Virtual Reality seemed to be just another technology fad, that would pass us by like 3D TVs did in 2013. The market would invest in it, and then it would fade out, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
At least not at all.
As more and more new consumers try VR headsets for the first time, while they get headaches, they are also seeing it as a significant advance into today’s world. To be able to go places and do things you couldn’t or haven’t done before.
SuperData, a Nielsen company (NYSE: NLSN), reported that during the “holiday season, 700K PlayStation VR units sold in Q4, followed by 555K Oculus Go units, then 160K Oculus Rift units and 130K HTC VIVE units. … Overall, the increase in user adoption pushed annual VR revenue to $3.6B, up 30% year-over-year.”
The Sony PlayStation VR topped all other headsets in 2018, even outselling the consumer-friendly Samsung Gear VR which sold 140K proving that the market is becoming more interested in higher-end technology and ease of use.
This guide will show you the best VR headsets that you can buy in 2019, either for small screen gaming or your home entertainment bat cave.
These are the higher-end VR headsets used for complete immersion in the digital worlds of your choosing, never before could you be completely transported to another place while in the comfort of your home.
The Oculus Rift features one OLED 1080×1200 display for each eye with a Samsung-developed PenTile technology that uses a subpixel-sharing layout, mostly used in smartphone displays to create sharper images. The refresh rate is 90Hz, which is the number of times a display refreshes the image it shows per second. It has a field of view of about 110 degrees and uses a tracking system referred to as Constellation. It includes integrated headphones and a built-in mic. It weighs 470 grams, and its compatible controllers are the Xbox One controller, Oculus remote, and the Oculus Touch.
The Oculus Rift also comes with the Oculus Store, which currently has more than 1,000 titles such as Windlands 2, which is a first- and third-person Shadow of the Colossus type adventure game, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, experience Skyrim again, or for the first time, immersed in the world like never before. There is also Chronos, Edge of Nowhere, Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, and Batman: Arkham VR. While it also works with the SteamVR, not all Steam games are compatible.
As the first VR headset in a new generation, which started back in 2012 using crowdfunding to raise over 2 million dollars, Oculus Rift is synonymous to the words Virtual Reality in today’s world. How does it stack up though, starting at $349 it is one of the fewer expensive wired headsets in the market. It has a superb built quality, plenty of games to keep you busy, and it’s bundled with almost all its accessories. It is excellent for casual and hardcore PC gamers.
HTC VIVE & VIVE Pro
The HTC VIVE features one OLED 1080×1200 display for each eye with Samsung-developed PenTile technology, and the refresh rate is 90Hz. It has a field of view of about 110 degrees and uses a tracking system referred to as VIVE Base Stations. It doesn’t include integrated headphones but only with its optional Deluxe Audio Strap attachment (an extra $100). It also has a built-in mic and weighs 470 grams. Its compatible controller is only the VIVE controller.
On the other hand, The HTC VIVE Pro features one AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) 1440×1600 display, and the refresh rate is 90Hz. The AMOLED screen provides higher refresh rates than normal using thin-film transistors (TFT); basically, it gives you a better picture. It also has a field of view of about 110 degrees and uses a tracking system referred to as the VIVE Base Stations. It includes integrated headphones and a built-in mic. It weighs 555 grams, and its compatible controller is also only the VIVE controller.
The HTC VIVE and the VIVE Pro comes with HTC Viveport which is their version of the Oculus Store. It appears to have fewer games to play though, however, don’t let that fool you. Valve, the maker of Steam, collaborated with HTC, known for making smartphones, to create HTC VIVE and therefore the entire Steam Store library is at the disposal of the VR headset. This is huge considering Steam is the most popular online store for PC games. Some of the games you may find are L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files, Moss, SUPERHOT VR, and even Fruit Ninja VR.
The collaboration of HTC and Valve is a huge deal considering the technology they’ve produced working together. Starting at $499 the HTC VIVE is an expensive piece of tech even when looking at its enhanced version, the HTC VIVE Pro which costs a whopping $799, that is without the purchase of a high-end PC. The HTC VIVE and the Pro’s specs are outstanding, and the games keep rolling out from Steam. This is clearly meant for the hardcore to professional players out there.
The PSVR features a single 5.7″ OLED 1920×1080 display, and the refresh rate is 120Hz. It has a field of view of about 100 degrees and uses the PlayStation Camera as its tracking system. It doesn’t include integrated headphones, but It has a built-in mic. It weighs 610 grams, and its compatible controllers are the DualShock 4, PlayStation Move, and the Aim Controller.
The PlayStation VR comes with the PlayStation Store which currently has about 400 games. There are titles such as the formidable Borderlands 2 VR, Astro Bot: Rescue Bot, Tetris Effect, I Expect You to Die, Moss, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, Farpoint, and many more hit titles. You can also enjoy YouTube, Netflix, and any non-VR PlayStation games as well, as it will display an IMAX like screen in front of you with a game of your choosing.
The PSVR is easily the most accessible and cost-effective high-end headset to date, starting at $299 bundle with a PlayStation Camera, and two games: Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and Moss. Casual and hardcore gamers should have no problem with this since the PS4 ($300), and PS4 Pro ($400) can compete with high-end PC’s in terms of power, price, and games. It’s just a tad bit heavier.
Windows Mixed Reality Headsets
Windows Mixed Reality headsets are VR headsets designed with Microsoft in mind and manufactured by several PC OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). The feature that separates Windows Mixed Reality headsets from the rest are the external cameras that enable inside-out tracking of both the controllers and headset. There is no need to install any other external device. This means you can freely move (but limited) around your digital world as you do at home, just make sure you move the coffee table, the couch, and probably some LEGO’s off the floor first.
With the advancements in smartphone technology and VR headsets itself, taking Virtual Reality on the go has never been easier. While being a sneak peek into what VR can do and being extremely (most of time) cost considerate as well, making wireless VR accessible to all ages.
The Google Cardboard features two magnifying lenses, and the refresh rate varies from each smartphone (the average refresh rate for smartphones are 60Hz). It has a field of view of not that much and has no tracking system (it’s freaking cardboard). It weighs 90 grams without a smartphone.
The Google Cardboard comes with the Cardboard app which you can travel around Earth, take tours of buildings, watch videos in an IMAX like screen, watch YouTube VR, and of course play games. Cardboard is not known for its games but as a first step into VR, however, here is a short list of some of the best games it offers: Flats, Minos Starfighter VR, Hardcode VR, InMind VR/InCell VR, and Wrong Voyage VR.
Starting anywhere from free to $15, Google Cardboard is the most straightforward and cost-effective step into the world of Virtual Reality. It may not be as good as some of the other VR headsets in this past, but it shows that even simplistic items can give us amazing experiences. We just need to discover and build them.
The Oculus Go features a single LCD “fast switch” 2560×1440 display, and the refresh rate is 72Hz. An LCD “fast switch” screen dramatically improves visual clarity and reduces screen door effect (which is when you can see lines and gaps between pixels on a screen). It has a field of view of about 110 degrees, and it uses an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer for its tracking system. It includes integrated headphones and a built-in mic. It weighs 468 grams, and its compatible controller is a wireless remote.
The Oculus Go works with games on the Gear VR store and the Oculus Store. It is good to note that due to this device’s portability, and the fact that it’s not connected to a power source, not all the games on the Oculus Go headset will work the same as the Oculus Rift. Like before, there are games such Chronos, Edge of Nowhere, Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, Batman: Arkham VR, and Windlands 2.
The Oculus Go comes with two options, a 32 GB model ($199) and a 64 GB model ($249). For just being a $50 difference that is not bad at all. As you might expect, you have to download the games directly to the device as no smartphone is used here. The Oculus Go, maybe a couple steps up from the Google Cardboard, but it’s still for a casual audience looking for a little bit more in their portable VR experience.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream
The Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream features a single 5.5” display 2560×1440 display, and the refresh rate is 75Hz. It has a field of view of about 110 degrees, and it uses WorldSense’s inside-out positional tracking, like Windows Mixed Reality Headsets as you can move around a limited digital world as you do your home. It doesn’t include integrated headphones or a built-in mic. It weighs 644 grams, and its compatible controller is a Wireless Daydream controller. It also comes packed with 64GB and expandable microSD storage.
Lastly, before we dive into the games, Lenovo and Google allow you to also create your own VR videos with the Mirage Camera with Daydream ($300), which is a companion peripheral that captures stills and video in 180 degrees with stereoscopic 3D effects. It also has two 13-megapixel fisheye cameras, a tripod mount, but no viewfinder as they deemed it unnecessary.
Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream uses the Daydream VR platform/store as your one-stop shop. This is not to be confused with the Cardboard store as you will need a controller to use Daydream. Some of the best games to use for this particular smartphone-less device are Eclipse: Edge of Light, EQQO, Dreadhalls, Affected: The Manor, Blade Runner: Revelations (which seems to be the most popular), and So Let Us Melt.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream maybe a step up in terms of wirelessness but at $400 I would recommend the Oculus GO or the Google Daydream View (which is just a more advanced Google Cardboard with a wireless controller at $99) as it runs almost the same except for the “WorldSense” feature.
So, what is the best one for you?
VR headsets have come far from in emergence in 2012 to its execution in 2016. Ever since then manufacturers and developers have been adding functions and features on top of each other. Some are focused on getting bigger numbers regarding refresh rate, storage, display, etc. and other want VR to be accessible and easily affordable to the masses.
Whether you want the high-end or the low-end, it’s entirely up to you and what you have and what you can afford. For example, I’ve had a PlayStation 4 since it came out and bought the PSVR from a guy for $100. It merely depends on your circumstance.
However, if you’re interested in the minimum requirements for PC user, here they are:
- CPU: Intel i5 6th generation or higher/AMD Ryzen 5 or higher
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB or higher/ AMD Radeon RX 480 or higher
- RAM: 8GB or higher
- Motherboard: 3 or more USB 3.0 ports
- OS: Windows 7 64-bit SP1 or higher
For smartphone users, make sure you check the capabilities of your phone before purchasing a headset.