Sony PlayStation VR v HTC Vive: Which VR headset is worth the wait?

Oculus Rift is VR's lucky charm, the headset that the whole industry is counting on. But you have two more options: Playstation VR and HTC Vive.

Both Sony and HTC's headsets are set to go on sale in 2016 and offer different games and controls to the Rift. We've already put both head to head with Oculus' headset in our Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive and Oculus Rift vs PlayStation VR but, for good measure, lets see how Sony's futuristic looking PS4 accessory stacks up to HTC and Valve's PC-based virtual reality hardware.

Sony PlayStation VR v HTC Vive: Design

Sony's PlayStation VR headset has a bit of futuristic flair to its design and is much more likely to elicit gasps of envy from your mates when they come round to check out your new virtual reality wares. It's not all cosmetic though - Sony has stuck some of the device's tech in a helmet-style section above the actual goggles.

This helps to distribute the weight relatively evenly around your head and not all on your poor nose and cheeks, something HTC's Vive has suffered from. It's not something that is an issue when you first slide a headset on but for 15 minute+ sessions, comfort is crucial.

As for the matte black plastic Vive, the lighter, more comfortable second-gen Vive Pre is less of a bulky black box than it looks. Both the PlayStation VR and Vive can be used if you wear glasses, both require separate headphones and Sony's headset has a quick release button to make it quick to get it on and off.

HTC Vive v Sony PlayStation VR: Display

The current PlayStation VR specs stand at one 5.7-inch 1920 x 1080 OLED display inside the headset. It features RGB subpixels and is split to deliver a 960 x 1080 picture to each eye. The Vive offers a slightly higher resolution with two 1080 x 1200 displays (so slightly more pixels per eye) and a taller 9:5 screen ratio.

The Vive also has a slightly wider viewing angle of 110 degrees horizontally to the PlayStation VR's 100 degrees. Still as ever with tech specs, it's swings and roundabouts here.

Sony's 120Hz refresh rate on the 2015 prototype bests HTC's 90Hz, and we haven't heard anything from HTC to suggest they will increase this in the final consumer device. Even though early games won't run at 120 FPS, Sony's tweaks means everything should look smooth and in theory, help to reduce motion sickness.

One final note: the latest prototype of the PlayStation VR has a small gap at the bottom of the headset. Whether you're into that depends on whether you find being able to see your body/feet reassuring. The Vive achieves this quick glance at your real surroundings via a front facing camera and its chaperone feature.

We are not going to make any comparisons on picture quality based on a handful of demos on each headset - we'll save that for our full reviews later this year.

Sony PlayStation VR v HTC Vive: Hardware

The PlayStation VR is a PS4 accessory and will come bundled with a second box which connects to your console via HDMI and USB. The stereoscopic 3D games are handled by the PS4's AMD graphics processor not the headset. The headgear itself is wired for now but Sony hasn't ruled out a wireless version of the device.

On the other hand, the Vive is a PC based headset so factor that into your costs when considering which to buy. HTC has not talked minimum specs for PCs yet so look out for this ahead of the Vive going up for pre-order.

HTC Vive v Sony PlayStation VR: Controls

Sony's PlayStation Camera tracks the nine (very cool looking) LED sensors around the headset (up from six originally) 1,000 times a second and the set up can track the back of your head, not just the front.

That means you can look behind you in a VR environment. PlayStation VR also has its own 3D spatial sound engine, no surprise given Sony's expertise in this area, so expect to see high profile games taking advantage of this.

As for controls, some seated games use DualShock 4 controllers which are spatially aware so for instance you can hack at an object in one 'hand' with a sword in the other. Other titles can be played with PlayStation Move paddles though Sony hasn't given these as much attention as we've seen from Oculus and HTC on the controller options with those headsets.

The Vive setup uses Valve's Lighthouse tech to track your head and hand movements around a 15 x 15 foot space via two basestations that are placed in corners of the room. The Vive headset and two new wireless controllers have 70 sensors between them and there's more scope to play while standing up and moving around, if you have enough space in your house/flat.

HTC hasn't put as much of an emphasis on spatial sound as Oculus and Sony but the final Vive headset is said to support 3D, directional sound so the option for devs is there to use it.

Sony PlayStation VR v HTC Vive: Games

Sony comfortably wins this round. Its slate of both original and reworked VR titles is genuinely exciting and the full list got a boost with a bunch of new PS4 titles in December.

There's big names like Sony exclusive Gran Turismo, CCP Games' space shooter EVE: Valkyrie, Crytek's Robinson: The Journey and Ubisoft's Eagle Flight demo as well as remakes and spin offs including Rez Infinite and Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin.

Essentially, it's a tantalising line-up and there's something for everyone from Final Fantasy to 100ft Robot Golf as well as the stuff Sony's own Studio is producing like London Heist. We just don't know what will be ready for launch (apart from for example, Valkyrie) or if not, how long we will be waiting.

On the HTC Vive side, we're looking forward to Valve's Steam VR Developer content showcase on 28 January which should clear up a few questions about full games releases and maybe those Lionsgate and HBO deals too.

For now, we have a small selection of very impressive Vive demos, many of which make use of the room scale tracking from The Room to Job Simulator and Elite: Dangerous. There's a good mix of traditional shooters and more family friendly fare but at this stage, we just need more to go on. Valve itself hasn't made a game for Vive so Valve fans have only the Aperture Science and Secret Shop demos to satisfy them.

HTC Vive v Sony PlayStation VR: Price and release date

Here's where things get less certain. We know that the HTC Vive will go up for pre-order at the end of February, probably on the 29th, and ship from April but we don't have a price yet or even much to go on from rumours or hints from HTC and Valve.

Sony is still keeping quiet about both the price and release date of the PlayStation VR which leads us to believe we will be waiting until at least April to see it on shelves. As this is a PS4 accessory and Sony has a stake in the games side of the business too, we'd be surprised to see a price higher than the $600 Oculus is asking for the Rift bundle.

Sony PlayStation VR v HTC Vive: Initial verdict

Your PlayStation VR versus Vive decision will largely depend on whether you have a PS4, a PC and - in the case of both - which one you want to use to game in VR. In the less likely scenario that you are willing to spend a lot of money on the whole system, here's some very early thoughts based on multiple demos. We will update this feature when each of the in-depths reviews is in.

Both Vive and, of course, Oculus are worth a look if you think you have the system to run these games and HTC and Valve are working with their own developers to get the most out of room scale tracking.

But if you want the best selection of games then unless Valve really surprises us with its late January games showcase, Sony will have both well known and new PS4 titles to play when the PlayStation VR launches. Now, we wait.

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