I have finally received the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, a Kickstarter backer edition, a few days ago and it is time to share my first impressions from the device. It took a bit longer to get my hands on the device as Oculus is still not shipping directly to a lot of countries around the world, so I had it shipped to UK address and then delivered to me via a courier delivery company. The Oculus has been shipped from Netherlands, so I don’t see any kind of a problem for the device to be shipped to other EU countries…
In general the first impressions are very positive for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, but let me get a bit into the details about what I liked and what I did not. Since this is not a development kit anymore, but a consumer version of the VR headset I’ll be a bit more critical this time.
One of the most annoying things before you even start is the very slow software download, taking too much time for just 800 MB download, though the software warns you it could take quite some time to setup. It would’ve been much easier to be able to download the full software package prior to starting to setup the Oculus Rift and having to wait. When the download completes it is also quite slow to install, even on a high-end PC with a fast SSD drive. When everything is downloaded and installed the setup is relatively quick and easy to finish, and then the long wait starts again as soon as you start downloading some VR experiences and games from the Oculus Store.
A bit something about the Oculus Remote, it is shipped with a lithium coin cell battery like the ones on your motherboard, you may need to stack on these as they are not designed to be recharged, would’ve been better to put a micro-USB and a small rechargeable LiPo battery inside. Not sure how long will it last since you don’t need lightning speed response and you will not be using it in games much, but the CR2032 batteries are with low capacity. The controller comes with convenient to use design and clever button configuration, though the plus and minus volume buttons could’ve been larger or with different design as they are not very convenient to be used.
The Oculus Touch controllers are not yet available and do not get shipped with the Rift, instead you get a Microsoft Xbox One wireless controller with a PC USB adapter. This is a nice addition since the use of a keyboard and mouse is not easy with the headset on, The Xbox controller is probably one of the best gamepads out there for gaming. Though I’m not very happy with the way Microsoft designed the power for the controller, you get to use regular AA batteries or rechargeable ones, but you cannot recharge them in the controller via USB connection. Microsoft wants to sell you an extra rechargeable lithium battery pack, not a problem for Oculus, but this simply means more batteries and more annoyances if you miss to replace depleted batteries on time.
It is a funny thing that you get more documentation for the Xbox controller than for the Oculus itself, all the info for getting started and inside the box there is a sticker that points you to an URL, though some small and short quick guide would’ve been nice addition. In the package you get two Oculus logo stickers, just rotate them and you get two plain zeroes, if you stick them somewhere in the right direction nobody will probably guess what they mean. It is not like Apple stickers or Razer ones you get with their products, Oculus should think about the logo stickers design a bit more.
When you start setting up thing you will need three USB ports, two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 for the Xbox controller receiver, then a third USB 3.0 port will be required for the Oculus Touch controllers when they are released, so now you might finally be glad that your motherboard has a plenty of USB connectors available. The USB and HDMI cables you need to connect everything are long to provide you with enough room to get around if you need to move more in a virtual reality experience or a game, though you will need to make sure there are no other obstacles around you.
Now, for the headset, it is light and convenient, easy to adjust to different heads and faces. I don’t like the headphones that are a part of the headset that much, though they should be detachable (have not tried to remove them yet). The headphones do not cover the ear completely and thus do not provide much of noise isolation to help you get more immersed in the virtual reality world, and the sound quality might not be that good from such a small speakers used. As for the light blocking of the headset, everything works pretty well apart from the opening at the bottom of the nose where I see some light, a little extra cushioning at that point could’ve easily provided a solution to this problem and I suspect that many other users may have some light getting inside from there and the darkness is needed for better immersion especially if it is not dark in the environment you are using the headset.
The consumer Rift has no interchangeable lenses, but it works quite well for people with small diopter that need to wear prescription glasses like me for example. I’ve managed to put the headset with prescription glasses as well getting a bit clearer picture, but the glasses I’m wearing are pretty compact, so with larger glasses you might have trouble putting on the Oculus. The headset is apparently not designed for people wearing prescription glasses to wear the glasses inside, so people with larger diopter may need to consider going for contact lenses in order to use the Oculus Rift.
The image quality is definitely better than that of the DK2, but I can still notice pixels, so a larger resolution will be required for a later version as GPUs get more powerful and capable of handling the extra pixels without trouble. The resolution is not as problematic as with the dev kits however and you can quickly stop noticing this as an issue as you get into the experience, and experience wise the immersion is now at really very convincing level already. The annoying color aberrations seen on the dev kits are now pretty much a thing of the past, so definitely a huge improvement here. The best improvement however seems to be related to the lack of dizziness or nausea feeling after some use playing a game, something that has happened to me a few times with the dev kits even after getting used to them after playing for a while. With the consumer Rift I’m yet to experience such issues even after I have just started using the device and playing a game briefly, so it should be much easier on normal first time stereoscopic 3D and VR users as well. Though with Eve: Valkyre rotating the ship around for a bit can still cause you a bit of dizziness, but then again in a real space ship doing the same thing you’d probably experience the same thing anyway.
In terms of hardware requirements, the Oculus Rift requires a powerful PC with a high-end GPU, the recommended specs say GTX 970 or Radeon 290 or a higher-end GPU. Using a GTX 980 Ti is more than enough for the moment and for that resolution, but still if you are looking for an upgrade for VR you might consider getting a GTX 1070 for example, it should be more than enough on the long run. On the software side, there are still not many VR Games and VR Experiences available, though the ones online in the Oculus Store are pretty good ones as I’ve already tried half of them. Still yet to try running a software that is supposed to support Oculus Rift, but is not yet officially certified, but is in the list of things to do. The total number of “official” Oculus Rift apps is still relatively small and not many top game titles to keep you occupied for long, but hopefully more and more new content will become available soon.
The Oculus Experiences Store however is lacking something very important and that is 3D screenshots and videos that show what you can really expect if you get a VR application or a game, especially if it is something expensive before actually spending any money on it. Low resolution 2D screenshots and 2D trailer videos are simply no good here, they can still be available for people exploring that do not own Oculus Rift, but inside the Oculus Rift you should be able to preview sample media form an app, game or an experience in stereoscopic 3D mode, so you can better get an idea on what to expect from it before having to purchase it. This is a “must have” feature especially when you want to sell something to the 3D/VR crowd as we are people that want to get a good VR experience and we are ready to pay well for it, but we want to know that we are paying for something that is well worth it before actually spending the money without getting disappointed afterwards.