Virtual Reality headsets, future of entertainment or media hype? At the moment it’s still too early to tell, but in the last few years consumer virtual reality has grown exponentially.
In it’s Visual Networking Index, Cisco estimates that VR headsets will grow five-fold from 18 million units in 2016 to almost 100 million by 2021. This increase will see VR global traffic increase to 140 petabytes a month in 2021.
If you want to be a part of that growth then take a look our list of the top 5 VR headsets currently available.
1. HTC Vive
The HTC Vive, co-developed by Valve, is easily the headset of choice for anyone serious about VR. With two 90 HZ 1080×1200 screens and over 70 sensors, the device is able to perfectly replicate a 15 foot by 15 foot tracking space allowing for even the most ambitious simulations.
Unlike most virtual reality headsets, the Vive comes with two ‘lighthouse’ sensors which can map out the space required, and has two proprietary controllers that allow for one-to-one motion tracking of your hands, rather than using a standard gamepad.
Unfortunately, as well as being the most expensive of the headsets currently available it’s also the most cumbersome. The headset itself is fairly comfortable but the amount of space required for some games and sensor placement is a luxury that few have access to.
For those with the requirements however, a conference at GDC stated that the Vive has recently become the most developed for platform making it the obvious choice for PC Gamers. With exciting and interesting titles such as Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and the wonderfully bizarre Job Simulator, the HTC Vive is an excellent addition to any home entertainment setup.
The HTC Vive is available from £689.
2. Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR, whilst not the most technically impressive headset, is certainly one of the best. It’s low entry fee and compatibility with Samsung smartphones make it an ideal, and highly portable, VR experience.
The Gear VR was co-developed with Oculus and is compatible with over 180 apps available on the Oculus Store including Minecraft, Hitman: GO, and EVE Gunjack.
The only problem with one of these virtual reality headsets is that it’s fairly limited in in power and would struggle to run some of the more intense VR experiences found on PC and consoles. However, for the price it’s an excellent entry point that balances cost and quality for those who are interested but still unsure about VR.
The Samsung Gear VR is available from £65.
3. Sony PlayStation VR
The Sony PlayStation VR, or PSVR, is probably the most video game focused of the virtual reality headsets available today. Whilst it may not be a good all-rounder, it more than makes up for it as one of the most solid virtual reality gaming experiences out there.
Unfortunately, the PSVR has a couple of add-ons that rack the price up quite a bit. In order to take full advantage of the services on offer consumers will also be required to purchase a Playsatation 4 (£250), a game (up to £60), the Playstation Camera (£40) and two Playstation Move Controllers (£70 for both).
The latter seems particularly egregious when considering the Playstation Move was an attempt by Sony to capitalise on the motion control market in 2010 and the controllers are still being sold at their original retail price.
With that said, if you have the funds to get your PSVR fully operational the, albeit limited, selection of games contains some of the highest critically acclaimed applications on the market, including the recent Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One – X-Wing, and Batman Arkham VR.
The Sony PlayStation VR is available from £350.
4. Google Cardboard
Google Cardboard is undoubtedly the cheapest of the virtual reality headsets out there today, probably because it’s quite literally made out of cardboard. The headset was even given away for free with Sunday editions of The New York Times.
The cardboard sheet does require some assembly but once that’s done consumers have the choice of a range of VR applications available on both Android and iOS.
As you might expect though, this is far from the most advanced form of virtual reality and is more of a VR viewer, in that it allows consumers to examine VR but not really experience the full potential of what’s on offer. For instance, because of it’s connection to the phone, all latency and head tracking is reliant on the device itself which is obviously lacking compared to more dedicated platforms.
So whilst the Google cardboard isn’t the most revolutionary device on the market, it’s low price and ease of access make it perfect to give you that first taste of what virtual reality headsets have to offer.
Google Cardboard is available from £12.
5. Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift is definitely one of the most technically demanding headsets but it also set the standard for consumer VR. Oculus, now owned by Facebook was one of the first companies to really push for consumer VR and even acquired the expertise of game design legend John Carmack to do so.
However, to run the Rift you’re going to need a pretty beefy rig. Currently the device requires a CPU equivalent to an Intel Core i5-4590, at least 8 GB of RAM, at least an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card, a HDMI 1.3 output, three USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port. Basically, you’ll need to spend about £1,000 on a PC before you even put the thing on. And it’s pretty heavy on the face.
Whilst the Vive is now the most popular to develop for, that title was previously held by the Oculus. As such the Rift boasts an impressive array of games in it’s back catalogue including Elite Dangerous, EVE Valkyrie, and Adr1ft.
The Oculus Rift is available from £499.