Oculus Rift S ups the resolution, adds built-in sensors for improved VR
Oculus has released other virtual reality headsets since the original Oculus Rift launched to consumers in January 2016, but now we have its true successor. The Oculus Rift S increases the optical resolution, removes the need for external sensors, and improves the comfort and fit too.
Unlike the Oculus Go and the Oculus Quest, the Oculus Rift S isn't a standalone VR device. As with the first Rift, you need a pretty powerful PC to run its software, and you'll still need to attach it to said computer with a wired cable.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade comes with the sensors, now embedded into the headset for what is known as six degrees of freedom – in other words, the device can tell when you're moving forwards and backwards in space as well as when you're turning your head from side to side. The external sensors that enabled this on the first Rift are no longer needed
Individual eye lenses get a boost from 1,080 x 1,200 pixels to 1,280 x 1,440 pixels compared with the original Rift. The field of view is slightly larger too, though the refresh rate actually drops from 90 Hz to 80 Hz.
In something of a surprise move, Oculus owner Facebook has partnered with Lenovo to make the Rift S, and that has led to a new design with "increased comfort, better weight distribution, and improved light blocking."
Another new feature here is what's being called Passthrough+, which essentially uses forward-facing cameras to better integrate the real world environment when needed. It should minimize the chance of walking into walls even further.
While the Oculus Quest was announced last year, it's going on sale at the same time as the Oculus Rift S: "spring 2019" according to Oculus. They both share the same controllers and have very similar tracking systems, and they're both going to be priced the same as well, at US$399.
The new 2019 Oculus line-up is therefore a choice between the Quest and the Rift S, depending on whether you have (or want to buy) a reasonably high-end PC or not. That extra performance will mean better visuals and some gaming exclusives for the Rift S, though of course the standalone, wireless experience of the Quest is more convenient. It's a little like the difference between gaming on a console and gaming on your phone.
The budget Oculus Go is sticking around for now, though it's being framed as a more basic VR content viewer than a serious gaming device. It also has a more rudimentary controller.
All Oculus Quest games can be played on the Oculus Rift S too, should casual gamers want to upgrade to a more advanced bit of hardware in the future. Oculus has also confirmed the first Rift is going to continue to get software updates, even though it's now been effectively replaced by the Rift S.