If you want the best virtual reality experience today, then an Oculus Rift should be at the top of your shopping list. But it isn't cheap, with the bundle of headset and Oculus Touch controllers costing anywhere from $400-$600 depending on the offer. And that's not the end of your spending as a good performing PC is also required.
Facebook realizes Oculus hardware is expensive, it also realizes much cheaper alternatives including Samsung's Gear VR and Google Daydream are selling well and lack the annoying tether to a PC. So Facebook is preparing to react with a brand new Oculus-branded headset codenamed Pacific.
According to Bloomberg, later this year we should expect to see a $200 Oculus Rift headset unveiled. Unlike the current Rift, this headset will be completely standalone, meaning it includes everything required to enjoy virtual reality experiences. There's also a second, more expensive standalone Rift planned codenamed Santa Cruz, which we got hands-on time with recently.
Shipping a headset including displays, the components to drive them, and a battery to power it all for just $200 is certainly optimistic. It also means compromises will have to be made.
We should expect this Pacific headset to go on sale next year with prices starting at around $200. It will be more compact than the existing Oculus Rift and lighter than the Gear VR. But Facebook still intends to push its use for gaming, watching video entertainment, and of course for social interactions.
- Hands On With the Oculus Standalone Headset, Touch Controllers Hands On With the Oculus Standalone Headset, Touch Controllers
Rather than replacing the current Rift, Pacific looks likely to sit below it as an entry point device. Where as Oculus Rift will continue to offer the best experience for the most investment, Pacific is a mass market device everyone can use. I suspect that $200 price point could fall quickly, too, if it proves popular. As for Santa Cruz, it will sit somewhere in the middle I imagine.
Anyone who has used Gear VR or Daydream should expect a similar experience from Pacific. Facebook is thought to have chosen a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor to power it, but won't be including positional tracking. There's also a rumored partnership with Xiaomi who will handle production of the new headset and distribute a re-branded version across China.