Gaming Technology Explained

Oculus Go vs. Quest vs. Rift: Which VR Headset Do You Need?

James Bruce 26-02-2020

While not the only VR headset manufacturer on the market, Oculus leads with a selection of affordable devices to suit every niche. Each of these is served by an integrated software store. Let’s briefly look at the defining characteristics of each, before helping you decide which is right for you.

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Oculus Go

The Oculus Go is the oldest and cheapest headset Oculus has to offer. It’s an all-in-one device that doesn’t need to be tethered to a computer (and cannot, even if you wanted to, unlike the Quest). The 32GB version costs $150; or the larger 64GB model is $200.

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The Oculus Go runs at a resolution of 1280x1440px per eye, at 60 or 72Hz (analogous to frames per second or FPS). It only tracks the rotational movement of your head; this called 3DOF, or 3 degrees of freedom. You can tilt and rotate your head to look around the virtual environment, but not move around.

Crucially, moving your head forward or backward may cause motion sickness as the movement isn’t replicated visually. It’s designed to be used while sitting in one place.

The package includes a single basic controller, but it’s best considered as a virtual pointing device rather than an equivalent to the immersive fully tracked controllers included with the Rift S and Quest.

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In terms of comfort, the Oculus Go ships with a fabric head strap. It’s not comfortable for longer sessions or active gaming, but it should be fine for relaxing and watching a movie.

oculus go in use

When originally reviewed Oculus Go: The Best Mobile VR That Doesn't Even Need a Phone Experienced VR gamers will be disappointed by the software selection and lack of positional tracking, but for watching videos the Oculus Go is astounding. With a higher resolution than PC VR headsets, and sheer convenience... Read More , we hailed the Oculus VR as the best mobile VR yet, but that was nearly two years ago. At this point in time, we don’t recommend the Oculus Go to anyone. There’s very little software being actively developed for it, as attention from both users and therefore developers has shifted over to the Oculus Quest.

Oculus Rift S

The Rift S is a tethered headset, which means it requires a wired connection to a PC in order to function. It costs $400, but doesn’t contain its own internal processing or storage; it is purely a display peripheral. As such, the graphical capabilities depend on the computer you connect it to.

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The minimum requirements are a GTX960/1050Ti, an i3-6100 CPU, 8GB of RAM and Windows 10; though you will not be able to comfortably play the most graphically advanced games on it. Unlike regular screen gaming, VR games are more demanding and must be rendered twice (once for each eye). So even if your machine seems powerful enough for regular gaming, you may find it’s substandard for VR.

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Like the Oculus Go, the Rift S also runs at 1280x1440px, but with a higher refresh of 80Hz. The perceived resolution can be improved by the use of supersampling if your PC is powerful enough.

oculus rift s

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Both the Rift S and Quest provide full 6DOF positional tracking through the use of on-headset cameras, meaning that no external sensors or other tracking equipment are required. You can move around your room and two included controllers will be fully tracked. The Rift S is easier to set up than some other PC VR headsets but does require a well-lit room. You can alternatively use an infra-red floodlight for night time use.

The Rift S is equipped with five tracking cameras, while the Quest has four, but this makes little difference to the tracking capabilities.

The Rift S uses a unique “halo” style rigid head strap, similar to the PSVR. It can be easily tightened via a ratcheting dial, and shifts the weight of headset away from your face, making it the most comfortable of Oculus headsets for longer sessions.

Oculus Quest

The Oculus Quest is a hybrid mobile headset, meaning it can function both as a standalone wireless all-in-one mobile headset, or as a tethered headset with a PC via a USB-C cable. When used as a tethered headset, you gain access to the full Oculus desktop library of games, as well as Steam VR.

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The headset itself offers a per-eye resolution of 1440x1600px, the highest of any Oculus headset; and runs at 72Hz. Like the Rift S, when connected to a PC, the perceived resolution can be increased through the use of supersampling. However, running over limited USB-C bandwidth means some compression artifacts can be seen in the periphery.

Even as a standalone headset, it offers what would be described as a full VR experience, unlike any other mobile headset. It’ll track your motion as you move around your room, and includes two fully tracked motion controllers for immersive VR gaming and interactions. This is mobile VR as you’ve never seen it before–our Oculus Quest review VR Goes Mainstream: Oculus Quest is The Headset You've Been Waiting For Read More declared it “incredible.”

The Quest software library is vast, and some titles are available as “crossbuy”, meaning that a single purchase will entitle you to both the mobile and desktop versions. Beat Saber fans will be pleased to know that custom songs can be downloaded via SideQuest.

Like the Rift S, Quest also uses on-headset cameras to provide positional tracking (four of them), but in addition, it features a dark mode for cinematic movie viewing. When no light is available for the camera-based tracking to operate fully in 6DOF mode, the Quest will fall back to a 3DOF rotational tracking, the same as the Oculus Go.

This is ideal for media consumption, as you won’t need to move around or use controllers. If you’re going to get an Oculus Quest, you’ll want to look into the best Oculus Quest accessories that’ll improve your experience!

No Controllers? Use Your Hands

That’s not all though: Oculus has also recently added native hand tracking, albeit as a beta feature for now. If the headset can’t see your controllers, it’ll attempt to track your hands instead, allowing for basic menu interactions through the use of hand gestures only.

While not suitable for action gaming, in future you can expect media and other casual apps to make use of this feature. This is a free upgrade and requires no additional hardware or software.

The Oculus Quest will also be the first headset to get access to Facebook’s new social VR environment. Horizon is slated to launch early 2020.

The 64GB Oculus Quest costs $400, while a 128GB version is also available for $500, however, both are frequently out of stock due to popularity. If you plan on using it connected to a PC, you’ll also need to purchase a USB-C cable capable of data transmission.

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What About Audio Quality?

We haven’t mentioned audio as it’s similar across all the current Oculus headsets, and is perhaps their greatest failing. Audio is produced in the main body of the headset and piped along the strap; there are no headphones. It’s best compared to audio from a phone, albeit in stereo. There’s very little bass, and worst of all: everyone around can hear you!

Of course, you can plug in your own headphones or earbuds, or even print an adaptor for the Oculus Quest that lets you replace the standard head strap with a Vive Deluxe Strap for the ultimate mobile solution.

oculus quest strap

Best Headset For PC VR: Oculus Quest vs Rift

The best overall Oculus headset for anyone is the Oculus Quest, offering an incredible mobile VR and good enough tethered experience. Since the Quest tethers using a USB-C to your PC rather than HDMI or DisplayPort, some compression artifacts occur around the periphery of your vision, but it’s still incredible by any definition.

Even if you think you aren’t interested in mobile VR (which is quite understandable given the bad taste Google Cardboard left in everyone’s mouth), it’s still worth getting the Quest purely for the freedom of experiencing “true VR” without cables. There are plenty of Oculus mobile apps that are as good as their PC counterparts, and it would be a shame to tie yourself to a PC.

I’ve been an ardent VR fan since the early days of the first Oculus Development Kit Oculus Rift Development Kit Review and Giveaway The Oculus Rift has finally arrived, and is making heads turn (literally) all over the gaming community. No longer are we confined to to peering through a flat window into the gaming worlds we love... Read More , and despite owning a Valve Index and powerful gaming PC, the truth is that most of my VR time is spent on the Quest. The freedom to play anywhere makes it a much more sociable experience, and it’s simply the quickest to pick up and play for short gaming sessions.

The fact that Facebook Horizon is coming to the Quest first, and new features are being added above and beyond what’s available to the Rift S, strongly indicates that’s where Facebook is pushing resources towards. Facebook sees mobile VR as the future, not desktop.

So if you’re on the fence about a Rift S or Quest, we’d heartily recommend the Oculus Quest. They both cost $400, and we’d argue that the additional features offered outweigh the downside of a slightly worse image.

oculus quest - playing outside
The Oculus Quest can work outside for ultimate freedom (but only after the sun has gone down).

Best Headset For Mobile VR: Oculus Go vs Quest

If you’re sure you want a mobile VR headset, your choice is between Oculus Go and Quest. The Oculus Quest has the option to also tether to a PC, but we’ll assume you’re not interested in that.

As a portable device purely for watching videos, the Oculus Go is a good ultra-low-budget option, but at this point in time should be considered outdated. Don’t expect truly immersive and fully-featured VR experiences, nor new software. At $150 for the 32GB version, the price is the only reason you’d opt for an Oculus Go rather than a Quest.

The Oculus Quest offers a full VR experience, but starts at $400 for the smallest 64GB option. If you can afford it, the Quest is definitely a better option both for breadth and quality of software offered. With a larger install base, more features, and easier accessibility, developers are increasingly creating games as either Quest exclusives or for both Quest and PC; not for the Oculus Go.

Oculus = Facebook

There’s one last but significant factor to consider: Oculus is wholly owned by Facebook. Worse still, if you want to make use of any social features of an Oculus headset, you must link a Facebook account. So if you plan on playing VR games with friends, you will need to accept whatever loss of privacy 4 Reasons Why Facebook Is a Security and Privacy Nightmare Facebook is no longer the king of the social media castle. If you value your anonymity, security, and privacy, here are some great reasons to quit Facebook today. Read More you believe that entails.

VR Alternatives to the Oculus Quest

We’re sorry to say that there is no worthwhile mobile alternative to the Oculus Quest. The Lenovo Mirage Solo is the closest competitor, but it runs Google Daydream, which is now effectively abandoned.

On the PC side, there’s no doubt that the best overall headset available today is the Valve Index, which we can wholeheartedly recommend as the best Rift S alternative. It offers a wider field of view, up to 144Hz refresh rate, and resolution of 1440x1600px. The only downside is that it costs $1000. Those on a budget of around $500 might look at the Samsung Oddysey+, a Windows Mixed Reality headset that offers a similar resolution but lower refresh rate.

We don’t recommend it, however. The controllers are nasty, only two tracking cameras provide an inferior experience, and the Windows Mixed Reality system is not as widely supported by SteamVR games.

The truth is that Oculus offers the best budget VR devices for everyone. But if you still aren’t sure, we think checking this list of  the best free VR games for Oculus The 5 Best Free VR Games for Oculus There are plenty of free virtual reality games worth playing. And in this article, we list the best free VR games for Oculus. Read More will help make up your mind.

Related topics: Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Virtual Reality.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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