We have an interesting blessing for this hobby of sim racing, that we get to pick and choose how we get to enjoy our hobby. There are different levels of hardware, that can appeal to many budgets. One new developing technology that is being taken advantage of is advances in displays, such as high resolution monitors and the Oculus Rift.
With this next generation of display technology allowing us to “view into the virtual world”, we’re starting to see a rift (no pun intended) between the contrasting tech. I’m wanting to take a look at the two different technologies, to try to provide my opinion on which one may best suit you. Note that I am a single-screen racer, and have not tried an Oculus Rift, so this piece is from the standpoint of “What would I want as my upgrade?”
MONITORS: TRIED AND TRUE?
Monitors are the most conventional approach, and have been around basically as long as computers have been around. In recent years, we’ve seen advances in monitor tech, to provide for multiple monitors to be connected to make a wraparound effect. Triple-Screens have quickly become a go-to asset for any sim racer looking to take their immersion to the next level. the wider field of view helps give you a better peripheral view, and helps place yourself more into the cockpit. One other benefit of triple monitors is that, while you have the immersion factor, you can still see all your hardware.
However, having a quality triple-screen display comes at a pretty steep price, especially if you’re looking for higher quality graphics. Three decent quality 1080p monitors would be around $500. Also since a maximum resolution display would be 5760×1080, you’d most likely need a powerful graphics card (around $350). That is $850 in PC hardware alone, and that’s not factoring in other parts, such as a triple monitor stand and other PC components, such as a beefier power supply.
VIRTUAL REALITY: NEXT GENERATION OR GIMMICK?
The Oculus Rift has hit the gaming community by storm, with the DK2 being one of the hotly desired display units. The first Consumer Version should be coming sometime next year, and would provide two eyepieces, at 2560×1440 apiece. In addition to having the high resolution display, the main feature is the advanced head tracking. The Oculus Rift has many LEDS that are recognized by a camera, giving an effect similar to real-time motion capture. While there is software such as TrackIR can do head tracking, Oculus claims the Rift can do it with minimum latency, to give you as close to a 1:1 experience as possible.
While the Rift is an exciting piece of technology, some things are particularly concerning for me:
A. The Oculus Rift is a headset that would isolate yourself from the outside world and immerse yourself into the title of your choice. Conversely, since you would not be able to look around your physical cockpit, you may struggle to find buttons.
B. If the claims that each eyepiece could boast a 2560×1440 resolution, that would mean the display would be 7,327,800 pixels. That is 1,107,000 pixels MORE than three 1080p displays.
C. The Rift offers very little application outside of games. Triple screen monitors would provide multitasking capabilities that, I believe, would not be practical or efficient with a VR display).
For me personally, I would say that I would prefer a triple-screen setup. While the Rift is definitely an appealing piece of hardware, I feel that I would prefer the practicality of three monitors, and their applications outside of the sim. What are your thoughts on the debate of Oculus Rift vs Monitors? Let us know in the comments below!