Virtual reality, as a concept, come into being in the 1960s. One way you could experience it was through immersive stereoscopic videos. We all know the 70s as the time when computerization started to explode and the closest one could come to virtual reality then was through realistic interactive interfaces that come with various devices. Even in the 90s, a 3D model plastered on a computer screen was one of the best things virtual reality could offer but fast forward to 2016, virtual reality is now on a whole new level.
All the huge names in the virtual reality space have unveiled or are on their way to unveiling their VR platforms. Virtual reality headsets, with the help of motion tracking, put you in a virtual space letting you touch, navigate, push or perform a host of other roles in that space as if you actually are there.
Today’s VR headsets fit under any of these two categories: Tethered or Mobile. Tethered headsets which include the likes of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR (Sony PS VR), need a physical connection to either a PC or a PS4 (for Sony PS VR). Mobile headsets are basically shells fitted with special lenses into which you can slide your smartphone and it will automatically turn into a VR device. Examples include the Google Daydream view and Samsung Gear VR.
In our guide, we’ve listed and reviewed the best VR headsets each of us can have in 2016. In brief, they include:
· Google Cardboard
· Samsung Gear Vr
· Oculus Rift
· HTC Vive
· PlayStation Vr
· Google Daydream
But are they all right for everyone? Absolutely not. So if you need one that suits you, you’ll definitely have to sort through the many available options looking at their features, prices, and a list of other things one certainly needs in order to make the correct decision. So before we look at the products, let’s get to know some of these things.
Things to Consider Before Buying a VR Headset
Inexpensive VR headsets such as Google Cardboard come in either plastic or Aluminum, of course with a magnifying lens inside. Only downside to this is that you have limited interactivity besides the 360-degree view. All the same, they are pretty comfortable and compatible with all certified iOS or Android apps.
Mid-range headsets come with additional features that raise interactivity. For instance, some will have tracking sensors
, focus wheels, advanced built-in controls and so much more. Samsung’s Gear Vr is the best example. Others include the French Homido
and the Zeiss VR one
High-end headsets like the Sony PS VR, HTC Vive or Oculus Rift pack a host sophisticated features. Besides having high-quality graphics, their screens are of a high-resolution and on top of that, expect motion tracking and a list of other sophisticated features.
If you like freebies, you might just be lucky to get a free Google Cardboard if you happen to attend some of those conventions geared toward new tech. Verizon Star Wars and other companies have also partnered with Google to manufacture branded vr headsets some of which are given out free of charge. Basic Google Cardboards go for as low as $15/piece. Normally the average price for an inexpensive VR headset stands between $20- $30 unless you intend to customize it.
For a mid-range vr headset, expect to fork out anything from $75- $125. Of course the additional cost is due to the additional features like the ones we looked at earlier. Recently Samsung has been giving away their Gear VR for free on all new cellphone preorders.
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PS VR all cost hundreds of dollars.
As we mentioned earlier, vr headsets fall under two categories. Mobile and Tethered. So before making your way to the marketplace, find if your mobile phone is compatible with any of the mobile headsets. Does it have the latest operating system? What of its screen’s resolution? Those are some of the things you should watch out for.
As for the high end vr headset, check the specs of your PC to ensure they can offer great performance or in the case of PlayStation, ensure you own a PS4 if you intend to use the Sony PS VR.
Vr headsets on the lower side of the price range, like Google Cardboard, are hardly larger than your pair of sunglasses. You can fold them into a stackable box. Besides, they are comfortable just as it is when you wear your sunglasses. However, it’s recommended that you shouldn’t have them on for longer period of times for health reasons.
Samsung’s Gear Vr and those in its class are certainly more comfortable than the low-end vr headsets and on top of that, more immersive and comfortable. Another thing these vr headsets are prone to is motion sickness which can be mitigated by an external tracking camera but apparently, that’s a feature reserved for tethered headsets.
With the help of external tracking cameras, high end vr headsets like Oculus or Sony let you make movements in the virtual space. You can attach on them some LED’s or any other set of markers and use an external camera to track them. This way you can move around, lean or even crouch without worrying that you’ll hit a wall or an edge. Generally, they are extremely comfortable and excellent at keeping away light from outside and motion sickness.
5. Operational Features
Simple vr headsets mostly come with a hole in which you can insert your finger or thumb so as to tap the screen directly. Some come with buttons in the form of little levers that tap the screen for you. Of course there isn’t much you can do with a single button besides basic menu functions.
Some mid-range vr headsets like Zeiss or Homido don’t come with any control options. Others like LG’s 360VR only pack two buttons. However, Samsung’s Gear VR certainly comes with an advanced system which lets you tap, swipe and even press a button on its back amongst other things. You can as well pair it with a wireless gamepad.
Nearly all high-end vr headsets use gamepads. Take Oculus Rift, for instance, which comes with an Xbox one controller or the Sony PS VR which utilizes PS4 controllers. Best of all, they also use motion controllers which basically is a technology that lets you play vr games in different dimensions.
As you can expect, the inexpensive and simple vr headsets are pretty much available in most online marketplaces, from Google’s site (Cardboard) to Amazon to dozens of other e-commerce spaces. You can as well easily access apps and games that you can use with these vr headsets, mostly in Google Play store (for Android users) and Apple app store (for iPhone users)
Samsung’s Gear VR is also easily accessible in online marketplaces and at the host’s site. Even Zeiss VR one as well. The Gear VR comes preloaded with a long list of apps, games and demos so accessing them should never both you except that you will have to pay for some of them.
Sony PS VR, HTC vive and Oculus Rift are all available for sale right now as well. Each of them comes with a number of free games bundled in them but to get access to more games, you’ll have to buy them.
With all these in mind, you can now stay sure that you will make the correct decision when it comes to buying a vr headset. Next, take a look at our compilation of the best VR headsets to buy in 2016.
Google Cardboard- $9.99
Google’s Cardboard headsets are currently the simplest and least expensive of all headsets. Basically, it’s a combination of cardboard, a set of lenses and a thin fabric or tape for strapping. You can buy an already made headset or if you wish, you can buy the kit and start to assemble one on your own.
The display pretty much depends with the phone you intend to use but note that the viewer usually works best with Android phones that a little smaller. Even if your phone doesn’t work well with the magnet but it’s able to run the vr apps, you can still enjoy the headset. iPhone users can as well enjoy the Cardboard.
Samsung Gear Vr –$53
Samsung Gear VR is a combination of efforts, both from Samsung and Oculus, who powered it with the VR technology. In the mid-range vr headset category, it definitely stands out from the rest reason being it has one of the most polished and advanced VR system.
Its usage is limited to Samsung Galaxy Smartphones (Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge and Galaxy S7, S7 edge). To use it, all one needs to do is visit the Oculus store
to download vr apps and games of your choice and after installing them, clip the device on that headset and you’ll be good to go.
The gear lets you have a stereoscopic view of your Samsung smartphone’s screen, and since the resolution is almost all the same for all compatible phones, expect 1440 X 1280 per eye resolution.
Oculus Rift- $599
Even with the recent tough competition from HTC vive and Sony PlayStation VR, Oculus remains a heavyweight brand in the virtual reality space. Oculus Rift is a sleek headset equipped with an Amoled screen for each of your eyes. Each of these screen has a resolution of 1200X1080.
To use it, you need a powerful PC running Microsoft windows 7 or later. Also, it comes with a remote control that lets you navigate around its menu options with ease. Oculus rift
’s cutting edge display technology joins with its low latency constellation tracking system
to let you enjoy the sensation of presence making your vr experience more realistic.
You can download a range of games, from RPG’s to puzzles to Sci-fi shooters and go ahead to enjoy them from this device.
HTC VIVE- $799
If virtual reality was to be a battle, HTC VIVE would win hands down. It brings to its users a complete VR experience. With its motion controllers, you are saved the pain of having to endure bulky traditional controllers. Besides, it has two base stations for positional tracking.
Thanks to its 1080p screens, resolution is at its best, actually the best you could experience from VR market. One remarkable thing about the HTC vive is its room scale feature
. With the help of this feature, you can walk around a room as big as 4.5m by 4.5m as you indulge in vr games or apps.
You will definitely need a powerful PC to make the most out of HTC vive
. And even though it’s high up on the price scale, the VR experience you get from this device is nothing you will want to trade for anything.
PlayStation Vr- $399
Sony’s PlayStation VR is the most recent banging vr headset everyone wants to have. It’s not as expensive as the likes of HTC VIVE but it packs enough punch to give a VR experience that is second to none. Whereas the other ones need either a smartphone or a powerful PC to work, Sony’s PS VR only requires a PS4 console.
At launch it had almost 50 games and demos and Sony promised to bring in more in the next few months. With such a selection, you are at will to play almost any type of game you wish. And through its 5.7” OLED 1080p display you get to enjoy all of this at a remarkable resolution.
Besides a PS4, you will also require a PS4 camera
and PlayStation Move Controllers
which are actually sold separately. Having all of these accessories will let you get the most out of the headset.
Google Daydream View- $79
Google Daydream view
launched a few weeks ago and for its ridiculously inexpensive price, it promises to offer more than you can ask for. It comes with a tiny remote to enhance navigation and gameplay.
On top of that, it has on a fabric coat which is a great addition to its comfort ability. Another great aspect of its design is that it fits well and even though a small amount of light might leak in from the sides, you can easily sort this out by turning out all the lights.
To use it, just slide in your phone which of course doubles up as your display. Just like the Cardboard, it also has set of lenses that work to bring you that perfect VR experience. Currently, its software library isn’t as stocked we would wish it to be and besides it’s not compatible with the Cardboard apps. But Google promised to come up with a solution to that.
So besides knowing all the things one needs to know before buying a VR headset, the reviews you just read give you a taste of what to expect when you buy any of these six best vr headsets. Each of them is special on its own and so it’s up to you to figure out what really suits you. Happy Shopping.