We Are VR: The Best VR Headsets Available Now
As a medium, virtual reality (VR) has had more than a few false starts. Though “virtual reality” as a term was coined in the 1980s, mankind’s quest for altered perception began far earlier.
From the days of panoramic paintings to the very first flight simulator of 1929, to the very first head-mounted virtual reality display of the 1960s, there’s always been interest in VR. Although the interest and ingenuity have always been there, the budding VR industry lacked cost efficiency. That is, until now.
Though we still have a while to go before the Ready Player One fantasy becomes our new reality, VR has made progress. Computers are growing more powerful by the day, costs are being driven down, and the masses are poised and ready for a new technologically enhanced experience.
Not only do VR fans have what they crave, but they have options. Google, Facebook, Samsung, HTC, and Sony have all entered the market in the hopes that their headsets are adopted as the VR gold-standard. So, which of these technological powerhouses has the most to offer you?
Oculus is a bit of a trailblazer. No, they weren’t the first company to construct and mass-produce a VR headset in history, but they do deserve credit for the Oculus Rift’s headline-stealing launch in 2016. But the innovation didn’t stop there.
The Facebook-owned company launched the Oculus Quest on May 21, 2019, and it’s been a runaway success, becoming an Amazon best-seller in just 2-weeks.
So, why all the hype? The Quest is billed as an all-in-one wireless VR gaming experience, and boy does it ever deliver. The unit is ready to play right out of the box, without a PC or gaming console holding you back. The touch controllers are still as reliable as ever and — thanks to a series of integrated sensors — you won’t have to worry about accidentally knocking over Grandma’s favorite vase.
The software library is top-class too. The system launched with 50-games and an even bigger app library. Sadly, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The price tag is a bit steep, at $399 for the 64GB edition and $499 for the 128GB edition.
Google Daydream View
Never content to sit on the sidelines of this budding new industry, Google crafted its smartphone-based Google Daydream View with mass consumption in mind. The device’s aggressive price point, stylish color options, and unmatched comfort have made it the go-to VR device for cautious consumers looking to dip their toe into this exciting new entertainment experience.
Although it costs only $99, it does rely on a compatible smartphone to be inserted into the viewfinder. Thankfully the list of compatible smartphones is growing by the day. The Daydream View is compatible with the Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S9s, and S8s, plus a whole range of other popular, non-Apple smartphones.
The device comes with a sleek little remote control. Plus, the list of available software is quite impressive, though not near as vast as that offered by Oculus.
All told, the Google Daydream View is a great entry point for the cost-conscious technophile looking to experience VR for the very first time.
Gaming and virtual reality go together like peanut butter and jam. So it’s only natural to see one of the gaming industry’s heaviest hitters throw their hat in the ring. Sony’s PlayStation VR builds on the company’s stellar gaming reputation by providing PlayStation 4 owners with a gaming experience that they’ve been craving for decades.
In order to get up and running, you’ll need a PS4, a PlayStation VR headset, a PlayStation Camera, and, depending on the game, PlayStation Moves. The camera and the headset, along with a couple of VR games, are available in a bundle for just $249.
The PlayStation VR library is a gamer’s dream-come-true, offering up VR versions of their favorite games, like Batman, Star Wars Battlefront, and Tetris, and games built exclusively for VR, such as Astro Bot Rescue Bot, Beat Saber, and Moss.
The PlayStation VR is the ideal VR experience if you already own a PS4 and certainly stands tall beside its PC-tethered competitors.
HTC Vive Pro
Speaking of PC-tethered competitors: enter the HTC Vive Pro. HTC’s VR powerhouse came as part of a partnership with gaming giant Valve. HTC built on their success of the original HTC Vive by upgrading the dual-OLED display to one with a 2,880 x 1,600 resolution.
The Vive Pro uses dual front cameras to track your hands and 70 built-in sensors providing the gamer with full 360-degree head tracking. The Vive Pro really sets itself apart with its superior Lighthouse room tracking. This feature allows the user to move around their designated space without having to worry about bumping and crashing into valuables. Although setting up those sensors can be time-consuming, it’s certainly worth the effort.
Sounds great, right? Not so fast. Unlike the more economical Google Daydream View, the Vive is extraordinarily expensive. An HTC Vive Pro VR headset with two motion controllers, two lighthouse sensors, and control box will set you back $1,399 plus applicable taxes.
Shake your head all you want though, if you’re hoping to take home the “2018 VR Headset of the Year”, you’re going to have to fork over the cash.
Samsung Gear VR
Another popular smartphone integrated mobile VR headset is the Samsung Gear VR. Much like the Google Daydream View, the Gear VR’s resolution, strength, and response rate are tethered to that of your phone. No, the unit is not as technologically advanced as the Vive Pro or Oculus Quest, but it still serves as a great entry-point for VR newbies on a budget.
You can purchase your very own Samsung Gear VR at a modest price tag of $129. The unit comes with a motion controller and is compatible with most new-gen Samsung Galaxy phones including the S9, S8, S7, S6, and their “+” counterparts. What’s more, Samsung has partnered with Oculus to provide users with over 600 compatible titles across popular genres like education, entertainment, gaming, and social.
While it is more expensive than many of the other smartphone-based VR headsets, it continues to impress critics and consumers year over year.
Lenovo Mirage Solo
The Lenovo Mirage Solo uses Goggle’s Daydream and an integrated processor to cut the PC-tethered cord, allowing you to fully experience VR without the need to be tied down.
The Mirage Solo doesn’t require your cellphone either, making it the ideal standalone solution for users hoping to make use of Google’s ever-growing Daydream software library. Sure, the Mirage Solo isn’t as technologically advanced as the Vive Pro and it doesn’t have the impressive gaming library of the PlayStation VR, but it offers those without a gaming console or PC the opportunity to wade in these exciting new virtual waters.
At just $369.99, it’s relatively affordable too. The headset comes packaged with a controller, travel adapter, and earphones for fully integrated sound. And, though the unit boasts excellent battery life and an expandable microSD slot, it has caught some flak for being a bit bulky.