When it comes to VR headsets, the most well-known brand is Oculus. The company has produced many VR platforms, as you are no doubt aware since you are reading this article. The most iconic of their platforms is the Rift. A headset that you connect to your computer to play games in virtual reality. Another, more affordable, of their options, is the Oculus Go. This one is "portable" and doesn´t to be plugged into anything. These two platforms come with high definition screens, motion controllers and, surround sound with built-in headphones. So...
What’s the difference?
For starters, the original Rift is no longer being sold (unless you buy it used). It has been upgraded to the Rift S, so the rest of the article will use that model as a point of comparison. If you want to know which is better at a glance, check out our infographic:
Want to see which one is better in detail? Then let´s analyze them point by point:
When it comes to their requirements, the main difference between the two headsets is that the Go is a standalone platform, meaning that it can work on its own without needing a computer. To use it, you only need to download an app on your phone and sync the Go to it.
Don’t worry, you will not need your phone to do anything but browse the Oculus Store. The Go takes care of everything on its own.
The Rift, on the other hand, not only needs to be plugged into a computer, but it has to be a fairly powerful one as well. If your PC doesn’t have at least 8 GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GTX 970/ AMD Radeon R9 290 (or better) graphics card, then the Rift will not work.
It´s important to note that the Rift S uses Display Port as the video output port, not HDMI. A lot of laptops don’t have Display Port, so be sure to keep that in mind if you want a Rift S.
Ok, so one needs a computer and the other doesn´t, but why? They both let you play VR games, right?
Well… yes, but they each have wildly different...
While both the Go and the Rift have access to a multitude of VR apps, each one´s collection is quite different.
The Rift is a headset built for gaming. You have access to the considerable number of titles in the Oculus Store, and you can purchase any game you want from Steam VR, which is arguably the largest VR store on the market. The Rift is compatible with pretty much all its major releases.
The Go is an all-around VR platform that is not focused on gaming. While it does have games, they come exclusively from the Oculus Store and have to be designed for the standalone headset. With more than a thousand titles, the selection is nothing to sneeze at, but it has a lot of missing titles. Games like Beat Saber and Superhot are not available in the Go´s Oculus Store, neither are ports of other famous releases like Skyrim and DOOM.
To make up for its lack of games, the Go has access to a whole slew of VR media and movies. These are films that are either 3D, filmed in 360 degrees or both. If you want to know more about them and where to find them, check out our article about these films.
Another advantage that the Go has is that it is a wireless headset. Using it to watch Netflix, Hulu, or any other video streaming app is more comfortable than doing so with the Rift, as you don´t have to deal with annoying cables.
With all this in mind, is it any wonder which one is the most expensive headset?
Prices can vary with the date, the store, country and if there are any sales are going on, but generally, the Oculus Go costs around two hundred dollars. Its 64 Gb alternative (which has more memory for games and apps) hovers around the two hundred and fifty dollars price mark.
Both are at least a hundred and fifty dollars cheaper than the Rift S, which is being sold for four hundred dollars. The price is even higher if you have to upgrade your PC to make it work.
So the Rift is more expensive, but can it back it up?
What are their specs?
Both headsets have High Definition displays on their screens. This is very important when it comes to VR, as bad or choppy graphics can literally make you sick, as we discussed previously. The Go has LCD screens of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. For comparison, that is four times higher than the “standard” high definition of 720 p. Their screens have a refresh rate ranging from 60 to 72 Hz, meaning that they can show up to 72 images per second.
The original Rift had two OLED screens with a resolution of 1080×1200pixels, less than the Go. The Rift S got rid of the OLED screens and replaced them with LCD alternatives that have a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels, same as the GO. Its refresh rate, however, is higher, being at 80 Hz.
As you can see, the Rift S has the Go beat when it comes to graphics. The images run slightly smoother. It is the most immersive headset by this metric alone.
But what about the other aspect of VR immersion, the motion controls, and body tracking. Which one is better in that field?
Both the Rift and the Go use motion controllers to track your hand´s movements. The following paragraphs are not about them. They are about the headset´s capability to track and detect your body movements.
The Oculus Go uses "non-positional 3-degrees-of-freedom tracking". This is a fancy way of saying that it only detects your head movements. You can rotate your neck and the Go will track it, but motions like walking around, crouching, and jumping are beyond its capabilities. This form of tracking is ideal for games or experiences where you are sitting down, but not for more intense activities.
The Rift has full-body tracking. You can freely run around the room and the game will replicate your movements in the virtual world. This is a much more immersive alternative, at least for the games that take advantage of it. But there is another technical limitation to consider when comparing these two headsets.
The Go comes with rechargeable batteries that last around two and a half hours. You can try to extend your playtime by buying a power bank (like this one) and using it as a spare battery when it gets low on energy., but otherwise, you are stuck with a hard time limit on the usage of your headset.
The Rift doesn’t have a battery; it gets power from your computer, to which it has to be connected at all times. If you are connected to a desktop, then you can play for as long as you want. The same is not true with a laptop, as that type of computer have their own battery that will get drained faster when you play with your VR headset ( so long as it´s not plugged in).
Which is better?
On absolute technical terms, the Rift has the Go beat in almost every category. It´s only drawbacks are its higher price, arguably less comfort, and the fact that you can´t watch some VR movies on it.
Which one is for me?
This question is trickier. If you are interested in VR purely to play videogames and you already have a powerful PC, the Rift is the superior, if pricier, choice.
If you are interested, check out our other infographic comparing the Quest and Valve Index.
The Go is a more well-rounded headset and is a great entry-level experience for VR. If you wouldn’t describe yourself as a gamer and are more interested in the technology rather than the games themselves, the Go is the option for you. Check both the Oculus Go and the Rift S out on Amazon:
Which do you think is best? Let me know in the comments. And don´t forget to read our list of VR headsets to find even more options that might catch your eye.