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Oculus Quest and Rift S available for preorder, both at $399, shipping May 21

Next-generation headsets from Facebook's Oculus VR division are coming.

The Oculus Quest (left) and Oculus Rift S (right) are both arriving in May, and both cost $399.

John Kim/CNET

Oculus ignited people's interest in virtual reality when it announced a Kickstarter for the Rift headset in 2012, promising high quality VR for $300

Fast-forward seven years, after a more than $2 billion acquisition by Facebook and the 2016 release of the Rift, and Oculus is preparing to launch its next-generation VR headsets. 

They're called the Oculus Quest and the Rift S, and both will cost $399 (£399 in the UK; Australian pricing is TBA but the UK price converts to about AU$740). But they're rather different headsets. 

The Oculus Quest is self-contained, working without a computer to power it or any extra sensors set up around a room to track where you're moving. The Rift S, meanwhile, offers better visuals while still connected by wire to a computer, but it also ditches sensors around a room.

"Now, getting into VR is as easy as gaming on a console," Facebook said in a statement.

The new headsets come as Valve, whose Steam store and Half-Life first-person shooter series have made it a household name among gamers, prepares to release its first headset, the $499 Valve Index. And that's not including other competitors, such as Sony's $299 PlayStation VR, HTC's Vive and headsets from Lenovo, HP and Samsung that're powered by Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality technology.

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Whether the new devices will draw users is anyone's guess. A recent survey from industry tracker IDC, which was sponsored by Sony, found that headset sales in the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan rose 60% in 2018 to 3.9 million headsets, up from 2.4 million in 2017. But that's still small compared with the hundreds of millions of video game consoles Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have sold since 2013.

Here's everything to know about the Quest and Rift S so far.

The Rift S is a refinement 

Oculus says the Rift S will offer more-detailed and sharper-looking visuals than the original Oculus Rift, which shipped in 2016.

But the real change is to the cameras mounted on its sides. There are two in the front, one on each side, and one on the top, all designed to track the outside world using a technology called "Oculus Insight," so that the headset knows when you're leaning one direction or another or suddenly duck to avoid something. Those cameras work in concert with the company's hand controllers too.

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The Quest is a wireless self-contained headset, offering a middle ground between the low-power Oculus Go and high-power Rift S.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Quest is a new device

Whereas the Rift and Rift S rely on an outside computer connected by a wire to power the virtual world you see, and the $199 Oculus Go is designed to be a wire-free self-contained entry-level VR device, the Oculus Quest is meant to be somewhere in the middle. 

At its heart, the Quest is meant to offer higher-end games designed to work with the Oculus hand controllers, like the music rhythm game Beat Saber and the boxing game Creed: Rise to Glory. But it's also self-contained, running a powerful, yet small, computer in the headset.

To pull off that trick, developers say, the Oculus Quest isn't as capable as its beefier cousin, the Rift S. Its screen doesn't show as many details, it's not able to pack as many characters on the screen at a time, and apps made for it can't assume they'll always be connected to the internet. (Sometimes people might take this on a train or on vacation).

The Quest still uses the same controllers as the Rift S

Though the Quest and Rift S won't always be able to play the same games, the Quest will have the same controllers. That's a step up from the entry-level Oculus Go, which had a simpler, wandlike controller that wasn't capable of doing as much as the more full-fledged hand controllers Oculus offers.

They're both $399, go on preorder Tuesday and ship May 21

If you're already convinced, you can preorder the devices on the Oculus website, at Amazon and elsewhere. Full preorder info is available here, or you can just use the buttons below (note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products).


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