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Oculus Rift Development Kit Review


Hardware

The Oculus Rift looks just as I expected : very plain with the exception of its signature bevelling and logo. The power adapter is modular, and comes with four plug attachments to guarantee its functionality around the globe. The B and C lens cups are neatly stacked in their own compartment next to the plug modules, and amongst the cords is a HDMI-to-DVI adapter.

Oculus Rift Development Kit
The eye cups twist out with some force, and to free them I had to delicately push on the plastic tabs that keep the lenses in place. I was a bit nervous during the process because one bad slip could scratch the lenses. The cups are smooth cast plastic which makes them too slippery for a good grip, so some knurling or a rougher texture would have been helpful. Removing the cups also exposes the screen, so make sure that you're in a clean environment - I had to remove them a second time to clear little crumbs of foam that fell in from the strap.

The control box is lightweight and unobtrusive. It's cast in the same plastic, and has the same bevelled pattern as the "face" of the rift. Unfortunately, it's permanently attached to the Rift. It would require a custom plug to disconnect it from the mainboard, so I understand why they did this. It has basic display controls on it: two buttons for contrast, two for brightness, and of course a single on/off switch. The buttons have a raised line on them which is helpful when trying to adjust setting while wearing the Rift.

The unit weighs a little more in my hand than I expected, having heard that it was as light as ski-goggles (it's not). Foam padding and adjustable straps trail off of it: functional but not attractive. The plastic is light and feels a bit...inexpensive... but honestly: this is an early development kit and this was to be expected. In every way, the Rift appears as a development model - the result of fast prototyping intended to get it into the hands of developers as fast as possible.

Oculus Rift Development Kit
The 7 inch LCD screen the Rift currently uses is actually a re-purposed smart-phone screen. With a total resolution of 1280x800, each eye is left with a resolution of only 640x800, creating the unique aspect ratio of 4:5. In addition to being a lower resolution, the nature of having the screen magnified by the lenses makes the pixel spacing noticeable AKA "the screen door effect".

Between the low resolution, the odd aspect, and the pixel grid, the display is not inherently pleasant to look at. The one improvement offered by the new screen; a faster switching time on pixels, does not do enough to counter the unpleasant pixel smear created by rapid movement. It's important to note that aside from weight, the current dev kit is a total improvement over the original demo kit. The head tracking, taken on its own, is excellent; it's snappy and precise, and is simply waiting for the screen to catch up with it.

An HD version is already making the rounds at trade shows and was debuted at this year's E3. With a 1080p screen, people who have had a hands on agree that the screen door effect is even further reduced. This is just a start though, the and the resolution specs of the consumer version remain to be seen.