Virtual Reality (VR) has always tugged at our curiosity; all those science-fiction TV shows and movies, not to mention all the gaming and tech developments, have definitely had us thinking about how VR works and how cool it would be to literally enter another world, even though we’re just sitting in our living room.
Today, VR is a reality but with all the apps available for Android and iOS smartphones, you need the right hardware to really enjoy the experience; in 2017, that hardware is becoming quite accessible.
But there are two things that keep this from being a complete “It’s here, it’s here! Time to go get my VR headset!” moment – one, you have quite a few choices, so you need to know which one suits you. Two, depending on your chosen model and the accessories you need, it may cost you a pretty bundle. So, how do you choose a good but still affordable VR headset?
What’s out there right now?
Based on how much technology has gone into it, each headset will give you a different image projection experience, with the more expensive ones logically being more authentic. The big contenders in the VR space this year are the Google Cardboard, Google Daydream View, Samsung Gear VR, Sony PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
Which is the VR Headset for you?
The thing to remember is that VR headsets are a new development; which means they all have pros and cons, and they all likely have bugs to be fixed. That being true, choosing your headset will depend on the kind of VR experience you’re looking for, and there are a few ways you can look at figuring it out.
What’s your Budget?
Budget is always a good place to start, especially when you’re dealing with technology that ranges from $10 to $800. If you’re testing the waters, a high end headset is not going to be a viable investment for you.
For upto $150, you have good choices in mobile headsets with the Google Cardboard and Daydream View, and Samsung Gear VR. The next bracket is essentially the PlayStation VR, clocking in at $400. The PC-based high-end slab is where you find the $600 Rift (coming with a camera and a gamepad controller) and the $800 Vive (the most expensive but most comprehensive VR experience, because it comes with two motion controllers and two base sets to define a 10-foot cube VR area).
What do you already have?
What you already own or are willing to buy can determine your choice of headset. When it comes to mobile headsets, the Google Cardboard is a good start (even if it is hand-held) because it works with most smartphones. Just download the apps, insert the phone and you’re ready to go.
The Daydream however, is built into the latest Android software; if you have a Google Pixel phone, the Daydream View headset is a good choice that’s also compatible with upcoming Android phones. It’s also pegged to be competition for the Gear VR, whose major drawback is that it only works with the Samsung S6 to S8 series. On the plus side, the Gear VR works with iPhones too.
The PS VR needs a PS4 console and PlayStation Camera to work, so if you have these at home, $400 is a decent price for a great experience. Just remember, you’ll have to buy controllers to get the full experience.
Any old PC won’t work with the Rift and Vive; you need ones with some heavy-duty specs, so if you don’t have one and you want these headsets, prepare to make a splash. And consider that your headset is going to be tethered to your PC.
How “into it” are you?
If you’re looking for easy experiences and you’re not terribly tech-inclined, a mobile headset will suit you just fine. But if you’re a hardcore VR enthusiast who wants an immersive experience – reaching out and grabbing things, moving about in your virtual world – the PS, Rift, and Vive headsets are going to be your thing. And if you’re the sort who can spend hours using these devices, chances are you’ll be fine with setting up the cameras and sensors in large enough spaces to get the whole nine yards experience.
As these brands iron out the kinks, new players come in (Microsoft is looking at offering Windows-10 compatible headsets), and new apps are developed, VR could become more mainstream and hence, more affordable. So unless you’re looking to be a first-mover, there’s no reason not to wait and see how the market shapes up. But all in all, it’s obvious that wearable tech is the next big thing and it’s here to stay.