A Guide on Gaming VR Headsets 2017

Virtual reality – it’s not an entirely new concept. Old school shows from the eighties already used to celebrate that technology that felt like a long time coming. Today, VR (and Augmented Reality) is trying to break through technology prototype expos and into the living room. Along with the wave of portable gaming and motion controls, the VR trend will continue to show up in E3 and other gaming-centered events, there is no doubt about it.

The handiest application VR developers can think of is of course, video gaming. Imagine a completely immersive world that just takes you by storm. Technology giants are battling it out to come up with the latest and greatest ways to bring VR to your home. Check out these cool contenders for the title of home VR king.

CONSOLE/PC GAME DEVICES

Absolutely love your blockbuster, heavy-duty gaming titles? Then we are willing to be you already have a souped up entertainment lifestyle. Why not take this video game mania to the next level with VR? It’s a unique immersive experience that will help you dive into any game, instantly! These are require connection to capable computers and consoles, so you will experience having to deal with a cable, but the added positional tracking makes it a more immersive style of play.

 

  • Sony: Playstation VR

The Sony Playstation VR is a comfortable headset VR unit, but has to be connected to your PS4 at all times. It has been praised for its ergonomic design and features, as well as its reasonable price tag versus other headsets in the market today.

    • Release Date

October 13, 2016

    • History

Sony’s flagship console hopes to reinstate its longevity in the market through implementing VR in its library of features. While the company tried their hand and the technology back in the 90’s with a product named Glasstron and got into the motion control craze with the Playstation Move, they are really moving towards a more affordable VR experience for their existing customers. Named as Project Morpheus in its development phase, it’s becoming the frontrunner for gaming VR devices.

    • Price

US $399.99 upon release

    • Specs
      • Display Method: OLED
      • Panel Size: 5.7 inches
      • Panel Resolution 1920xRGBx1080
      • Field of View: Approximately 100 degrees
      • Sensors: Six (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer)
      • Connections: HDMI, AUX, Headphone Jack (on headset); HDMI TV, HDMI PS4, USB, HDMI, AUX (on processor unit)
      • Weight: 610g VR Headset, 365g Processor Unit
    • Game Selection

Given that the VR system is already seamlessly integrated into some of Playstation’s current and upcoming library of games, then this unit will definitely be worth it! With a long list of companies developing for each of Sony’s console iterations, we are sure you’ll have a longer list of favorites to play with VR capabilities. This makes for an exceptional experience when paired with the long awaited Resident Evil 7! Whether you’re in the mood for some plain-fun rhythm game or be scared out of your wits with a horror title, the immersive experience is yours for the taking.

    • Conclusion

The Playstation is still a king console in terms of gaming library and overall entertainment features. VR is just a cherry on top. If you are a gamer curious about the VR landscape, and you already own a PS4, Playstation Move, and Playstation Camera peripherals, the Playstation VR is another accessory worthy of some cash to burn. Whatever gimmicky prejudices you have against the concept will be dispelled once you try out how well it actually works – good job, Sony!

  • Oculus VR: Oculus Rift

This famous VR device has its roots in an independent Kickstarter campaign which earned 5 times its funding goal, when commercial VR was still a clunky concept to the average tech consumer. Its first iterations were development kits, but the consumer version was healthily refined into a gentleman’s VR headset.

  • Release Date

March 2016

    • History

Like many tech fever dreams gone right, the Oculus Rift meted out its Kickstarter campaign, looking for interested funders. This was all the way back in 2012 and the company has reached an all-new high with its viral popularity. Seeing success in its demos and developer interest, two years later, the company was bought by the social media titan, Facebook Inc. Since then, the Oculus name has been synonymous to the most advanced gaming VR systems in the industry, even experiencing shortage of units when they launched their commercial products. Today they are adding even more games and peripherals to finally realize the potential of commercial VR.

    • Price

USD $599

      • Specs
        • Display Method: OLED display
        • Panel Size: 5.7 inches
        • Panel Resolution: 1080 x 1200 per eye
        • Field of View: 110 degrees
        • Sensors: Constellation positional tracking system, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer
        • Connections: Connects to two USB ports and 1 HDMI port on computer
        • Weight: 470g

 

  • Game Selection

 

Games and simulators aplenty have made a home in the Oculus Rift library. With the addition of the Touch peripheral, the selection just got even bigger and better. SteamVR’s selection is just getting started and there is already a host of games making full use of the Rift’s modular VR set-up – and they all run well on the powerful machine. In terms of the gaming selection, with the introduction of the touch controls and better room-scale technology, the Rift has nowhere to go but up.

 

  • Conclusion

 

The Oculus Rift remains ahead of the game due to its popularity and overwhelming support. This backing is not just from your regular tech investors – their corporate structure includes personalities like John Carmack, one of the creators of the Doom franchise. Being such an early contender in the game resulted in a refined device that has gone through a lot of revision and optimization – you’ll be sure to get a premium product and experience, which you can feel just by holding and wearing it. While still pricier than a modern console, and requires the processing power of a good computer, the future of living room VR looks to be in the hands of this capable team.

  • HTC: Vive

A stream of great mobile phones compose HTCs main line-up, and they’re looking to find a spot in the VR industry as well. They’ve found a valuable partner in Valve, ensuring the intense gaming potential of the VR headset. The HTC Vive is a spectacularly high-end device that sets itself apart from competition by focusing on a room-scale experience for its users.

    • Release Date

April 2016

    • History

While the affordable mobile VR industry takes off, HTC chose to expend some time and resources into high-end, room-scale virtual reality tech. Valve and its Steam platform were also interested in the medium. These separate endeavors soon found themselves in a partnership that excited fans of both companies.

    • Price

$799 (Inclusive of headset, Lighthouse sensor cameras, and controllers)

      • Specs
        • Display Method: OLED display
        • Panel Resolution: 1080 x 1200 per eye
        • Field of View: 110 degrees
        • Sensors: Lighthouse tracking system, accelerometer, gyroscope, camera
        • Connections: USB and HDMI
        • Weight: 470g

 

  • Game Selection

 

The game selection just might be the last thing that you should be worried about. Valve’s stellar Steam selection on its own serves a wide expanse of gamers. Adding VR to this space already guarantees willing VR players and motivated developers, hopefully turning the SteamVR library into a healthy ecosystem.

    • Conclusion

While the stellar line-up of games of the HTC Vive are still up in the air, we are still hopeful that the VR headset will be a success. At a very (extremely!) high price point, it’s not expected to see a Vive in every household – but their developer policy and education and medical field potential of a room-scale virtual reality experience are welcoming enough to make the Vive a force to be reckoned with. HTC’s ambition is well-supplied with partners who will set the tone and pace for the future content of the VR device. We may see this device in its more industrial or institutional applications, but the premium device may make it to your living room soon – but it’s either this or another gadget, if you don’t have a bottomless wallet like us.

 

  • Fove

The Fove by the eponymous Japanese company (headquartered in the US in San Mateo, California) has an interesting focus, so to speak. The device tags itself as the first ever eye-tracking device. This gadget is particularly tied to the Asian market, as they have a lot of partner establishments in both Japan and Korea. That doesn’t mean the Fove isn’t ready to play in the west – there are a lot of SteamVR titles that can run on his device.

    • Release Date

January 2017

    • History

The Fove’s unique selling point – an accurate eye-tracking system – proved to be a feature that got tech enthusiasts and investors giddy with excitement. Their successful Kickstarter campaign was funded accordingly, but the development phase was dragged on for two more years until the release. With infrared lasers tracking each eye, there is a large host of potential mainly for developers, and not consumers, surrounding the product. The promise of more games and simulators with their technology sets it apart from the competition.

    • Price

USD $599

    • Specs
      • Display Method: WQHD OLED
      • Panel Resolution: 2560 x 1440
      • Field of View: 100 degrees
      • Sensors: Orientation Tracking IMU and Infrared-based position tracking
      • Connections: USB and HDMI
      • Weight: 520g
    • Game Selection

Fove proudly states that there are more than 250 SteamVR titles that are compatible with the device – however include a disclaimer that a majority will still need the required drivers to make them run on the headset. You have to love their honesty, but that won’t secure a purchase from discerning customers who want a VR experience now. They have announced compatibility with most VR platforms, so judgement on its selection will have to wait until they get their preparations in order.

    • Conclusion

The rave reviews regarding its crisp, hyperreal delivery of the VR experience. However, bespectacled users should be aware that the current iteration hasn’t been optimized for your glasses to fit in the headset. This is kind of demoralizing for a large part of the population, showing how Fove might hit all the right spots in the “VR” part of the project, but not the “headset.” Still, the visual technology will prove to be a game changer if developers hit the right spots – the improved visual experience will result in more accurate and intense interactions that other VR systems won’t be able to copy. Nonetheless, the accurate eye-tracking still delivers a seamless experience that will surely result into innovative products.

 

  • Razer: OSVR Hacker Dev Kit 2

Razer, known for their premium-quality line of gaming hardware, has released their own VR platform in OSVR. The headset they have released for their new platform is meant for developer use. If you’re looking at enjoying a few games here and there and see what all the hype is all about, do not get this headset. If you’re a game developer looking into the VR industry, then this might be for you. This offering from Razer may have a very specific goal in mind, but at least it’s trying to encourage an ecosystem that will result into amazing products, and not just games!

    • Release Date

November 2015

    • History

One would expect such a huge gaming hardware giant to participate in the VR wars, but Razer didn’t go the Oculus or the HTC route. The device was designed in partnership with Sensics, a company long-involved in the VR industry. The open source initiative invites developers to pick the package that they need and order their own OSVR devices accordingly.

    • Price

From USD $299.99

    • Specs
      • Display Method:OLED
      • Panel Resolution: 1080 x 1200 per eye
      • Field of View: 110 degrees
      • Sensors: 3-axis rotational tracking, 3-axis positional tracking
      • Connections: USB 3.0, HDMI
    • Game Selection

The access to SteamVR immediately gives this game a lot of titles to choose from. It’s an open-source device, so creating and playing games between developers should be an easy enough experience. In this regard, it is difficult to compare it with the other headsets on the market. However, this gaming library may evolve to a wide selection of indie titles that will be a prime spot for new VR superstar titles.

    • Conclusion

This device is an affordable way for game developers to experiment with VR titles, but that’s about it. If you’re an enthusiast, the Rift or the Vive might be better for your expectations. The simplicity of the whole package will make sense for creators, but the lack of controllers might annoy average consumers and developers alike. The headset isn’t tagged as consumer ready, but it feels like a sign of what’s to come once the VR industry has been more refined, and Razer has a clearer sign of where to go ahead and focus on. This is because one thing’s for sure – they’re setting the standards for excellent VR experimentation, and probably want to have their cake and eat it, too!

MOBILE VR DEVICES

This segment of the VR device uses smartphones as their processing devices. While there is a glut of similar toys out in the market, the gadgets listed below are the best in the business – for those who are serious about having their own personal virtual realities. Given this day and age in that most everyone owns a smartphone, this kind of device might sound more like an accessory. Best of all, it’s a wireless system that will leave you free from cables. Our list contains mobile VR devices that really set themselves apart, with special features that can’t be found on just any headset. Lock in your phone and strap on your headset for an instant adventure.

  • Google: Daydream View

The surprise of Google Cardboard brought home the dream of accessible VR. Now Google is stepping it up with another unexpected material – a headset fully lined with soft cloth. It’s a simple device that looks and feels as comfortable as you’d expect from its texture. Designed to adapt to longer periods of immersion in mobile VR, we definitely have a looker in our hands – a far cry from black, grey, and white plastics of this industry. It even comes with a remote for an input device.

    • Release Date

November 2016

    • History

Google’s exploration of mobile virtual reality started with the humble Google Cardboard peripheral, and you can imagine that daydream is the same product on steroids. From starting out in immersive news features, the potential for this direction is reaching far and beyond for the company in Mountain View. Designing special applications, especially for the wide range of Android phones, make this the number one to-go of non-Apple smartphone users interested in VR.

    • Price

    $79.00

 

  • Compatibility

 

Huawei Mate 9 Pro, ZTE Axon 7, Google Pixel, Motorola Moto Z, ASUS Zenfone AR

    • Game Selection

With Google advertising the Daydream as compatible with the latest and greatest phones on the market, we are sure that they are significantly sizing up the selection. Given that premium-quality phones will be the targets of blockbuster titles, developers will surely get into the groove of creating a vast majority of mobile games and applications for VR.

    • Conclusion

The Daydream is on its way to becoming an affordable high-quality mobile VR system everyone will have – we’re just hoping that the developers that this system’s library is riding on with be able to reach its full potential. Beware, though, as Google often clarifies that you must have a “Daydream-ready” phone – also known as a high-end premium phone packed with processing power. If you haven’t coughed up for the latest trendy phone, or are an iPhone advocate, you might miss out on Google’s newest VR offering.

 

  • Samsung: Gear VR

The Korean giant doesn’t seem to want to stop at any consumer tech and stretched its famous top-quality line to the VR industry. With its high end and powerful Galaxy line, they want to bring mobile VR to a new level – and it looks as if they will be able to do just that.

 

  • Release Date

 

November 2015

 

  • History

 

Samsung’s first mobile VR bet came out all the way in 2014, and the only device compatible was their then-newest release, the Galaxy Note 4. Their partnership with Oculus is more of an enticing experiment for developers rather than a full-fledged consumer-ready experience. It explored the potential of the VR platform and wanted to draw more people into the mobile VR scene. A year later saw the coming of a headset that can be used with more phones is the Galaxy line. As the release of the Galaxy S8 draws nearer, their newest iteration will surface and hopefully incorporate all that they have learnt from the previous versions.

 

  • Price

 

USD $99

 

  • Compatibility

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 and all versions thereafter

 

  • Game Selection

 

Getting games for the Samsung Gear VR is easy, as all you will need is your phone and the app. This seamless experience is amplified with a great selection of games, both free light and paid premium titles. If you are the kind of person who just loves downloading and playing random games off of the app store, than this style will be second nature to you.

 

  • Conclusion

 

If you are an Android user, there is a large chance that you have given a Samsung brand phone a spin. If you already have a member of the revered Galaxy line in your pocket, the Gear will set you on a smooth introduction to virtual reality, given that you don’t have any intention to get a console or PC-connected VR system. Whether or not it is a worthy buy for any Samsung user depends on the expectations – but this is the best experience available for fans of the Korean mobile company, in terms of set-up and affordability as well.

 

  • Zeiss: VR One

Does the name “Zeiss” seem familiar to you? You may have seen this name on popular cameras as lens manufacturers – most notably on the high-end Nokia phones of old. They’re now trying their hand at a new visual experience, which they have augmented with their Zeiss Precision Lenses. The ocular upgrade sounds like a great idea, especially since VR is supposed to be such a visual treat. How does this company’s VR headset fare against competition?

    • Release Date

December 2015

    • History

The first Zeiss head-mounted display was the Cinemizer OLED released in 2013. Rather than a strict virtual reality device, it fell into the category of video glasses – devices meant to mimic the HD TV experience. It was a pricey endeavor for a technology that didn’t take off so well. Not all is lost for Zeiss’ headset vision, and the VR One was the brainchild of this new project.

    • Price

USD $120

 

  • Compatibility

 

Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z2, Huawei Ascend P7, Nokia Lumia 930, Xiaomi MI3, LG G2, LG G3, LG Nexus 5, iPhone 6

 

  • Game Selection

 

The VR One Media application doesn’t host any games that will make you veer away from your App Store or Google Play Store for VR ready games. It has a range of media that are mediocre at best, you can’t help but think that they didn’t think about the headset’s gaming potential at all.

 

  • Conclusion

 

This headset earned lackluster reviews, owing to bringing nothing new to the mobile VR table despite being highly priced. While the headset indeed have spectacular and clear goggles, this has nothing to do with the VR performance as everything still depends on the power of the smartphone you pair with it. Still, the VR One can accommodate Android and iPhone devices, making it a more flexible pair to have in your household. Zeiss knows how to make a great pair of lenses, and we should hope this translates better in their next project.

Beyond video games, it looks like VR will soon have a lot of practical applications. We continue to be excited about the commercial success of VR, leading to its professional use in different industries. VR pessimists might not pick up these headsets anytime soon, but schools, medical facilities, governments, and more are looking to the industry to start up something that will revolutionize the future of tech.

The VR arms race is off to a speedy start, and that’s a great thing for technology enthusiasts. Judging by the speed of developments and the ability of indie creators to experiment with the technology, it’s believed the virtual reality still has a long way to go. And we can wait for this to get even better. Strap on your headsets and open your eyes for a tech journey worth following!