It is here, it is now, and it is incredible! However, getting the best VR setup for you can be very confusing. Since there are a few different headsets out there these days that let you experience a virtual life for a while, it’s imperative that you do your homework on which one will suit you best. This article will do the homework for you. So… sit back, relax, read, and make a decision that will change your virtual life for the rest of your real life!
There is no doubt that any kind of true VR headset will give you an amazing experience, but some are better than others, connected to a computer, connected to a phone, or a standalone unit that does not need any extra wires!
Which one should you choose?
What VR Headsets Are Available Now?
Oculus, partnered with Facebook, has been one of the main leaders in getting VR to the masses and the price point is decent coming in at $350 from Oculus.
What is in the box:
Of course, you get the headset, attached headphones, 2 sensors, 2 touch controllers, and all the necessary cables to connect to your computer.
Even though they aren’t actually “in the box”, you get a few decent games to get you started into your magical VR journey. When you set up your new Rift, they will already be in your account.
The headset comes equipped with 2 OLED screens at a 1080 x 1200-pixel resolution for each eye, so the graphics looks crisp and clear, and will blow you away! Some people have said that they can see the Screen Door Effect (SDE) but, when you are immersed in a game, you really don’t notice it at all. It also gives you a 90hz refresh rate, which reduces the feeling of VR sickness.
The headset boasts 110-degree field of view (FOV), so you can really feel present in the world you are in.
The controllers and headset have IR Tracking. So, whenever you move, the sensors move you in the VR world. The sensors are USB powered via a computer connection. Ideally, the sensors are set up in front of you. However, if you purchase an active USB extender, you can put sensors diagonally to each other to give you a 360 degrees setup. Keep in mind, that the extender does not come with your initial purchase.
Oculus gives you access to the Oculus store to purchase games. You can also buy VR games from Steam. Unfortunately, if you purchase a game from the Oculus store, and decide to change your VR headset to something other than Oculus, you can’t play the games you put all your hard-earned money in to. Until they change this, it might be a good idea to buy games from Steam. You can play them on whatever headset you use, and they will show up in your Oculus library.
On the bright side, the software for Oculus Home is always improving. Now you can access your desktop, run a virtual desktop, stream movies, and browse the web through the headset.
HTC and Valve got together and made a baby called HTC Vive. Another leader in the VR world, the Vie comes in at a slightly higher price point at $499 directly from Vive. If you invest a bit more, you can get the VivePro which gives you enhanced graphics, better sound, and doesn’t feel as bulky, but you’ll pay $799 for that. The VivePro only includes the headset and the Viveport Subscription.
What is in the box:
Along with the headset of course, you get a set of earbuds, the necessary cables that are needed to plug into a link box, that then plugs into the PC. The controllers and 2 sensors, that they call base stations, provide you with the 360 degrees room scale set up. The base stations must be powered from a power outlet, and not from the back of the computer. It also gives you a free trial to Viveport which will allow you to try games and give you some free games to keep.
The is very similar to the Rift, with the OLED screens at 1080 x 1200-pixel resolution for each eye, so graphically it is pretty much the same. The refresh rate is the same at 90hz and gives you about the same 110-degree field of view.
The 2 base stations track the Vive controllers when they are set up diagonally from each other, which gives you the ability to have room scale VR, where you can walk around. This is where the Vive excels straight out of the box. You don’t have to buy any extra cables; just remember they must be plugged into a power outlet to work.
The Vive also comes equipped with a front facing camera, which comes in very handy if you need to step away and maybe look at your cell phone to see if you want to answer it without taking the headset off, this can be activated through its software. Also comes in handy if you have a spouse that likes to try and creep up on you in scary games to freak you out, just saying.
With the Vive offering the Viveport subscription, you can be ready to jump on a few games immediately. Their offers are always changing with their subscription, but whatever games you get, and the fact that you can try out games, you will never get bored with what you can do. Of course, you can still buy games from Steam. With ReVive you can also play the Oculus games too.
Windows VR Headsets: Samsung Odyssey+
There are a few Windows VR headsets out there from Acer, Dell, and Samsung. So, I will talk about the most impressive one I have seen, the Samsung Odyssey+.
Samsung is no stranger to VR, with its impressive Gear VR back in the day, powered by, none other than Oculus. Samsung decided to make their own little love child, the Samsung Odyssey. It comes in a little higher than the Rift, but lower than the Vive at $399 on Amazon.
What is in the box:
This may surprise you, of course the headset is in there, with all the cables and the track controllers. Where are the sensors? Impressively enough the Samsung Odyssey does not need any external sensors.
The headset comes equipped with 2 AMOLED screens pushing even higher resolution at 1440 x 1600-pixel resolution for each eye. The same field of view of 110-degrees and refresh rate of 90hz, and the headphones. These AKG headphones give you 360-degree Spatial Sound to give you an even deeper feeling of immersion whilst fighting monsters or running through a war-torn neighborhood.
You may be asking yourself, since there are no external sensors, then how does this work? The sensors are on the headset, that means you can freely move around without the hassle of your motion controllers losing their way or becoming unresponsive if within 7 seconds they are in front of the headset sensors again.
One of the nicest features about the Samsung Odyssey+ is the software to keep the Screen Door Effect down to a minimum, unlike the rift where it’s there but when you’re immersed you don’t really see it, with the Samsung Odyssey its almost gone completely.
The software comes through Steam VR, with most of the VR titles working with it. You can also download games from the Microsoft Store for WMR and access them through the Mixed Reality Portal. The portal is setup when you are setting up your PC for VR. Most importantly, you can still play cross platform with Rift, Vive, and PlayStation 4.
PlayStation 4 VR or PSVR
PlayStation came, saw, and wanted to get in on the VR action! It turned out rather well for them and is a pretty good VR entryway. Working through the console does pose certain limitations.
If you’re a PC buff and you have a machine capable of playing VR, stick with that, but if you have just getting into VR, or already have the PlayStation 4, this could work out well for you. The price point for the headset is about $180 on Amazon, however that is just the headset.
What is in the box:
With the PSVR, all you get in the box is the headset, and the cables to connect and to make it work with the PlayStation 4, a processor unit, and some earbuds. Unfortunately, to use the VR portion of this, you need to buy Move controllers, the PlayStation camera, and of course if you haven’t already got it, you need the PlayStation 4 itself. It is worth mentioning however, that you can usually buy these in a bundle together, instead of getting them separate, whilst getting a couple of games thrown in too.
The headsets resolution is not as high as the Rift, Vive, or Samsung Odyssey+, it also only has one OLED screen, however it is still an impressive resolution giving you a full 1080 view with 960 x 1080 per eye. The Field of view is a bit less with 100-degrees, however when you are immersed in VR, you really don’t seem the notice the small things.
The PSVR is not set up at all for 360 degrees tracking, like the Rift originally, you set the camera up and you have to be in line with the camera in order for it to see you move, and for you to move your hands in the VR world. There is little to no screen door effect with the PSVR, even though there is less resolution, than the other VR units out there, it has a very high subpixel resolution, therefore there is no screen door effect.
Unless you get the bundle, you will get the Playroom VR software. This gives you 5 co-op mini games. Cat and Mouse, where you are a cat trying to spot the non-VR people playing as the mice, very short but also fun, because everything is fun in VR. Monster Escape, where you as the VR player is the monster, and again the non-VR people are bots trying to run and dodge the attacks from the VR monster. Wanted, where you get transported to the Wild West, and your move controller acts as a gun. The non-VR people need to describe to you what the bandit looks like, and you have to shoot him, based on their description. Ghost House gets kind of interesting, you have to Ghostbuster a house with the help of the non-VR players, by scanning a light in the room, then the non-VR players tell you where they saw the ghost, then you need to do your best Ghostbuster impression and suck them up with the vacuum. Robots Rescue where you are in a 3d Platformer, which is a new concept on the PSVR. You need to jump around, rescuing robots, and the non-VR players help by flying around moving boxes and fans, so you can rescue the robots.
Of course, unless you get the bundle you do have a few free game options such as Rec Room that will provide hours of fun, or you could splurge and get Skyrim VR, and fight some dragons instead!
Oculus doesn’t want to just be the leader in VR, it wants to take over all of it, so they have decided to make another headset, this time for users that don’t have a computer, and who do not want to spend a whole bunch of money. There are 2 versions of the Oculus Go, 32gb for $199 and 64gb for $249 directly from the Oculus website.
What is in the box:
Because these VR ready headsets don’t require a computer, you don’t get any sensors, you get the headset, a VR controller, power adaptor, AA battery and an Eyeglass spacer.
You have a beautiful looking LCD screen, with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, and a refresh rate of 72hz. The field of view is about 100-degrees. You don’t ever get the issue of your controller not being able to be detected since there are no sensors on the headset, it just connects to it wirelessly.
To set it up, you need to have an Android running 6.0 Marshmallow or higher, or an iPhone running iOS 10 or higher.
The Oculus Go also does not suffer from the screen door effect that other people seem to be able to see. This is set up as a straight out of the box VR unit, so it’s not designed for taxing games like on its PC counterpart the Rift, however this is a great entry level step into VR.
The controller it gives you fits comfortably in your hand, it has a clickable trackpad, a trigger for use in games, and selecting different items. It comes fully equipped with a mic, and a headphone port, but you don’t need to use the port, you can hear without external headphones.
One of the limiting factors in getting an Oculus Go is battery life, which could last around 2.5 to 3 hours depending on what your doing. That seems like a while, however when you are immersed in VR, hours feel like minutes. It is worth noting that there is no way of upgrading your space, so the limited 32gb or 64gb depending on which one you choose, you will more than likely have to uninstall things if you want to download more and more. You don’t always have to have an internet connection to use this, however to stream movies from places such as Netflix, Hulu, and of course YouTube you will need a constant internet connection. You can connect it to the computer and transfer your own video files, so when you are taking a trip and you don’t have that internet connection, you’re still going to be able to watch movies.
There are over 1000 games, apps and movies that you can choose from. There are a lot of free experiences, which are amazing, and you can get them all from the Oculus store.
One of the greatest features of these entry level headsets is their ability to download Netflix. When you are in the Netflix app, you can look at the movie on a huge screen, that is above a fireplace, or if you prefer, you can look up at the sky and watch your movie that way.
If you have a home video network, you can also install Plex and connect to your media server and watch movies that way too, or you can download YouTube VR and get some seriously cool experiences. Granted with YouTube your resolution suffers a bit because it’s all online, but again, it’s in VR, and if you are just stepping into this wonder world of VR anything is going to look amazing!
The games are not anything like the PC games, these are more games for your cell phone, but that doesn’t mean the immersion is not there, there are plenty of shooter games, and if horror is your thing I recommend buying Affected: The Manor, so you can scream like a girl, like I did.
There are a lot of VR headsets out there that will promise you amazing VR experiences, unfortunately a lot of these are cheap knock offs of VR, which if you have never experienced it before, it’s cool, however with all the updated VR devices out there now, it starts to show its limitations.
Samsung and Oculus decided to get together for a bit, and they came up with the Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus. The price for the Gear VR is $129.99 from the Oculus store.
What is in the box:
In the sleek looking black box, you have the headset and the controller. There is not much in the box, depending on the version you get, the older ones do not come with the controller. If your phone has a USB-C connection or a Micro USB connection, there is an adaptor for that too.
You do need to use specific Samsung Galaxy cell phones for this to work, ranging from the Note 5 to the Note 9, with Android Lollipop 5.0 or later, although there is a work around for other cell phones.
The resolution on the Gear VR is higher than that of the Rift, coming in at 1440 x 1280-pixel resolution for each eye, because it is essentially using the QHD smartphone screen, but please don’t be fooled, again this is not for high end gaming, this is for cell phone limited games.
It does come with the Super AMOLED screen, and the field of view is about the same as the Oculus Go, with 101-degrees.
The battery life is going to be affected by your phone. On the older phones the battery life is very limited to maybe a couple of hours, and the phone will get very hot, and tell you to stop using the VR for a bit, on the new phones such as Samsung S8+, it never overheated, and the battery life was a good 4 hours or more depending on what you were doing.
Like the Oculus Go, you can download anything from the Oculus store, and you can also watch movies from it. Again, this is not for essentially for gaming, however will provide you with hours of fun with all the cool VR apps out there from being on a rollercoaster, to blasting your way through a zombified wild west.
Anticipating More From VR
Oculus Rift 2
Anyone who is excited about VR, or whoever has a VR headset, we are always looking for the next best thing. The next best thing for users that have already been around a VR headset for a while are eagerly anticipating the release of the Oculus Rift 2.
It has been called Casper at one point, also the Rift S, but there are no solids on this at the moment, we don’t know what the price will be, or what extra awesome surprises it has in store for us, that being said, there are a few things that we all want when it comes to VR… let me take you on that journey.
We all want wireless connectivity, there is nothing more that breaks immersion than that of a cable holding you back, whether yo
u are picking up something from the ground and it pulls you back, or if you’re turning around and feeling the cable being wrapped around your neck. There are companies out there that make wireless adaptors for around $300, but it would be nice to be included in the next Rift.
Oculus Gloves with Haptic Feedback
The Rift controllers conform better to your hands than the Vive wands, however Mark Zuckerberg has teased that there is something in the works where you can be wearing gloves instead of holding controllers. The possibilities of that allow for more immersion, so instead of looking down and seeing hands that you can somewhat control, how much cooler would it be for your hands to mirror exactly what they are doing in real life. And, to feel the weight of an object in your hand, or when you walk through a field and bend down and touch the grass, this is what makes geeks salivate! We already know these exist but are not yet available.
Proper Room Scale
So unless you buy the HTC Vive and have extra power outlets where you can plug your sensors into, or unless you buy a longer USB connection for the Rift sensors, it would be awesome if they included 3 sensors as well as long enough USB cables to go with them, that way there is nothing else to buy and you could have a fully 360 experience without the need of buying anything extra as soon as you got it up and running.
Of course, none of these are in any way shape or form going to be for the next Rift release, but these are at least some of the things that we as VR users are really looking forward to.