Virtual Reality Headsets

As virtual reality becomes more popular, you’ll begin to see more and more manufacturers release headset and home systems. If you are currently looking for a new VR system, you need to compare all available options, performance and determine what fits into your budget. This is a list of the most current VR headsets available.

HTC Vive

This, along with the Oculus Rift, is considered the top-tier VR device on the market today. It is also will set you back nearly $1,000 (depending on where you purchase it). Now, it is important to keep in mind the headset is just the headset. You still need a computer system capable of handling the VR information. If your virtual reality hardware is for watching movies through our website, you may not need to invest in this kind of an expensive device. However, if you want a top of the line VR headset that also will perform well with video games, you should keep this in mind.

The HTC Vive runs off of a Windows operating system. This means if you have an Apple computer, you’ll need to purchase a PC running at least Windows 7 to use the HTC Vive. It does have open hardware, which means third party application designers are able to produce content. This increases the number of programs, games and videos you have access to.

The HTC Vive is constructed out of a sturdy plastic, which is common for VR headsets. After al, you don’t want anything too heavy weighing down on your neck. It does not come with headphones, so you’ll need external headphones connected in order to hear.

One thing to keep in mind that while the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are the two highest priced devices, the hardware does not offer the highest resolution. The Gear VR does. However, the HTC Vive’s resolution is respectable at 1200 by 1080 per eye. The Vive has a 110-degree field of view and uses an OLED display with adjustable lenses to ensure crisp viewing. It has a nice 90Hz refresh rate, positional tracking, built in tracking, gamepad support and motion controllers bundled in with the purchase of the headset. Room-scale VR, standing VR and seated VR are recognized as well.

Oculus Rift

With the HTC Vive, this is seen as one of the highest-end virtual reality devices. You will need a Windows gaming computer (sorry Apple users), but it provides exceptional gameplay support. It does have open hardware for third party designers, but Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, does have some regulations so it is not as open as HTC Vive.

The headset itself is constructed out of both fabric and plastic to help provide a streamlined fit, plus it offers built-in headphones, so you won’t need to bulk up the viewing experience.

Like the HTC Vive, it has an overall per eye resolution of 1200 by 1080. Now, while it isn’t as high as the Gear VR, the processing power through its connected computer will likely be higher, so it can handle better graphics. It has a 110-degree field of view while it also uses an OLED display. One downside to the device is it does not provide lens adjustment if you find the visuals are a bit blurry for your eyes. It has IPD horizontal adjustment and a refresh rate of 90Hz. It is not wireless (so you need to be tethered to a computer), but it does have positional tracking, optical external trackers and offers support for seated VR and standing VR. It does not offer room-scale VR, have a built in camera or provide virtual boundaries (the HTC Vive covers all three). Motion controllers are available, but are sold separately so the price will vary.

PlayStation VR

The PlayStation VR comes out in October 2016, but it will have some sizeable advantages over the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. This is because the PlayStation VR connects directly with the PlayStation 4. If you want a headset that supports high-end video games but you don’t want to drop another grand or two on a Windows computer, you can pick a PS4 for a few hundred bucks, which also works as a top-flight Blu-ray player and entertainment system. Now, do keep in mind as it is the newer offering we do not yet have support for PlayStation VR playback (which likely will change, but it will take time to adjust formatting), so it is worth noting.

The entry-level price of the PlayStation VR is $350. Combine that with the PS4 and you’re landing both the gaming system and headset for around $700, which costs less than just the headsets of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. As the PlayStation VR connects to the PS4, the software is only Sony PS4. It does not have open hardware or a open storefront, which means the only content you’ll be able to purchase runs through the PlayStation Store and is licensed by PlayStation (at least for the time being).

The PS VR is built completely out of plastic, but it has more external lighting features to offer a futuristic glow (picture the futuristic McFly family in Back to the Future: Part II and their television/telephone headsets). It doesn’t come with built-in headphones (the Oculus Rift is actually the only option that does), so you’ll need to spring for external headphones.

In terms of resolution, it drops ever-so-slightly from the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift to 1080 by 960 per eye. You likely will not notice the slight drop in resolution, but it is worth noting. The field of view is also slightly lower at 100-degrees. However, the OLED display does provide 90-120Hz refresh rate. This you probably will recognize (at least when it hits 120Hz) due to how much smoother it appears.
The display offers lens adjustment, glasses support, IPD horizontal adjustment, but it is not wireless. It also includes positional tracking, optical external trackers, seated VR and standing VR, but not room-scale VR or virtual boundaries. The PS VR does provide controller support with the PS4 controller. It also provides motion controller support, although many have complained about the quality of the PlayStation Move’s motion controllers (if you’ve seen them before, you know they look like Hitachi vibrators).

Samsung GearVR

Samsung Gear VR

The Gear VR and Google Cardboard have many aspects in common. However, the Gear VR is made specifically for Samsung Galaxy smartphones only. This means unless you’re running (one of) the latest Notes or Galaxy S phones, you won’t be able to use it. The Gear VR runs for around $575 (again, depending on where you buy it). However, Samsung or other service providers often provide discounted or even free Gear VRs during the release of a new model. While both the Note and Galaxy S7 have been released for the current year, if you wait until next spring, there is a chance you may be able to pick up the Gear VR for a discounted price. No promises, but Samsung almost always offers some add-on perks.

The plastic Gear VR runs both Android and Samsung operating systems. You’ll download most of your content through Android, but Samsung does have a specific store as well. There is no open source storefront or open hardware though, so everything is provided through Samsung or Google.

The Gear VR does provide the actual best resolution of 1440 by 1280 per eye. Now, remember while the resolution is higher than all other options, the processing power of the phones will not be able to match the Windows desktops or PS4, so graphics will appear crisper and in more detail on the other devices. It has a 96-degree field of view while using an AMOLED screen. There is no lens adjustment on the device, but it is the only VR headset that provides focus adjustment. The Gear VR does not provide IPD horizontal adjustment and it has a lower 60Hz refresh rate. 60Hz is the refresh rate you’ll find on bottom tier HDTVs.

One plus of using a mobile phone as the source of your VR headset’s power is it is wireless. On the downside, it doesn’t provide positional tracking, external trackers or standing VR support (meaning it can’t tell the difference between you sitting and standing). It also doesn’t have room-scale VR or virtual boundaries. Gamepad support is offered, and it comes with a built-in camera.

Google Cardboard

Out of all the headset options, Google Cardboard actually came out before all other devices on the list. It first hit stores in June of 2014, while the next headset, the Samsung Gear VR, didn’t come out until November of 2015. Of course, it is just cardboard with a few basic alterations, so maybe it isn’t all that shocking.

The price for your Google Cardboard varies completely on the kind of construction you go for. You can purchase a cardboard design from Google for under $15. Also, consider NewEgg.com. Here you can find headsets for under $5. There are also give-away offers for free “Google Cardboard” headsets, so there is always a way to land a discounted (or free) Cardboard. This makes an excellent intro into the world of VR. When shopping around, consider looking for a headset that provides a head strap. Holding onto the screen becomes taxing (especially when checking out our videos and you’re using at least one hand for other activities).

Your VR experience will greatly hinge on the kind of phone you have. You want a powerful phone that can handle this kind of experience, such as the latest phones from Samsung, Apple, HTC, Sony and others. Google Android and Apple iOS are the operating systems Cardboard supports.

Google Cardboard does not come with built-in headphones and the display resolution depends completely on the phone you have. In fact, most of the specs, such as viewing angle, display type and glasses support depend both on your phone and the kind of headset you pick up. If you wear glasses, make sure the Cardboard you pick up lists “glasses support” as an option.

Cardboard does not offer IPD horizontal adjustment, position tracking, external trackers or tell the difference between being seated and standing. It does not offer virtual boundaries, room-scale VR or provide motion controllers. It also has a lower refresh rate of 60Hz.

Google Daydream

Google’s newest headset which works on multiple devices. Currently its priced at $79.99 and has a great ecosystem of applications built into its operating system. It is made of out a material which feels like fabric and is very comfortable to wear. The Daydream also comes with a remote which syncs with the headset and allows the user to easily browse through the apps and makes navigation a breeze. The real clincher for this device is that it works with multiple devices (but not all). You will definitely want to check online to see if it works with your specific device.

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