Based on what we've seen so far, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are far and away the two best VR headsets (with all respect to PlayStation VR, which lacks the raw horsepower and quality motion controllers of those two). Now that Rift orders have been open for nearly two months, US$799 HTC Vive pre-orders are also now open for business.

Update: Speaking of decision time, we can help out with our features/specs comparison between the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

While Oculus is taking more of a baby steps approach to VR, starting with seated, gamepad-based experiences like Lucky's Tale and Eve Valkyrie, HTC and Valve are making the Vive ready for room-scale, free-roaming experiences from Day One. The Vive can do seated VR as well, but to get the most out of it you'll want to mount its two laser-emitting base stations high on opposite corners of a (up to) 15 x 15 ft (nearly 3 x 3 m) room. Its clever tracking system will let you walk around the entire space, while using its Chaperone software and front-facing camera to help you avoid stepping on your dog or tripping over your sofa.

Though devoting that kind of space to an emerging technology is a lot to ask, the degree of presence in full-body VR is second to none – these are the kinds of first-person virtual reality experiences that made up sci-fi fantasies for decades.

To use the Vive you'll need a powerful gaming PC, with specs that are very similar to those required for the Rift. The Vive's minimum specs include:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better
  • RAM: 4 GB or more
  • Video Output: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
  • USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or better port
  • Operating System: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 or newer

While many serious PC gamers will already have a setup like this (or perhaps be only an upgrade or two away), those starting from scratch will be paying, roughly, a minimum of $900 to get a Vive-ready PC. If you build it yourself and shop around for deals on parts, you may get that down to around $800 or so, but don't expect to go much lower than that. Right out of the gates, the best VR is going to be expensive early adopter gear.

It's tough to make a recommendation right now between the Rift and Vive. On one hand, the Rift gives you a sleeker build, built-in audio and a more established lineup of launch games (many of which looked incredible in our numerous demos). On the other hand, the Vive gives you that room-scale focus, more expensive price tag and motion controllers included in the box. After CES we picked the Rift, but with Valve since then announcing games like the moving platform shooter Hover Junkers, this is back to being an incredibly tough call.

As a limited time promotion, the Vive includes the hilarious Job Simulator, building game Fantastic Contraption and 3D painting experience Tilt Brush with your purchase. While Oculus' Touch motion controllers don't ship until later this year, the Vive's similar controllers (above) are included in the box.

The first Vives are scheduled to hit consumers in April, just a week or two after the first Rifts will head out the door. If you want a Vive on Day One, you may want to pre-order as soon as possible, as these types of first-gen products often get back-ordered quickly.

For more, you can revisit Gizmag's latest hands-on with the Vive.

Product page: HTC

View gallery - 3 images