The Oculus Rift S is real and arrives in spring for $399

After years of high-profile onstage announcements, Oculus has decided to quietly deliver the successor to its flagship Rift virtual reality headset, confirming most bits of our October report with the release of the new Oculus Rift S.

As we first reported, the biggest improvements to the Oculus Rift S are a move to the company’s inside-out “Insight” camera tracking system and modest updates to the display resolution. The biggest surprise is that this headset is being built in partnership with Lenovo and the Rift S seems to have strongly inherited Lenovo’s design ethos for its VR products, for better or worse…

When asked at a low-key private press event how they were framing the new device, Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell called the Rift S an “evolution not a revolution” over the original Rift. That being said, the design is entirely new, but not all of the changes are ones VR fans will be happy about.

The Rift S will be replacing the Rift in the Oculus product lineup.

Here’s what’s different:

  • Small resolution increase per eye from (1080 x 1200) to (1280 x 1440), improved lenses
  • Frame rate is dropping from 90hz to 80hz
  • Switched from OLED to the LCD panels used on Oculus Go
  • 5 onboard cameras for inside-out camera tracking
  • Ships with updated Oculus Touch controllers, same as what ships with Quest
  • Loses the on-ear headphones for cheaper-sounding near-ear speakers similar to Oculus Go
  • Ditches the flexible strap for a rigid “halo” design like the PlayStation VR headset
  • FoV is “slightly larger” on the Rift S compared to the Rift, Oculus tells us
  • No manual adjustment of distance between your eyes (IPD)
  • PC spec requirements are largely the same, though you may need a faster CPU we are told
  • More expensive than the last generation at $399 versus $349
  • Launching in spring 2019

As we reported last year, the Rift S is a product of trade-offs. It was green-lit only after a more ambitious redesign was cancelled by the company.

This was a decision former-CEO and co-founder Brendan Iribe strongly repudiated. A source told TechCrunch his departure was partially due to his lack of interest in “offering compromised experiences that provided short-term user growth but sacrificed on comfort and performance.”

The Rift S is certainly full of compromises.

The original Rift and Touch were shipped as a $798 combo that eventually had the price reduced to $349 as the result of round after round of price cuts. The Rift S is more expensive, but it feels cheaper, with Lenovo’s hard plastic design and the loss of key features designed for comfort, like on-ear headphones and IPD adjustment. That being said, most first-time users will be thrilled by the easier setup process for the onboard cameras and not having to worry about things like USB bandwidth management for wired sensors. 

The tracking system is powerful, but it seems like Oculus had to make some controversial choices to end up with this product, so we’ll see what the broader reaction is. The headset and controllers are coming sometime this spring and will retail for $399.