VR Headset Comparison : Which one should I buy?

Posted on: April 21st, 2017 by VRBeginnersGuide

vistual glasses and abstract background

The Reality of Virtual Reality

Since Oculus Rift launched their KickStarter campaign back in 2012, the VR frenzy has taken off. VR is taking off so quickly because it is not just for gamers. Many people who don’t even enjoy gaming are discovering a new world with VR. There is no surprise when you have heavy hitters in the social media industry involved in the virtual expansion of virtual reality. Facebook bought out Oculus Rift in 2014 and YouTube recently launched it’s 360 Hub, which favors Google product and PlayStation. Then you have the game distribution platform, Steam, partnered with HTC and the benefits that can be had there. While you may be questioning which VR headset that you need, the real question is going to be which is going to work best for you.

Finding a headset that works for you is not difficult if you have the facts. If you don’t have a computer or a smart phone then you are going to be starting from scratch. In that case, it is important to know the facts and make a wise decision from the start. But most of them are pretty comparable depending on the experience that you are looking for.

What To Consider Before You Even THINK of Purchasing a VR Headset

vrbeginnersguide.com what to consider before buying a vr headset

We live in a brave new world of technology and the VR headsets that are out on the market today will probably be upgraded, in some small way at least, by the end of the year. It’s a new trend that started with computers and cell phones and now bleeds into every part of technology. Because of this, your considerations need to change when you think about what system will work for you. The more expensive the system, more likely the cooler it will be – with better accessories, options and of course, better virtual reality gameplay. That being said, there are other considerations that you need to make. 

What kind of VR device do you have?

vrbeginnersguide.com headset comparisonSmart phone apps are convenient and generally a less expensive option for trying out VR. They do not provide the same quality as a VR device powered by a console or full sized computer. If you have the money to spend and want a state of the art virtual experience, then certainly go for the console or computer powered options. You will spend more money on these, but you will also get a lot more power behind the headset and a more immersive VR experience all the way around.

For mobile VR, once you know what possible smart phones you can use, take a closer look at the HMDs that work with your device. It’s a good idea to understand what you are looking for and to do your research. Try asking yourself what you want to do with your VR experience. Are you looking to just view awesome YouTube 360 videos and movies or are you looking for a fully immersive experience where you will actually believe you are participating in the game or application you are running? All of these considerations will come into play. Take your time and shop smart!

So, with that being said, let’s take a look at all of your options and find the headset that will work for you!

Android and iPhone VR Options

vrbeginnersguide.com andrioid and iphone vr optionsThe simplest and cheapest option are the ‘Phone tray’ VR adapter type units. These are very simple plastic, or even cardboard affairs with a headstrap and a couple of lenses. You strap your phone in and open up a VR app or video. Everything is handled by your Phone, it acts as the display and does all of the processing. Head tracking is handled, albeit in a very basic way, by your phone’s internal motion sensor. At the top end of Mobile VR we have the integrated VR units like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. These devices have some actual hardware, along with improved motion sensors you also get some controls. Most units just have a couple of buttons on the headset itself but the latest ones come with neat little wireless hand controller. Currently, Android is the only smart phone that works with these kinds of headsets. And not all phones work with all devices so make sure you check the compatibility lists.

To date, Apple doesn’t actually have a HMD available for the iPhone. The buzz in the tech community says they are a few years. Until then, check out the Phone Tray / VR adapter type HMD for VR options. These are light weight viewing boxes, essentially.

Phone Tray / VR Adapter HMD

Eleoption VR Box 2.0

Carl Zeiss VR One GX – All Phone Types *OnePlus – A larger version of the Carl Zeiss VR One that’s compatible with the largest designs of iPhones that are currently available on the market

Google Cardboard – All Phone Types

Integrated Mobile VR HMDs

Google Daydream View – Android Only

Samsung Gear VR – Android Only

Once you figure out which VR or 360 HMD will work with the kind of phone that you already have (if that is a consideration) then you can take a dig deeper and compare the rest of the details that are going to mean the most to you including compatibility, comfort and performance.

Google Cardboard
vrbeginnersguide.com google cardboard

Pros:

  • Simple Construction
  • Inexpensive
  • Fits Most Phones

Cons:

  • Low Durability
  • Does not come with a headstrap

Comfort:

This is a basic model slider VR headset that lets you out your phone into the viewing box so that you can see the screen. It is ideal for travel or disposable needs or anyone who just wants a quick and cheap demo. There are no extra comfort items that come with this model either. It is very much, “What you see is what you get.” There are now plenty of stylized after market kits, as well as a number of lanyards and straps you can purchase since there isn’t one that comes with this mode.

Compatibility:

This product doesn’t offer any specific compatibility with the headset itself, but there are requirements for the phones that it is used with. While Android and iPhone can both download the apps now, it still depends on what your phone is like to know the capabilities. The more powerful your phone, the better the experience in general.

Considerations About Optimization:
This tray type VR headset is ideal for all phone types and will keep them secure while allowing you to watch 360 Videos with easy. Even better, this HMD alternative pairs well with YouTube Hub 360, just like the Daydream. While the Cardboard is less expensive, you also still get access to the same great Google apps that are available for both Android and Apple products.

Eleoption VR Box 2.0
vrbeginnersguide.com eleoption vr box 2.0

Pros:

  • Clever Eco-Friendly Design
  • Fits Most SmartPhones

Cons:

  • Not Compatible with Any Systems
  • Very Basic Model

Comfort:

Similar to the Google Cardboard tray type of HMD for VR and 360, this basic model is made of plastic and includes a secure T strap to hold everything in place. The design is simple and it keeps your phone placed in front of your face so that you can experience VR or 360 with ease.

Performance:
With this tray type HMD for VR and 360 experiences, you are going to get performance based on your phone.

Compatibility and Game Play:
Compatible with basically all phones and having access to both Google Play and iTunes apps, this headset is an easy one to integrate into any phone based VR experience. There are no bells and whistles that will improve gameplay specifically, except the adjust spherical lenses that give you increased visual clarity. The design allows you to use your phone as a VR viewing system and you plug everything directly into the phone.

This tray type VR headset is ideal for all phone types as it is large enough to fit any phone that fits within the measurement specs between 4.7” x 6.0”. If you have any phone that fits it will likely work, but a list of common phones include:

Carl Zeiss VR One
vrbeginnersguide.com carl zeiss vr one

Pros:

  • Plastic Alternative to Google Cardboard
  • Ideal for Drone Racing Goggles
  • Clear Front Shield for Augmented Reality Apps
  • Can Be Worn with Glasses
  • High Quality Lenses

Cons:

  • No App Compatibility 

Comfort:

This model is a slide tray, allowing you to insert your phone and it will hold it in place. Similar to Google Cardboard, the Zeiss VR One is a more durable option for people who are looking for a sturdier HMD option to hold their VR capable smart phone. It comes with a thick adjustable strap and a wide view field of vision. The one great thing about these, they have great lenses for a slider tray type HMD. This will reduce vision tension and makes game play more comfortable. Additionally, if you wear glasses you will be happy to know that you should be able to wear the VR One.

Performance:
With this tray type HMD for VR and 360 experiences, you are going to get performance based on your phone. The inside lenses are well made, which is to be expected from a professional optics company famous for their telescope and camera components.

Compatibility and Game Play:
If you are looking for a simple option for playing games like Pokemon Go or racing drones then this is a decent pick. The front cover is a opaque tinted plastic that allows your phone to see through, making it viable to play augmented reality games on. That being said, the performance of the phone will be the main factor on your game play. 

Considerations About Optimization:
This tray type VR headset is ideal for all phone types as it is large enough to fit most popular phone sizes. You can choose the size for your phone and they have most sizes that you would need available. You can also print off trays from a 3-D printer if you purchase direct from the company.

If you have any phone that fits it will likely work, but a list of common phones include:

 Google Daydreamvrbeginnersguide.com google daydream view

Pros:

  • High-Quality Construction
  • Lightweight Sleek Design
  • Advanced Motion Sensor
  • Connects to YouTube 360 Hub Easily

Cons:

  • Too Few Apps
  • Limited phone compatibility

 Comfort:

The fabric design is stylish and comfortable. The design itself is roomy, but the headset might leave you with red face lines. Granted, you can purchase an additional face pad for a better fit and more comfort. That being said, if you wear glasses the fit is already a little snug and you likely will not be able to wear them and the pad together. The Daydream is lighter than other options, weighing in at just over a point. This makes it ideal for children and people who just don’t want something bulky around their faces. There is a head strap for adjustment and so that you can make sure it is fit snugly. This will make it easier to wear and also reduce the chance of light bleeding in while you play and interfering with your vision.

Performance:
Gameplay with the Daydream is a dream, for the most part. Of course, it is new and Google has been pushing hard to get people into their VR headsets as they launch other applications and uses for the system. This model has onboard sensor that prevents lag, making your experience all the more immersive. One downside is that it has shown to have problems with slowing down when the phone gets too hot, specifically over 95 degrees. That being said, this has been an ongoing complaint for a few of the newer VR headsets. We expect future upgrades will have more venting to allow for more airflow, but for now if your phone runs hot you may want to consider other options.

Compatibility and Gameplay:
The headset itself has very few games, but more are on the way. Puzzle games are worth buying as many of the options currently are shorter games or are demo. They going to be the best bang for your buck, until Google get more games and apps selections added. There is a controller that is included.

Considerations About Optimization:
Overall, you can usually get expected results with Google and so far, the View combined with the Daydream platform is already getting great reviews. Please note, you do have to have Android 7.0 Nuget  or Qualcom Snapdragon 821 capabilities on your phone in order to run properly. The Google Daydream View will only work with a handful of devices. One of which (of course) includes Google’s new Pixel phone.

Others include:

  • Hawei (previous developers of BlackBerry)
  • Mate 9 Pro and Porsche Design Mate 9
  • Axon 7 by ZTE
  • Moto Z (All Models)

Samsung Gear VR
vrbeginnersguide.com samsung gear vr

Pros:

  • Comfortable Fit
  • Lightweight
  • Apps and store by Oculus

Cons:

  • Can Only Be Used with Samsung Phones

Comfort:

Samsung put out the Gear VR a while ago and have sold over 6 million units. The new model looks about the same as the original with a few key difference. They have made some updates to style and comfort including adding vents and making the headset itself more spacious. More comfort is always a good thing! The original model would fog up pretty bad as it collected the condensation from breathing, which sometimes is a lot if you are playing an active game. Now you can see more clearly with a snug fit on the face. You may get a little light bleed from time to time, but once you find the right snugness by adjusting the head strap, this usually isn’t a problem. Granted, they have also made the overall viewing angle much wider and also put some more tint to decrease glare and reflections. And lastly the new model also comes with a nice little wireless controller so you don’t have to mess up your view pressing the buttons on the HMD. There’s really no complaints to be had and this model is one of the better choices if comfort is a main concern.

Performance:

Oculus Rift was the first VR headset to be released, which was rad until the smart phone VR applications and headsets were unleashed on the market.  To keep up with the competition, they paired with Samsung to release the Gear VR.

Compatibility and Game Play:
Gameplay is not the same play between the Oculus Rift and the Gear VR. While there are quite a few crossover titles and similarities the Gear VR and Oculus Rift stores are separate. But because of the partnership with Oculus, Gear VR has arguable the best range of apps of all Mobile VR devices with more game ‘experiences’. It still has the standard performance that you would expect from a VR HMD that connects direct to a phone. 

Considerations About Optimization:

The actual visibility and playability of the headset is greatly impacted by the specific model of phone that you are using. Since this is a Samsung product, it’s no shock that it only works with Samsung phones with VR capabilities.

These include:

  • Galaxy S6 and S7 (All Models)
  • Galaxy Edge Models

Console and Computer Options:

These are the fully fledged VR systems everyone is raving about. While the Mobile VR options are nice demos and good for a bit of fun the cannot compare to ‘proper’ VR. Unfortunately they are the only option for most people at this point simply because of price. Both the Rift and the Vive cost around $700 and require a gaming computer worth about $1000 on top of that. Even the PSVR will set you back $800 with the console included. Oculus Rift started the VR movement as we know it today. As the first model of headset and game rig combination, most of the other brands of VR headsets have been modeled after this one. That being said, they tested the design first and it was because of them that flaws were found. The Oculus Rift has come a long way since then. However, they are not the only major players in the VR business anymore either.

Oculus Rift

vrbeginnersguide.com oculus rift headset

Pros:

  • Full positional tracking
  • Ergonomic Design
  • Sleek style
  • High-performance
  • Optional motion controllers

Cons:

  • Expensive Investment

Comfort:

This comfortable headset allows for an easy VR experience. With only one cord, the Oculus Rift is functional and easy to move with. There is a Velcro headpiece that allows for adjustable snugness. This is especially awesome for those that share the headset, whether siblings, friends, or parent and child. Oculus’ CEO has even said that their goal was to make the headset a lot like wearing a pair of glasses. For the most part, they are. They are barely noticeable on your head, and since it can be adjusted to a snug fit you don’t get issues with light bleeding in and causing reflections or screen glare.

There is a sensor that recognizes when you turn more than 180-degrees around and the tracking works well… better than would be expected.

The Oculus Rift not only feels comfortable to wear, it is also not too bad to look at. It takes up a very small space and is designed to be sleek and impressive. It definitely is a contender when compared too the HTC Vive, and it weighs less too!

Compatibility:  

Oculus Rift requires a dedicated computer system equipped with Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer. As part of the system maintains it’s own app selection for VR games and more. While it is not designed to have a simple set up with YouTube’s 360 Hub, there are workarounds available so that you can still use it for watching 360 videos if you so desire.

Considerations about optimization:

With a 2160 x 1200 resolution spanning the two OLED display screens on board, a refresh rate of 90Hz, and a working rate of 233 million pixels per second, the Oculus Rift is truly the highest resolution VR headset on the market.In addition to the Rift headset and controls, you can also purchase accessory pieces to improve your VR experience.

These include:

  • Rift Sensor
  • Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning
  • Leap Motion Controller
  • Rift earphones

HTC Vive

vrbeginnersguide.com htc vive

Pros:

  • Room-scale tracking
  • Motion controllers
  • Intuitive interface
  • Can be Paired with Steambox

Cons:

  • Price

Comfort:

Designers seem to have chosen function over form for this headset, though there is space for eyeglasses, thanks to the slotted space within the headset. There will be some need for strap adjustment both when you put it on and take it off. While slightly heavier than the Oculus Rift, the design is comfortable enough to spend hours immersed in VR.

Performance

Brilliant display granted by two 1080 x 1200 screens with and a 90hz refresh rate make the Vive a beautiful VR experience. The Vive also offers superb resolution, in that you may forget you’re in a virtual world instead of real life.

Compatibility and Game Play:

The HTC Vive offers a plethora of games. You can get sucked into hours of play with the vast catalog of games, though some are buggy and don’t have much of a tutorial to speak of. Most of the games out for this particular VR headset are demos, but there are sure to be longer games in the future.

Considerations About Optimization:

Like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive is its own VR rig which plugs into your computer. Recommended specs for this headset are as follows: 4GB RAM or more, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or better, if you can find it, and finally, either Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent.

 

 


 

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