Oculus Touch vs. HTC Vive – Which Is The Better VR Controller?

by Joe Durbin • June 16th, 2016

Before we get started, let me make something perfectly clear: what is about to follow is an opinion I have formed after spending considerable time with both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift’s hand tracking solutions for virtual reality.

Many people have had the chance to try the Vive controllers now that that product is out in the wild. However, its chief competitor – Oculus Touch – has yet to be released and, as a result, I am one of the lucky few able to say they’ve tried this hardware extensively. Because of this unique position, I wanted to chime in with my two cents on which of these systems is the better piece of tech.

I’ve broken my rubric down into categories and – because we still don’t know what Touch will cost – economics will not be one of them. This is not about which system you should buy, just which device I think is most impressive.

Okay, let’s get started.

HTC Vive controller

Tracking – Winner: Vive

An area of obvious importance for a hand tracked controller is, well, tracking. If the controllers are too easily occluded or collisions cannot be detected precisely, then there is very little point in having a hand controller at all.

In this first category the HTC Vive controllers (which I’ll refer to from here on out as “Wands”) have the edge. The Vive’s lighthouse tracking system allows for sub-millimeter object detections. I do not know Oculus Touch’s official specs in this regard (and probably won’t until it is more widly distributed) but I have noticed a slight advantage for the Vive in terms of hand tracking precision.

However, just because the Vive Wands have the edge here does not mean that Touch is severely lacking in this respect. I have yet to experience any occlusion, poor collision detection, or significant jutter while using either controller.

 Ergonomics – Winner: Touch 

When it comes to ergonomics there is simply no contest between Touch and the Vive. Touch takes this category by a landslide. The Wands never feel uncomfortable in your hands, but they also don’t do much in the way of creatively navigating your body’s natural movements.

Touch, on the other hand, was so clearly designed with the human hand in mind that it makes simply holding them a deeply satisfying experience. Your fingers naturally fall into place over the buttons and joysticks that they correspond to, which makes understanding how to use the device incredibly intuitive, even for first-time users.

The only caveat to this is that users with particularly large hands may have trouble finding the same sweet spots but this is only truly applicable in very extreme cases. All in all, Touch is one of the most delightfully designed devices I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience.

oculus-touch-new-design

Buttons – Winner: Touch 

Touch and the Vive Wands both have trigger, grip and menu buttons but that is where there similarities begin to end. The Wands employ a trackpad style click wheel for many in-game interfaces while Touch opts for joysticks and motion tracking gesture sensors instead.

This is by far one of the more subjective decisions in this review but, for me, I have to give the nod to Touch once again for its layout. Nintendo created the Rosetta Stone of modern controller design in 1983 for the NES and, as a gamer, I’ve therefore been trained for years to use an “A/B button” style contraption. I also think that its addition of analog sticks adds in a greater potential for creative movement options for a variety of VR experiences.

Touch’s gesture controls put them over the top in terms of interface as well. It is enjoyable to press a button with an outstretched index finger, or shoot a friend the occasional thumbs up, rather than only being able to enjoy open/closed fist options for interaction.

Materials – Winner: Vive 

When it comes to the overall construction of these controllers I was tempted to cop out a bit and simply declare it a tie. I didn’t think it would be right for me to imply that either of these handsets are built with anything other than the utmost care and using top quality components.

However, I am giving this category to the Vive Wands on the basis that the Touch’s grip and trigger buttons are somewhat inferior to its competitor’s. These buttons can be a bit too easily depressed and hopefully the final version of Touch will increase their action for a more responsive experience.

Hand Presence – Winner: Touch 

“Hand presence” is the term used for the moment in a game when you begin to believe that the floating digital hands in front of you are actually your own. Achieving this requires a finely tuned marriage between hardware, software, and game design but, when it works, it is simply fantastic.

The controller that most often provides me with this sensation is Oculus Touch. Because of the brilliant ergonomics of the device my hands are able to move as they naturally would as I interact interacting with the VR assets around me.

Picking up an object, for example, employs all of the same hand muscles with Touch as it would in a real life situation. Gesture controls are again key here as they help remove any cognitive dissonance between your brain and that virtual phone you’re dialing.

This was a tough call, but in the end I feel that the Vive wands are always providing you with a slight reminder that you are already holding something real in your hands, while Oculus Touch is much more successful in melting away as you engage with a given VR experience.

oculus-touch-demo

Side Note: The “Room Scale” Dilemma

Many people tie the existence of hand-controllers into what’s known as “room scale” VR. These are VR experiences designed with a large, roamable play space in mind. Room scale games allow you to turn around and encourage you to crouch, walk, and otherwise physically explore the space of the game world you are in.

It is true that most Oculus Touch games would not be considered room scale and instead focus more on 180 degree experiences in which the action is happening mainly in front of you and you have no real reason to move your feet. However, I have also played touch games in which I am ducking, strafing, turning around, or otherwise physically engaging my digital surroundings.

I consider room-scale to be one of the many features accessible in a VR develope’s tool chest for both Touch and Vive. If a studio wanted to make a room-scale Touch title then, from what I have seen, they could. But, like all features, room scale is sometimes employed brilliantly and sometimes misrepresented horribly. For me, playing a fun game is more important than playing a game with a shoehorned element. As a result I didn’t decide that Touch was inferior to the Vive Wands simply because its experience required me to pick up my feet less often.

Overall Winner: Oculus Touch 

Oculus Touch is a marvel of engineering that has the potential to infuse VR hand interaction with an entirely new level of immersion. The device is artfully designed, a joy to use, and incredibly intuitive to pick up and start playing. The importance of Touch’s ergonomics and gesture controls in establishing hand presence is ultimately what makes the controllers the most appealing.

Valve and HTC deserve a ton of credit for pioneering VR hand tracking and building the system that convinced the world hand controls would be essential to the industry’s future. Touch may be a successor to this groundbreaking innovation, but in this case the student has definitely surpassed the master.

The next evolution of VR is on its way everyone, and now we just need to figure out when.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

  • Hobie Puzak

    your “buttons” winner is touch, but then your “materials” winner is vive because the touch ‘buttons’ are too easily depressed………………….. what type of trash article is this? I can understand how holding a ‘wand’ in your hand may make you uncomfortable because the ‘hand presence’ is something new to you. but the truth is Oculus touch isn’t out, and neither are any experiences that have been developed after the masses have used the controllers. for either system.

    • Tehen

      Traduction: The writer prefers joysticks and buttons over a trackpad style click wheel even if the material of the buttons is not the best .

      Is it a reason to call this article a trash article?
      How do you know “‘hand presence’ is something new to” the writer?
      You say “Oculus touch isn’t out”
      He said ” I am one of the lucky few able to say they’ve tried this hardware extensively.”

      How is it difficult to understand that holding a pair of sticks in your hands does not really represents the different ways hands can be used in real life and so in VR?

      If you have more interesting experiences with both Vive Wands and Oculus Touch, please share them with us in an article. I bet many people would be happy to read your first impressions with Touch (and Vive wands) as few people have been able to try them yet.
      If not, please be careful, some people might think you are a Vive fanboy.

      Happy VR to everybody (whatever headset you have)

    • Texazzpete

      ‘Trash article’?

      Don’t be such a fanboy.

      I’ll be so pleased when the Touch controllers show up so that one section of the community can stop making discussions so toxic for others.

      • Tad Springer

        Couldn’t agree more! All the Vive users on these sites seem so hostile and it’s just continuing this ridiculous platform war. I considered getting a Vive to go with my Rift as I didn’t want to keep waiting for Touch but these comments actually made me decide I don’t want to be part of that community. I’m happy waiting for Touch now – I figured I waited years for VR so I can do a few more months.

        All the VR sites that have tried both controllers agree that both have their strengths and weaknesses but essentially both are great and both can do pretty much the same as the other. 6 months from now there will be no significant technical difference between either platform and most games will be available on both. People just need to stop the trash talk and get over it already!

        • Molbork

          There are two things that make waiting for touch obsolete.
          Possible Vive hardware refresh next 1)year – by the time touch comes out, valve/HTC will be 8 months into developing the new version. Which in theory will lap over current designs.
          2) Manos VR – looks like they are focusing on Vive first, and this will trump any controllers.
          Though I believe Vive has a better experience, people can buy whatever they want for whatever reasons they have. There will be great experiences with both.

          • Tad Springer

            Gen 2 is at least 2 years away for both platforms. Both Oculus and HTC have been researching gen 2 since release day though.

            Manus VR looks good but it has no haptic feedback like Touch, although of course that could change with the final version. Still though, it adds yet more cost on top of the Vive, which is already more expensive than Rift so I don’t think this counts Rift out.

        • Your comment has convinced me! Im going to hold out for the Touch controllers as well. I got my Rift around a month ago, and for the first week or two I was extremely disappointed because VR just did not feel right playing with an xbox controller. I was loving the “experiences” as that was insane to experience, but the games themselves on the oculus store was really leaving a lot to be desired… I was so upset that I have been considering just selling my rift and buying a vive… but man those Touch controllers look so amazing.

          I ended up trying Project cars for the first time a few days ago in VR and I was really amazed. The reason I waited so long, is im usually not a big racing game guy, but this was on a whole other level. So I decided to buy a steering wheel and pedals, they should be here tomorrow with any luck! So I think im going to just stick it out playing some racing games in VR and some of the cooler games Ive found on steam (For the first while I was only using the Oculus store, but Ive realized the steam store is MUCH better)

          • Tad Springer

            Touch really does look amazing! Also if you check a youtube channel called Reality Check VR the guy there has a Touch dev kit and he’s playing all the Vive games in room scale with no mods to the software (although he does use a 5M non-active extention for one sensor to put it in opposite corners like the Vive lighthouses). That means if you want a few more months you’l get all the good stuff on Vive, plus any Oculus exclusives and things that need Touch finger tracking. The wait is killing me though (which was why I was tempted to get a Vive too in the meantime). I may spend some of that money on a wheel though as like you I’m not a massive car game fan but I’ve heard so many people say that about Project Cars. Just so you know Assetto Corsa is meant to be better than Project Cars, and Dirt Rally is mean to be better than both! So now you have your wheel there are loads of good games for you to help you last out the wait till Touch comes in Q4. Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

        • Nashoba Darkwolf

          Agree. I was going to personally use both headsets at home (working on projects to incorporate VR and Catia) however the community for the Vive reminds me too much of the reasons why I got out of console gaming in general. Honestly, I will probably stop playing Eve Valkyrie once it goes cross platform because of the communities of PS4 and Vive will probably bring that immaturity and toxicity over with them.

          • Ethan James Trombley

            I mean every community is going to have its negative people. I’ve personally enjoyed what I’ve seen of the vive community being in it. People are kind and invite me to play all the time. Sure there are jerks here and there but every place you look will have them that’s just the nature of life.

  • T.J. Lewis

    It all comes down to tracking for room scale gaming. We learned this from kinect. That’s why I think Vive will always be slightly better as laser tracking is more accurate.

    • Frank

      False. Nothing about lasers is inherently more accurate than an optical system that works the other way around.

      Camera’s pick up ‘blobs’ from an IR light, but likewise, the laser triggering the sensor has width, and the sensor itself as well, leading to similar ‘blobbishness’. It all comes down to software optimization and integration with the IMU.

      • T.J. Lewis

        Width of laser < emitted IR

      • JustNiz

        Wrong. Laser light is more coherent so inherently has a higher potential resolution.

        • Nashoba Darkwolf

          Evidence? I want to see spec sheets and testable/repeatable data for this claim.

          • JustNiz

            Wait… You’re really asking for data before you believe a “claim” that laser light doesn’t spread out as much as natural light?.

        • Byron Guernsey

          You are correct. CCDs have inherent aliasing issues because the sensor is a fixed grid with limited resolution and they worsen the further the distance from the camera when using an infinite focus. It has little to do with light spread at a distance- its the size and resolution of the CCD that matters, as well as the clarity of the lens. The laser sensors on the other hand don’t need a resolution, they simply have to detect the beam sweep. There is some error introduced by the spreading of the laser, but its really an edge detection of the sweep, so the width of the beam matters very little. The edge arrives at the same relative time on 2 sweeps no matter how wide the beam is. The beam width may change with distance, but the relative edge sense will not change between frames without an extremely fast movement.

          I’ve written commercial code using CCD cameras for tracking small objects down to about 600 nanometers. So I’m very familiar with some of the limitations on the CCD side.

      • Peter

        False. Light isn’t directly what the Vive is using to measure position, it’s time. The Rift uses a densely packed array of sensors (ie: a camera), and it seems at this point that Vives simplicity gets better results.

        Also, the Vive can be tuned differently (in theory) to increase accuracy at the cost of latency. The Rift cannot be tuned.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    Wich one is better the one that is in customer hands or the one that is not even out yet?????? overall my VIVE experience has been way better than my rift….

    • Jeff

      Too bad unreleased content remains unknown until it is released.. The Rift now has better tracking capability due to its support for 4 tracking sensors when it didn’t a week ago, both better ergonomics and the ability to one-up the already released product by making their own better prior to release. Derp.

    • Prezes Dyrektor

      the guy actually had one and tested it, and its coming out into the wild in the next weeks…

      • Is that “Palmer” weeks or actual weeks? 🙂

  • Kyuutketsuki

    I have a Vive and believe Vive is leaps and bounds better than the Rift, even if it’s only marginally better. That said from day one I knew that the Touch, if it worked would be the superior HID. The Vive Wands are similar enough as I have had little trouble manipulating the VR world as if the Vive Wands are my real hands, but the Touch is still about as close as a controller can get to a glove. I also like that they are handed as I spend a little time sometimes getting my Wands to identify with the relevant hand, though apparently that has been patched.

    That said, right now I have a portion of my play space ceiling that is really low, and I probably would have broken a finger with the touch. I think the Wands are safer as I have smashed them against things on occasion even in my 4mx4m space. I can also attest that they are built well because they show no damage other than paint transfer.

    • Byron Guernsey

      Actually, the Leap Motion is about as close as a controller can get to a glove, but without the need to wear a glove. Check it out.

      • William A. McDonald

        Unfortunately hardly anything supports it and the issues as a dev occur when you attempt to throw something or otherwise have your hand below your chest or behind your head… It’s just but properly suited to be a vr controller unless you had 4 of them tracking you somehow for Infront above below and behind your head.

  • VRDRUMMER

    Awesome! Love VIVE controllers! But extremely excited for Oculus Touch too!

  • K Davis

    Why isn’t Nod included in this comparison? Weren’t they the first to this market?

  • JustNiz

    I’m very happy with the Vive controllers. I can’t see how the actual shape difference (wand or wraparound) is relevant really, because with both you are effectively just holding a rod in your hand. The physical location of the controls is much more important. It does look like the Touch may be better in that respect, however I prefer the touch pad approach of the vive controller to the joystick of the Touch. Is there a trigger on the front of the Touch that isn’t visible in any of the above pics? If not, simulating a gun would be much more realistic on the VIve just because of the physical trigger position.

    • Jeff

      I own an Oculus, and it definitely tracks in 360. Learn some objectivity.

      • JustNiz

        While the hardware may be capable of tracking in 360, Oculus are telling developers that the requirement is only track to 180. It doens’t matter what the hardware can do, if the software doesn’t support 360 then the result to the end-user is just the same as if the hardware doesn’t.

        • Kalle

          doh, another one who is trapped in his little box. That recommendation (NOT requirement) is very OLD, but somehow some people (as you) are holding onto it as their life depended on it. Also, recommendations and support is not the same thing.

          You have no idea what was behind that old recommendation, could be so simple that it was because of the ONE cord from the headset, so you wouldn’t trap yourself in it and hurt yourself or the HMD.

          • JustNiz

            >> That recommendation (NOT requirement) is very OLD

            You understand that developing games takes years right?

          • Ned Hoon

            Pretty silly position you have there as Rift plus Touch is being used without issue on Vive software and has been doing so for months.

          • JustNiz

            Thanks for criticizing then proving my point. Its about the software as well as the hardware.

    • spo8

      There’s a trigger on the front, dude. So you hold the Touch controller with a literal pistol grip. And Touch comes with a second sensor for 360 tracking.

  • JustNiz

    Q: Which Is The Better VR Controller?
    A: The one you can actually buy.

    • yag

      The one you can wait for 😉

      • Lirezh

        Have 2 in order, waiting waiting waiting!!!

  • Young Ceaser

    they should make a mecha game like gurren lagan so we can pilot some mechas whose with me

  • Simon St-Gelais

    Je suis en amour avec mon Oculus Rift !!!
    Juste wow !!!

    • Prezes Dyrektor

      et tu fais quoi avec? personellement je suis ennuye, je trouve pas suffisamment des titres pour m’occuper, et le OR fini par etant utilise 1 fois par mois…

      • Simon St-Gelais

        J’aime beaucoup iRacing la meilleur simulation automobile pour le VR 🙂

      • Julien Pham

        Pour ma part, avec le Vive, c’est surtout pour de la simulation… simulation de vol personnellement, DCS World notamment, et aussi spatiale, avec elite dangerous. Et j’attends avec impatience que star citizen soit compatible VR.
        Aussi, j’adore space pirate trainers, raw data, et plein de jeux VR excellents. Sur le steam store y en a pas mal.
        Et j’attends aussi que eve valkyrie sorte sur le vive, ce qui devrait arriver d’ici la fin de l’année.
        Et sans doute que l’an prochain je me reprend un volant pour assetto corsa, et pourquoi pas, me remettre à iracing, mais ça pas sûr, ça prend bien trop de temps…
        Bref y a trop de jeux et j’ai pas assez de temps ^^

        • yag

          Franchement t’embête pas avec Eve Walkyrie si t’as déjà Elite:D, tu vas trouver le gameplay très limité en comparaison.
          Par contre un volant FFB est un excellent investissement pour la VR.
          Assetto corsa pour la course, Dirt Rally pour… le rally et Euro Truck 2 pour chiller et se remettre des 2 autres 🙂

  • Byron Guernsey

    I don’t care either way who was declared the winner, but you made no mention that the Vive controllers are the only one of the 2 that actually have touch sensors. The pads on the Vive controller are like apple’s magic mouse or a track pad or your iPhone screen. They have capacitive touch sensing. So they work similar to the joystick of the Oculus controllers on the in games that use them. But they also function as a D-Pad with physical buttons, something the Vive controllers simple don’t have. I don’t think its a fair comparison without mentioning that. They enable more possibilities than simple analog sticks.

    • spo8

      Don’t know if that’s a real selling point for everyone. As an owner of the Steam controller, I don’t love it…

    • Uncle

      Touch screen can emulate lots of movements, but it CANT do it as good as the real thing, it will never be as good as proper mouse, keyboard or Thumbstick.

      For movement nothing beats the feel of the thumbstick, also the fact that for any human its much easier to control stick motion for Slow-Fast vs your pressure sensitivity (thats why after PS2 this technology was abandoned, its almost impossible to use a button in more than On-off positions, also you have no visual or tactile sense of how hard your pressing)

  • Joshua Petersen

    I think the roomscale issue is a copout. Roomscale is totally worth it, and makes things so much better. It feels natural, and immerses you like nothing else. I can’t stand forward-only games anymore.

    As for buttons over haptic pads? Seriously? I hate picking up an xbox controller anymore. Simply loathe it.

    For me?

    Winner: Vive

    • Uncle

      Your reaction about Thumsticks is fanboy funny, using it for movement feels exactly like using cross-pad for movement or pressing buttons.
      There is reason why Valve-pad flopped and these haptic pads are the reason! After K&M, a good pair of Thumbsticks are unbeatable.

      • Joshua Petersen

        Yes, the haptic pads feel like a crosspad and pressing buttons. They ALSO feel like a 2-axis scroll wheel, a touch pad, a trackball, a tiny flight yoke, and more since those little wonders actually change what they feel like based off of what you set them to be used for.

        After haptic pads, thumbsticks are a bad joke at best, generally an obnoxious nuisance otherwise, and often an inefficient rage-inducing piece of garbage. Haptic pads give more detail, better touch feedback, higher precision, more versatility, less wrist strain, don’t get clogged with solidified finger oils nearly as much, and give your thumbs more freedom of movement.

        There is no advantage whatsoever to the thumbsticks.

        • Uncle

          And that’s why Valve Gamepad is so freaking popular and got such great reviews all around!

          • Joshua Petersen

            If popularity determined quality, our world would be a very different place.

  • _Steve_

    Seems like the author prefers the touch becuase it more closely resembles the NES controllers.

  • Tony

    For games that you stand, duck, strafe, turn and look around – there is a new VR proximity mat called a proximat coming out on Kickstarter in about 2 weeks. Although more relevant to the Vive right now because the Touch controllers aren’t available yet, I’ve been using a prototype with the Oculus and love it. Counting the days till the release of the Touch…

    • Anthony Grina

      Honestly, can’t say that looks like a useful VR peripheral. Seems like it would break immersion for me

    • Tyler Spencer

      Sounds useless. The vive gives you a virtual “proximity” or bounds that you get to set. When you near those bounds you can actually see the real world. The vive also has an arrow to show you which way you set forward on the virtual bounds.

  • Mike

    My personal opinion…I think the touch controller looks awesome but my vive controllers look and feels damn good as well..there comfortable and in vr world who cares about controllers anyway I mean as long as the experience isn’t broken it doesn’t matter …2nd..how much will touch and all those trackers cost ?? ..why did they space the dates out so far…im guessing that stuff is most definitely gonna fall in the $300 range after tax and shipping cost. They knew customers wasn’t gonna pay that top dollar. True the vive isn’t cheap but it gives you the full 360 experience There for im falling to the favor of the vive not knocking oculus but Facebook own it lol i dont even like fb ..plus it just make more sense to me.

  • Chris Braeuer

    I love the weight of the wands. 50% or more of all games we play are shooters. And the weight adds to the illusion that you are really holding gun. In the end if you own a Rift you will get touch and if you own a vive you take the wands. In both cases you will have fun. And for the future of VR room scale is the way to go. Not a single game I played the last 150 hours in VR that wasn’t room scale. Just can’t get my ass seated anymore!

    • Julien Pham

      I have the vive, and love it, though I have an issue with room scale, in that it requires me to move the living room table, and be careful the children are not at home, as I’ll hate jumping on them ^^ So, in the end I play mostly seating or sometimes standing games. I play space pirate trainers and raw data as a standing experience for instance, because having to move the furnitures away and calibrating the room is a bit too much for the little time left playing for me, and when I’m playing in the night, it is standing to not do too much noise ^^
      Love the vive though. To me the next gen controllers for VR should be force feedback gloves, to really feel what we’re touching 😉

  • bschuler

    If comparing unreleased controllers, then I think the Volvo Master Touch VR hand controllers are better. They will be released in Spring 2027 and allow time travel as well as VR room scale tracking. Not only that, they fit inside your hand via a one time injection.

  • Don Shuflin

    I have had my vive now for a couple months. I am having lots of fun. I also expect to buy the rift/touch when it comes out. I expect to have lots of fun using it too. I am glad that there are so many diverse ideas in the world so we can benefit from the work of so many talented people.

    Now my question. I want to know how easy it will be to use both systems on my new Falcon NW sweet spot bang for the buck pc. Hopefully the worst will be that you need to unplug one to use the other. Any of you fortunate testers using both on same machine?

  • edgecase

    Can the touch controller be used with a vive headset?

  • mist_understood

    Tried Touch at best buy last week. O. M. G. I had a Vive and returned it after a dissapointing hand immersion experience. They really only felt slightly better than the Playstation move sticks. Really were not immersive and that was the main reason for buying it over the rift. I since held out and haven’t bought anything. But after trying the touch for about 20 mins, i will say for sure that i will now pick up the rift in December as a package. No way would i buy the rift without it using a joystick.

  • djnforce9

    Just got my Touch yesterday and find it neat. Setting up can be tricky as it’s VERY picky where you place the sensors and what angle but after that, you’re good as gold. I imagine the next iteration will even track finger movements; for now it only knows if you’re touching certain buttons so it looks like your hands morph into different positions rather than move gracefully.