We decided to write our Oculus Rift S review a little later than most to see how it fares in the current VR headset landscape. Released in May of 2019, the VR industry has had over a year to innovate and improve their product offerings. During this time, Oculus has not officially added any further headsets to the market, so the Rift S is still their flagship. There have been rumours and leaks of a successor to the Oculus Quest, but we’ll wait for a formal announcement.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the Oculus Rift S Review! If you’re short on time hit the quick links.
Review Quick Links
Oculus Rift S Overview
Oculus is very clear in the fact that the Rift S in an incremental improvement of the original Rift, rather than a true sequel. Similarly to how Apple and Microsoft both use the letter ‘S’ to denote a marked improvement of an existing product. And this is exactly what the Rift S is, a solid improvement but not game-changing – get it?
Unlike the Oculus Quest or Oculus Go, the Rift S is completely dependent on a connection to a PC. This has its pros and cons but ultimately this means it can deliver a much more powerful experience. However, it’s the ability to deliver an immersive experience is dependent on your PCs specs. If you want to know if you’re PC can handle the Oculus Rift S, then we have an article explaining the Oculus Rift S requirements.
What’s In the Box?
Some people joke that it takes longer to unbox the Rift S than it does to set it up, which can only be a good thing. More on that later. So, what do you actually get from Oculus when you purchase it:
- The Oculus Rift S headset
- 2 x AA battery-powered touch controllers
- 2 x of AA batteries for the controller
- A 5-meter DisplayPort cable connects your headset to your gaming PC
- A Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter for PC
Well, as you can see nothing out of the ordinary, but it is nice that they provide the batteries! There’s nothing worse than when you’re ready to start gaming…and…there’s no batteries. It’s also nice of them to include a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter.
The Look Station
The overall aesthetic of the Oculus Rift S certainly leans towards functionality rather than beauty. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there’s no arguing it could have looked better. One of the main reasons it leaves something to desire is because the design is heavily influenced by a partnership with Lenovo. This means that Rift S shares many design features from Lenovo products such as the Lenovo Explorer and the Mirage Solo
Overall, the Rift S Headset looks like a typical VR headset. There’s nothing that stands out and if lined up against other headsets there’s nothing that screams “Oculus”. It’s fair to describe the aesthetic as clunky, functional and standardised.
Oculus Touch Controller Aesthetic
Personally, I really like the controller aesthetic. Again, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the design. But they do have pleasing proportions and nice colour tone and an interesting shape.
Anyone who has worn a VR Headset for a length of time understands how important the ergonomics are to the overall experience. I found the Rift S to be the most comfortable headset I have tried. This is primarily because of some of the new design choices and the expertise added by the Lenovo team. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Halo Headband
The Halo headband has been added to the Rift S and borrowed from previous Lenovo headsets. This is a great addition and is one of the key factors in the ergonomic improvement. The Halo headband does a much better job of fitting the device to your head and supporting its weight with less work for you. In addition, it is a more secure design and much less cluttered. A single-cable system is responsible for tightening and loosening,
Adding Built-in Speakers
The Rift had built-in headphones, which to be fair, were good quality. The problem people experienced was slight discomfort but more importantly, they broke after a while. This was due to weak internal connections which wore down over time.
The Rift S opted for built-in speakers which are built into the headband itself. This should prevent any issues with weak connections or a tendency to break. Since we started using it mid last year, we can vouch for this.
One negative, which may not be a big depending on your environment, is the sharing of sound. The speakers aren’t designed with house parties in mind, but the sound can be heard in a room. Just bear that in mind.
The positive is that it if you’re in a quiet environment the speakers actually deliver a more immersive experience because you don’t have anything over your ears, which can feel unnatural.
Another good choice by Oculus was to add a 3.5mm port to allow to add your own headphones or earbuds.
We all have different shaped heads so it’s hard to have a one-size-fits-all design philosophy when it comes to comfort. Generally speaking, VR headset cushions are poorly designed. In the case of the Rift S, they are really bad.
Despite not being uncomfortable the cushions are fixed and non-removable. This means that if you don’t like them, tough luck! Another thing we experience during prolonged usage was its absorption of sweat. This combo of a non-removable sweat absorber is a recipe for unpleasantness.
Adjusting Interpupillary Distance (IPD)
The first Rift had a hardware feature to adjust the IPD. This was a welcome and useful feature which allowed the device to be more accessible and more easily adjustable to different pupil distances. This has been replaced with a software solution, which simply just isn’t as good,
Because the Rift S switched to a single display, it became impossible to increase or decrease the distance between two displays, like the original Rift, Vive or Quest.
The Rift S has an IPD of roughly 64mm, which is close to the average for a person but shouldn’t this type of device be more accommodating in its design philosophy. We certainly think so. In fact, if you’re IPD is quite different from the 64mm you may have a very negative experience.
As mentioned, there is a software solution built-in to the Rift S, but it just doesn’t do a sufficiently good job in our opinion.
The performance is a bit of a mixed bag. There have been improvements in some areas and downgrades in others.
The display resolution is the most notable improvement. The resolution has been increased from 1080 x 1200 to 1280 × 1440. However, for some reason, they decided to reduce the refresh rate from 90Hz to 80Hz. Honestly speaking, I couldn’t tell the difference, but it would have been nice to see an upgrade. Of the five or so people who use the Rift S, only one could spot a difference in the smoothness and that was only a very slight flicker in bright scenes.
A welcome improvement is the pixel display technology. The old OLED display has been swapped to an LED one which might seem like an odd choice when discussing things like TVs. However, for a virtual reality headset, it makes sense. Despite a decrease in colour range, it’s an overall improvement due to its sub-pixel structure which results in better sharpness and a fuller FOV. Both sharpness and a small “screen door effect” has been a major complaint against VR headsets.
Oculus Rift S Tracking Review
This is an incredibly important aspect of any VR headset and this is where the Oculus make one of their major changes.
The Rift S uses an “inside-out” tracking system. This means that there are cameras attached to the headset which face outwards and track your head movement against the background. This is opposite to the original Rift, which used external cameras and required a bit of a set-up. This change makes the Rift S a much more convenient product in our eyes.
Oculus calls this set-up the Insight system, which has some pretty cool features. The Insight system is much easier to set-up and doesn’t rely on a bunch of wires around the room connecting the external sensors. The software set-up is incredibly intuitive as well. Once you have set-up the hardware, you will be greeted with a very good software set-up where you teach the tracking system where the appropriate ‘play area’ is.
You do this by putting on the headset, which will greet you with a black and white version of your environment. This is fed through by the 5 cameras. You then draw a safe play area by pointing the touch controller at the ground and draw the space in which you want to play.
To prevent any mishaps, the Rift S will show a digital barrier whenever you are close to leaving the safe play area. If for some reason you want to check on the outside world without taking the headset off, you can peer outside of the digital barrier to reveal the real world once again. Very, very cool.
The overall Rift S tracking performance is excellent for its price point and is still one of the best over a year later. The 5 cameras are a marked improvement over competitor products and allow the Rift S to accurately operate without losing tracking. However, it must be said that due to the nature of the inside-out tracking system, the connectivity is less secure than the original external sensors used by the Rift.
Oculus Rift S Review Summary
Overall this is a very good product, with solid performance and ergonimics. It does have some drawbacks which were mentioned in the review, but they’re not deal-breaking. The fact that the Rift S ignored some of the better features from the original RIft is quite disappointing. It could have made for a much better product if it built on top of the previous version. It’s fair to say that if you already own a good VR headset, this isn’t worth picking up unless you’re a hardcore user. But, if you’re new to the world of VR, then this is absolutely worth checking out!
Oculus Rift S Price 2020
Currently, you can pick up an Oculus Rift S for A649$ on Amazon, with free delivery. . In the US you’re looking at approx $600 USD, which seems like a lot but is probably due to everyone wanting to buy one being stuck at home.
Oculus Rift S Review Summary
If you’re new to the world of VR headsets, then this is well worthy of your attention. Overall it does a fantastic job of delivering an immersive and hassle-free VR gaming experience. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its drawback, but you be the judge!
Overall better display
More comfortable than the previous Rift
Expanding game library
Good value for money
Reduced refresh rate
Non-removable headset cushions
Oculus Rift S FAQs
Overall, the Rift S is a better VR headset than the original Rift. This is primarily because of its easier set-up, slightly better resolution and more comfortable headset.
Yes, the Rift S is an excellent VR headset. It is very easy to set-up, has a good resolution, the headset is comfortable and it is relatively affordable.
If you already own the original Rift, then it is probably not worth upgrading, since overall the improvements are quite small. However, if you do not own the original Rift, then the Rift S is better value for money
Yes, the Rift S requires a connection to your PC to function. It uses a DisplayPort or USB 3.0 connection to transmit the video and audio data. The Rift S headset is essentially just a monitor. All of the computation is by the PC, not the VR headset.