Hands-on with Oculus Link: Rift who?

Four months after its release, the Rift S is looking pretty irrelevant.

My colleague Josh and I went hands-on with an early demo of Oculus Link, a feature launching in beta in November that lets Quest users connect their headset to a PC and play games that require a bit more horsepower than the Quest’s onboard compute can handle.

The differences between playing an upcoming title like Stormland on the $399 standalone Quest with Oculus Link versus playing it on the $399 PC Oculus Rift S are incredibly tiny and clearly not enough of a sell that anyone but the snobbiest of VR snobs should bother buying a Rift S.

The display resolution sounds like it is currently better than what’s possible on the original Rift, but less than the full resolution of the Quest. The Quest will play the content at 72 frames per second as opposed to 80 frames that you’d get on the Rift S. You also will have one less onboard camera for inside-out tracking. A Facebook engineer at the booth detailed that latency on Oculus Link would be greater than on the made-for-PC headsets, but that it should still be comfortable for most users, he wouldn’t get into specific numbers.

To use the feature you’ll need a USB-C 3 cable — the charging cable that came with your Quest won’t do. Oculus will be releasing its own cable after the beta ends, which you’ll be able to buy separately.

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Ultimately, playing is the true test. Things weren’t as buttery smooth as they might be on a 90fps (or greater) headset, but that isn’t something the Rift S can even handle, so you’re still getting an experience that feels very, very solid. You’re using your Quest — albeit tethered — and getting a PC experience. Textures were richer and environments were more complex, but you’re using the same headset — though you need a PC that meets Oculus’s recommended specifications.

Ultimately, I’m not quite sure what this very cool technology does for Oculus.

It 100% cannibalizes Rift S sales, but I can’t imagine too many Quest users will be going out to buy gaming PCs so they can utilize Link. Nevertheless, it’s a very cool platform and makes the Quest a better sell than it was for users that are deep into VR and already bought into the early generations.  All I know for certain is that I would be very pissed if I bought a Rift S instead of a Quest.