant improvements that come with the Oculus Rift S is the inclusion of positioning cameras.
It has two front-facing cameras, two side-facing cameras (on each side), and two upward-facing cameras. So, you don't have to struggle with positioning sensors and entangling cables to determine your position in the room.
How does the camera-powered insight system work? It is pretty simple. Start by installing the Oculus software on your computer, plug in the headset, power the controllers, and wear the headset.
The first thing you will see is a black-and-white image of the room as captured by the cameras.
As a precautionary measure, you should rid the room of all obstacles before immersing yourself in the play space.
In essence, the play space appears like some Tron cage, only becoming visible when you move closer or wave the controller-wearing hands in it. That way, you will know you are about to hit the edge of the space around you.
When playing a game, it can be necessary for you to what's happening in the real world. All you've got to do is to extend your head further than the VR boundary, and you will see the goings-on inside the room.
Comprehensive Game Library
It is not just the features and functionality that the Rift S is quite similar to the original Rift. The manufacturers wanted to avoid having the perception that the Rift S is a second-generation Rift.
And so, they made the Rift S as backward-looking as possible by making it compatible with the games for the original Rift.
In addition to being compatible with retro-games, the Rift S makers invested over $250 million to help developers come up with compatible games.
Within no time, they had developed more than 50 titles from Oculus Studios, with the promise of producing even more.
The company's ever-expanding game library currently features Lone Echo, From other Suns, and Robo Recall. Gamers also get to enjoy Steam Library games like SuperHot, Beat Saber, and Minecraft VR.
Incidentally, you may not access some of these games with the Oculus Go and Oculus Quest. Besides, you can customize some of these games using a level editor on your PC, given that this is a wired headset.
Apart from the games, you also get to enjoy creative design software, social VR hangouts, and interactive movies. With so many things to do in VR space, it is impossible for you to get bored with this particular headset.
When it comes to in-house and outsourced games, those prepared by Oculus seem more impressive. They have better visual effects and are comfortable to the eyes.
So, you shouldn't be surprised to find some games that don't quite meet the Oculus Store's cut. If a video game isn't what you expected it to be, you can take advantage of the liberal Oculus return policy to get rid of it.
Oculus Rift S Performance
The Oculus Rift S could have several performance issues right from setup, booting to performance. Of course, we have already described how setting up this particular VR headset is extremely easy.
With the correct PC system specification, it should provide you with relatively smooth operations.
In trials by some reviewers, the Oculus software booted extremely slowly even when used on a PC with superior specifications.
The problem mainly comes about when booting or waking up the VR headset. Under normal circumstances, the headset should spring back to life as soon as you place it back onto your head.
However, you can fix the issue by unplugging and plugging the VR headset in again.
PC Specifications for Rift S
The Oculus Rift S works with a standalone PC or laptop, depending on what you've got. You have to play the game via the PC and have the VR headset transmit it to your eyes.
However, your PC should be VR-ready to accept this headset in the first place. At the very minimum, your PC should have an Intel Core i3-6100 processor and an AMD Ryzen 3, 1200, FX4350 processor or more powerful.
NVIDIA GTX 960 (or AMD R9 290) graphics card or greater, 8GB RAM, and DisplayPort 1.2 or Mini Display Port.
A laptop (or PC) that meets all of these specifications or better will give you extremely high speeds. However, anything less than that, and you get incredibly sluggish gameplay.
However, your PC doesn't have to be extremely powerful to give you top-notch graphics. At the very best, you can only expect a maximum of 2560 by 1440, which is the device's maximum screen resolution.
So, having a laptop with 4K graphics won't necessarily put you at an advantage when it comes to the in-game resolution. The long and short of it is that the Oculus Rift S wouldn't give you the market-leading graphics.
Is the Rift S worth it in 2021?
Yes. The Rift S is still worth it in 2021, considering that it is yet to release another VR headset to the market.
Therefore, the Oculus Rift S remains the company's flagship product and worth the attention. Besides, the Rift S is still capable of playing all the Oculus Store games without any reservations.
Is the Rift S better than the Rift?
In some ways, the Rift S is better than the Rift, especially concerning spatial positioning in a room.
The newer VR headset has two front-facing cameras, two side-facing cameras on both sides, and upward-facing cameras. It is, therefore, capable of providing you with better spatial positioning.
The Rift S also has better screen resolution than its predecessors, making your games very bright. However, the two are more or less the same, concerning the games they play.
Should I get Oculus Quest or Rift S?
Whether you should get Oculus Quest or Rift S depends on whether you want a wired or wireless VR headset.
While Quest provides the freedom of wireless connectivity, it lacks the power and performance that comes with the Rift S. So, whether you choose one of these or the other primarily depends on your personal needs.
Oculus Rift S Review-Bottom Line
From the review above, we can conclude that the Oculus Rift is more complex and better than its predecessor. Since it requires fewer cables, it is much easier to set up and more comfortable over your head.
Besides, it comes with a more extensive game library that would mean getting spoiled for choice. However, it lacks the advantage of high-quality audio from over-ear headphones.
It is also slightly heavier than the Rift, even though wearing them feels the same. That means you should seriously consider buying this particular VR headset.