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The Best Virtual Reality (VR) Headset of 2017

Details

PlayStation VR

Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

Platform PlayStation 4 Windows PC Windows PC
Software Platform PlayStation 4 Oculus SteamVR
Experience    
Seated VR Yes Yes Yes
Standing VR Yes (no details about rotation) Yes (best rotation tracking with 4 base stations) Yes (full rotation support)
Positional tracking Yes Yes Yes
Room-scale VR   No out of the box. (10.5 x 10.5 ft. square with extra base stations) 11.5 x 11.5 ft square out of the box. No extra equipment is required.
Tech    
Field of View 100 degrees 110 degrees 110 degrees
Refresh Rate 90 - 120 Hz 90 Hz 90 Hz
Display Resolution per Eye 1080 x 960 1080 x 1200 1080 x 1200
Headset Weight 1.3 lbs 1.0 lbs 1.2 lbs
Connections HDMI, USB 2.0 HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Sensors Motion, external visual positioning Motion, external visual positioning Motion, camera, external motion tracking
Controls DualShock 4, PlayStation Move Oculus Touch, Xbox One gamepad HTC Vive motion controllers
Comfort    
Fit Fits glasses, lens distance from eye adjustment, interpupillary distance adjustment Fits glasses, interpupillary distance adjustment Adjustable headset strap, fits most glasses, 2 eye relief adjustments: lens distance from eye & interpupillary distance
Included in the Box Headset, Processor Unit, connection cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, Stereo headphones, AC power cord, AC adaptor, demo disc Headset, Camera Sensor, Remote, Xbox One Wireless Controller, Xbox USB Wireless Adapter, 2xAA Batteries, Integrated Headphone Removal Tool, 2 x Oculus Logo Stickers, Oculus Lens Wipe Cloth Headset, 2 x Controllers, 2 x Base Stations, Earbuds, Link Box, Link Box power adapter, Link Box mounting pad, 2 x Base Station power adapter, 2 x Micro USB chargers, Sync cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, Cleaning Cloth, Alternate face cushion
Controllers shipped with the set? No, you buy them separately. Some sellers include some not. Yes, always.

Selecting the Best Virtual Reality Headset is not an easy task. Though current market doesn’t offer many alternatives, a customer has to make an investigation before purchasing. Each company offers a decent product with exciting features and potential. Moreover, the price you pay for entering is high, and the mistake may cost you a lot. That’s why we decided to write this post. This article will help you to understand what you should look at when purchasing VR headset. We have also reviewed and specified pros and cons of each model you can find.

Basics

Virtual reality headset is a piece of equipment that a player wears over the eyes, much like goggles. It blocks out light from the outside and shows the wearer an image directly in front of his eyes. The images are sent into the wearer’s eyes via two small lenses located within it making a 3D picture. Have you ever visited 3D cinema? It’s similar technology.

Right now VR market isn’t so huge. There are only 3 major players: Facebook, Sony, and HTC. Samsung and Google also offer their products, but they are mobile. We will explain all the differences later. So if you are looking for the best Virtual reality headset, you will have to select one of them.

As you see there are not so many variants to choose from… But the situation is going to change over time. Not so long ago Microsoft announced plans to enter VR market. The company is partnering with large hardware manufacturers to bring new cheaper options to customers. It looks like we will see new “helmets” made by Lenovo, Dell, HP, Acer and Asus soon.

Mobile or Tethered?

The first and the most important decision you need to make before purchase is to determine which set you are going to buy: mobile or tethered.

  • Mobile doesn’t require PC or console to work and doesn’t have wires. It works with your smartphone. You place the smartphone inside it and special lenses turn the picture you see on the screen into the 3D world around you. One of the most significant advantages of such technology is that it’s cheap. Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream View will not cost you more than $100 (of course, if you have a certain smartphone). You also don’t need to connect it to external PC. But there is a huge disadvantage: mobile headsets are not for serious gaming. The graphic processor of the mobile phone can’t run serious games. You can play the games you can run on your phone only.  Moreover, right now mobile sets can’t track position of your head. They can track only rotation. As you see this is not the best option for a gamer.
  • Tethered is much more expensive and requires extra equipment. You connect it to your computer/console using HDMI or USB, and you can play. The headset uses the power of your PC to render the picture. The biggest advantage of this technology is that you can play very cool games and have amazing virtual reality experience. Moreover, such device has many extra features. It can track the position of your head and hands making your gaming experience much better. But you will have to pay for this. The helmet will cost you about $500 and additional devices for hand position tracking will also cost you money.

Which one to select, mobile or tethered? Everything depends on your goals and your budget. If you want to play virtual reality games and experience all the power of this new technology you need a tethered headset! Don’t even think about mobile.

Head Tracking

360 degree 3D picture is not the only feature that makes technology so cool. VR device also tracks all movements of your head. If you turn the head, your avatar also turns it. If you move it, your avatar also repeats the action.

Pay attention that right now only PC sets can track both position and rotation of your head. Smartphone sets track only rotation.

Head and position tracking is a problem for manufacturers nowadays: it is performed by separate base station/camera you place somewhere near you. You have to set up a separate room for using your tethered VR entirely. It isn’t comfortable, but this is how it works right now.

VR head tracking

Not so long ago Microsoft announced their new headset that will be tracking head movements and rotation without external base stations. If this technology succeeds a player will not need to set up a separate place. Just plug in and go. It will add mobility and potential for further innovations.

So think twice if you are going to make a purchase right now. Maybe it’s better to wait for Microsoft’s offer?

Hands’ Tracking Controllers

Hands’ tracking is crucial for VR experience. It allows interacting with alternative reality objects.  Right now all the devices track your hands with special controllers. You need to hold them in your hands, and the device will know where they are. When you move your hand, the controller receives signal and the picture you see also changes. Your avatar in virtual world repeats your movements. Fortunately, most of the controllers are wireless.

Pay attention that not all the sellers always include hand trackers for Oculus Rift, and you will sometimes have to buy them separately! For example, if you buy it from Amazon Check before purchasing. Oculus Rift + Oculus Touch Bundle will provide you with all you need. Sony’s product also doesn’t have hand controllers in the package.

As you see there is also a problem: you need to hold these trackers in your hands. It limits the experience and sooner or later manufacturers will resolve this issue.

It looks like Microsoft is going to change this. They announced that their headset will not require similar trackers and will identify hand movements without extra tools. Right now we know nothing about how it works, but this may be a small revolution in the industry.

Required Hardware

All tethered virtual reality headsets need external hardware: console or PC. It is where you need to think twice.  All VR games need modern PCs! For your information: you will need 3x increased performance to run the game in full quality. Running Oculus Rift games in 1080p is the equivalent of running standard games at 4K.

Platforms

  • HTC VIVE - PC only (consoles don’t have enough power)
  • Oculus Rift – PC and consoles
  • PlayStation VR – consoles (limited PC support requires hacks and tricks)

If you wish to buy HTC Vive, you will need very powerful PC. Purchasing a new one will cost you about $2000. It’s not the best choice if you just want to enter VR from scratch.

If you own a console, the best decision for you is just to go and buy an appropriate headset. Oculus Rift is supported by Xbox One and PlayStation VR is supported by PlayStation 4. It will be the cheapest option.

If you don’t have a console, purchasing Oculus Rift + Xbox One or PlayStation VR + PlayStation 4 Pro will cost you about $1000. It is still much cheaper than upgrading PC + buying VIVE.

360 degree 3D picture, head tracking and hands’ tracking make you feel “inside” the action. The device provides insane gaming experience you have never tried before. Now let’s get closer to what you can purchase.

HTC Vive

HTC VIVE

HTC Vive is the most expensive system! That’s because the original package includes all you need for perfect virtual reality experience and Room-Scale VR (explained later). You just pay once and enjoy. No extra tools will be required (Oculus Rift, for example, may require you to buy Touch controllers separately). You receive all you need in one package.

Here is what you get:

  • Headset
  • 2 x Controllers
  • 2 x Base Stations
  • Earbuds
  • Link Box
  • Link Box power adapter
  • Link Box mounting pad
  • 2 x Base Station power adapter
  • 2 x Micro USB chargers
  • Sync cable
  • HDMI cable
  • USB cable
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Alternate face cushion

Minimum system Requirements: Intel Core i5-4590 CPU and a GeForce GTX 970 GPU.

Software:  SteamVR.

VIVE is designed to be used with personal computer or laptop. As you see minimum requirements are serious. If you want to enjoy playing and receive the best performance, you will need much better PC. It is one of the largest disadvantages of VIVE and virtual reality on PCs in general. If your computer is too old, it will not afford VIVE and other headsets.

The other disadvantage is the price. It’s almost $200 more expensive than Oculus Rift! Many customers think that it’s unfairly high. But it’s not! They offer very cool thing described later:

Room-Scale VR

Room-Scale VR is a unique feature of HTC Vive. Other manufacturers don’t provide it. This great technology allows any player to physically move around virtual objects and interact with them in 11.5 x 11.5 ft square!

This feature is unique to VIVE only. Oculus also offers something similar, but HTC is the leader here. Everything required for making it run is shipped in the original package. That’s why the price is so high.

  • You have to set a separate room to benefit from this Room-Scale feature. It isn’t comfortable sometimes. You may accidently break furniture or other surrounding stuff while playing. It’s better to set up a place for playing in an empty room.
  • You may need special Light Stand VR Compatible Kit for a better experience. This kit will hold Vive base stations and will make the setup process easier.

Pay attention, that all the base stations of VIVE are wireless! It makes all setup process much easier! You will not have kilometers of wires covering the floor of your room.

Verdict: HTC VIVE is an excellent choice if you have modern PC. Keep in mind that it doesn’t support consoles, and you will not be able to use it with your PS4 or Xbox One. Only PC! Room-Scale VR is perfect here, but the price tag is enormous. If you can afford such price VIVE will be a very solid choice.

Pay Attention: HTC offers up to 24 months financing for VIVE! A very good opportunity if you were dreaming of buying it.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is the most well-known brand in VR world. You have to options: to buy a full set of equipment that includes headset and touch controllers or to buy “glasses” only. We think that it’s better to go with a complete package. Touch controllers cost $100 (1/5th of the full priced) and sooner or later you will have to buy it.

Here is what you get if you go with full package:

  • Oculus Rift Headset
  • 2 x Touch controllers
  • 2 x Camera Sensors
  • Remote
  • Xbox One Wireless Controller
  • Xbox USB Wireless Adapter
  • 2xAA Batteries
  • Integrated Headphone Removal Tool
  • 2 x Oculus Logo Stickers
  • Oculus Lens Wipe Cloth

Software:  Oculus

Oculus announced massive price cut not so long ago. They cut $100 from helmet’s price and $100 from controllers’ price, and now Rift looks much more affordable.

Room Scale VR

Unlike HTC VIVE, Rift doesn’t offer Room-scale VR out of the box. That’s the reason it is $200 cheaper.  But you still may get it if you wish. Some users report that you may get descent Room-Scale tracking with four base stations: 10.5 x 10.5 ft square for movements.  

It will cost you extra 2 x $60 = $120 which makes this Rift setup $80 less expensive than VIVE. But even with this investment Rift will not be able to beat what VIVE offers. The problem is that it’s harder to set up. All base stations require physical connection to your PC, so even if you have enough USB ports, your room will be full of wires. VIVE’s base stations are wireless!

Verdict: With the price cut full Rift package is now $200 cheaper than VIVE, which is great. But it doesn’t offer Room-scale VR out of the box. You will have to buy extra base stations for this.

You may select Oculus Rift if you own Xbox One. This console is officially supported!

Sony PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR

Sony PlayStation VR is the third in our list, but it’s not the least. It has the lowest price compared to previous two offers and good quality. Many reviewers consider this set to be the best.

Here is what you get in a full package:

  • Headset
  • Processor Unit
  • Connection cable
  • HDMI cable
  • USB cable
  • Stereo headphones
  • AC power cord
  • AC adaptor
  • demo disc

If you look attentively and compare the list with what other manufacturers offer you will see that  PlayStation ships the “helmet” without controllers. If you want the system to track movements of your head and hands, you will have to invest $50 in PlayStation Camera and $100 in Move Motion Controllers (if you don’t have them). Some customers do not know about this and purchase this set just because they see it’s much cheaper. But full package will cost you just $50 less than Oculus Rift.

Many people think that it would be much better if Sony added all required stuff in the original package. But we don’t think so. Many players already own PlayStation 4 Pro Console 3 items Bundle with camera and Move Motion Controllers included. 

Now let’s mention one advantage of this virtual reality set over HTC Vive: you don’t need a modern PC to run cool games. You need a PS4 console and you are done.

The disadvantage is that you can only play proprietary titles on it. But you can run any PS4 game in theater mode. Theater mode emulates large screen, and you can play the game as if you were sitting in front of it. This mode allows not only play but also watch movies.

Which one to choose?

The question is tough. Everything depends on what hardware you currently own and your budget.

  • If you own a console, then the cheapest way will be to go with the set supported by it. For example, if you have PS4, camera and PlayStation Move the most affordable option is to go and buy Sony’s product.
  • If you have an excellent PC and want to experience all power of the technology we recommend to go with HTC VIVE. Right now it offers a room-scale experience you will see nowhere else.
  • PC owners with a smaller budget may try Oculus Rift, but you will not have full room scale experience. Extra base stations are required for this.

Microsoft is Coming!

This list is subject to change in near future because of Microsoft’s decision to enter the industry. The company is going to partner with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Asus to bring the best virtual reality experience. They announced that their Windows 10 headsets will not require external base stations and that the price will be around $300 - $400.

Right now it’s too early to judge. There is no information about what exactly will be offered. But anyway VR world requires more competition. It will lead to faster progress, and the prices may also go down making products more affordable.