- Affordable entry into high-end VR
- A lineup of exclusive games and apps
- Fully SteamVR compatible
- Easy to set up
- Refresh rate not on par with other headsets
- Requires a beefy PC
Oculus needs no special introduction. A company that introduced the first mass-produced virtual reality headset is home to a group of innovators and visionaries that made the brand synonymous with VR. Over the years, Oculus launched several amazing products, each better than the last.
Today, we have the pleasure of checking out the company’s latest in tethered VR headsets, analyzing its features and putting this high-end VR system against other popular headsets. Welcome to our Oculus Rift S review. Read on to find out what you can expect from one of the hottest PC VR gaming systems these days.
Who Makes the Oculus Rift S?
The Oculus Rift S VR headset is a joint effort of Oculus, now part of Facebook Technologies and Lenovo. Launched in May 2019, it was a direct successor of the incredibly popular Oculus Rift CV1 set. The headset was manufactured by Lenovo, with Facebook overseeing the project.
Design and Comfort
Many people dread setting up their VR headsets for the first time. You’d normally have to put up sensors around the room, hook up a bunch of cables to your PC, and then finally strap on the headset itself while trying not to miss that ideal position by a few millimetres.
That all changed with this headset. The entire Oculus Rift S setup takes just a few minutes, and you can start having fun with games and VR experiences quicker than ever before. We’d even dare say that it’s faster to hook up the device than to unbox it, which is certainly an achievement worth praising!
The design of this headset is reminiscent of the original Oculus Rift, but certain details make it clear that it’s a direct upgrade. Its black finish is accentuated with piano-black plastic parts. The new design also improves comfort. The headband is now a halo connected with a hinge on the top part of the headset.
It reminded us of the PlayStation VR headset both in design and the way you get into this setup. The weight is evenly distributed thanks to the new headband, and it’s much more comfortable to wear the Rift S headset for more extended periods thanks to padding all around.
Although this is a fully tethered headset without the ability to disconnect the cable, we didn’t mind having that cable around. A handy hook on the left side keeps it out of the way and guides it behind you, letting you move more freely.
You’ll notice that there are a bunch of cameras on this headset. It’s because the Rift S doesn’t use external sensors to work. Instead, this inside-out system of cameras tracks the user’s location and movement of the controllers. Additionally, it allows you to switch on the passthrough mode and look at your surroundings without removing the headset.
Oculus Rift S controllers are also slightly upgraded over the previous Rift touch models. The tracking rings were moved all the way to the top of the controllers, redistributing their weight slightly, but the combo of thumbsticks and buttons remained the same.
Oculus didn’t go with the rechargeable batteries for its new controllers, which was a bit of a surprise compared to the aforementioned PlayStation VR and the high-end VR sets like HTC Vive and Valve Index. Instead, each controller uses a single AA battery.
We were pleasantly surprised by the battery life of these controllers. We’re not sure what magic Oculus used, but we’re still on the original set of batteries that came with the system even after weeks of playing.
Oculus Rift S Specs
Rift S is a direct upgrade over the previous generation of VR headsets in almost every way. The core of the headset is an LCD panel capable of producing 2560×1440 resolution at 80 Hz. While the refresh rate is a downgrade from Rift CV1’s 90 Hz, the image is significantly crisper thanks to new and improved lenses that drastically reduce the god rays and screen door effects.
With Rift S, you can see more of the virtual world due to the 115-degree field of view. Interpupillary distance (IPD) can only be adjusted through the headset’s software, not via a hardware switch like on most other popular headsets due to the use of a single screen.
Lastly, the Rift S system outputs audio through two speakers integrated into the headband instead of the large speakers Oculus used on the previous model. Of course, there’s a 3.5mm jack if you prefer to connect your own headphones and get fully immersed in the VR experience.
As we’ve previously mentioned, the headset uses a set of cameras for tracking the user’s position; there are five cameras on this headset. They all track infrared signals from the touch controllers, while two front-facing cameras provide a pass-through video feed.
This way, the headset is able to create both augmented and virtual reality experiences while keeping you safe from bumping into unsuspecting passers-by or furniture during intense VR gaming sessions.
Another thing we mentioned earlier in this Oculus Rift S review is the headset’s cable. It ends with DisplayPort 1.2 and USB 3.0 jacks to receive a video signal and a power source. It’s also five meters long, so you won’t feel constrained when playing some room-scale VR games.
Like many other popular virtual reality headsets, Oculus Rift S is designed to only work with PCs. Your PC, obviously, needs to have both DisplayPort and USB ports for the whole rig to work at all, but there are other requirements it will also have to meet to have the ideal VR experience.
According to the official system requirements posted by Facebook/Meta (the owner of the Oculus brand), your PC needs to be running on Windows 10. It also needs to have at least an Intel i3 6100 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 960 or a Radeon R9 290 graphics card. These are the minimum Oculus Rift requirements, but it’s advised to have a significantly beefier PC, especially if you’d like to play demanding blockbusters like Half-Life: Alyx.
As for the recommended system, it’s a combination of Intel i5 4590 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and a GeForce GTX 970 or a Radeon RX 580 GPU. Again, these are the specs that the manufacturers recommend, and it’s best to check each game’s Steam page for more precise hardware specifications.
In our experience with virtual reality technology and games, it’s always better to go over the recommended specs. That way, you’re 100% certain there won’t be any frame rate dips during the most graphically intense scenes.
Additionally, you’re required to have a play area of a certain size to take advantage of all Oculus Rift S features, especially the room-scale experience. At a minimum, you’ll need an area of around 1×1 meters, but it’s ideal if your play space is 2×2 meters or larger.
Of course, it has to be clear of any obstacles so you can have complete freedom of movement while avoiding injuries. Oculus recommends playing only in indoor areas with good lighting conditions. Direct sunlight should be avoided, and you should take extra care for sunlight to not hit the lenses as it can burn into the screen.
Oculus Rift S Price
Lucky for consumers, Oculus has made purchasing this headset super simple; there’s just one model and a single bundle available. The big black box Rift S comes packaged in includes the headset itself, two controllers, a pair of AA batteries, and a DisplayPort-to-Mini DisplayPort adapter for laptops. The official price for this bundle is $549, but naturally, you may find it at different price points depending on where you’ve decided to shop.
We must address something important in this part of our review of Oculus Rift S: the availability of this headset. Facebook and Oculus discontinued it in mid-2021, meaning it’s no longer manufactured since the Oculus Quest 2 became the (far) more popular system. Finding where to buy this headset can be a bit difficult, especially since it isn’t available directly from Oculus anymore.
Oculus Rift S vs. Competition
We’ve come far from the first forays into VR tech. After that legendary Kickstarter for the original Oculus Rift, many manufacturers have joined the ranks and are doing some impressive stuff with this technology. Not just the competition but Oculus itself. Just one year after launching the Rift S, Oculus brought us the Quest 2, a standalone wireless VR headset.
Therefore, to help you get the complete picture and round off our Oculus Rift review, we’ll compare the headset to a few popular alternatives currently available on the market.
Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest 2
The Quest 2 is very similar to the Rift S but also a beast of its own. Its biggest selling point is that it can be used entirely wirelessly and without any extra hardware. Playing fast-paced games like Beat Saber and Echo VR on this setup is incredibly liberating.
On top of that, you can connect it to a PC via link cable or even use remote desktop apps through a Wi-Fi connection at home so that it can become a SteamVR headset, too.
Yes, it’s powered by a mobile chip and sports a lower resolution than the Rift S, but at the same time offers a better refresh rate and hand tracking, all for $100 less than the Rift S price right now. We were completely blown away with Oculus Quest 2 and, aside from its mandatory connection with Facebook accounts, consider it an almost flawless device.
Oculus Rift S vs. Valve Index
Currently considered the ultimate in at-home VR systems, Valve’s Index is quite a piece of technology. Housing two 1440×1600 screens that can go up to 144 Hz and with revolutionary knuckle controllers, it really is the best way to experience – and feel – virtual worlds. It even comes bundled with Half-Life: Alyx, one of the highest-rated VR games of all time.
The caveat? It’s super expensive. The whole bundle that includes the controllers and base stations is a whopping $1,300, and that’s if you buy it directly from Valve. In other words, it’s more than double the price of even the most expensive Oculus bundle.
Oculus Rift S vs. PlayStation VR
Compared to Rift S, VR gaming on the PlayStation 4 console might not sound that thrilling. The PlayStation VR set, launched way back in 2016, is very similar to Rift S. It’s tethered, albeit to a PlayStation console, has a similar headband, and costs exactly the same as the Oculus headset.
While it does have a better refresh rate, 120 Hz vs the Rift’s 80 Hz, the screen it uses has a smaller pixel density and a narrower field of view. It also uses legacy controllers that aren’t as versatile as modern VR controllers but has quite a nice collection of PS games to try out.
Final Thoughts on Oculus Rift S
Wrapping up our Oculus Rift S headset review, we must again mention how impressed we were with this gadget. It’s probably the most seamless entry into the wonderful world of VR, matched only by an equally amazing Oculus Quest 2.
Oculus managed to strike a fine balance with the Rift S, creating a headset that provides a high-end experience at a fraction of the price of the currently leading headsets. It may not be perfect, but if you’re eager to give PC VR a go, you ought to give it a try.
Is it worth buying Oculus Rift S?
If you can still find it at the launch price or lower, the Rift S is absolutely worth purchasing. Oculus Rift S specifications are still good, and the library of supported titles includes hundreds of games and apps.
Is the Rift S good?
Yes, the Rift S is a very good VR headset for the price. Even so, it’s worth mentioning that it’s currently discontinued as Oculus focused its endeavours on the more affordable and portable Quest 2.
Why was Rift S discontinued?
The official explanation was that the manufacturer wanted to focus on standalone VR devices. The sales numbers of the Oculus Quest 2 could be another reason, as the headset quickly surpassed the Rift S in popularity after its release.
Is Rift S better than Quest?
On a purely technical level and data we talked about in our Oculus Rift S review, it’s more advanced than the Quest headset and provides a crisper image. That said, the Quest 2 is more affordable, wireless-ready, and doesn’t require a PC, so for most people, it proved to be a better choice.