HTC Vive & Oculus Rift 361

VR, virtual reality. This is a buzz word I’m sure almost every one has heard mentioned at least a few times over the last year or so. While virtual reality experiences have existed in some form for well over two decades we’ve seen a major push forward recently thanks to improved sensors, higher resolution displays, and advancing computing power that makes it possible to finally offer a truly immersive VR experience.

Ready to dive into the world of VR? First, let’s explore what exactly VR is.

What is VR?

In short, virtual reality is about immersing the user in a virtual world. This includes utilizing various senses to make the world feel as real as possible. This includes vision, hearing, and sometimes even touch and smell — though the latter two are typically reserved more for experiences like VR arcades/theaters.

There plenty of technical aspects involved in making this experience feel all the more real. This includes the use of high frame rates to provide a fluid experience that prevents nausea and promotes immersion. Additionally, a higher-resolution allows crisp, quality graphics that further enhance the VR illusion.

Field of view is equally important for quality virtual reality. Field of view is the extent of the visible world that can be seen at any given time. For example, humans have about a 180 degree FOV while looking straight ahead, and 270 degrees with eye movement. Different VR headsets offer different FOV targets, with Cardboard offering 90-degrees, Vive and Rift featuring 110-degrees, and Gear VR featuring 96 or 110-degrees (depending on the model).

At the end of the day, all these little techniques built a great VR experience. Obviously there’s much more to VR that than. Interested in learning more about the technical aspects of VR and how it all works? Be sure to check out our “How does Virtual Reality work” guide.

VR: Getting started – what VR solution is right for you?

Oculus Remove headphones 2

So VR has you intrigued. But what now?

More than likely, if you’ve come to this page, you’ve likely heard of at least one of the following VR platforms: Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or even the Sony Playstation VR. Each of these platforms offer some very big differences in terms of sensors, controls, display resolution, pricing, and more. How do you know what’s right for you? First figure out what you want out of VR.

Which of the following types of user profiles sounds closest to you?

User Type 1 – “The Beginner”

The beginner might have heard of VR, read a few articles, watched some videos, but they’ve never experienced it. They also haven’t dug too deep. Maybe they’ve heard names like Oculus and Cardboard, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. Ultimately, beginners just want to dip their toes in VR, preferably while spending as little as possible.

If you fall into this category, we highly recommend you deep your toes into the water of VR before investing too much.But how simple is buying a simple VR reader? A quick search for VR viewers on Amazon turned up Atill 3D VR, Akally 3D VR, Cobra VR, VR Headset Glasses by HandStands, VR headset by Jasmonic, VR virtual reality by Sunnywoo…. and that’s just a small sampling of the listings on the first page. And there are over 20 pages.

I’ll let you in on a secret though: these are all pretty much the same thing. The reason is something called Google Cardboard. What is Google Cardboard? In short, it’s an open “specification” for a VR reader that uses your mobile phone.

Google doesn’t actually build Cardboard, giving instructions for people to build their own. And then there’s tons of companies that sell their own variants. All the above mentioned names are examples of such variants. Some of these go beyond Google’s spec by adding new materials, straps, and maybe even a few of their own apps or controllers, but ultimately they are 100% Google Cardboard compatible.

Buy if:

  • You are looking for your first taste of VR but don’t want to spend much to get it.
  • You want something that is compatible with almost every phone out there, Android or iPhone, and has a decent number of apps, experiences, and games.

Skip if:

  • You are looking for something truly immersive with more realistic graphics and more longer form games and experiences.
  • You already own a high-end Android phone that works with the Daydream (Pixel, Pixel XL, Axon 7) or Gear VR (Galaxy S6 family, S7 family) — as these headsets only cost a little more and yet offer much better experiences.

To learn about which Cardboard headset you should buy, the apps you should download, and other first steps — click on the link below.

Get started with Google Cardboard!

User Type 2 – “VR enthusiast”

The VR enthusiast is probably excited about the prospect of VR, whether or not they’ve actually experienced it. That said, they aren’t so gung-ho that they’ll spend a month’s pay (or more) just to get into the game. They want a good taste of VR, but without breaking bank. They also want a VR platform that will actually have a useful amount of content and not just a bunch of tech demos.

Thankfully, you have three options that we highly recommend:


Samsung Gear VR

Powered by the Gear S6 or S7 family, the Samsung Gear VR is one of the most long-established mobile VR platforms and has direct backing from Oculus itself. That means there are plenty of solid games and apps already out there. Even better, you can get the handset for as cheap as $50 and a compatible phone starts around $250.

Buy if:

  • You’re looking for a decent library of established VR games, apps, and experiences — though many of them are relatively shorter, snackable experiences.
  • You’re looking for a way more immersive than Google Cardboard, yet still highly portable.

Skip if:

  • You don’t have a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, S7, or S7 Edge — and you don’t want to invest in a new phone.
  • You are looking for something truly immersive with more realistic graphics and more longer form games and experiences.
Get started with the Gear VR!

Google Daydream View

A newcomer to the mobile VR game, Google Daydream is essentially the evolution of Google Cardboard, offering an experience similar though arguably slightly more advanced than the Gear VR. Though the current library is small, with Google’s backing we expect it to expand fast. Pricing is set at $49 with a growing number of supported phones, starting at $395.

Buy if:

  • You own a Pixel, Axon 7, or plan to buy a ‘high-end’ Android phone sometime this year from someone other than Samsung.
  • You’re looking for a way more immersive than Google Cardboard and arguably a step above the Gear VR (thanks to motion controllers), but still want something portable.

Skip if:

  • You have or plan to buy a lower or mid-range phone, or if you’d rather get a high-end Samsung device.
  • You are looking for something truly immersive with more realistic graphics and more longer form games and experiences.
Get started with the Daydream!

Sony Playstation VR

Powered by the Sony PS4, the Playstation VR is almost as advanced as the PC-based Rift or the Vive, but considerably cheaper. The headset will set you back around $499, with the PS4 starting at $270. The total cost for the headset is higher than the others, but the experience is much better. If you are already a gamer, this is no-brainer route to VR.

Buy if:

  • You are looking for a hassle-free high-end VR system that works without a high-end PC.
  • You want tons of mainstream games and experiences from AAA studios, as well as indie groups.

Skip if:

  • You don’t own a Playstation 4 or aren’t interested in investing in one. 
  • You want the most bleeding edge specs, graphics, and more advanced motion tracking capabilities. The PSVR is great here, but the Vive or Rift are a step above.
Get started with the Playstation VR!

User Type 3 – “Bleeding-edge techie”

The bleeding-edge techie – you probably know who you are without reading this guide. Hell, you probably already own the Vive, Rift, or maybe both. The point is that you are more than willing to spend what it takes to jump into the realm of VR and you want the best possible experience, with the largest variety of content. Most who fall into this group probably have at least tried VR, or even owned a ‘gateway’ device like Cardboard or the Gear VR.

If you haven’t? We personally recommend trying something in the first two categories before investing in anything too substantial, but ultimately that decision is up to you.

HTC Vive

A newcomer to the mobile VR game, Google Daydream is essentially the evolution of Google Cardboard, offering an experience similar though arguably slightly more advanced than the Gear VR. Though the current library is small, with Google’s backing we expect it to expand fast. Pricing is set at $49 with a growing number of supported phones, starting at $395.

Buy if:

  • You want a high-end VR experience with room scale and high-end motion controllers out of the box.
  • You like the idea of a marketplace with tons of indie games and projects.

Skip if:

  • You’re more interested in a carefully curated library of higher caliber games, apps, and experiences.
  • You aren’t interested in investing the $600+ required for a high-end PC, in addition to the $799 cost of the headset.
Get started with the HTC Vive!

Oculus Rift

A newcomer to the mobile VR game, Google Daydream is essentially the evolution of Google Cardboard, offering an experience similar though arguably slightly more advanced than the Gear VR. Though the current library is small, with Google’s backing we expect it to expand fast. Pricing is set at $49 with a growing number of supported phones, starting at $395.

Buy if:

  • You want a high-end VR experience that has a base price lower than the similar performing HTC Vive.
  • You like the idea of a marketplace with a reasonably large library of games and apps, but less than the Vive thanks to a more carefully curated approval process. 

Skip if:

  • You don’t want to have to invest extra money for motion sensing and room scale, especially since not all of the Rift’s games will even support these add-ons. 
  • You aren’t interested in investing the $600+ required for a high-end PC, in addition to the $599 cost of the headset.
Get started with the Oculus Rift!


 

Sony Playstation VR

Powered by the Sony PS4, the Playstation VR is almost as advanced as the PC-based Rift or the Vive, but considerably cheaper. The headset will set you back around $499, with the PS4 starting at $270. The total cost for the headset is higher than the others, but the experience is much better. If you are already a gamer, this is no-brainer route to VR.

Buy if:

  • You are looking for a hassle-free high-end VR system that works without a high-end PC.
  • You want tons of mainstream games and experiences from AAA studios, as well as indie groups.

Skip if:

  • You don’t own a Playstation 4 or aren’t interested in investing in one. 
  • You want the most bleeding edge specs, graphics, and more advanced motion tracking capabilities. The PSVR is great here, but the Vive or Rift are a step above.
Get started with the Playstation VR!

Wrap up

So that’s a look at the current main VR options on the market today. Which one to you use personally, and why? Let us know down in the comments.

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