Virtual reality and Augmented reality have only become mainstream in the past few years, and many companies are starting to offer their take on a fledgling technology that has the potential to really shake up the way we interact with both video games and our daily life. The HTC Vive is a really fantastic offering as far as virtual reality experiences go, but with a lot of competition on the market, does it hold its own with offerings from new players in the field? How does Microsoft’s Hololens compare to the Vive which has already gained some traction? We take a quick look at the two headsets below and let you know which product is worth your attention.
Before we start getting into everything, I’ll be honest and say that these two headsets are difficult to compare. For one, the HTC Vive is strictly a virtual reality system designed to play games and give an immersive environment for other creative applications. The Microsoft Hololens, on the other hand, is marketed as a “pair of mixed reality smartglasses” and focuses instead on Augmented Reality instead of simply Virtual Reality.
It’ll be helpful to distinguish between Virtual Reality and Augmented reality when we make these comparisons because, as I mentioned above, the two headsets don’t necessarily set out to accomplish the same goal (though there definitely is significant overlap).
Basically, Virtual Reality completely immerses you in a new environment and blocks out the rest of the world while Augmented Reality seeks to enhance the world. While virtual reality may trick your brain into thinking you’re batman in a dark alleyway, augmented reality adds overlays and useful tools to your regular vision. It may be difficult to compare these devices one to one because of their different approaches to augmenting or suspending reality, but we can definitely go over the pros and cons of each and give you a sense of which one has us most excited.
Now that we’ve discussed the differences in philosophy when it comes to the two headsets we can actually start comparing them.
Fit and Design
The HTC Vive is the clear winner in this section. While both headsets rest on your head like a hat, the HTC has a harness system that fits the device more securely to your head and distributes load while Microsoft’s Hololens feels more like a slightly unstable crown. The fact of the matter is, though, that they’re both pretty bulky and unwieldy. Like we mentioned above, the technology is still pretty new, so it’s not surprising that we don’t have a super slick and lightweight option that feels like we’re wearing nothing at all. In time we’ll see that, but the HTC Vive is pretty comfortable when it comes to VR headsets, especially compared to the Hololens.
Field of View
While you can look all around with the HTC Vive, the Hololens keeps your eyes facing strictly forward. The Vive would also take the cake in this section, but it’s important not to discount the fact that the view that Microsoft’s Hololens gives users is more than enough to accomplish its goal. If you’re looking to be completely immersed and to block out the rest of the world, the HTC Vive is the way to go, but given Microsoft’s focus more on the productivity and enhancement side it makes sense that their augmented reality field of view is more limited.
The Vive features a controller for each hand with a variety of buttons while the Hololens relies solely on gestural commands to control the device. I’m going to have to go with the Hololens in this category, as it’s much more intuitive to simply move your hands to do what you’ve set out to do rather than trying to pick up a whole new control scheme. Gamers may be more at home with the Vive, though, and will probably quickly pick up the ins and outs of the control system. It’s definitely possible that the Vive’s control scheme allows for more variable actions than the Hololens does, which makes sense given its focus on gaming (a pretty dynamic form of media), but I’ve got to say that the Hololens is more intuitive when it comes to control.
External Accessories / Portability
The Microsoft Hololens is hands down the winner in this section. As we’ve mentioned above, virtual reality and augmented reality technology is still in its infancy, and the infancy comes with a whole lot of wires for the HTC Vive. You have to attached a box to your wall, your Vive to your PC, and you’ve got to lug around two controllers. You essentially need an entire room set up for your Vive whereas the Hololens is completely self-contained. While the Vive is a headset that relies on an external PC to run its games, Microsoft’s offering is a completely self-contained computer that you wear on your head. The Hololens might seem like an obvious purchase, but there’s one major detractor that we’ll look at below.
This is the dealbreaker for me. The Hololens seems really awesome in a lot of ways, but it comes with an enormous price tag that just doesn’t make it realistic for the vast majority of consumers. Virtual Reality systems are already usually the price of a new console or even more expensive, but the Hololens is just on a whole other level. The only product available for the Hololens right now is the development edition which comes at a hefty price of $3000. The system is a self-contained computer so it makes sense that it would be a little more expensive than other VR offerings, but 3k is just kinda ridiculous. The HTC Vive is available for a much more modest $799.
It’s difficult to declare a clear winner in this competition since the two devices set out to accomplish different things. If you’re seeking to enhance your existing environment and want to wear a full PC on your head (and don’t mind shelling out some serious cash) the Hololens might be the way to go. Because of how early in the development process the Hololens is, though, I’m going to have to go with the HTC Vive as a more realistic but still extremely impressive option.