I haven't even had the DK2 in my possession for more than 24 hours, so this is nothing more than a first impressions piece. I've covered the hardware in detail, the set up process, but the actual gaming and demos I'll be testing over the next week or so with another article to come. But, my first impressions are nothing but good things so far, with just a few issues. First, let's talk about what I liked with the DK2 compared to the DK1.
Jumping into the demo scene that is found in the Oculus Configuration Utility brings you into the world of what the positional tracker provides - the ability to move within the VR space, instead of just being in the VR space. The ability to look at, and around objects, within the VR world is something that the DK2 does very well. Within those few seconds, I noticed the increased resolution and screen brightness, as well as the deep black levels.
The increased resolution is something that VR needs going into the future, and is something I'm quite vocal about. I think we're going to see Oculus release the CV1 (Consumer Version 1, the first retail version of the Rift built for consumers) with a 1440p display, but it'll quickly ramp up in resolution with CV2 and beyond. Either we're going to see Oculus release the Rift in the first half of next year with a 1440p display, or they will wait it out for mobile 4K displays.
The 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED panel brings the DK2 into an entire new world of possibilities, with some of the games and demos I tested being very night and day differences between the DK1 and DK2 thanks to the increased resolution and brightness. I was able to read text in everything I tested without a problem, something I could never do in the DK1 with its low resolution and screen door effect. Secondly, the low-persistence technology is simply amazing. It feels like the DK1 would be a 30Hz panel, and the DK2 is a 100Hz panel, it's really that smooth (if you have the hardware).
In some of the demos I played, I found myself saying things like "holy s**t" and "oh my god" out loud, a lot. I was really quite impressed with the increased resolution, color, low-persistence display, and sense of scale within DK2. I used 'Whirligig' which is a movie playback piece of software, watching Man of Steel. This player allows for the movie to be displayed on a curve (left to right) and zoomed in a little in general, providing an IMAX-like experience.
Near the end of the movie, Superman and Zod are fighting in Metropolis, where Superman is punched up 80 stories into the air, up the side of a building. Superman flies down, Zod jumps up the building and they smash into each other, with Superman flying up into another building to find Zod. Zod appears out of nowhere with a massive steel girder in his hands, and thanks to the IMAX-like screen size that the 1080p-capable DK2 provides, I physically looked up (kind of from Superman's perspective) at Zod, as he landed on the ground hitting Superman with the girder. It's these little experiences where you quietly say to yourself 'wow... just, wow'. VR really is going to change everything over the next decade.
Improved Display, in More Ways Than One: Oculus has improved the display on the DK2 over the DK1 in a number of ways, not just in the increased resolution, but the Super AMOLED-based panel makes a big difference, and so does the low-persistence technology found in the updated Rift.
DK2 is Better Quality, From Cables to Plastics: From the cables provided, the packaging (apart from there being a lack of an awesome plastic case for the Rift), the plastics used on the DK2 unit itself, Oculus has put some serious work on the DK2. It feels much more like a finished product, instead of something that was simply put together like the DK1 was. It feels like this is something you could buy off the shelf.
VR... Just... Wow.: If you've never tried out the Oculus Rift before, you haven't seen anything yet. The experience is simply indescribable. I could sit here and write another 3000 words on top of what I've already written, but it simply wouldn't do it justice. Oculus is onto something with the Rift, and if you thought the DK1 was good, the DK2 beats it in nearly every single sense.
High PC Requirements: I'm running quite a high-end PC, which is something that isn't common. But, as Oculus' founder Palmer Luckey has said, this is the 'wild wild west' of VR. I feel this is the same thing I experienced back in the original Quake and Unreal days, where you would require an insane amount of expensive hardware to get the best out of the software. The DK2 requires a serious machine, but the results are more than worth it.
The DK2 is a huge improvement over the DK1 in more ways than one, but it's not perfect just yet. The increased resolution, positional tracking, higher quality materials used, the SDK and associated software is an improvement (and constantly getting better), and so much more. Oculus is making slow evolutions in the Rift and its software that is catapulting them toward the launch of the CV1 sometime in 2015.
I think we're going to get a near-perfect product when the Rift reaches 4K (or higher) at 100Hz (or higher) and one of the things that is going to make it a much better product is making the Rift wireless. Having a cord strapped to your head can get annoying, with most demos seeing you turn around and swing from side to side in your chair - a wireless VR headset would be a huge improvement over a VR headset tethered to your desk.
Most people say the Rift isn't worth the $350, but I say that it is. Why? Because people spend more on things like a new GPU, or a new monitor, and won't necessarily get more performance, or something better. If you're running a 1920x1080 60Hz monitor, why would you go for GeForce GTX Titan's or 780 Ti's in SLI? You're going to be maxing out virtually every game on the market at 60FPS, so you'll only be able to crank every visual detail up (AA, etc) to squeeze performance out of the GPU. It doesn't change the game, or add to it - it compliments it.
The Oculus Rift DK2 on the other hand changes everything. Not all games work with it, but I've found more amazement, more joy and excitement, from little 5-minute demos than I've found in games over the last decade. Virtual reality is going to change things, and it all starts with the Rift. If you invest $350 into the Rift, you will not be sorry - but just be prepared to have the hardware to run it at 75FPS, and that it isn't a final product - but still, it's a helluva fun time.
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