Competition on the VR scene has been hot for years now, but one of the big winners has no doubt been the Facebook-owned Oculus. With their mix of mid-range price point and high-quality hardware, the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S headsets strike a perfect balance.
But which one of the two is better? The wireless Quest or the wired made-for-PC Rift S? I’m here to give you the verdict of Oculus Quest vs. Oculus Rift S.
Oculus Quest vs Rift S Specs
The above table shows some of the most important specs for both headsets. But those numbers and acronyms don’t tell the full story.
While the Quest does have a higher resolution than the Rift S, you won’t be taking full advantage of it when playing native Quest games. You’ll be limited by the processing power of Quest’s built-in Snapdragon 835 CPU, which means Quest games default to lower resolutions to run smoothly at 75Hz and to preserve battery power.
The Rift’s refresh rate is 8Hz higher, but this isn’t a big enough jump to really be noticeable for the average user.
So the same game running on a Quest and Rift S will almost certainly look better on the Rift S, which is hooked up to your PC and powered by your PC. There are actually ways to increase the resolution when using Quest, but it’s a little fiddly and something you need to do each time you turn the headset on.
In the Quest’s defense, VR’s immersion isn’t just in the graphics – it’s in the freedom of movement. And in that respect, the Quest more than makes up for its lesser firepower. To be able to play a boxing game like Thrill of the Fight freely in an area about the size of an actual boxing ring, or to move around in the slow-mo shooter Superhot without worrying about getting twisted in cables, is extremely liberating.
Another objective advantage of the Quest headset is the OLED display, which offers deeper, richer blacks than the older LCD display of the Rift S.
Enter the Oculus Link
Things get interesting with Oculus Link, a feature that’s been declared by some as the cable to cannibalize the Oculus Rift S in favor of the Quest. Thanks to a software update introduced in late 2019 called Oculus Link, you can connect your Oculus Quest to your PC and use it to play PC VR games, just like the Rift S. You can use the rather pricey Oculus Link cable, or any data-carrying USB 3.1 cable.
While the Link isn’t perfect yet, it lets you really harness the full hardware capabilities of the Quest headset, playing PC VR games much like you would on a Rift S. Some say that the picture isn’t quite as clear as on the Rift S, but in reality, this is barely discernible (especially if you bump up the Quest’s resolution in the debug tool).
So with the miracle of Oculus Link, you can basically get the Oculus Quest to do the same job as the Rift, while it also remains a deceptively powerful wireless headset with its own set of apps and games.
Who’s the Winner?
At an identical price of $399, it’s easy to make a direct comparison: Oculus Quest vs. Oculus Rift S. More “hardcore” VR players may say that the Rift S, being designed for PC, works better with PC games, but the differences really are marginal compared to the Quest when used with the Link cable. Add to that the Quest’s superior resolution (when tweaked) and wireless capabilities, and it comes out as the far more versatile device.
If you really want a graphically optimal VR experience, then you’d need to look at the $1000 Valve Index along with a powerful PC graphics card to feel the difference. But in the mid-range, the plucky Quest wins out.