The Rift S is the direct descendant of the first Rift and offers a slew of improvements over the original. The S includes upgraded lenses, a fifth onboard position tracking sensor, slightly better screen resolution and some new software features to boot. The S1 weighs more than the first Rift, but the new Lenovo-designed halo band does a better job of balancing the headset on your noggin. The unit's weight is more or less evenly distributed at your head, rather than clinging to the front of your face using a system of straps. I'm most excited, however, by the fact that external positioning pylons are a thing of the past (with the Rift S) thanks to the addition of an inside-out tracking system, dubbed Insight.
What's more, Oculus has augmented the existing Passthrough system (now called Passthrough +) that, with the flip of a menu toggle, allows the wearer to see the physical world around them without having to take the headset off. This is a boon if you're saying, playing a game and your phone ring. Oh, it's a spam call? The Passthrough + system adds another handy feature, letting users customize their own play spaces by "painting" a virtual one. boundary around them. This way, you do not have to rearrange your living room ahead of every gaming session. I donned the new gear for myself ahead of GDC 201
I also really appreciated the new wiring scheme. The hard drive connection to a Windows 10 PC, the menagerie or cabling seen on the first Rift has been condensed into a single 5-meter cord. The experience is the same freedom of movement as the equally-priced (and simultaneously launching) wireless Oculus Quest, but the balances that with superior graphics.
The visuals are slightly better than the original. The Rift offers resolutions of 1,280 × 1,440 per eye, compared to the Rift's 1,080 × 1,200. Additionally, the S relays on LCD screens rather than the Rift's OLED. This reduces the "screen by" effect and marginally increases the field of view, according to Oculus reps, but does so at the cost of slightly reduced color saturation, contrast and refresh rate (80Hz for the S, 90Hz for the OG Rift). My biggest complaint about the visual system is that, since the S is a single screen, you can't manually adjust the distance between the lenses (aka the IPD). There is a software-based solution to this on the S but it's just not the same as what it is Rift users have come to expect and I'm not completely sold on it.
The Rift S offers backwards compatibility with users' existing Rift libraries but unfortunately, that doesn't extend to the controllers. Since the original Rift used and Outside-In tracking scheme, the ring on each controller was set below the user's hands. But with the new Inside Out system the S uses, those rings are situated above the hands. As such, the Constellation controllers are used with the Rift not compatible with the S and will have to pick up another pair alongside the new $ 400 headset. I also noticed that while the layer on the S is comparable to the original, the hand and arm avatars are really twitchy – like my in-game person has developed a slight tremor.
As for audio, the Rift S's built-in in speakers operate admirably. Even in the no-co-working space in which the demo was being held, I didn't feel the need to plug in a secondary set of headphones into unit's concealed 3.5mm audio jack. That said, the sound quality did turn into a bit like the in-game audio got louder.