There are many ways you can make Elite: Dangerous a more compelling, immersive game. A solid HOTAS controller, great audio hardware, and a decent high quality display will improve your experience substantially, but there's still more you can do. Adding a VR headset to this game puts you in the Captain's Chair in the most literal way possible. Being able to turn your head and see the menus on your dashboard light up while you grip the throttle and joystick is amazing, but which headset is going to offer you the best experience?
Here's a quick look at the merits of using an HTC Vive versus an Oculus Rift to play Elite: Dangerous!
Without a doubt, if you're going to be playing Elite: Dangerous in VR you need to be comfortable. This is a game best enjoyed over hours of gameplay, and nobody wants to be halfway through a multi-star hyperjump only to suddenly need to take a break because the headset isn't comfortable. You need to make sure the VR headset is something you actually want to wear for extended periods of time.
Oculus Rift headsets are designed to easily take on and off, thanks to a hinge system that hugs your head while you're in the game. A foam gasket around the outside of the display keeps the plastic from touching your face, but it doesn't go all the way around the headset so light frequently comes in from the nose slot. Rift also has headphones built into the headset so you don't have to wear something else on your head, but if you like you existing headphones better it can be tedious to remove the headphones and set up your audio to come through something other than the Rift during Gameplay.
HTC Vive is more front-heavy than the Rift, and while there's a Deluxe Audio Strap coming soon to fix that it's not included in the box so you have to pay to upgrade. Currently, the elastic strap setup Vive offers requires a bit of trial and error to be comfortable enough for extended wearing, but once you have it set to your needs it is very comfortable. The Vive face gasket is also made of foam, lets in very little light, and is also much more glasses friendly. Instead of built-in headphones, Vive offers a headphone jack and a pair of earbuds that can be easily swapped for whatever headphones you prefer.
If you need to keep your glasses on, and you're willing to put in the work to get it fit right, an HTC Vive is the more comfortable of the two headsets. If you want something you can quickly take on and off and don't need to worry about glasses, Rift is going to be the more comfortable option.
Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have the same functional per-eye resolution of 1080x1200, but there are some small differences in the hardware required to drive those experiences. Oculus lists the Intel Core i3-6100 as the minimum processor needed to power the Rift, while HTC lists the Core i5-4590. Both headsets still require the equivalent of an Nvidia GTX 1060 to power the headset, however.
This means it's possible to use a somewhat older PC to power a Rift if you have a capable GPU installed, but if you're looking to totally immerse yourself in Elite, there's a good chance this doesn't matter a whole lot to you. What does matter is using your GPU to push Elite: Dangerous to do something fun called supersampling to make the game look even nicer.
Supersampling renders the output from Elite: Dangerous at a much higher resolution than the headset is expected to receive, which means the image in the headset is clearer and more defined. In games like Elite, where there's a tremendous amount of detail everywhere, the difference is significant.
Which is the best?
Both of these VR headsets are designed to do a whole lot more than play this one game, but if you've invested in a hardcore Elite: Dangerous rig and you want to push things further it doesn't hurt to make sure the headset does this one thing really well first. After that, you can explore and check out the great things you can do when you aren't flying through space.
So which VR headset is best for Elite: Dangerous? For most people, the HTC Vive is where you want to be. You can do a lot more out of the box with a Vive, the hardware allows you to quickly connect your own headphones, and if you care about wearing glasses this headset is much more comfortable. You could still grab an Oculus Rift and be very happy, but if you're looking for the best this is where you need to start.
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