The gaming world is an ever-changing canvas of the coolest new innovations and technologies, and unless you've been living under a rock (or whatever gamers live under) you'll know that the newest fad is VR. With the world of Virtual Reality becoming more and more popular, it is only natural for the big names in the industry to try and out-do one another by making the best VR device known to man. The problem that this causes for us, the consumers, is too much choice and not knowing what to do with it.
But you're in luck! We'll compare and contrast all the benefits of each of the newest VR devices, some of which are already available and others which will be available soon. And, at the end of the slide-show, we'll compare the top devices for your convenience. So let's get right into it!
Before we go into what makes the best VR headset, we need to see what VR can do. This is especially important, because knowing what it is you want from your VR device would be a large barometer of which device you choose to buy (or stare at until the price drops). Of course, we did cover this in full detail in our Virtual Reality - Where is it heading, and what does that mean to us? article but let's cover the basics quickly once more.
So what are some of the widespread implications of VR? You can have:
And what are some of the things that could happen in the near future?
With that out of the way, let's take a look at our first VR headset.
While you shouldn't consider this a full-fledged VR headset, at the low cost of just $99, it is miles cheaper than any other VR device and merits a quick overview.
$99 (£89.95) and available from most retailers and online stores.
Gear VR boasts a "Super AMOLED display, wide field of view, precise head-tracking and low latency."
The device uses any of the new Samsung phones (including and everything after Galaxy S7/S6, S7/S6 Edge and Galaxy Note 5) as the CPU, GPU and Display, so this is especially useful for die-hard Android fans who always get the latest phones.
This is an area that the Samsung Gear VR lacks behind in. You can use it for any VR capable video, and the device does have access to a variety of cool apps, but by and large it just doesn't compare to the complexity that you'd see in some of the other devices.
Anything is possible when you're inside Gear VR. Whether it's battling the undead or riding a flying carpet, you won't run out of adventures with an ever-expanding vault of games.
A cheap, user-friendly, alternative to mainstream VRs, Samsung Gear is for those of you who want to try VR, but not pay as much as a new console. Think of Gear VR vs other headsets as tablet vs console.
While obviously very different in nature, these two devices are almost identical in their differences to our other VR headsets. Both devices are wireless, and have built-in processors that utilize their respective Operating System, they are both still in development, and are in every way more of an AR (Augmented Reality) device than a VR one.
The Hololens' developmental edition is available for $3,000 from Microsoft with no release date available for the final version. The Google Glass' explorer edition is no longer being sold by Google but can be bought second hand from varying sellers. The original cost was $1,500, however the device can go anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000. The release date is equally unknown, and the entire project is quite mysterious, so any dates you see are completely based on guess-work.
Keep in mind that the Hololens is only available in the U.S. and Canada and has an application process.
Considering the fact that these devices don't really seem to be made for games, and have very little information handy, we can cross them off our list without going into more detail.
Probably the most interesting piece of new VR technology to come out of the GDC 2016 was the Sulon Q reveal; The very first wear-and-play VR and AR device that works perfectly well without the need for any external hardware. The device is powered by an AMD processor and graphics card, and makes use of Windows 10, although it is not clear whether you'll be able to use other operating systems, too. As the details for this device are very limited, speculation ensues.
With absolutely no information in this area, the most we can tell you is that this device will very likely be released before the Microsoft and Google devices and would likely be considerably cheaper. If you were to use previous trends, and factor in the advances in technology, the device should be released in about a year, likely in Q4 2017. This is entirely guess-work, albeit educated guess-work.
The device's biggest selling point is the fact that it doesn't come with any wiring or tethering. You'll probably get some connectors to project your screen on to a display if you choose to, but other than that and some chargers, there shouldn't be much else you'll need.
Also of interest is the fact that Sulon Q seems to work without an extrernal controller. How well this will work however, and how true it is, remains to be seen.
The Sulon Q uses the AMD FX-8800P processor and Radeon R7 Graphics, has a 2560x1440 OLED display and 110° field of view. The refresh rate is unknown (Very likely at least 120 hz)
"The full performance of 4 compute cores and 8 GPU cores are unlocked through a revolutionary Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA), enabling the cores to share memory to work together for dramatic performance and efficiency
The result is a solution that is optimized for modern workloads and media formats, capable of driving the latest graphics APIs including DirectX® 12 and Vulkan™, and able to render stunning videogame console-quality visuals... The Sulon Q™ headset also integrates AMD’s LiquidVR technologies to help ensure smooth and responsive VR and AR experiences."
Sulon Q's superiority to all contenders is unquestionable on paper. However, with no real information on the release date, price, exact features, and partnership with an actual game database/studio, there is a very large question mark on its capability in reality (or virtual reality). Still, something to look forward to!
PS VR is the latest addition to the VR frenzy -- and in typical Sony fashion, they make up for their delay with quality. The PS VR offers the highest visual qualities and the lowest price between its main two competitors. The biggest downside however, is the fact that the VR device only works on PS4 and its lack of a unique controller.
While the originally stated price of the PlayStation VR was $399, it was later discovered that the device would not function without a PS Camera and two PS Move controllers which closes the price gap somewhat on the other competitors. The pre-order bundle that includes the headset and everything you'll need to use it, is going for $500, and as such this bundle will be the one we'll refer to from henceforth. (Note that if you already have a PS Camera and two Move controllers, you'd just need the VR bundle to start enjoying it)
The release date is quite unclear as of yet, but all signs point to an October release this year. However, it is unclear the amount of time shipping the devices may take.
The most obvious requirement would be a PlayStation 4 console and quite possibly a screen (I cannot confirm whether the PS VR will work without one at this time)
The PS VR offers a full HD 1920x1080 display, with a 5.7 inch OLED custom built screen, and a whopping 120 Hz refresh rate, which is the highest in the market. It also features motion tracking, and allows for both front and rear viewing, if that’s ever needed. The refresh rate should more than makeup for the lower resolution (in comparison to Rift and Vive), but that also depends largely on the FPS and the game you're playing.
As for the gaming library, PlayStation announced 50 titles that will come to PS VR during the year. Eve: Valkyrie, Star Wars: Battlefront VR. and The Deep are some of the more interesting ones. All in all however, considering the device will only come out on October at best, it will certainly be lagging behind the competition in content.
It does however, have backward support for all non-VR games, and most likely other content through its VR Cinematic mode.
"PS VR will let you play in ways and places you never thought possible…You’ve played games that have made you lose track of time. But what about games that make you forget where you are? That’s what PS VR will do, immersing you in the game with an unparalleled sense of presence."
Because of its late release date, PS VR is in kind of a unique position; it'll have its obvious charms for console gamers who don't want to make a move to the PC but also want a real gaming VR device. This is doubly true for those who already have a PS4 and a large library of games. However, a lack of a unique controller, the lag in content, and the lack of some of the features that its other competitors have handily, make PS VR more of a conundrum. The real choice however, is only for the VR fans who have both a PS4 and a gaming PC, and if you are one of them, then my advice is just to wait and see what else PS VR might have on offer.
Oculus was the first company to truly design VR systems, so when it comes to experience in the field, they're the top guy (Remember, they're also the developers of the Samsung Gear VR). Their multi-billion Dollar acquisition by Facebook could have only bolstered this, making them equal parts grass-roots and big-leagues. They've also partnered with Microsoft to some degree (Xbox controller sold with the bundle and more) which could mean some interesting exclusive content, and even an Xbox port in the future.
The Rift started shipping on March 25th, but has seen some insane order volumes, which means all new orders are expected to be shipped in August (that was not a typo). The Rift also seems to only be available through the Oculus website, with other retailers either showing the item as unavailable or at insane prices. There are however some cool Alienware + Rift bundles available from various retailers.
Of important note however, the Oculus Touch - the device’s cool VR controller (somewhat similar, but likely better than, the Vive controllers) will not be released with the Rift itself. It is also likely that these bad boys will have a selling price of their own, seeing as they aren’t mentioned in the actual list of accessories.
The headset has a 2160x1200 resolution that produces 233 million pixels per second with a 90Hz refresh
You will likely need quite a decent gaming PC to handle this hardware, and would require a USB slot and an HDMI/Display Port to connect it to your device. A GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 GPU or higher would be a good idea, as well as a top end i5 CPU, or preferably an i7.
The Oculus game and software library is quite extensive, and considering the five developmental kids that were released before the consumer version, this is only expected. The Oculus Home, the rift's launch device, offers a variety of games and software.
The Oculus Share, Rift's main app store, also has over a thousand applications. Do note however, that most of these are user created content, and for most VR games you'll need to go to third party websites or stores.
In an interesting twist however, it seems SteamVR is accessible with a Rift headset, and while not all Steam games work on it, many certainly do. The level of cross-device play still remains to be seen.
Oculus Rift is in many ways the big dog in the gaming VR market at the moment. Don't let their Kickstarter origins fool you, with Facebook and (to some extent) Microsoft involved with them, they are the heavy hitters. Their biggest advantage is the fact that they started the VR craze, and so have both the experience and the loyal customer base that go with it. Their biggest disadvantage is the fact that their relatively new to the gaming market, and lack Sony and Valve's vast library of games.
Probably the headset with the most potential, and certainly the most expensive, HTC and Valve's partnership is an interesting one. With Steam's vast library of both games and players, and HTC's lust for a larger foothold in the electronics market, the possibilities are boundless. We covered the Vive's release, so if you missed it, check out some cool videos and nifty information from our HTC Vive release article.
At a staggering $799 (£689), it is by far the most expensive of the VR headsets. The device was released last month however, and most of those who pre-ordered it have now received it. The shipping time and delivery rate seems to be extensively shorter than that of the Rift.
Also, Job Simulator, Fantastic Contraption and Tilt Brush by Google, were all part of the pre-order, and seem to available for current orders too.
Do note that certain games also allow for keyboard+ mouse or controller support.
The headset boasts 32 sensors, a 110° field of view, 2160 x 1200 resolution and a 90 Hz refresh rate. Again, like the Rift, you'd need a pretty decent gaming PC to use this properly.
The current number of VR games available from Steam sits at 202, up from 159 just two weeks ago. Add to this the fact that many games designed for the Oculus now seem to work on the Vive, and the fact that all of your Steam games are usable within the VR Theater mode in Vive, and you've got yourself the largest VR database so far.
"Vive is a first-of-its kind virtual reality system developed in partnership by HTC and Valve. Designed from the ground up for room-scale VR, Vive allows true-to-life interactions and immersive experiences thanks to stunning graphics, HD haptic feedback and 360˚ motion tracking."
While clearly the most expensive headset of its kind, it is also the only one with unique controllers that you can use right away. You'd also get the benefits of the partnership with Steam and all that could entail. The top selling point though, is being able to use your current games in a VR setting, and above all else, Desktop VR. However, being relatively newer than the Rift, it does seem to lag behind quite a bit when it comes to user generated content.
With all the important information taken care of, it's finally time to compare the best of the best. The PS VR becomes the obvious choice for console lovers, especially those who already own a PlayStation. As such, the real contest lies between the Rift and the Vive.
(Underlined text = better choice)
|HTC Vive||Oculus Rift|
|Earliest Shipping||June 2016||August 2016|
|Resolution||2160 x 1200||2160 x 1200|
|Refresh Rate||90 Hz||90 Hz|
|Field of View||110°||110°|
|Controllers||Two wireless motion-tracking controllers||Xbox Controller and a remote|
|Sensors/Cameras||Two wireless base stations, and a front camera||360° positional tracking sensor|
|Tracking Area||15 x 15 feet||5 x 11 feet|
|Game Library||All Steam games
202 VR specific games
|Exclusive Rift games
over 1000 apps
|Extra Goodies||Job Simulator
Tilt Brush by Google
|Cross compatibility||Some Rift games||Some Steam VR games|
When everything is said and done, the Vive's superior controller, room-scale experience and more well-known games library probably give it an edge, however whether those advantages merit an extra $200 is completely up to you.
Also keep in mind the fact that with the release of the Oculus Touch, the Rift could in fact regain the edge. That depends largely on the Touch's price though.
So, have you made up your mind? Did you find this guide useful? Do you need some other information that we haven't mentioned within? Let us know in the comments section below. And if you found the guide useful, share it with your friends!