Back in May 2015, Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe, said that a complete setup for the Rift would be $1,500, which is the price that Oculus had determined at the time. This statement is essentially the root cause of all of the recent controversy surrounding the Rift's announced pre-order price of $599. Previously, it was speculated that because the approximate cost of a PC capable of powering the Rift would be at least $1,000, if not more, then the Rift would have to come in at under $500.
So when Oculus announced the $599 price tag this week, it put itself in a bit of a bind. However, what many missed in that announcement was the fact that there would be an Oculus Ready PC and Rift bundles "available for pre-order in February starting at $1,499." With this price, either the PC with the specs required to run Rift would have to be sold for a fair amount less than an OEM would sell it for, or the Rift would have to be cheaper.
Although the details at this time are scant, it looks like the best way to get a Rift is with a PC bundle, especially if you think your current rig could use an upgrade to make it VR-ready. Currently, the two PC OEMs that have committed to producing Oculus Ready machines are Dell and Asus.
At a Dell event happening at CES, Alienware's Frank Azor had Palmer Luckey join him to announce Dell's plans for Oculus Ready PC bundles.
Dell's Oculus Ready PC bundles are priced at $1,600, which is a little more than the $1,500 that Oculus keeps using as a starting amount to get into the Rift. When we asked Azor about this price difference, all he could say was that he couldn't speak as to what the bundles from other OEMs would consist of.
One of the two machines being offered is the Alienware X51 R3, a small form factor tower with the required min-spec GTX 970. The other is a Dell XPS 8900 Special Edition, which also comes with a GTX 970. Both models are $1,200 when purchased without the Rift bundle and include identical specs:
|Model||Alienware X51 R3||Dell XPS 8900 Special Edition|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-6400 3.3 GHz||Intel Core i5-6400 3.3 GHz|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB||Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB|
|RAM||8GB DDR4 at 2133MHz||8GB DDR4 at 2133MHz|
|Storage||1TB 7200 rpm Hard Drive||1TB 7200 rpm Hard Drive|
|OS||Windows 10 Home 64bit||Windows 10 Home 64bit|
This means that when ordering a Rift PC bundle from Dell or Alienware, you are saving $200 -- whether you look at these as savings off of the HMD or PC is up to you. Speaking of the GTX 970 as a minimum spec GPU for the Rift, Luckey was asked if it was adequate to provide a good VR experience. He responded by saying that he personally plays all of the in-development Rift titles on a 970 to ensure that their performance on that GPU is acceptable.
Of course, we wanted to get more details as to exactly how these bundles will work logistically and when and how you can purchase them. This is when we learned that all of the details haven't been ironed out as of yet. According to Azor, the way it will work is that if you pre-order the Rift you will receive a $200 coupon in February that you can use to get one of these two Oculus Ready PCs at a discount. That means you'll be able to benefit from all of the bonuses Oculus is offering now, including the packaged games and joining the Oculus Touch controller reservation list.
With Alienware's site currently stating "stay tuned for additional promotional offers from Oculus coming soon" and Oculus' site saying there will be bundles for less, we speculate that Oculus will also send out coupons for other bundles too, so people who pre-ordered the Rift will have a choice as to which PC OEM they go with.
We also asked about availability, and as of now you can already buy either one of Dell's offerings. However, if you buy one today, you will not be able to take advantage of the $200 discount because it is not a rebate that can be applied afterwards. The only reason to order one now is if you want an Oculus Ready machine now that you can use for more than just VR while you wait. The XPS 8900 is available for purchase now; the X51 R3 is still a few months out.
Probably the most interesting revelation during the Dell event at CES was when we asked Luckey how these bundles might affect the availability of the Rift. Although the Rift pre-order announcement said that the HDM will ship in March, it seems like only a lucky few were able to score a unit that would ship that month. Now if you pre-order a Rift it says that it won't arrive until May. So we asked Luckey if there were Rifts already allocated to these PC bundles and we were told yes. And because of that, there is a chance that if you decide to buy one of the bundles that you may get your Rift sooner.
When we asked Alienware's Azor to elaborate, he wasn't able to offer much more information other than it is crucial to remember that you need to pre-order a Rift first to take advantage of the bundle promotion and that because the PC hardware might be available before the headset, they will ship separately, at least initially, but packing a Rift in the box would be the eventual goal.
Interestingly, if you think about how this situation applies to Rifts sold by other retailers (both online and brick-and-mortar) -- even though retailers other than Oculus haven't been publically announced yet, we are sure that negotiations are already taking place -- just like the PC bundles, a certain number of Rifts from each production run must be allocated to retailers too. That means if you are willing to chance it and line up outside a store on Rift Day (March 28), maybe you'll get one sooner than pre-ordering online.
As of now, nothing is set in stone and some of the details are likely to change. However, it is confirmed that Dell's Oculus PC bundles will cost $1,600. Dell did tell us to expect more information in February, which is when Oculus will share more details as well. We're assuming that this is when the Rift bundle coupons will be going out too, so stay tuned for more details.
Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware and Tom's IT Pro, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.