Should You Buy an Oculus Rift VR Headset: 10 Factors to Consider

Should You Buy an Oculus Rift VR Headset: 10 Factors to Consider
Let's Start With the Headset
What About Fit?
There Are Accessories to Enhance the VR Experience
Oculus Sensor Controls the VR Show
Rift Includes an Important Microsoft Component
Rift Is Mostly About Gaming
But Rift Has Potential Uses in Industry
It Requires a Graphics-Capable Windows PC
Consider Total Cost of Ownership
The Big Question: What's Next?
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Should You Buy an Oculus Rift VR Headset: 10 Factors to Consider

Despite the hoopla surrounding the Oculus Rift VR headset, questions remain about whether it is right for everyone. We look at the Rift's pros and cons.

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Let's Start With the Headset

The Oculus Rift is a virtual-reality headset that covers the user's eyes. There are two separate OLED displays, one for each eye, that allow users to survey virtual worlds generated from an attached computer. The device uses a wide range of technologies to display visuals, including a custom optics system that increases field-of-vision and improves "visual fidelity."

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What About Fit?

Oculus VR, which Facebook acquired for $2 billion in 2014, has designed the device to provide a firm fit for most users. The device comes with a head guard that can be adjusted to fit comfortably. The portions of the headset that cover the face are lightly padded to prevent discomfort. So far, few reviewers have complained about the headset's fit and have largely lauded its comfort factor.

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There Are Accessories to Enhance the VR Experience

The Oculus Rift works with a remote controller that helps users get a better view of their surroundings. The headset also comes with special headphones that give an audible sense of space and depth. For those who want a different kind of gaming experience, Oculus has designed touch-based motion controllers, called Oculus Touch, that allow for more gaming immersion.

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Oculus Sensor Controls the VR Show

The Oculus sensor is critical to the Rift's virtual-reality capabilities. The sensor sits on a stand in front of the user and tracks "constellations of infrared LEDs." By analyzing LEDs, it translates users' movements to the VR experience they're currently immersed in. Although Oculus recommends users only play with the Rift when sitting down, it also works when standing up.

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Rift Includes an Important Microsoft Component

The Oculus Rift has a Microsoft influence. People who buy the Rift will find an Xbox One wireless controller in the box. Oculus says that the controller, which also works with PC games, is "one of the best controllers in the world" and can be used to control on-screen action while players are in the virtual environment.

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Rift Is Mostly About Gaming

The Oculus Rift was designed as a gaming device. Therefore, most of the supported applications right now are focused on gaming. As of this writing, the Rift includes support for several popular VR games, including Eve: Valkyrie, Chronos and Lucky's Tale. Oculus and Facebook believe more game developers will come forward to support the Rift in the coming months.

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But Rift Has Potential Uses in Industry

Although gaming is currently the Rift's main attraction, it may not always be that way. Several developers have already developed non-gaming apps that work with the Rift. Netflix, for example, has optimized all of its content for virtual reality, and users can choose the app from within the Oculus store. Not surprisingly, Facebook is offering 360-degree videos that are viewable via the Rift. The corporate world could find some value in the Rift as well by creating virtual training environments that workers in particular industrial fields could explore before encountering the real thing. The corporate and non-gaming opportunities with the Rift are endless.

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It Requires a Graphics-Capable Windows PC

Oculus was quick to note that the Rift will require some high-octane performance to deliver its virtual worlds. Oculus recommends prospective owners have the Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 graphics cards (or greater), an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and at least four USB ports. One other important note: Oculus only works on Windows 7 or later. So Mac owners are out of luck, at least for now.

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Consider Total Cost of Ownership

The Oculus Rift costs $599. But that's just part of the price story. If customers don't have a Rift-compatible PC, they'll also need to buy a new computer. For those lucky enough to have some technical skills, swapping out some components isn't a big deal. However, those who need to buy a new PC should expect to spend at least $949 to get what they need. In sum, users could spend more than $1,500 just to play with the Oculus Rift if they don't already have a high-end computer.

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The Big Question: What's Next?

The Rift has been hyped for years, and it's received generally positive reviews from users. However, the device's major question mark is whether enough people will buy it and use it enough to encourage others to buy it even after the novelty factor wears off. That's the only way developers will be encouraged to produce a steady stream of content for it. Then there's the issue of competition. Sony will launch its PlayStation VR later this year, and the HTC Vive has caught the market's attention. Meanwhile, there's talk of other companies, like Apple, possibly entering the market, and there's no telling how Microsoft's HoloLens could affect demand for the Rift. Altogether there are more questions than answers about the Rift right now, and that might give prospective buyers reason to hesitate.

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