Virtual Reality

VR Cost Breakdown

There’s a lot of news and hype surrounding the arrival of consumer ready VR devices and head mounted displays.  Each device has it’s own strengths, some are targeting specific niches, and there’s a lot of overlap between all of them.  The most divisive topic has been VR input and this has been a polarizing topic for those initially interested in the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.

With all of that considered, it’s been difficult to do an apples to apples comparison of the devices, specifically the cost to buy into any particular VR ecosystem.  I was interested in doing a cost breakdown for each device and found that I had to make a few concessions for each system to bring them onto a level playing field or at least provide context for comparison.

Mobile VR

Mobile VR is its own world and can’t be fairly compared to the higher performance devices.  That being said it’s most peoples first introduction to VR and it can be very compelling.  There are really only two players at this end of the field.

Google Cardboard

The first entry point due to its cost and ability of the Cardboard app to work with almost any smartphone.  I am going to concede the cost of the phone (who doesn’t have a smartphone?) and only include the investment for the headset.

Component  Price
Head Set Cardboard Kit $17
Total  $17

Gear VR

This is the second option for mobile VR and is leaps and bounds above Cardboard.  It has the Oculus brand and engineering by Carmack so it has a very specific performance target for high quality VR.

This is again difficult to price since it requires a high end Samsung phone that may or may not be subsidized by your carrier.  A smart phone is also of higher utility  than a dedicated headset which again makes it difficult for comparison.  Regardless, I am going to include the cost of an older S6 unlocked phone as part of the package. An input device such as a game pad may be required for some experiences but I’m going to ignore it for now.

Component Price
Head Set Gear VR $100
Phone Galaxy S6 $453
Total  $553

 

Dedicated VR

This is where the comparison gets interesting.  The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Playstation VR are all fighting for a similar market share each with their own offerings and system advantages.  VR input becomes a big deal in the comparison as some systems will offer tracked 1:1 input at launch and others won’t.

In this comparison I will look at a the complete buy in for a full system that includes tracked 1:1 input.  This seems like the most equal comparison point and provides insight to the nuances of each system.

PlayStation VR

This is the lightweight contender at this end but is poised as the breakthrough hit since there are many households that already own a PS4.  The PlayStation VR will extend the PS4 console and work with the system’s camera and Move controllers.

Sony is offering a launch bundle that will include the headset, controllers and camera which appears to be the most economical option. The head set is available by itself if you already own the controllers and camera.

It will be interesting to see if Sony offers a complete bundle that will include the head set with the console for additional savings.

Component Price
Head Set PlayStation VR Bundle $500
Console PlayStation 4 $349
Total  $849

Oculus Rift

The Rift was positioned as the first consumer ready VR headset but has appeared to have stumbled as release neared.  Its main competitor, the HTC Vive, offers a 1:1 tracked input solution that will  not be included with the Rift at launch.  Oculus is offering their Touch input device a few months after the initial Rift launch.  Details are still preliminary on the Touch including price and availability but I will use an estimate guess in this comparison.

This is the first headset in this comparison that will require a dedicated PC for VR.  This blog has covered a few different options for building a VR PC and I will be including the results of the Budget Rift PC Build in the pricing. Take this pricing with a grain of salt because it may include a monitor or keyboard that you may already have.  Complete Oculus bundles are available with different options but at a slightly higher cost than the package below.

Component Price
Head Set Oculus Rift $599
Input Oculus Touch (estimate) $150
PC Budget Rift Build $1035
Total  $1784

HTC Vive

The Vive is the most complete package available at release as it offers 1:1 tracked input in addition to the headset. This inclusion raised the bar for comparison for all of the devices in this category because the input option could not be ignored.

The price comparison also includes the results of the Budget Rift Build with the difference of a $18 savings for less RAM since the Vive requires only requires 4GB to meet the minimum reccomended spec.

Component Price
Head Set  HTC Vive Package $799
PC Budget Rift Build* $1017
Total  $1816

Conclusion

In the end this is a frustrating conclusion.  There are many options available for VR experiences but the two high end versions are neck and neck in cost.  The unannounced price for Oculus’s touch solution requires an estimate for price comparison and is ultimately is the deciding factor between the price of the two systems.  This provides an unsatisfying conclusion since the pricing of the Oculus system is based on speculation.