Windows Mixed Reality vs Oculus Rift: Which should you buy?

Is Windows Mixed Reality really the best option for VR?

Microsoft has excited a lot of folks over the last couple of weeks with its Windows Mixed Reality partners. With multiple headsets headed to shelves before the holidays and lots of software partnerships on the way, it certainly looks like a complete thought. What about the stuff you can already buy? Oculus Rift may not have the Microsoft brand backing it up, but two years in the wild has left the platform full of great games and features.

Not sure which is the best for you? Lets break it down!

Open ports and space, two things not everyone has a lot of

We already know quite a bit about the hardware between these two headsets, so lets to a quick recap to get everyone on the same page.

  • Windows Mixed Reality headsets have a noticeably higher resolution (1440x1440x2) than the Oculus Rift (1080x1200x2)
  • The minimum system requirements for Windows Mixed Reality seem lower than Oculus Rift, but Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs are basically identical to Rift-ready PCs
  • Oculus includes headphones along the rails of its headset, while Windows Mixed Reality headsets have a headphone jack
  • Windows Mixed Reality headsets are easier to put on or share with others, but the Oculus Rift moves around on your head a lot less while playing

All of that having been said, the big important difference between these two platforms from a hardware perspective is the setup process. When setting up a Windows Mixed Reality headset, you connect a single HDMI cable and a single USB 3.0 cable to your PC and you are ready to go. Oculus Rift uses those same cables for the headset, but you then need an additional USB port for each of the sensors needed to “see” the headset and controllers in VR.

Out of the box you have two sensors for Oculus Rift, which is enough for most spaces. If you have a bigger room and want to make sure there’s no tracking loss when turning around, you need a third sensor. That means you need four USB ports and an HDMI port on your PC, which is more than your average gaming laptop has available without a hub of some kind. Clearly, Windows Mixed Reality is more convenient for larger spaces.

When it comes to smaller spaces, however, Windows Mixed Reality falls a little short right now. The system is designed for a six foot cube to play in, and if you don’t have that much space you’re likely to get errors from the system right now. Some of this is to ensure compatibility with SteamVR games, which knows that more than 90% of its current user base has a 6×6 space to play in. Oculus rift doesn’t have this limitation, and was built initially to support people sitting in small rooms with an Xbox controller in their hand.

Game exclusives are a big thing in VR right now

The one big thing Oculus has over Microsoft for the immediate future is games. Windows Mixed Reality is launching with a massive library on SteamVR and a fresh new Halo game built for VR, but the Oculus library is jam-packed with exclusives that are ridiculously fun to play. Oculus is working hard right now to take on all of the other VR headsets, and is doing so with killer eSports games and impressive first-person shooters that are difficult to compete with.

But this is Microsoft, and that means Xbox can be a big part of Windows Mixed Reality if the powers that be deem it so. Xbox Live as a social layer for Windows Mixed Reality would be a big deal, right down to Xbox Avatars with head and mouth movements that line up with the headset wearer. If Microsoft wants to fight a content fight, it has all of the tools necessary to do so. If the Day One lineup isn’t all that impressive, Oculus will be able to easily show how capable its lineup is and how many people are already playing.

What about the price?

When Windows Mixed Reality was announced, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were expensive headsets with expensive accessories. Several price drops later, Oculus has made sure competing on price isn’t a problem. The average Windows Mixed Reality headset is going to run around $350, with a $100 add-on for the motion controllers that will give you access to most of the SteamVR games.

That’s a great price six months ago, but right now the Oculus Rift with its Touch Controllers can be had in a bundle for $499 and is regularly on sale for quite a bit less. That bundle comes with multiple excellent games for free, and a library of games that work well with an Xbox controller out of the box. If you see an Oculus Rift and a Windows Mixed Reality bundle on the shelf together, right now the Rift is going to seem like the better deal by far.

Which should you buy?

If you’re eager to get into VR and check out some great games, these two options are incredibly compelling. Oculus Rift has a lot of polish and a lot of great games, but the Windows Mixed Reality headsets are going to offer a superior experience. If you want great games right now and a guarantee that the experience will be consistent, you want an Oculus Rift and can actually buy one right now. If you’re willing to see where Microsoft takes VR and don’t want to mess around with sensors, you should start shopping for the right Windows Mixed Reality headset that fits your needs.

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