If you are searching for the true best of the best when looking for a new VR headset, then the Oculus Rift S is for you. This headset scored exceptionally well across the board, even making it hard to find negative things to write about it. It has excellent motion tracking and a fantastic display, creating a vivid and immersive virtual environment that offers a ton of interactivity. It is incredibly easy to set up and thoroughly deserves its Editors' Choice Award.
Oculus Rift S Review
Pros: Exceptional image quality, super comfortable, very user-friendly
Cons: Tether can be finicky
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rift S is one of our all-time favorite VR headsets and the product that we would recommend first to most people, especially anyone looking for the best of the best. The lack of external sensors makes it a breeze to set up and almost as user-friendly as a standalone or mobile VR headset.
Our first set of tests focused on how much interactivity each of these headsets provides you with when it comes to your VR experiences, which is responsible for 35% of the final score for each product. Scores for this metric are based on things like the accuracy of the motion tracking, the device interface, and any limitations on the size of the room. The Rift S did quite well in this series of assessments, scoring close to the top of the group.
When it came to the motion tracking of the Rift S, it initially got off to a bit of a rough start. The cameras seemed a little glitchy and the screen kept blacking out whenever it tugged slightly on the cable but all of these problems abated as soon as we added some strain relief to the tether with some cable ties. After that, we were quite impressed with the accuracy of the motion tracking. The tracking of your position while wearing the headset is essentially perfect but the hand controllers did have the occasional issue.
It periodically lost the position of the controllers if you move them behind your back or if you are moving extremely quickly in our tests. It usually recovered quickly and wasn't too much of a concern but it did lead to some frustration with games like Beat Saber. However, we did like the design of the Oculus Touch controllers quite a lot. They feel very natural to hold and fit comfortably in the vast majority of different hand sizes.
The Rift S uses an inside-out tracking systems, so there is no reliance on external sensors at all, instead using its five integrated cameras to locate your position. This meant that you don't really have any limitations on the room size when using the Rift S — you are just constrained by the length of the tether.
Our next metric — Visual Immersiveness — is responsible for 20% of the final score for the Rift S. We compared the screen resolution, image sharpness, and overall viewing quality, as well as the field of view and the ambient light blocked out to determine the score. The Rift S has some of the highest image quality that we have seen to date, putting it right at the top of the pack in this metric.
This VR headset lets in very little outside light, even completely blocking all light depending on the shape of your nose. The Rift S has a resolution of 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye, leading to a very clear and sharp image. Text show in games is exceptionally easy to read and the overall viewing quality is phenomenal. Oculus did drop the refresh rate to 80 Hz from the original Rift's 90 Hz but we had a hard time noticing a difference, though there are some negative comments regarding this in other user reviews.
The field of view is supposedly 110º but it seemed a little narrower to us than some of the other headsets we tried with the same field of view. You could see just a little bit more without turning your head with the same game with these headsets compared to the Rift S.
Equally important as visual immersiveness, our Comfort metric is also responsible for 20% of the final score for each headset. We had a variety of different people rate how the Rift S felt to wear for long periods, if it had adequate padding, and if it got overly sweaty when used for long periods, as well as if there is enough room to wear glasses while using the headset. The Rift S did extremely well and is one of the more comfortable headsets that we have tested to date.
The Rift S fits most faces very well, with a plastic ring to help distribute the weight around the head. It still is a bit front heavy but not too much and we liked that the visor isn't pressed quite as hard into your face as many of the other products. However, we didn't like that the cord goes off to one side of the headset, making it feel slightly unbalanced.
The head strap has ample padding and is very easy to adjust with a knob to adjust the fit. This headset has a button to slide the visor out a bit, which does make it a bit easier to put on the headset if you wear glasses.
You can feel a little pressure with glasses on but it is hardly noticeable compared to some of the other models. The Rift S also doesn't seem quite as warm to wear and you get less sweaty than with some of the other models.
Next, we compared how much of a pain it is to use the Rift S on a regular basis, scoring it on the amount of work it takes to get set up each time you want to play a game, if you can hook up headphones, and if you are prone to hitting buttons accidentally with normal use or when putting on or taking off the headset. Combined, these assessments are responsible for 15% of the final score for each product. The Rift S again scored phenomenally well in this category, as it provides one of the most hassle-free virtual reality experiences we have seen so far.
The Rift S has integrated speakers so you don't have to worry about hooking up headphones but in-game noise can leak out and loud ambient noises can get in, so there is also an easy to reach headphone jack if you want a slightly more immersive experience or don't want to disturb anyone else.
The lack of external sensors make it super easy to get the Rift S set up — you just need to put it on in a relatively open area with enough light for the cameras and you are good to go if everything is powered up.
However, this is assuming that you are leaving the tether connected to your PC; you will also have to plug that in to play if it isn't already connected. It's easy to adjust the strap to bring it into focus and you can adjust the Interpupillary Distance (IPD) from inside the settings menu. There also aren't any buttons on the headset to press accidentally.
Ease of Setup
Responsible for remaining tenth of the total score, we rated and compared how much work it took to go from unboxing the Rift S to actually playing it in this metric, as well as looking at the amount of additional hardware that is required to use it. The Rift S is quite good in this regard but does take some pretty pricey additional hardware to operate.
Since there are no external sensors, the only hardware setup required is to pop some batteries into the controllers and you are ready to go. The software setup is also fairly painless once you download the Rift S' software and create an account. It prompted us immediately to set up the Rift S, updating the drivers and firmware automatically. You then set up your "Guardian" (identify the playable area for the headset) and you are ready to go into some tutorials on how to use it or jump straight into a game.
The PC required to run the Rift S needs to be slightly more powerful than the original Rift — mainly in the graphics department — but there is a compatibility checker on their website so you can make sure your PC is compatible before you buy.
The Rift S is quite a good value, offering a top-tier experience for considerably less than the competition.
The Rift S is our top recommendation for the majority of people who want a high-quality VR experience. It is lacking a few tiny features that some other headsets have but these are hardly noticeable to anyone besides the hardcore VR enthusiast and those headsets can cost over double what the Rift S does.
— Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman