Summer Road Trip: Tech In Our Bag and On The Road
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Summer Road Trip: Tech In Our Bag & On The Road

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This week my family and I will be leaving on a long two-week trip around the Southeastern United States taking some of our favorite mobile tech toys with us. I thought I’d share with you what we are taking to make the journey fun and efficient. Last summer our editor Josh Smith took what he called the Great American Road Trip 2.0 in the upper midwest. I guess you could call this the Great American Road Trip 3.o: Southeastern Edition.

Great American Road Trip 3.0: Southeast Edition

There will be six of us on the trip each bringing a phone and related accessories. We will also have several laptops, tablets and a number of automobile accessories to help us charge, listen to and mount our tech toys and gadgets in the car and hotels. Since I love to take pictures we will be bringing some photography gear too. Here’s what we are packing for the trip.

MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?

You would immediately think that being mobile would mean I would pick my 13.3″ MacBook Air for this trip since it did such a good job for me when I was traveling to Wisconsin this winter. In fact, there are two reasons that I will instead be taking along my 15″ MacBook Pro – storage and power.

MacBook Air On the Road

My MacBook Air was the perfect travel companion on my last long trip

The MacBook Air only has a 256 GB solid state drive while my MacBook Pro has a 512GB hybrid hard drive. I plan to take a bunch of pictures and want my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom library on the hard drive without needing an external USB drive. This way I can import my photos after taking them and show them off to my family right away. That is just not possible on my MacBook Air since my library is already over 100GB with 11 years of digital photos, half of which are in RAW format. I know there are ways to access them through the Internet even if the pictures are at home, but why bother since my MacBook Pro makes it possible on the road.

Apple MacBook Pro

We will be in the car for hours on this trip. I want to be able to take my entire video library with me in iTunes. Just like my photo library I want it all on one drive. It will be easier to take a larger computer without the extra USB hard drive sucking power and taking up space in my bag.

Finally, I want to play some video games in the car as do my two teenage sons. The MacBook Air is not a great gaming machine.

We will also be bringing a couple of much older Windows machines that my wife and boys use for watching movies and getting online. One is a 4-year-old HP DV5T and the other is an Acer netbook.

Tablets

A tablet is the perfect tool for mobile entertainment . My wife and I both have iPads and I have the Acer Iconia Tab A500, which I am currently reviewing. With six of us, three tablets will do nicely for watching video, reading books and magazines, playing games and getting on the Internet.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

My wife goes nowhere without her Amazon Kindle, and the Nook Color that we rooted has found a home in my oldest son’s backpack. They will be coming along as well.

Smartphones

HTC Thunderbolt

We have three iPhones and an HTC Thunderbolt in our family. The Thunderbolt and iPhone both serve as a great phones for checking email, Twitter, Facebook and getting text messages. We also plan to use them for checking for weather, traffic, GPS directions, and finding good deals on hotels, gas and the best places to eat. I will be posting an entire article on apps for the road in a few days.

Automobile Accessories

Griffin BlueTrip Aux

The Griffin BlueTrip Aux is a pretty mediocre tool for making hands free calls with a Bluetooth enabled phone. However, it is a great tool for untethered audio.

I have it in the DC port next to the auxiliary jack inside our Honda Pilot’s arm rest. It is totally out-of-the-way with no wires running into the dash. The BlueTrip automatically reconnects to the phone each time I get into the Pilot and that way I can listen to Audible audio books, music or podcasts while I drive. I never have to plug-in since it connects my phone with my car stereo via Bluetooth.

Bracketron

On this trip I will be testing out the Bracketron Universal USB Power Dock which is a smart phone cradle as well as a DC charger. The whole unit mounts to the car by plugging into a dashboard DC port (cigarette lighter) and holds the phone in a universal cradle that grabs the phone with two adjustable clamps on the side and a pair of protruding “fingers” that the phone rests on at the bottom.

Below the cradle is another DC port for a pass through power source and a USB port for charging your phone or some other device. You can use it for keeping your GPS app front and center on your smart phone while driving. I will let you know whether it is a useful accessory for your car and phone.

Cameras

Nikon D3100 DSLR

My Nikon D3100 DSLR camera will help me get some family snapshots, pictures of various tourist attractions and shots of the sun coming up or going down over the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. It also shoots excellent HD video, so I’ll have it ready to get the necessary family vacation videos that we will show to our grandkids in order to embarrass our kids.

Along with the camera, I have a 4GB Eye-fi SD card. It stores up to 4GB of photos and videos and has an integrated Wi-Fi radio so that it will automatically offload the images to the online storage, my Photobucket and Flickr accounts and my computer. Each night I will fire up my MacBook and import the files into the computer via Wi-Fi instead of having to plug it in directly. In fact the files will import automatically because I’ve set up my HTC Thunderbolt’s Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspot feature with the Eye-fi. The pictures will off-load from the camera as soon as the phone’s hotspot feature is turned on.

Since I’m not the only shutterbug in the family, we will also have a Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS and the now defunct but still great Flip Ultra HD video camera so my wife and kids can take pictures too. For those who don’t need or want a bulky DSLR, these two little cameras are perfect for compact travel solutions. The Canon takes some really good shots and is small. The battery on it lasts a long time. The Flip Ultra HD is still available in many places like Best Buy or Amazon. It takes surprisingly good HD video if you are close to your subject. If you are nervous about buying a product that the company no longer makes, I’ve read good things about the Kodak  Playsport which is a similar camera and has the added benefit of being waterproof.

Charging All the Batteries

To get all of this tech charged up and running, we have some mobile tools. First up is the SolBat II that we previously reviewed. This device is the size of a deck of cards and fastens to your window with suction cups. The solar panels on the device charge the battery. It has a USB cable for charging the battery when there is not enough sun. The other USB port powers and charges USB devices like my iPhone or Thunderbolt.

solBat II

We are also bringing a DC to AC converter with 150 watts of power. We bought a more powerful one from CyberPower which provides 400 watts of power, but it was flimsy and the two plugs were impossible to plug anything into the converter. As I pushed a plug into it I had to use so much force that I broke the cable that connects to the cigarette lighter. I took it back to the store and bought a Targus Auto/Air Power Inverter Slimline. It is more compact but also provides only 150 watts of power. We will only plug one notebook and one smaller device like a phone into the device at once. It has one AC power outlet and one USB power outlet.

Since many hotels only have a few power outlets, we are bringing the water proof WetCircuits power strip that we featured in our Notebooks.com Father’s Day 2011 Gift Guide. It provides four waterproof and shock-proof outlets. If one of the kids spills a drink on it, it won’t short out or cause a fire. We can unplug it from the DC converter so everyone can charge their phone at once if needed and we can take it into our hotel for charing all the gear overnight.

Finally, we have a Belkin USB power adapter. This plugs into a wall outlet or the WetCircuits strip and provides USB charging for two small devices.

Carrying It All

Lowepro CompuDayPack

To carry all of my tech toys I bought the LowePro CompuDayPack. The backpack is large enough to hold my 15″ MacBook Pro, two tablets and my Nikon D3100 DSLR. It has a bottom compartment for the camera, two lenses, and accessories. They are snug in there, but they do fit. It also has a padded compartment for my computer at the top (up to a 15″ computer). Two zippers easily open so I can quickly pull it out even in the car while my wife is driving. The large compartment in front of the computer compartment houses tons of accessories and has a lot of pockets and one large zippered pouch and two smaller ones. The larger pouch has all my cables. The two smaller ones have my iPad accessories. There is ample space in that compartment for my MacSafe charger, a Razer Orochi Bluetooth mouse, and my over the ear headphones.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Mary-Take

    06/22/2011 at 11:43 pm

    Sounds like a lot of gear, but then it does sound like a long trip :) I haven’t been on a road trip, maybe taking one this summer up to Montreal, But I have been on long trips in a car and space has always been an issue for us. Generally when we’re traveling We bring one laptop and our phones and mp3 players and maybe a couple of books and nothing more. The rest of the room in our average sized car is taken up with food. Clearly you have a bag to cart a whole bunch of stuff around with, but how about space in the car itself? Are you going to have enough space for all that stuff and stay comfortable driving for long periods of time? In this scenarios I’m seeing a lot of overlap between devices, with space being at a premium wouldn’t it make sense to have as few devices as possible? Still I like this post, and I’ve been following you guys for about 4 or 5 years and I love your gearbag articles, it’s interesting to see how things have changed over time! Keep writing :)

  2. Elizabeth Rodgers

    07/06/2011 at 9:15 pm

    Kevin!

    Since you have all that Apple gear, why don’t you try our new audiobook app, Audiobooks For Your Kids,  in the iTunes store?   It’s only 99 cents and there are over 30 titles of classic children’s literature like Aesop’s Fables, Wizard of Oz and Little Women.

    https://audiobooksforyourkids.com/

    https://itunes.apple.com/app/audiobooks-for-your-kids/id409956812?mt=8

  3. Jamie

    07/16/2011 at 10:33 am

    What about food?? You’ve got the tools… wherever you are en route, use eatwellguide.org to find America’s best food!

    Happy travels :)

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Accessories

Where to Buy GoPro Hero 8

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The GoPro Hero 8 is available to order now with a release date on October 15th. There are a few places that you can buy the GoPro Hero 8, including some retail stores.

So far the only Hero 8 deal we’ve spotted is direct from GoPro where you can get a free microSD card with purchase. If you are looking for a place to use rewards, get extra credit card points or to pad your loyalty rewards there are a few more options.

The new Hero 8 features HyperSmooth 2.0 for advanced stabilization, a new integrated mount and now supports GoPro Mods that can add a screen you can see from the front, a microphone and waterproof light.

The GoPro Hero 8 Black is $399 and GoPro is keeping the Hero 7 Black on at $329 and the Hero 7 Silver on at $199.

Where to Buy the GoPro Hero 8 Black

This is where you can buy the GoPro Hero 8.

This is where you can buy the GoPro Hero 8.

Here is a list of where you can buy the Hero 8 Black right now, and where you should be able to buy it in the coming days. Don’t expect a lot of deals at this stage, but you may be able to save with credit card cash back bonuses at select stores.

You can also expect to see the Go Pro Hero 8 arrive at Amazon, Walmart and other retailers in the coming weeks.

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Accessories

GoPro Hero 8: 5 Things You Need to Know

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The GoPro Hero 8 is a major change for the GoPro brand with the new Hero 8 Black offering mods to add to the usability and an integrated mount that makes connecting the camera to tripods and people simpler and faster.

You can buy the new GoPro Hero 8 starting today for $399 with a free micro-SD card offer and the new $499 GoPro Max a 360-degree camera is also on sale today. the GoPro Hero 7 Black is now $329 and the Hero 7 Silver is $199.

While the GoPro Hero 8 looks very similar at first glance, there is more than meets the eye, and if you need to add to your filming arsenal, you can do that with the new Go Pro Mods.

This is what you need to know about the 2019 GoPro Hero 8.

GoPro Hero 8 Release Date & Price

The GoPro Hero 8 is on sale now and arrives on October 15th.

The GoPro Hero 8 is on sale now and arrives on October 15th.

The GoPro Hero 8 is on sale now at GoPro and Best Buy for $399. We expect to see it available at Amazon and B&H Photo soon.

Pre-orders are live now, and the GoPro Hero 8 release date is October 15th. If you order now, you should get your Hero 8 on the 15th.

While this is an exciting upgrade, we don’t expect a sell-out with delivery dates pushed back significantly.

GoPro Hero 8 Design

The Hero 8 features a built-in mount.

The Hero 8 features a built-in mount.

The GoPro Hero 8 features a new design with an integrated mount and support for GoPro Mods that allow you to add a screen, external microphone or light. The lens doesn’t stick out quite as much and the total package is slimmer since you don’t need a cage to mount it to anything.

Simply flip the mount down from the bottom of the Go Pro and you are ready to connect to Go Pro gear that uses the familiar two-three finger connection. The Hero 8 is waterproof down to 33 feet.

GoPro Hero 8 Features

There are a lot of interesting new Hero 8 features on the camera and in the software. Here’s a closer look at the top 8 GoPro Hero 8 features;

  1. HyperSmooth 2.0 – New levels of stabilization including Boost and Horizon leveling.
  2. TimeWarp 2.0 – Automatic speed detection for Time Warp videos, plus you can still manually control.
  3. SuperPhoto + HDR Enhancements – Boost contrast and kill blur with SuperPhoto and get jaw-dropping colors with HDR.
  4. LiveBurst – The Hero 8 captures 1.5 seconds before you hit the shutter, so you have 90 still images or a 3-second 4K clip.
  5. Night Lapse Video – Special time-lapse mode for night time videos.
  6.  Three Mics – Better audio and less wind with the built-in microphones.
  7. Four Lenses to Select – Narrow, Linear, Wide, and SuperView
  8. 4k60 / 1080p240 – You control your resolution and frame-rate.

You also get Voice Control, Live Streaming in 1080P, Presets an on-screen shortcuts, a Photo Timer, Short Clips, 8X slow motion, Face, Smile, Blink and scene detection and more.

Watch the video above to see more of the features and see side-by-side footage fo the GoPro Hero 8 vs Hero 7.

GoPro Hero 8 Mods

Add a light, display or microphone to the Hero 8.

Add a light, display or microphone to the Hero 8.

One of the biggest stars of this show are the GoPro Her0 8 mods. These are official Hero 8 accessories that add to your camera’s capabilities by adding some of the most requested features. This also helps bring the Hero 8 in line with action camera competition from Sony and DJI. If you want to use the Hero 8 for Vlogging, you’ll likely want all of these new Mods.

  • Media Mod -Shotgun Mic, USB C, HDMI and 3.5mm ports plus additional mounts – $79
  • Display Mod – 1.9-inch display so you can see yourself – $79
  • Light Mod – 200 Lumen waterproof light – $49

The Light and Display pack their own batteries, so they don’t drain the Hero 8 and you can attach the light to a mount or head strap for standalone use. GoPro says that more mods are in the works.

GoPro Hero 8 Deals

Get a free microSD card from GoPro.

Get a free microSD card from GoPro.

At this point, there is only one real GoPro Hero 8 deal. When you buy direct from GoPro, you get a free 32GB MicroSDHC card. We expect to see some deals later this year, potentially around Black Friday, but many of those will likely focus on the Hero 7 models.

Typically we see a trade-in deal with GoPro and bigger deals in January, so if you want to save, you may need to hold off until 2020 before major deals appear.

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Accessories

Google Pixel Watch Release Rumors Emerge

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Just like the past few years, Google will likely release a new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL this fall. They typically hold a launch event in October. However, new reports suggest that isn’t all Google has planned for 2018.

In fact, Google will reportedly use its hardware event to unveil a 2nd Gen Pixel Bud headset, along with an all-new Wear OS Smartwatch. To be specific, a “Pixel Watch” to take on the Apple Watch.

Read: Google Pixel 3: 5 Features We Want Next

Google’s smartphones continue to impress, but its Pixel Buds fell short in 2017. Not to mention Android Wear smartwatches aren’t all that popular either. That said, if Google can unleash a few impressive products that plays nice with its Pixel phones, we could see the comeback of Wear OS. Here’s what we know, and what we’re hearing.

According to the popular and highly accurate leaker Evan Blass, Google has two surprises coming later this year. Besides the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, we’ll get new Pixel Buds and a Pixel-branded watch. We don’t have any other information to go on, but we’re expecting to learn more soon.

Google recently rebranded Android Wear into “Wear OS” and hopefully a Pixel Watch made by Google will help boost sales and get smartwatches popular again. And while they partnered with LG in 2017 and released a few nice watches, a Pixel Watch could be exactly what the market wants and needs. Especially if this potential Pixel Watch has hybrid features that combine a regular timepiece with modern software and technology. We’re thinking a regular mechanical watch, with a Wear OS display on the bottom half. Giving users the best of both worlds.

However, we’re more excited about the idea of a 2nd-Gen Pixel Bud headset. Google’s headphones overpromised and underdelivered last year, even if they were excellent headphones. In 2018, we’re hoping for a truly wireless design that can compete with AirPods or Samsung’s Gear IconX. Not to mention all the other 100% wireless headphones on the market.

This makes sense given recent market trends, and you can bet the Google Assistant will be built-in too. We’re still a long ways away from October, but it’ll be here before you know it. Expect more leaks, reports, and rumors, then some sort of announcement from Google in September. The last few events took place the first week of October, so we’re betting the same thing will happen this year. Stay tuned for more details.

10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Smartwatch Could Do

Speedometer

Speedometer

Most Android Wear smartwatches have a GPS sensor built-in, and if not, your smartphone does. An app called Speed Wear turns any smartwatch into an all-out speedometer. 

Speed Wear will show users their current speed, average speed, and top speed, and save it all to the app. This is ideal for running, biking, hiking, or just neat to use and test while driving in a car during a road trip.

The app features different units including: KM/H, MPH and Knots (can be set from the last screen; by swiping all the way to the right) and even has an ambient mode with large clear text to improve readability. Some devices may not be 100% accurate due to the GPS chip inside the watch or phone.

Download - Speed Wear

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Editorials

Kodi: 3 Things to Know Before You Buy a Kodi Box

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People are always looking for new ways to watch TV shows and movies and Kodi makes that possible for free.

Users with large media collections use Kodi as a replacement for Microsoft’s Windows Media Center and the media players that came on their device. iPhones, Android devices, iPhones, iPads and Windows PCs all have Kodi apps that let users easily browse their movies, music, television shows and photos from one app. Xbox One users can access their content on a television through the app.

Some users that don’t have large media collections are using Kodi to watch movies and stream television shows that they don’t own using unofficial upgrades. Because it’s open-source, anyone can change how the software works. There are add-ons for live sports and cable replacements that don’t require a subscription. Other downloads unlock movies that are still in theaters.

What is Kodi?

Kodi is a piece of user-friendly software that gives you access to television shows, music and movies that you own. Copy your DVDs to your PC, and the software will add trailers and a synopsis to those movies. It sees pictures and music videos. Big buttons and legible text make it easy to browse your media collection.

Like your phone, Kodi lets users add new features without learning to code. Most developers use this add-on system to improve the music experience or reorganize content. These add-ons are available to everyone. Unofficial upgrades available outside of the software’s download area let users watch television and stream movies they don’t own. These add-ons are why everyone wants a Fire TV Stick or set-top box with the software on it.

Buying a Device with Kodi

Devices loaded with Kodi on Craigslist.

Devices loaded with Kodi on Craigslist.

Kodi doesn’t come pre-installed on any hardware, which is why users are installing the software on devices themselves. It’s why buying unofficial Kodi Boxes has grown in popularity too.

Two sites make it possible to buy a device with the software installed: Craigslist and eBay. Craigslist shoppers can buy an Amazon Fire TV Stick loaded with the software for $59.99. eBay sellers have unofficial Kodi boxes that cost $34.95.

Don’t expect to return any devices you buy when something goes wrong. Craigslist and eBay sales are final. Trying the hack may void an Amazon Fire TV Stick’s warranty, which could prevent you from getting a replacement when the software stops working. That’s one reason buying hacked Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Kodi Boxes is a bad idea.

Is Kodi Legal?

Kodi for Windows

Kodi for Windows

The Kodi software is legal. It’s open-source, so changing how it works for your own needs isn’t a problem. Selling Kodi Boxes and using unofficial add-ons to watch copyrighted content may not be legal.

It’s not clear that the add-ons you need to stream movies for free are legal. Services need deals in place before they can offer someone else’s content to users. Add-on makers haven’t done that for these unofficial Kodi add-ons.

The European Union’s Court of Justice declared hacked set-top boxes created to help users easily violate copyrights illegal in a June 2017 press statement. “Acts of temporary reproduction on the multimedia player in question, of copyright-protected works adversely affects the normal exploitation of those works and causes unreasonable prejudice to the legitimate interests of the copyright holder,” the court said in the statement. Put plainly, selling boxes made to give users access to content they don’t own violates European Union law.

Kodi Box

A “fully loaded” Kodi Box may not work for long.

Courts in the United States haven’t ruled on whether these boxes are legal, but that may not stop content companies from suing to get the add-ons and streaming services shut down. Ways to watch movies and television shows for free attract more attention from copyright holders the bigger they get. Hacked Fire TV Sticks are growing in popularity. Movie studios and copyright holders could challenge the legality of the add-ons and services at any time. If those services are shut down, your hacked Fire TV Stick won’t work.

There’s another looming issue with Kodi Boxes. The volunteers that make Kodi don’t want it associated with piracy. An article on the Kodi.tv website calls people selling Fire TV sticks with the software “criminals.” It also declares that users in its forums won’t help anyone that runs into trouble with their hacked device. “If the Kodi userbase drops a huge percent because pirate services flee or die, we’re fine with that,” the team says.

The XMBC Foundation’s Nathan Betzen told TorrentFreak that it would issue takedown notices to firms that fool buyers with the boxes. The XMBC Foundation controls Kodi. “If you are selling a box on your website designed to trick users into thinking broken add-ons come from us and work perfectly, so you can make a buck, we’re going to do everything we can to stop you,” he said.

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Accessories

HTC Vive Pre-Order Live: What You Need to Know

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Today, HTC put up the live pre-order page for its own virtual reality headset, the HTC Vive. If you order today, you can expect your unit to start shipping sometime in April.

It’s February 29th, and you know what that means! Yes, it’s Leap Day, but more importantly, it’s the HTC Vive pre-order day! Feel free to celebrate accordingly, unless you happen to be a bank account. If you’re living in the U.S., you can expect to shell out a whopping $799 to get your Vive headset; that’s $200 more than Oculus Rift, but it includes additional hardware that Oculus isn’t yet selling, like two VR-aware, motion-sensitive controllers.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=XoDBdf8cvns%3Ffs%3D1

Like the Rift, anyone who pre-orders the Vive will receive some free content for their trouble. HTC is partnering with the developers of Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator to include both titles for free in the HTC Vive pre-order. A recent announcement revealed that Google will be offering the VR sculpting title Tilt Brush for free to Vive owners as well.

The HTC Vive price is…

Thanks to recent surges in the strength of the U.S. dollar, international pricing may be more than some were expecting: in Australia, you’re looking at $899 USD, in Canada, $1149 CAD, in the UK, £689, and everywhere else in the EU is €899. While some of these prices seem substantially higher than in the U.S., most of them also include sales tax in the MSRP. A notable exception is Canada, where you can expect to pay an extra 5 – 13%, depending to which province the Vive will be shipped.

The HTC Vive headset, two motion controllers, and two motion-tracking base stations.

The HTC Vive headset, two motion controllers, and two motion-tracking base stations.

HTC originally planned on coming up with a different version of the Vive to ship to customers, but the version showed off at CES, internally known as the Pre, has become the consumer model as well an a bid to save money and remain competitive against the Oculus Rift.

When will the HTC Vive ship?

So far, we know it’ll start shipping in April, but that’s where certainties end. Most people who pre-order today are likely to receive their headset sometime in that month. It’s difficult to compare this to the Oculus shipping pattern, because neither company is going to release solid numbers on how many pre-orders have been made.

VR_Web_Product_Controller

One of the HTC Vive’s VR-aware, motion-sensitive controllers.

Oculus, for example, is now listing delivery dates of July if you submit a pre-order today – unlike HTC, however, Oculus isn’t an experienced manufacturer of high-tech products; it’s possible that even if HTC experiences the kind of heavy order volume that Oculus did, that they’ll be able to fulfill all the orders within April.

While it’s no kind of serious study, a survey of approximately 1000 VR enthusiasts on Reddit showed 40% of them selecting the Oculus Rift, 30% of them exclusively choosing the HTC Vive, and 30% of them opting to buy both, and deciding which to keep after trying them both.

VR_Web_Product_HMD2

A view of the lenses and internal display on the HTC Vive headset.

Each headset will be powered by its own kind of storefront; HTC is partnering with Steam and their nascent SteamVR storefront and interfaces, while Oculus is rolling their own. Both Steam and Oculus have made statements to the effect that their individual stores won’t be locked to any specific hardware, so it’s possible that you’ll be running Oculus content on the Vive at some point in the future.

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