The G2 Experience, Hardware Configuration & Benchmarking - and Conclusion
The G2 Experience
Over the past 3 weeks, we have formed impressions of the similarities and differences between the G1, the G2 and versus the Pro. The G2 has the same 2160 x 2160 resolution for each eye as the G1, but it uses a LCD panel that was designed by Valve. The new panels offer higher contrast and brightness than the G1 while also reducing pixel persistence and the Mura effect. Mura is the result of inadequate consistency in brightness and color consistency from one pixel to the next which has a similar effect as looking through foggy glasses. The G2’s LCD panel improvements allow for better looking text and overall clarity than the G1 provides.
The G2 text is significantly clearer and easy to read using the G2 over the Pro mostly by virtue of its higher resolution. The G2’s higher resolution makes a real difference to overall clarity, and the screendoor effect is mostly gone. On the other hand, god rays emanating from high contrast elements are present in this HMD just as with all others that use Fresnel lenses. It is about the same as the Pro. The field of view although technically at 114% appears the same as the Pro’s 110 degrees.
A gamer cannot increase the pixel density nor use as much SuperSampling with the G2 compared with the Pro because of video card limitations. In other words, you will run out of performance headroom with the G2 much more quickly than with the Pro because of the G2’s higher resolution. By comparing the native higher resolution of the G2 scenes with SuperSampled Pro scenes, we much prefer the higher resolution of the G2.
Comparing simple shooter-type games created for VR, the higher resolution of the G2 over the Vive Pro doesn’t make too much difference – especially since the Pro can use SuperSampling with less demands on the video card. However, games with a lot of detail or text; or even old games like Skyrim VR – especially when you are looking off into the distance – the G2’s increased resolution makes a big improvement to realism and immersion. It is almost as if a fog lifts by playing with the G2 over playing with the Pro that we don’t see with the G1 because of its inferior lenses.
We found the visual “sweet spot” for the G2 is about the same as the Pro’s for us, and better than the G1’s. The only advantage that the Pro has is for its deeper blacks by virtue of its OLED display, but we didn’t have any issues with playing games like Elite Dangerous and Star Wars: Squadrons where the deep black of space is required. Overall, the image quality of the G2 is better than the Vive Pro or the G1, and wearing the G2 is the most comfortable of the three HMDs and there are no light leaks.
Since BTR’s original VR evaluation in January 2017, using FCAT-VR we have benchmarked dozens of VR games in our follow-ups and our current VR benchmark suite includes 15 VR games. We have compared FCAT-VR with our own video benchmarks by using a camera to capture images directly from a HMD’s lens. For BTR’s VR testing methodology, please refer to this evaluation.
Let’s look at the G2’s performance next compared with the G1 and especially versus the Vive Pro using an RTX 3090 with our most demanding settings of our regular test configuration. Please note that we use the fastest video card, the RTX 3090, with GeForce 461.33 Hotfix Game Ready drivers which addresses the stuttering issues that some users have although we have never experienced them.
Test Configuration – Hardware
- Intel Core i9-10900K (HyperThreading/Turbo boost On; All cores overclocked to 5.1GHz/5.0Ghz. Comet Lake DX11 CPU graphics)
- EVGA Z490 FTW motherboard (Intel Z490 chipset, v1.3 BIOS, PCIe 3.0/3.1/3.2 specification, CrossFire/SLI 8x+8x), supplied by EVGA
- T-FORCE DARK Z 32GB DDR4 (2x16GB, dual channel at 3600MHz), supplied by Team Group
- Reverb G1
- Reverb G2 on loan from HP
- Vive Pro, on loan from HTC/Vive; the Wireless Adapter is not used for benchmarking
- RTX 3090 Founders Edition 24GB, stock clocks, on loan from NVIDIA
- 1TB Team Group MP33 NVMe2 PCIe SSD for C: drive
- 1.92TB San Disk enterprise class SATA III SSD (storage)
- 2TB Micron 1100 SATA III SSD (storage)
- 1TB Team Group GX2 SATA III SSD (storage)
- 500GB T-FORCE Vulcan SSD (storage), supplied by Team Group
- ANTEC HCG1000 Extreme, 1000W gold power supply unit
- BenQ EW3270U 32″ 4K HDR 60Hz FreeSync monitor
- Samsung G7 Odyssey (LC27G75TQSNXZA) 27″ 2560×1440/240Hz/1ms/G-SYNC/HDR600 monitor
- DEEPCOOL Castle 360EX AIO 360mm liquid CPU cooler
- Phanteks Eclipse P400 ATX mid-tower (plus 1 Noctua 140mm fan)
Test Configuration – Software
- GeForce 461.33 Hotfix Game Ready drivers – High Quality, prefer maximum performance, single display, no optimizations, Vsync is off as set in the NVIDIA control panel
- Windows 10 64-bit Pro edition; latest updates v2004.
- Latest DirectX
- All 13 VR games are patched to their latest versions at time of publication
- FCAT-VR Capture (latest Beta 03/04/20)
- FCAT-VR Beta 18
- SteamVR – at 100% resolution unless specified
13 VR Game benchmark suite & 1 synthetic test
- OpenVR Benchmark
SteamVR/Epic Platform Games
- Assetto Corsa Competizione
- Elite Dangerous
- Fallout 4
- Into the Radius
- No Man’s Sky
- Project CARS 2
- The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
- The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
Please Note: It is important to remember that BTR’s charts use frametimes in ms where lower is better, but we also compare “unconstrained framerates” which shows what a video card could deliver (headroom) if it wasn’t locked to either 90 FPS or to 45 FPS by the HMD. In the case of unconstrained FPS which measures just one important performance metric, faster is better.
Normally we benchmark fifteen VR games’ performance using FCAT VR. However, we dropped ARK: Park as we could not find a way to map the G2’s controllers to the action. We also left off Half Life: Alyx because it requires the use of the console to lock adaptive Super Resolution to a fixed setting and we could not find a way to do it with a WMR headset. In addition, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, does not appear to apply SuperSampling properly so we also left it off. However, we added Pavlov, a popular online shooter, as our 13th benchmark game
All of our games were benchmarked at 100% SteamVR resolution or higher (as noted), although some games were also set in-game to a higher resolution or increased pixel density as described for each game. We are using the same settings that we use for our regular VR benching with a RTX 3090 and Vive Pro without any consideration for the higher resolution of the Reverb G1 as we would normally do while playing these same games.
Before we benchmark the Reverb G2 versus the Vive Pro, we want to compare the G2’s performance against the G1. One may wrongly assume that G2 and the G1 place similar demands on the video card because the per eye resolution is identical, but the lenses are very different and they each require different rendering resolutions by SteamVR for games.
All HMD lenses distort the image presented on a virtual reality headset which has to be warped by software to counteract the optical effects of the lenses. Instead of being square, the images appear curved and distorted until viewed through appropriate lenses.
VR platforms typically use a two-step process that first renders a normal image (above left) and afterward uses a post-processing pass that warps the image to the HMD’s view (right).
Here is an example using the OpenVR benchmark, first with the Vive Pro. The Pro’s display resolution is 1440×1600 but the SteamVR render resolution is 2016×2240 and the average framerate is 79.56.
Next, using the OpenVR benchmark at the same settings, the G1’s display resolution is 2160×2160 but the SteamVR render resolution is 2196×2156 and the average framerate is 65.43 because of the difference in the compensation necessary to warp the image.
Finally, using the OpenVR benchmark at the same settings, the G2’s display resolution is 2160×2160 – the same as the G1 – but the SteamVR render resolution increases to 3168×3096 and the average framerate drops to 36.24 FPS because of the new lenses.
Here is just one game, Project CARS 2, benchmarked using a RTX 3090 comparing the frametime plot of the G1, the G2, and the Vive Pro at identical settings.
Using identical settings, the RTX 3090 delivers 135.8 unconstrained FPS with the Vive Pro, which drops to 113.47 FPS with the G1, and then way down to 80.87 FPS with the G2. The G2 requires either a more powerful video card to render a steady 90 FPS or lower settings.
We note that FCAT-VR appears to report synthetic frames as dropped – an issue that we encountered many months ago with the Vive Pro. We assume that the frames are synthesized rather than dropped because of our experience actually playing the games. Dropped frames are very noticeable, whereas synthetic frames produced by Motion Smoothing or reprojection are much more subtle and generally acceptable for many VR gamers.
VR needs to sustain a fixed framerate target locked to 90 FPS for many HMDs including the G1, the G2, and the Vive Pro. And if a PC can’t meet that target, the frame rate is halved to make sure that there is no judder causing motion sickness. 90Hz/90 FPS are the premium experience standard for Vive and HP Reverb HMDs. A game cannot exceed 90 FPS otherwise the player will see tearing in the HMD, and a game cannot drop below 90 FPS or the player will get VR sick. So it is crucial that framerates are locked to an exact cadence.
Let’s now compare the Vive Pro with the G2 using identical settings.
First up, Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
BTR’s sim/racing editor, Sean Kaldahl created the replay benchmark run that we use for both the pancake game and the VR game. It is run at night with 20 cars, lots of geometry, and the lighting effects of the headlights, tail lights, and everything around the track looks spectacular.
iRacing may be more accurate or realistic, but Assetto Corsa Competizione has some appeal because it feels more real than many other racing sims. It delivers the sensation of handling a highly-tuned racing machine driven to its edge. Unfortunately, it is probably the most demanding of the racing sims and it may not yet be well-optimized for VR.
The RTX 3090 delivered 162.04 unconstrained FPS with 5 dropped frames and 5 Warp misses, but it needed 45 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 85.47 unconstrained FPS together with 1644 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames along with 24 Warp misses.
The racing experience is better on the Vive Pro and we would suggest dropping settings for the G2 to low to improve the experience. Because of its extra clarity, it still looks good on lowered settings.
Next, we look at Boneworks.
Boneworks is a rare game that couples a fair single player campaign with an incredible sandbox and next generation VR physics interactive tour de force. We benchmark using the ‘Time Tower’ level.
Boneworks made on the Unity engine has average to very good visuals and it particularly benefits by allowing for high levels of MSAA up to 8X which we use for benching. We also enable ambient occlusion and use the highest settings, and in addition, we set SteamVR’s resolution to 160%.
The RTX 3090 delivered 233.0 unconstrained FPS with 1 dropped frames and 1 Warp misses without synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, the RTX 3090 delivered 126.877 unconstrained FPS together with 4 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames along with 2 Warp misses.
There isn’t any difference playing on either card at our settings although the image quality of the G2 is much higher than that of the Vive Pro. There really isn’t as much need for SuperSampling or increasing the resolution as it is with the Pro to gain additional image quality and clarity.
Let’s check out Elite Dangerous next.
A player will probably spend a lot of time piloting his space cruiser while completing a multitude of tasks as well as visiting space stations and orbiting a multitude of different planets (~400 billion). Elite Dangerous is also co-op and multiplayer with a very dedicated following of players.
The RTX 3090 delivered 168.48 unconstrained FPS with 1 dropped frame and a single Warp misses, plus 1 synthetic frame using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 94.07 unconstrained FPS together with 587 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames along with 2 Warp misses.
The experience playing Elite Dangerous at Ultra settings is acceptable using the G2 but we would rather drop a few individual settings rather than put up with any reprojection.
Let’s continue with Fallout 4.
Fallout 4 uses the Creation Engine, and Bethesda has dropped all support for it so it remains unoptimized although there are mods that may be helpful. We benchmark at its highest settings and with TAA. All Fade settings are set to their maximums.
The RTX 3090 delivered 180.83 unconstrained FPS with 3 dropped frames and 3 Warp misses, but it needed 159 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 102.72 unconstrained FPS together with 212 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames along with 3 Warp misses.
The playing experience is almost identical using either HMD, but the image quality and detailing is far better on the G2 than the Vive Pro.
Next we look at Into the Radius.
Into the Radius
Into the Radius is a hardcore single player stealth survival adventure/exploration game, and it pays homage to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series by being set in the dangerous large open world of the Pechorsk Exclusion Zone.
Into the Radius has good visuals using Unreal Engine 4 that really add to its spooky and intense atmosphere, and its performance demands on the video card are also higher since its a huge open world game with a decent draw distance.
There are no user options for changing individual graphics settings other than High, Medium, and Low presets. There is also a slider to drop or subsample the resolution down to 65%, or to increase the resolution to 110%. We benchmarked our two HMDs at High Quality and with 110% resolution.
Here is the frametime plot for Into the Radius.
The RTX 3090 delivered 170.06 unconstrained FPS with 3 dropped frames and 3 Warp misses together with 5 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, the RTX 3090 delivered 105.41 unconstrained FPS together with 99 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames along with 8 Warp misses. Again, the delivered performance is almost identical on both HMDs, but the G2 has a much better IQ and overall clarity.
Next, we will check out another demanding VR game, No Man’s Sky.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is an action-adventure survival single and multiplayer game that emphasizes survival, exploration, fighting, and trading. It is set in a procedurally generated deterministic open universe, which includes over 18 quintillion unique planets using its own custom game engine.
The player takes the role of a Traveller in an uncharted universe by starting on a random planet with a damaged spacecraft equipped with only a jetpack-equipped exosuit and a versatile multi-tool that can also be used for defense. The player is encouraged to find resources to repair his spacecraft allowing for intra- and inter-planetary travel, and to interact with other players.
The RTX 3090 delivered 135.10 unconstrained FPS with 1 dropped frames and 1 Warp miss, but it needed 13 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 82.91 unconstrained FPS together with 1270 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames but with no Warp misses.
We would suggest dropping a few settings or set the overall quality to ‘Enhanced’ so the RTX 3090 can deliver a constant 90 FPS to the G2. It has a superior image even with lowered settings.
Next, we will check out another VR game, Obduction.
Obduction is considered to be the spiritual successor to Myst and Riven. It is an adventure game developed by Cyan Worlds using the Unreal 4 engine and it has very good visuals. There is an emphasis on puzzle solving which get more and more difficult as a player progresses.
The RTX 3090 delivered 153.4 unconstrained FPS with no dropped frames or Warp misses, but it needed 4 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 83.02 unconstrained FPS together with 1256 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames. Even with the in-game resolution set to 140% on the Pro and to 100% on the G2, the G2 still looks superior in every way. SuperSampling, Super Resolution, and increased pixel density are not necessary on the G1 and the results are far less dramatic than using it on the Pro.
Next we check out BTR’s newest game, Pavlov.
There is a real sense of immersion that comes from playing Pavlov in VR. Pavlov is the most popular multiplayer shooter in VR with a primary focus on its community. Realistic fast-paced combat is a large part of its core experience, and even tanks have been added to make it into a great shooter.
We used the training sessions with the highest settings.
The RTX 3090 delivered 361.29 unconstrained FPS with 5 dropped frames and 5 Warp misses and it needed 5 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 214.01 unconstrained FPS together with 16 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames but with 8 Warp misses. There is no difference in performance using either HMD, and the G2 again takes the image quality crown
Next we will check out another demanding VR game, Project CARS 2 that we like better than its successor.
Project CARS 2
There is a real sense immersion that comes from playing Project CARS 2 in VR using a wheel and pedals. It uses its in-house Madness engine, and the physics implementation is outstanding. We are disappointed with Project CARS 3, and will continue to use the older game instead for VR benching.
Project CARS 2 offers many performance options and settings and we prefer playing with SMAA Ultra.
We used maximum settings including for Motion Blur although it looks best to us with on Low or Medium. If necessary, we would also recommend lowering grass and reflections to maximize framerate delivery as motion smoothing or reprojection tends to cause visible artifacting.
The RTX 3090 delivered 136.07 unconstrained FPS with 2 dropped frames and 2 Warp misses, and it only needed 2 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, the RTX 3090 delivered 75.37 unconstrained FPS together with 1915 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames but with no Warp misses. Lower the settings on the G2 to avoid any motion smoothing or reprojection and it will still look better than on the Vive Pro. We are convinced that the G2 is the best HMD for racing and flying sims.
Let’s benchmark Skyrim VR.
Skyrim VR is an older game that is no longer supported by Bethesda, but fortunately the modding community has adopted it. It is not as demanding as many of the newer VR ports so its performance is still very good on maxed-out settings using its Creation engine.
We benchmarked Skyrim VR using its highest settings, and we also increased the resolution to its in-game maximum.
The RTX 3090 delivered 190.70 unconstrained FPS with 7 dropped frames and 7 Warp misses, but it still needed 6 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, the RTX 3090 delivered 125.79 unconstrained FPS together with 58 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames but with 2 Warp misses.
The performance is identical on both HMDs with the G2 providing the most clarity while taking full advantage of the long draw distances that the game offers. If you plan to mod the game, just lower the in-game SuperSampling to 100% and mod away.
Let’s check out Subnautica next.
Subnautica uses the Unity engine. As the sole survivor of a crash landing, the player ventures into the depths of a visually impressive alien underwater world. Here you can explore, craft equipment and build bases, pilot underwater craft, and solve mysteries all while attempting to survive a hostile environment. It is an unoptimized mess, but the VR experience is well worth it.
The RTX 3090 delivered 139.35 unconstrained FPS with 4 dropped frames and 4 Warp misses, but it needed 1948 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, the RTX 3090 delivered 63.06 unconstrained FPS together with 2327 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames but with no Warp misses.
The experience playing Subnautica using its highest settings isn’t great as it doesn’t appear to be very well optimized and there are obvious stutters at times. The performance surprisingly is almost the same between our two competing HMDs, but again the G2 wins hands down when comparing image quality and clarity.
Next up, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an older game which is built on the Unreal 4 engine and it still boasts amazing visuals although it is not demanding. Although it is considered by some to be a walking simulator, it is also an excellent detective game with great puzzles. But be aware that its style of locomotion tends to make some of its players VR sick.
There are just a few in-game graphics options available, so we set 100% resolution in-game with TAA and then set SteamVR’s resolution to 200%.
The RTX 3090 delivered 290.17 unconstrained FPS with 2 dropped frames, 2 Warp misses, and 2 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 95.79 unconstrained FPS together with 843 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames and with 2 Warp misses.
We can see that extreme SuperSampling or super resolution puts a huge strain on the RTX 3090 when using the G2. It makes no sense whatsoever (other than benchmarking to prove a point) to increase the G2’s resolution to 200% since it looks better at 100% than the Vive Pro does at 200% or even higher. There is a diminishing return visually for SuperSampling after about 130% even with the Vive Pro and it is not at all necessary for the G2.
Last up, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinner is the last of BTR’s 13 VR game benching suite. It is a first person survival horror adventure RPG with a strong emphasis on crafting. Its visuals using the Unreal 4 engine are outstanding and it makes good use of physics for interactions.
The RTX 3090 delivered 145.14 unconstrained FPS with 2 dropped frames, 2 Warp misses, and 2 synthetic frames using the Vive Pro.
Using the G2, it delivered 66.67 unconstrained FPS together with 2211 dropped (but probably) synthetic frames and with 11 Warp misses.
Again, there is no reason – outside of benchmarking to prove a point – to increase the pixel density to 150% for the G2. The visuals simply do not benefit as much from it as much as the Vive Pro does. At 100% pixel density, the image quality, clarity, and overall visuals are far superior to the Pro’s at 150%.
Here are our thirteen test games and one synthetic bench, the OpenVR benchmark. Higher is better. We don’t give percentages of change or percentages of increase between the two competing HMDs since unconstrained framerates are just one metric of performance headroom that is useless without the accompanying frametime charts.
The Reverb G2 is a significantly more demanding HMD than the Vive Pro yet our RTX 3090 can deliver above 90 FPS to seven of thirteen games that we tested at maxed-out settings. And for three of these games, we used ridiculous and unnecessary amounts of SuperSampling/Super Resolution/increased pixel density for the G2 for other than comparison purposes. The G2 at 100% resolution generally offers much clearer and overall better visuals than the Vive Pro at 200% resolution.
Let’s check out our conclusion.
The “Best” HMD
There is no such thing as the “best” HMD unless you are just talking about specs, in which case, the G2 wins by virtue of its higher resolution. However, VR is more “alive” and immersive using the G2 over the Vive Pro for this reviewer. What is especially impressive is that the Reverb G2 at $599 is significantly less expensive than the Vive Pro headset by itself which also requires expensive controllers and base stations. The G2 setup is also less complex and time-consuming. The only advantages that the Pro has over the G2 is with its more precise tracking, darker blacks by reason of using an OLED screen, and it’s ability to use wireless for a completely untethered experience.
If you are a racing or flight sim enthusiast, the choice is clear – the G2 is a far superior HMD to the Pro. However, for action games and especially standing games or shooters where precise tracking is critical, the Pro may be a better choice. However, there is another option that we are going to explore in our G2 follow-up review – hybrid Mixed Reality – pairing the Index controllers and the Base stations for perfect tracking with the clearest and highest resolution HMD, the G2, for a sort of “ultimate” VR system.
We want to extend our thanks to HP for loaning us a G2, and we loved testing and evaluating their wonderful hardware. We give the Reverb G2 an enthusiast recommendation – especially for simmers. We like it so much that we are going to buy a Reverb G2 for our own enjoyment, and we will pair it with SteamVR base stations and Index controllers for the best of all VR gaming.
We will continue to benchmark the G2 and will also follow-up this review with practical “best playable settings” that will deliver at least a constant 90 FPS from lesser video cards than the RTX 3090 and we will continue to add more games for benching comparisons.
Next up in our VR HMD series, we are going to compare the performance of the Valve Index with the Vive Pro and the G2. In addition, we plan to review ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos before it releases on February 19 using our 3 HMDs.
Happy VR Gaming!