Sony PlayStation VR vs. HTC Vive

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New Atlas compares the features and specs of Sony's PlayStation VR (left) and the HTC Vive

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If Sony had delivered a product that's even a reasonable approximation of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, then PlayStation VR would have been practically a cinch to "win" the consumer VR wars. Let's see how its specs and features compare to the Vive.

Build

Both headsets are made of plastic.

Base station

Compare the number of people who own high-end gaming PCs to the folks who own PS4s, and you start to see why PSVR is likely to sell loads more than the Rift or Vive.

On the other hand, the Vive and Rift provide a higher-end experience, with not only higher-specced headsets, but also much more powerful motherships powering their experiences.

Software

Your gaming PC for the Vive will need to run Windows.

Base station price

You'll need a roughly US$800+ gaming PC to power the Vive. A PS4 rings up for just $299 – and there's also the fact that there are well over 40 million PS4s already sitting under TVs all around the world.

Wireless

One day we'll have high-end VR that's standalone and wireless. That day is not today.

Field of view

The Vive has a wider field of view, though we don't consider this a noticeable issue with PSVR.

Resolution

The Vive will transport you to sharper and more lifelike virtual worlds, due both to this resolution and the more powerful graphics processing from its connected PC.

Display type

OLED panels are the de facto standard for virtual reality.

Refresh rate

Sony is supporting up to 120 Hz in the PSVR headset, for silky-smooth frame rates. There will also be a 90 FPS option, though, to keep things flexible for developers.

Positional tracking

Any high-end VR setup is going to offer this: Both headsets track your position in space. Mobile virtual reality, like the Gear VR, only tracks your head's rotation.

Tracking type

This is a big advantage for the Vive. Valve developed its Lighthouse tracking system with 360-degree room-scale VR in mind from the outset. Instead of using a camera-based sensor, like PSVR, it uses two Lighthouse base stations (not to be confused with the "base station" terminology we're also using for the PC/console that's powering the headset) to emit invisible lasers that the headset's photosensors use to determine its own position in space.

Translation: The Vive has ultra-precise, sub-millimeter accuracy that allows you to move in all directions with basically zero worries about tracking glitches. Sony's setup is solid, but not on the same level.

Motion controls

This is our big disappointment with PSVR, as its motion control tracking, while functional, is so choppy and erratic it breaks the core illusion of virtual reality.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Vive's controllers are terrific – with that high-end accuracy and ergonomics that Sony's dildo-like wands can't match.

Motion control price

Sony's controllers add up to around $60 or so, but you'll also need to add on a PlayStation 4 camera that costs another $50. The Vive's controllers are bundled with the headset.

360-degree tracking

Sony managed to provide a 360-degree setup through only just the one camera, by putting trackable LEDs all over the PSVR headset.

Not all 360 tracking, though, is created equal. As we mentioned earlier, the Vive's Lighthouse system is second to none in this department.

Room-scale boundaries

Sony has said that PlayStation VR supports room-scale, but in our book, true room-scale VR requires visible boundaries to keep you from smacking into walls or other undesirable obstructions. Valve and HTC invented VR boundaries with the Vive's Chaperone system (since copied by Oculus).

Built-in camera

The Vive has a camera on the front of the headset, which you can quickly toggle to get a live view of your environment. It fits with the Vive's overall freedom-of-movement-without-worries theme.

Bundled gamepad

Neither headset includes a gamepad controller, but PSVR's requisite PS4 does have a Dualshock 4 in the box.

Glasses support

You can wear glasses comfortably under both headsets.

Lens adjustment (forwards/backwards)

Part of that comfort factor is due to both headsets letting you adjust the lenses' distance from your eyes. This is something the Oculus Rift doesn't do, and it's not great with glasses.

IPD adjustment

Both also let you tweak the picture's horizontal distance to match the distance between your pupils, known as Interpupillary Distance.

It works differently, though, on each headset. The Vive has two display panels inside, so its IPD adjustment is physical. PSVR only has one display inside the headset, so it tweaks IPD using software.

Built-in headphones

Unlike the Rift, neither of these has built-in headphones. Each, however, includes a pair of earbuds in its box.

Release

PSVR is now on store shelves, as the 1st-gen VR wars heat up.

Headset price

The Vive had better be dramatically better than PSVR, because the headset rings up for an extra $400. That's not entirely fair, though, since the Vive's controllers and tracking system are bundled with the headset. A PSVR bundle that includes controllers and sensor rings up for $500.

Total starting price

Things get even more lopsided when we add everything up: headset, motion controls, tracking and PC/console base station. The Vive is ultra-high-end VR that very few people will pay for. Especially if PSVR is good enough to pose at least a semi-respectable challenge (stay tuned).

For more, you can check out our full reviews of the disappointing PlayStation VR and excellent HTC Vive.

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