The Oculus Rift Review

Benchmark Results

Lucky’s Tale

Although it’s tempting to start with the most dramatic benchmark numbers, or even the highest-profile launch title, we’re instead leading off with Lucky’s Tale. It’s a cartoony platformer that no hardcore gamer would expect to fall for, but we dare you to resist. The game turns out to be a blast, mostly because of the perspectives you get in VR.

Lucky’s Tale is also accessible across a wide range of hardware. We tested using the game’s Medium preset, and simply ran the same path from the start of the first level up to the first door you encounter.

The average, minimum and maximum frame rate results show all seven graphics cards delivering a consistent 90 FPS; that observation is mirrored as we compare frame rate over time. A look at the frame times shows several cards overlapping each other just under 12ms, with some noise between 11ms and 12.5ms. Understanding the source of that noise and its significance (if any) is a priority for us. For the time being, though, we assure you that Lucky’s Tale is remarkably smooth across every one of these cards—even the GeForce GTX 960 that falls below Oculus’ recommended spec. This is as good as it gets.

EVE: Valkyrie

EVE: Valkyrie is the first game we saw running on the Rift back in 2014, and it’s arguably the most surreal experience in VR thus far. Playing it with any modicum of success requires lots of head movement as you lock on to enemies flying around. But benchmarking the title encourages the opposite. We ran the basic training sequence using the same flight path and minimal input to generate results. All of the available detail settings are set to their highest levels for this one.

The frame rate over time chart shows AMD’s Radeon R9 380 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 struggling, right up until the fighter launches from its hanger. From there, it’s smooth sailing across all seven boards.

Here’s the thing, though: even on those two slower boards, there is no perceptible performance problem in EVE. I enjoyed every second in the game, regardless of GPU. The implication is that the measurement Fraps takes does not fully account for what you see on an HMD (particularly in light of the news that asynchronous timewarp is active on the retail Rift).

Chronos

It’s probable that EVE gets more demanding once you start whipping your head around in a multi-player space fight, so let us hit the other extreme. Chronos’ opening sequence is uncharacteristically taxing compared to what we’ve played through so far, and our numbers bear that out. Of course, we exacerbate the load by specifying Epic-quality details, whereas most gamers would rather dial down quality in favor of a smoother experience. But it’s to prove a point, we promise.

Only Nvidia’s fastest cards maintain a 90 FPS average. The frame rate over time chart shows how the GeForce GTX 960 gets pegged at 45 FPS, the next multiple of 90, while AMD’s Radeon R9 380 cannot quite maintain that level. As you might imagine, then, the frame times are a mess. Both of the slowest cards spend most of their time at the 22.2ms corresponding to their ~45 FPS averages.

Based on that train wreck, you’d expect Chronos to be puke city. But everything down to a GeForce GTX 970 and Radeon R9 Fury X is, again, smooth through the Rift. Those bottom three cards are the ones that exhibit noticeable choppiness where it’d seem ATW cannot adequately compensate for the lack of new frames to shift. You’ll only be able to take a couple minutes of that before calling it quits.

Radial-G

The fastest-paced title we tested is Radial-G, a racing game that has you picking the best line around a cylindrical track. This one doesn’t allow much time to be distracted by compromises in detail, so adaptive quality mechanisms could be particularly effective. Whether or not they’re implemented, we’re not sure.

Our benchmark run is a single three-lap race around the game’s most basic track. The minimum frame rate results make it look like there are significant slow-downs, but the frame rate over time chart shows that this is a single instance at the start of the race (except for Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960, which struggles throughout). But even the 960 feels smooth enough from start to finish, despite a number of missed frames reported by Fraps.

Making Sense Of The Benchmarks

As much as we want to derive meaning from the tools available to us today, Fraps is clearly painting a performance picture that doesn’t correlate to experiencing Rift first-hand. We have no doubt that it’s accurate at the point in the pipeline where it intercepts Present calls. But so much happens afterward that it isn’t aware of.

For now, we can use these numbers to agree that Oculus’ recommendations are roughly on-target. From Nvidia’s line-up, a GeForce GTX 960 is weaker than you’d want for some of the Rift’s launch titles, and there’s only so much the platform can do to compensate. A 970 seems more appropriate. However, knowing that this is the ground floor, we really would want a GeForce GTX 980 or 980Ti installed. AMD may have some more optimization to do; we’re really wondering what changes made it into the 16.3.2 driver that might have put AMD’s Radeon R9 380 on equal footing with a GTX 960, particularly in Chronos, where even the R9 390X showed signs of stuttering in real-world game play.

We do want to emphasize that the consequence of too-little pixel-pushing performance in VR is more dire than coming up short of 60 FPS on a conventional monitor. At which point you start skipping frames, VR quickly becomes uncomfortable. After days of experiential testing, Kevin started finding situations that'd make him queasy, and the effect was powerful enough to turn him off of the Rift for hours. And it didn't take long for Angelini to develop a headache while testing the slower cards in our collection. In short, don’t try to cheese Oculus’ recommendations. You need to shade ~400 million pixels per second, plus or minus 50 million pixels or so. The only way to do that is with fast, fast graphics.

Of course, as more information reaches us, we’ll be re-running tests, updating results and, hopefully, adding metrics derived from being able to measure more of the VR experience.

What’s In A Platform?

The VR-ready PC we received from Oculus employed a Skylake-based Core i5. Our lab machine is armed with a Haswell-E-based Core i7. Is one better than the other? Originally, we wanted to run some numbers comparing Haswell-E, Skylake, Haswell, and Piledriver via the FX. Although time constraints and a disappointing lack of useful performance data kept us from getting there, we still wanted to broach the subject since it’ll undoubtedly affect purchasing decisions.

In short, don’t assume that Intel’s workstation-oriented platforms are going to be better for VR just because they include more cores and PCIe connectivity. If the performance of a single thread is keeping you from getting a frame out, you want the architecture offering the greatest IPC throughput and highest clock rate. This applies to PC gaming in general, but because VR is so latency-sensitive, it’s particularly noteworthy now. A fast four-core Skylake-based host processor should be best.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

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  • ingtar33
    My main concern about the Rift isn't addressed in this article. And that's if it will become Orphanware. You see, there is a fraction of the gaming public who has a computer able to play games on a Rift, and an even smaller number of those people who will spend $600 to buy a Rift.

    This leaves the game manufacturers in a tough spot. They want to make and market games that will play on the most pcs possible. So my fear is that in 6-18mo we'll see the end of titles that will play on the rift, and nothing new in the pipeline as those titles will prove to be financial duds to the industry, thanks to the tiny install base.

    And then the Rift will become Orphanware, a product without a market or market support.
  • Realist9
    I stopped reading in the "setup up the rift" when I saw:

    1. "you're asked to set up an account..."
    2. "you're prompted to configure a payment method..."

    What am I setting up an account for, why do I have to 'sign in', and what am I setting up a payment for??
  • kcarbotte
    1027081 said:
    My main concern about the Rift isn't addressed in this article. And that's if it will become Orphanware. You see, there is a fraction of the gaming public who has a computer able to play games on a Rift, and an even smaller number of those people who will spend $600 to buy a Rift. This leaves the game manufacturers in a tough spot. They want to make and market games that will play on the most pcs possible. So my fear is that in 6-18mo we'll see the end of titles that will play on the rift, and nothing new in the pipeline as those titles will prove to be financial duds to the industry, thanks to the tiny install base. And then the Rift will become Orphanware, a product without a market or market support.


    Time will be the ultimate test for the Rift, but I don't see that fate coming.
    The companies working in the VR industry are incredibly excited about the prospect of this new medium. When the biggest companies in the world are pushing to bring something to market in the same way, it should be telling of the potential these companies see.

    Facebook and Oculus have not been shy about saying that adoption will be slow. If developers haven't been paying attention to that, then they will surely fail. Most understand that the market will be small, but in the early days of VR the market share will be large, as most people buying in this early will have a hunger to try out as much of the content as possible.

    I've also spoken with several VR developers in person about this issue. Most, if not all of them, are prepared for low volume sales. This is precicesly the reason why you won't see many AAA titles exclusively for VR for a while. The games will be shorter, and inexpensive to produce.
    VR games are mostly being developed by indie shops that have little overhead, and few employees to pay. They are also mostly working for minimum wage, hoping to see bonuses at the end of the year from better than expected sales.

    I don't think we have any chance of seeing the Rift, or the Vive, fall into the realm of abandonware. Tools are getting easier to use (VR editors), and cheaper to access (Unity, Unreal Engine, Cryengine are all free for individuals.) The resources for people to build for this medium are vast, and there's no better time to be an idie dev than now. VR is a new market, and anyone has as much chance as the next to make the next big killer app. It resets the industry and makes it easier to jump into.
    VR will not be dominated by the likes of EA and Activision for some time now. It opens the door for anyone with a good idea to become the next powerhouse. That will be a very compelling prospect for many indipendant, and small development firms.
  • Clerk Max
    No mention of VR motion sickness or kinetosis in this conclusion ? This is a major showstopper, preventing more than a few minutes of immersion for most people.
  • kcarbotte
    1675488 said:
    I stopped reading in the "setup up the rift" when I saw: 1. "you're asked to set up an account..." 2. "you're prompted to configure a payment method..." What am I setting up an account for, why do I have to 'sign in', and what am I setting up a payment for??


    If you kept reading you'd know the answer.
    You are signing up for Oculus Home, the only way to access content for the Rift.
    As soon as you put the headset on, the sensor inside it initializes Oculus Home. Without an account, you can't access any of the content. It's exactly like accessing content on Steam. You need to sign in.

    That's the same reason you need a payment method. There's free games, so you can skip it, but you can't access any of the paid content without an Oculus Home account.
    If SteamVR ends up supporting the final rift, then you may be able to play other games on it, but at this time, you need Oculus Home for everything on the Rift, including existing games like Project Cars.
  • Joe Black
    I get the sense that it is where 3D gaming was right after Windows95 and directX launched.

    That's cool.Believe it or not you actually did need a relatively beefy PC for that back in the day. It was not for everybody yet.
  • bobpies
    Quote:
    What am I setting up an account for,

    to download and play the games

    Quote:
    why do I have to 'sign in'

    to access your games

    Quote:
    and what am I setting up a payment for??

    to buy the games.
  • kcarbotte
    2218418 said:
    No mention of VR motion sickness or kinetosis in this conclusion ? This is a major showstopper, preventing more than a few minutes of immersion for most people.


    Read page 8 if you want to know about my motion sickness experience. Only two games gave me any kind of trouble, and both of them were caused by first person experiences. Its well established that moving around in first person is not comfortable for many people. The motion messes with your brain because you aren't actually physically moving. actually sitting, while your character moves around isn't comfortable at all for me. Some people don't have trouble, but the comfort levels are there for a reason. Both of those games are listed as intense experiences, so even Oculus acknowleges that that some folks will get sick.

    All of the 3rd person games that I tried, and the games with cockpits (Radial G, Project Cars, Eve: Valkyrie) are all very comfortable.

    We'll talk more about motion sickness and effects of being in VR for extended periods over the coming weeks. So far, with the limited time we've had with it, I've only used it for less than 10 hours total. There's plenty of games that we've not even fired up yet, so a full discussion about getting motion sickness seesm premature.
  • kcarbotte
    1353159 said:
    I get the sense that it is where 3D gaming was right after Windows95 and directX launched. That's cool.Believe it or not you actually did need a relatively beefy PC for that back in the day. It was not for everybody yet.


    That's a good comparison.
    I like to use the first Atari console as a comparison. This is the dawn of a new medium that people don't yet understand. It will be expensive, and not for everyone in the early days, but look at where video games are today. If everyone had the same opinion about Atari back then, as many people seem to feel about VR, the entire video game industry wouldn't have existed as we see it today.
    VR will be similar. It will take a long time to get mass adoption, and the road there will have plenty of changes and advancements, but it's definitely going to happen. VR is far too compelling and has far too much potential for it not to.
  • Realist9
    The 'conclusion' page is really spot on. Specifically, the parts about AAA titles and casual audience.

    So, does the release version of the Rift still require graphics settings in Project Cars to be turned down with pop in and jaggies? (read this in a Anand article from 16 Mar).
  • moogleslam
    My ONLY question (for myself) is will the games I want to play make me nauseous or not. If they do, then I have to decide whether I can "train" myself to overcome it, or will it be sold on eBay for a profit and replaced with a 34" 21:9 G-Sync monitor (Predator X34 or PG348Q). I'll find out in a few days.
  • Realist9
    Quote:
    1675488 said:
    I stopped reading in the "setup up the rift" when I saw: 1. "you're asked to set up an account..." 2. "you're prompted to configure a payment method..." What am I setting up an account for, why do I have to 'sign in', and what am I setting up a payment for??
    If you kept reading you'd know the answer. You are signing up for Oculus Home, the only way to access content for the Rift. As soon as you put the headset on, the sensor inside it initializes Oculus Home. Without an account, you can't access any of the content. It's exactly like accessing content on Steam. You need to sign in. That's the same reason you need a payment method. There's free games, so you can skip it, but you can't access any of the paid content without an Oculus Home account. If SteamVR ends up supporting the final rift, then you may be able to play other games on it, but at this time, you need Oculus Home for everything on the Rift, including existing games like Project Cars.

    I set myself up for that one, didn't I :) . Thanks for the clarification!

    This is sad news though, I hope they can make Rift ready titles available without it. The last thing people need is ANOTHER place to log in when there's no reason for it.
  • kcarbotte
    1675488 said:
    The 'conclusion' page is really spot on. Specifically, the parts about AAA titles and casual audience. So, does the release version of the Rift still require graphics settings in Project Cars to be turned down with pop in and jaggies? (read this in a Anand article from 16 Mar).


    I did all my tests with the Oculus Ready PC that was provided to us. It has a GTX 970 and an i5-6400.
    I did not mess with any graphics settings. The default configuration was excellent. It provided smooth framerates, no jaggies, and i did not notice any significant pop-in. I feel like they put a lot of effort into polishing the game.
  • kunstderfugue
    Does Oculus Home allow you to play single-player games while offline?
  • kcarbotte
    Quote:
    Quote:
    1675488 said:
    I stopped reading in the "setup up the rift" when I saw: 1. "you're asked to set up an account..." 2. "you're prompted to configure a payment method..." What am I setting up an account for, why do I have to 'sign in', and what am I setting up a payment for??
    If you kept reading you'd know the answer. You are signing up for Oculus Home, the only way to access content for the Rift. As soon as you put the headset on, the sensor inside it initializes Oculus Home. Without an account, you can't access any of the content. It's exactly like accessing content on Steam. You need to sign in. That's the same reason you need a payment method. There's free games, so you can skip it, but you can't access any of the paid content without an Oculus Home account. If SteamVR ends up supporting the final rift, then you may be able to play other games on it, but at this time, you need Oculus Home for everything on the Rift, including existing games like Project Cars.
    I set myself up for that one, didn't I :) . Thanks for the clarification! This is sad news though, I hope they can make Rift ready titles available without it. The last thing people need is ANOTHER place to log in when there's no reason for it.



    So it looks like there's hope yet. In the documentation that came withe Oculus SDK 1.3 package that was released today, Oculus states that developers can make games and experiences that launch outside of the Home environment. Devs can even sell apps outside of the Oculus Home storefront, and Oculus won't take a cut of those profits.

    You will still likely need an account though, as Oculus said that the home button is a requisite feature, so that players can access the calibration menus.
  • kcarbotte
    Quote:
    Does Oculus Home allow you to play single-player games while offline?


    Yes it does.
    each game will tell you if it's available offline, before you chose to buy it.
  • Realist9
    Kevin, thank you for the replies and additional information. It is much appreciated.

    I want to want to buy a CV1 or Vive, but I see a lot here and elsewhere that gives me significant pause.
  • kcarbotte
    1675488 said:
    Kevin, thank you for the replies and additional information. It is much appreciated. I want to want to buy a CV1 or Vive, but I see a lot here and elsewhere that gives me significant pause.


    What are you concerns thus far?
  • agentbb007
    Great article! Very thorough and hits on all of the main points. Can't wait for my rift to arrive, I got in early and got the Your Rift is Shipping Soon email so hopefully I get it this week!
  • kcarbotte
    64381 said:
    Great article! Very thorough and hits on all of the main points. Can't wait for my rift to arrive, I got in early and got the Your Rift is Shipping Soon email so hopefully I get it this week!


    Awesome. I hope you enjoy it.
    Despite the few issues I had with motion sickness, the Rift is an awesome product and I'm sure you'll be impressed with it.

    Palmer Luckey tweeted this morning that Kickstarter backers will recieve thier kits first. The first pre-order kits will start to be delivered on Wednesday.
  • SVoyager
    I wonder about the FOV. Can you compare it to the DK2 ?? Similar?
  • Realist9
    1943658 said:
    1675488 said:
    Kevin, thank you for the replies and additional information. It is much appreciated. I want to want to buy a CV1 or Vive, but I see a lot here and elsewhere that gives me significant pause.
    What are you concerns thus far?

    1. Return policy, from the Oculus forums, is on a case by case basis. That means you can get a return, if Oculus feels like giving one. No mention on following laws regarding returns. No data on a restocking fee.
    2. I can’t test it properly to determine if the games I want to play with it make ME sick, or look bad compared to non-VR version. I don’t care about resolution, just how it looks. (also, see #1). 5 min testing at Best Buy (when available) isn’t going to solve this...maybe several trips to test out, but not sure what games they'd let me see/test.
    3. You MUST sign in to Oculus Home to access/buy CV1 games/content (obviously not true for ED, right?) and to access the calibration menu. This is really bad. For God’s sake, we have/had: Windows for gaming live (dead), Origin, Uplay, etc, etc. required just to be able to play a particular game. When will they learn? [This will hopefully change moving forward, as you said. I do hope software devs sell outside Oculus Home or at least in addition to. Also, why can't access to the calibration, etc be in the form of a driver type download like video drivers??]
    4. Most of the current content is casual gaming at best. Notable exceptions are ED, Valkarie,and Project Cars. (see #2). ED and Project Cars is almost enough for me to not care about this one.
    5. Graphics in VR are 3 yrs behind where we are (until hardware manufacturers allow software devs to close the gap).
    6. Included audio headphones. You can detach and not use, but there’s no audio pass through connection on the headset, so you’re going to need a 4m long cord to use your current headset. I’m unsure about the experience of a CV1 in a room that has a surround (5.1/7.1) stereo system in it. Do they sync correctly as you move around? A concern is positional audio…I want to know something is behind/left of me by HEARING that it is behind/left of me.
    7. Even though a i7 2600k (my proc btw) performance exceeds the CV1 required modern i5 (i5 4590?), the compatibility tool doesn’t pass the 2600K. No way to tell if the 2600k is good enough without buying/trying (see #1).
    8. There will likely never be a FPS in VR (apparently sitting, while in VR you are running around, generates nausea/sickness).

    All that said, I feel like if I could buy one, set it up, and try it for 7 days or so, I could eat a restocking fee of 10% or so if I decide it's not for me.
  • heinlein
    How usable will this be for someone that doesn't have high speed internet? I don't like the idea of downloading 22 GB at 1 MB/second.
  • agentbb007
    68688 said:
    How usable will this be for someone that doesn't have high speed internet? I don't like the idea of downloading 22 GB at 1 MB/second.


    Most of the launch titles don't look like massive AAA titles like Witcher 3's 30 GB but I would assume most will be at least 5 GB. So if you don't like downloading games from Steam, Uplay, Origin or other game distribution platforms then you probably won't like downloading games for the Oculus store.

    The obvious question would be why you don't have high speed internet? I would assume 99% of people who ordered the Rift are huge tech geeks and having epic internet has been a priority for years. So IMO before spending money on the Rift spend some money on high speed internet, that would be better use of your money.