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The Oculus Rift reviews are in: Gamers rejoice, but it won't be cheap

Oculus Rift is for gamers. And even then it may be too pricey.

Facebook / Oculus

Virtual reality diehards will finally get their hands on the Oculus Rift today, the VR headset from Facebook-owned Oculus that many have been awaiting for years.

But tech reporters have had the device for some time now, and their hot takes are in and circulating on the tech airwaves. How was the Rift received? Here’s my favorite headline, courtesy of Gizmodo.

"Oculus Rift Review: This Shit Is Legit"

The general takeaway from the half dozen or so reviews is that the Rift is still built for gamers. And even then, it’s probably too expensive for the masses. Product reviewers are not known for brevity; plus, unlike a new Apple product or free smartphone app, this product is far from mainstream. So if you’d like the tl;dr of all the reviews, we’ve got your back.

Let’s start with a positive. Reviewers were happy with the Oculus look and feel. The Verge’s* Adi Robertson wrote that "Oculus rarely brags about its industrial design, but one of the best things it’s done is make something so stereotypically geeky look (relatively) natural."

The screen also got good marks, which is important considering it’s about an inch from your eyeballs the entire time you use the headset.

Here’s Ben Kuchera from Polygon*:

"In terms of the screens themselves, the image is crisp and bright, with next to none of the ‘screendoor effect’ that was so annoying on the earlier versions of the hardware. It often feels like looking through a window into another world, and after a few moments of getting used to wearing the headset it’s easy to forget it’s there."

Wired’s Peter Rubin agrees (for the most part):

"It’s not like you don’t know you’re looking at a screen … but it delivers what it needs to without breaking the possibility of presence — that moment when your brain reacts to VR as though you were really there."

It appears that most reviewers spent the majority of time testing out games, which have always been the backbone of VR. Most early adopters will likely be gamers. The Rift appears to play into that audience.

A big conversation happening in the VR industry right now centers around who will create compelling VR videos and movies that will appeal to non-gamers. Lots of folks are creating 360-degree videos, a first step toward VR content, but they aren’t typically worth buying a headset to watch.

Here’s Gizmodo’s Mario Aguilar:

"The available apps hint at the potential for the Rift beyond gaming, but they’re not ready for prime time … When watching movies in ‘lean back’ mode, I find myself much more aware of the headset than when I’m playing games. It’s really no better than watching a movie in a darkened room."

Brian Chen of the New York Times said something similar:

"With about 30 games and a few apps at Rift’s introduction, there isn’t much to do with the system yet. Oculus will eventually need a larger, more diverse set of content to transcend its initial audience of gamer geeks."

The key complaint from almost all reviewers was the price. The headset cost $599, but it also requires a powerful PC needed to run it. That costs an extra $900. That means the Oculus Rift will cost most people $1,500, a steep price for the general consumer.

"Just as with every new technological milestone, it has the potential to change the world," Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar wrote. "But at this early stage, only a few can afford it."

Added Gizmodo: "It’s a shitload of money."

Many reviewers encouraged consumers to wait for the HTC Vive, a competing headset shipping next month. It’s around the same price, but unlike the Rift, it has some special VR gaming controllers. (Oculus has delayed its controllers until the fall.)

Want more VR stuff? Here’s a fun video of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey hand-delivering the first consumer Rift headset to a customer in Alaska over the weekend.

* The Verge and Polygon are both owned by Vox Media, Re/code’s parent company.

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