The Oculus Rift S is nearly here, just over three years after the original Oculus Rift brought VR gaming into the modern era.
That relatively short timeframe hasn’t prevented Facebook-owned Oculus VR from outfitting the Rift S with several substantial upgrades over its predecessor. However, the company is also keen to point out that the Rift S should be seen as an evolution of the original as opposed to a full-blown sequel.
Are those upgrades enough to make the Rift S a must-buy, particularly if you already own a Rift? Let’s check out what’s new on the Oculus Rift S and find out!
Oculus Rift S Has A New LCD Display
The Oculus Rift S features a new 1440p single panel LCD screen that displays clearer images than its predecessor. If you’ve tried the Oculus Go, you’ll know what to expect, as it’s the same display found on that device.
The new LCD screen also reduces the screen-door effect that was more common on the Rift (imagine each tiny pixel being surrounded by a thin grid of black lines and you’ll get the idea). The clarity of text is also improved with the new display.
The Rift S is compatible with all Rift games, allowing you to instantly boost the resolution of your entire library of old games.
The new screen does have some minor drawbacks however. For one, the backlit LCD display can’t achieve the deep blacks that the original OLED display could. The refresh rate has also taken a slight hit, dropping to 80Hz from 90Hz, though only the most discerning gamers are likely to notice.
Oculus Rift S Has New Outward-Facing Cameras
Gone are the Rift’s external tracking sensors, which required a complicated setup process to use. There will be a setup process with the Rift S, though a much simplified one that is handled completely in-headset (more on that below).
In place of the external sensors are five outward-facing cameras, granting the Rift S effective, wire-free positional tracking (the Rift S must still be tethered to your gaming PC however). The five onboard cameras are a slight improvement over the Oculus Quest’s four, allowing for wider angle tracking.
The controllers are slightly modified versions of the original Rift’s, with the tracking ring on top where it is less likely to be interfered with by your hands. The Rift S controllers are otherwise the same as those used by both the Quest and Oculus Touch.
Oculus Rift S Has a New Guardian System
The Rift’s setup process was rather cumbersome, requiring you to set the play area’s boundaries on your computer. And if the external sensors were moved at all, the whole process had to be redone.
The Rift S has a much simpler in-helmet guardian setup process which allows you to draw the boundaries with a controller while wearing the helmet. You can switch between views of the real world and guardian setup screen at will, making for an intuitive process.
Thanks to its extra camera, the Rift S also features an enhanced Passthrough version called Passthrough Plus, which automatically activates when you’re in danger of crossing the boundaries.
Oculus Rift S Has a New Audio System and Headphone Jack
With the Rift, gamers were stuck listening to audio through the integrated headphones. The Rift does away with that system, instead delivering audio through its side straps. There are both pros and cons to the new form of audio delivery.
On the plus side, the sound is more natural and you can more easily hear others around you (this could also be a con though, depending on the situation or your preferences). On the downside (well, not for you per se, but for others), the audio can now be heard by others in the room.
However, those pros and cons alike can be negated by using your own headphones through the new headphone jack. For audiophiles with powerful headphones, this will surely be welcome news.
Oculus Rift S Has a New, More Comfortable Design
The Rift S has a much more stylish design that draws comparisons to the iconic Halo helmet, as opposed to the spartan, industrial design of the Rift.
While the new headset is slightly heavier, it’s also far more comfortable thanks to better weight distribution across your head thanks in part to a new top strap.
Bottom Line: Should You Upgrade to Oculus Rift S?
Given its reasonable price tag at launch ($399) and its numerous upgrades over the original, the Rift S makes for a compelling upgrade (or certainly, a first-time buy).
You won’t find any exclusive games on Rift S, but it will make your existing games look and play better, while also being more comfortable to wear and less of a hassle to setup.
For gamers that are pleased with their Rift and not particularly blown away by the upgrades, they may be better served waiting for a price drop or for the eventual release of the Rift 2.