Valve Vs Sony: Who Has The Better VR Experience?

Valve vs. Sony: Who's Got The Better VR Experience?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have two front-runners in the virtual reality race. Sony's Project Morpheus and the HTC Vive are the best VR we've ever seen. Both let you actually reach out and grab objects, unlike the Oculus Rift. But which of these two technological marvels is the most promising?

Before today, we couldn't begin to answer that question. I saw Sony's latest Morpheus prototype in San Francisco, and my counterpart Carlos Rebato saw Valve's Vive demo in Spain. Our experiences were an ocean apart.

But today, I tried the Vive too. Now I've seen both.

Valve vs. Sony: Who's Got The Better VR Experience?

Sony's Project Morpheus is still the most comfortable VR experience I've ever tried. It still blows my mind that Sony managed to figure out a way to balance the headset so the display just floats in front of your head. The Vive still uses the typical ski goggles approach of strapping front-heavy displays to your noggin with elastic bands.

And honestly, I also really prefer the Sony's lenses, which gave me a slightly wider field of view and felt more... transparent. With the Vive, I occasionally felt like I was looking through goggles instead of just using my eyes.

But Sony's weakness is that Morpheus is limited by existing hardware: the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Camera.

The PS4 is powerful, sure, but the virtual environments it creates don't have anywhere near the detail that Valve is pumping out with a single Nvidia GTX 980 graphics card inside a beefy gaming PC. In Valve's Aperture Science demo, an incredible experience that sticks you right into the technologically advanced world of the hit video game Portal, you can get right up close to objects that are so lifelike that my brain forgot they didn't exist.

Valve vs. Sony: Who's Got The Better VR Experience?

See this picture? The text on this holographic display is actually readable. Total mind trip. It also probably doesn't hurt that the Vive's twin screens offer 1080 x 1200 for each eye, compared to the single 1080p RGB OLED panel that Sony uses in the Morpheus.

Valve vs. Sony: Who's Got The Better VR Experience?

And while the PlayStation Camera can only track motion that happens in front of it, leading to relatively stationary, arcade-like experiences like shooting at enemies from behind a desk, you can actually walk around in Valve's virtual reality thanks to a pair of laser emitters that cover your walls, floor, and ceiling in dots of invisible light that the Vive headset and controllers can see with their tiny embedded cameras.

Valve vs. Sony: Who's Got The Better VR Experience?

You don't have to worry about running into walls or bumping into objects: once you specify the size and shape of your room, you'll see a virtual grid pop up whenever you get too close to a wall. I reached out and touched it again and again, and the wall was always exactly where I expected it to be. With the controllers, the tracking is so perfect that you can "see" the actual device you're holding. When Valve's Joe Ludwig first handed me the wands, I didn't need to feel around blindly and imagine where they would be in the real world. I saw them right in front of me, and I grabbed them. Done.

Valve vs. Sony: Who's Got The Better VR Experience?

And then, it hit me just how smart these controllers are. Not only do they track your hands in 3D space with insane precision, they have buttons on the sides that depress when you grip them firmly, triggers under your index fingers, and touchpads under your thumbs that can tell exactly where they are. Unlike the PlayStation Move, which only has the index-finger-trigger, these controllers could let you grip objects way more like you grip them in the real world. They don't really resist your grip, mind you, no haptic sensation, but it still feels less disembodied than Sony's solution.

None of this is to say that Valve and HTC's collaboration is ready for market. The demo I saw was still a little hacky, requiring my to wear an elastic belt covered in cables to hook up the two controllers. Valve says the final controllers will be wireless, but it's kind of awkward right now. And even then, the headset won't be wireless: both the Morpheus and the Vive have to be physically tethered to their respective computers, and it's way more of an issue with the Vive: I came very close to tripping over the cord a couple times as I walked around.

When I confronted HTC about the issue, they wouldn't or couldn't say if they had any solution, only that they were committed to providing the best possible solution for their customers. Valve also couldn't tell me how they will compensate for other objects in the room — like a couch. I'm optimistic they will figure something out. Because now it's Valve and HTC's Vive — not the Sony Project Morpheus — that's the best VR experience I've ever tried.

Honestly, at this point I would throw money at any company that has a headset with games as good as the demos I've tried inside either headset. They're both damn good. But at this point it seems more likely that Valve will get my hard-earned dollars.

Plus, HTC says the Vive will actually arrive this year. The Morpheus isn't due until 2016.


    While the vive may be better I still think the morpheus looks more likely to break out mainstream.

      I agree. I have a ps4 and would definitely be interested in the Morpheus.
      The Vive looks excellent but I am afraid I'd have no space or use for it.

      Price alone should dictate that. I get the feeling that Sony's Morpheus will be lower in price, and you can get Move controllers for ~$30 each, plus a PS Camera for ~$70. With the Vive you are going to need the headset, which has two screens (versus Sony's single screen), as well as two bespoke controllers, as well as two 'lighthouses'. You might be able to get a PC that will run Vive games well enough for the price of a PS4, but I'd be a little bit surprised, given that it is launching this year.

    Also, don't forget about cost which the public doesn't know yet. The best VR helmet in the world could be Vive, but if I have to purchase a new PC as well - then we're talking serious biscuits. The whole reason I'm a console gamer now is primarily got off the "$2000 every 2 year cycle" in keeping up with the latest video card, etc.

      That's what I'm thinking: lower price of entry, higher market visibility, bigger stable of compliant developers. The Morpheus might not be the better product (?) but I think it will have a stronger chance at increased market share.

      I honestly don't understand how people think that PC gaming is still expensive. The people dumping thousands of dollars into a constantly updated rig are an extreme minority.

      It's been years since I last upgraded my PC and it still keeps up quite handily with everything I throw at it. A year ago, I upgraded my girlfriend's PC and it cost considerably less than $2000 for a complete overhaul.

      Mid-range quality components are incredibly good value these days and we're not at the point where there are constant advances that everyone needs to buy into to keep up.

        It's been about 4 years since I last built my pc, but in the last 5 months I've replaced my RADEON HD6950 2GB and my RAM due to my card not being able to run certain games(transformers universe telling me graphics card not found in the crash log was the last straw) and memory related blue screens. But while it's water cooled at running at 3.7GHz,its no longer fast enough to play games and record with fraps at 1080p at 60fps+ like when I first built it. I would struggle to call my computer mid range and a $1500 price tag is a bit of an insult to me

          FRAPS is fairly resource intensive and using it to record at 1080p/60fps definitely puts you beyond the needs of a typical PC user.

        Indeed. How frequently you want to update and how much you want to spend is entirely up to you (with the very occasional exception of a generational shift in requirements - we're seeing something of that with current cross-platform titles). My current PC is coming up on 5 years old, and the main upgrades in that time have been adding a fairly cheap SSD to serve as the system drive, and upgrading my graphics card from a 5850 to a 7950. It will likely last a year or two more and even then I'll already have monitors, sound card, peripherals etc to bring over from this one.

        I agree with this. While I understand that PC gaming is probably more expensive, its way better than it used to be. I spent about $1200 on a machine is 2011 with a mid-range GPU and i5, perfectly good gaming machine at the time. I have upgraded the GPU but It wasn't really necessary. Now I have a gtx680 (about $600 when I bought it). Ok, so NOT cheap. BUT, this machine would have to have at least 2 more years of playing games on med-high settings. I currently always try for Ultra and nearly (its always nearly in PC world- biggest PC issue) get there. So $1800 has had at least a four year lifespan and thats allowing for being reasonably demanding. I like my ps4 too :)

        Well for less than $1700 that I spent building a box for my gf I could buy all 3 "current gen" consoles. Just the box, without keyboard, mouse, monitor/s and an OS.

        I mean it's not an amazing rig, just decent:
        4790 i7
        770 4gb
        16gb ddr3
        I can see how other people might not think that was "cheap".

        Last edited 06/03/15 2:03 pm

          Part of that additional cost covers the bits that consoles don't do. Smart phones and tablets recreate a lot of the functions but not all, so most people own a computer anyway.

          If you're going to have a computer anyway, spending a bit more to make it capable of gaming can work out to be pretty cost effective.

            But how many people use a desktop PC for normal "PCing" these days? Most people use laptops.

        I switched to PlayStation a decade ago because I got fed up with the regular PC upgrades and uncertainty of whether something would work or not on my graphics card.

    I like the idea of Vive's not being tethered to a single camera but until they remove the cables from the headset its going to be pretty impractical. Also having to hang those cameras up on your walls will be a pain in the butt. I do like their holodeck approach though. Sony really need to upgrade their Move controllers for VR and add a thumb stick or something to them. If they don't they will be shooting themselves in the foot having a 5 year old controller not specifically designed for VR.

      Game designers might be able to get around the lack of an analogue stick because stuff like movement will be controlled by the player actually moving, and the camera will be controlled by the player turning his or her head. I'm trying to think of something that absolutely requires a thumbstick. The Move has the face buttons, a trigger and a Move button (as well as a PS button) so it's not like there aren't enough inputs, just no analogue stick.

        I agree the devs might be able to find a solution but i don't see the point in trying to restrict them to old hardware that was not designed for VR. The Move does have buttons but that are arranged in a square instead of the traditional diamond. If the controllers are not versatile just think of all the ports from the Vive and Occulus the Morpheus would miss out on. They could you use the Dual Shock 4 as it has an analogue stick plus two triggers and the light bar for positioning. Although I doubt the light bar will do as good a job of being tracked as it is a flat surface rather than a ball like of the Move.

          Let's not forget the Move has the secondary controller with the analog stick, L1, and L2 trigger on it.
          Movement is covered if the game doesn't require you to use both hands, ie, both wands.

            True but again that limits the functionality of Morpheus to one hand. I still think they should do a Move redesign, but then I don't own any Move controllers ;)

            Last edited 06/03/15 2:58 pm

    I'm thinking the Vive will, overall, be the better hardware. As in, hands-down the better hardware.
    However! With 20 million units sold (and who knows how many by halfway through next year) I think Morpheus will have a better attach rate. It'll likely be cheaper, more accessible, and more user-friendly. It'll have games optimized for the hardware. There's the chance that PC's VR market will get fragmented due to the need to make VR games compatible with the Vive as well as the Rift, and if those two headsets are too fundamentally different in the way they work that could cause problems.
    Plus Sony have amazing first-party devs on board who have the capability to make excellent games optimized for VR... and in the end, it's all about the games.
    I'm thinking Vive will be better but Morpheus will be more successful.

    While I'm still wary of how well the tech will hold up, I'll at least be waiting for a killer app that uses the Morpheus. But if and when I do get one, I already have the PS4 camera and 2 move controllers so I'm all ready to go anyway.

    TBH im still not convinced about vr for anything outside of cockpit view games. I feel like it will break immersion totally for me to have to use a button or stick to move.

    That said, I'm totally sold on cockpit view games with a vr headset.

    I hope they put Bluetooth connectivity in the Morpheus.

    While I agree for the most part PC gaming can be done on a reasonable budget and something bought with moderately powerful hardware will have a lifespan of the entirety of this console generation.

    But, driving a 2160x1200 screen at 90fps (max set by the refresh rate) is not going to happen with anything less than a decent i5 with a GTX980 or whatever the current top end single gpu AMD is. I use nvidia 3D Vision for some games with a GTX 690 at 1920x1080 and I imagine I'll be looking to upgrade my card come Vive time. The guys who post in the 3D vision forums who run 1440 screens are using SLI'ed 970s or 980s.

    Valve will be the better of the two they've already got games up and running for the oculus, wouldn't be too hard to use that data to make a better product. let's face it , even being a Sony fan I have to say they've never been great connectivity wise with any game online.

    I'm also picking HTC Vive over morpheus. However, it was a bit ridiculous to just rule the oculus out of it just because it doesn't have oculus branded input controls and tracking, not when there are multiple 3rd party providers of input controllers and motion capture already out there that you can try with the oculus. Sixsense and leapmotion come to mind. And there is also the fact that oculus bought out nimble VR, so we might see built in hand tracking in the commercial release.


    Valve also couldn’t tell me how they will compensate for other objects in the room — like a couch
    sounds like it needs some kind of 3d scanning to bring your room into VR. imagine someone walks into your field of view and gets scanned and is visible in your goggles.

    I feel bad for Oculus Rift. They were the ones that dared to venture in a world that was hostile and sceptical about VR and changed our hearts and minds... just so giant multinationals with hundreds of times the resources, pooled smarts and raw manpower could roll in with much superior products.

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