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HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift vs. Windows Mixed Reality: What’s the difference?

The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are already here, but the battle for the best PC virtual reality headset will get more complicated on October 17, when Microsoft and its partners launch Windows Mixed Reality headsets as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

Windows Mixed Reality will represent yet another virtual reality platform running on headsets connected to a PC. The software will have plenty of overlap with those existing solutions, the hardware will be of similar heft, and the overarching concept will still involve playing around in room-scale, virtual worlds.

But just as the Vive and Oculus Rift had their share of technical and philosophical differences, Windows Mixed Reality will diverge from its competitors in several key ways. The hardware requirements are lower, the ecosystem will include some exclusive content that can’t be accessed via Vive or Oculus, and the name of the platform itself hints at broader augmented reality applications, not just immersive getaways.

Here is our attempt at explaining all those similarities and differences between the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets in the least confusing way possible.

Vive vs Oculus vs Windows Mixed Reality: What’s in the box

Although the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive originally had some significant hardware differences, lately they’ve become more similar as prices for both headsets have fallen, and as Oculus has added more sensors and touch controllers to the mix.

oculus rift htc vive Adam Patrick Murray

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.

For $499, the Oculus Rift + Touch bundle includes the headset, a pair of hand-tracking controllers, and a pair of desktop IR LED-tracking sensors. This creates a tracking area of five feet wide by five feet deep. For an extra $59, Oculus sells a third sensor that expands the tracking area to eight feet by eight feet when placed at the rear of a room. The Rift also includes integrated headphones, which is a nice touch.

For $599, the HTC Vive includes a headset, a pair of hand-tracking controllers, and a pair of wireless base stations. But instead of sitting on a desk like the Rift’s sensors, the base stations should reside in opposite corners of the room, creating a large play area of up to 15 feet by 15 feet. Unfortunately, the Vive doesn’t have integrated headphones, but you can add them for $100 with the Deluxe Audio Strap if you’re feeling extra spendy (or simply don’t want to buy a separate gaming headset).

With Windows Mixed Reality, pricing varies by vendor. Acer plans to sell a headset for $299, and a set of controllers for an extra $100. HP currently sells a “Developer Edition” headset for $329. Dell’s slick-looking headset costs $349, plus an extra $100 for controllers. Asus will sell a $535 headset next spring, according to The Verge.

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