The most popular VR headsets comparison – Which one for what?
Do you want to do something with VR, huh? You saw people using that kind of device on the internet or you heard stories of your colleagues about how fun it is. Maybe you see the real potential of this technology and you want to use it for education, entertainment, or even profit? I would like to introduce you to this area and briefly discuss the most popular VR headsets comparison.
I guarantee that VR has a higher potential than it might seem at first look, even if you think it’s high enough. It is very easy to work and play with VR, even if you are not a technology prodigy, but the enormity of information on this may seem overwhelming at first. Don’t worry! If I can do it – everybody can. Believe me, I know what I mean.
What exactly is a VR headset?
This weirdly looking, plastic, oversized binocular-shaped thing, attached with stripes to this delighted man is a VR headset.
It has one or two display screens and two special lenses inside so you can find every computer-generated world disturbingly real. A lot of headsets have their controllers in various shapes to provide something that can replace your hands in a virtual world, but some of them can track your real hands and project their positions via numerous sensors. Also, it comes out with speakers or headphones, but you can use your own super Dolby surround sound system to maximize the experience.
What are the main hardware differences between headsets?
At first, there is a resolution given in pixels per one eye. Higher resolution means you can have clearer and better-looking graphics, so you can trick your mind and forget about that boring real life easier. Secondly, the refresh rate number given in hertz shows how many times per second your screen can refresh, so if an app is properly optimized it basically shows maximum frames per second the headset can handle. Last but not least, every VR device has something called the field of view, given in three different values in angular degrees. Vertical field of view shows how much can you see at once vertically, horizontal – no surprises – horizontally. The diagonal field of view is a resultant of the two previous values, it is easily calculated using the Pythagorean theory.
What games and applications can I run?
It is hard to talk about VR devices without talking about apps and games you can run on that device. There are a few multiple platforms where you can buy or sell VR applications and you can not transfer those apps between them. Different headsets are set to work with specific platforms and that feature is immutable. You better check it at least twice before you make a decision about which platform is best suited for your plans.
In standalone headsets (that would be described in the next chapter) there are also differences in processors, RAM, and storage memories or battery life spans but I’m not going to write about it more than this short paragraph, because it works the same as in PC or smartphone. I think you get a general concept.
Types of VR headsets
VR headsets are most often divided into two main categories: standalone and tethered. I am going to mention in detail only the most popular headsets in each category to make VR headsets comparison. Not because the rest are bad and not worth mentioning, but because there is a much higher chance that potential customers have more popular options in their homes and it is easier for VR studios to develop an app for supported devices.
VR headsets comparison: Standalone
Standalone headsets have built-in processors, battery, RAM, and storage memory so they can work without any other device. Usually, you have to create your account to access certain VR platforms, but besides that, they require the least external interaction. In general, they are less powerful than tethered headsets and they offer lower quality graphics, but you are not limited to the length of a cable that sticks out of your head. Most of them still can be used as tethered headsets.
- Oculus Quest
I think it’s ok to start with the Oculus Quest, the most popular standalone headset to this day. It has been overshadowed by the new Oculus Quest 2 but still, there’s a lot of older Quests on this planet and we have to respect it. It costs 399 dollars (499 if you want to put your hands on a 128 GB storage version) and it offers satisfying VR guts for that price.
This VR headset has two OLED displays, each one with 1440 x 1600 resolution and a 72 Hz refresh rate. Overall, both displays provide a pretty high 130° diagonal field of view. Quest introduced a full-motion six degrees of freedom (6DoF) to Oculus standalone offer. This is thanks to two motion controllers as well as sensors located on the sides of the headset. It also has a built-in speaker and 3640 mAh battery, which is enough for 3 hours of use.
The worst thing that ever happened to Oculus Quest is the premiere of Oculus Quest 2. It becomes a little bit obsolete, but not irrelevant. Every VR geek has to admit that this device is still fantastic at what it was designed to do and every developer still has to consider it when creating VR applications.
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- Oculus Quest 2
The newest Quest 2 is much like an original Quest but on steroids. Smaller, faster, cheaper, better looking, and more comfortable to wear than the original Quest. For less than 300 dollars you can have everything you need to start your VR journey. For 100 dollars more you can get a 256 GB version if you think you’ll get involved enough to install every single app you can find on Oculus Home.
Quest 2 has a single LCD with a very high 1832 x 1920 resolution per one eye, 90 Hz refresh rate, and relatively good 129° diagonal field of view, self-contained motion tracking, and two 6DoF VR controllers and built-in speaker. Its battery has a 3640 mAh capacity and this is enough for 3 hours of use. It’s very good for people wearing glasses, they won’t feel any difference.
The main drawback of this headset is that you need to log in to your Facebook account to use it. If you don’t have one, you need to create it and everyone knows the consequences of this. Nevertheless, right now it is the best option for the standalone VR headset experience.
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- HTC Vive Focus
Finally, something Oculus didn’t create! Vive Focus by HTC might not be as popular as its distant quest cousins but still, HTC is a major player in the VR market. Vive Focus is a little bit more expensive than Quest, his main competitor, so it’s not for every budget. It costs 599 dollars (799 dollars if you want a ‘plus’ version with 6DoF controllers). So it’s a 200 dollars difference in comparison to Oculus Quest, but Vive Focus has slightly better performance with its integrated graphics.
Vive Focus has two AMOLED displays, 1440 x 1600 resolution per one eye and 75 Hz screen refresh rate, so it’s very similar to Quest, but the 159° diagonal field of view really stands out in this competition. Too bad, the normal version has 3DoF controllers and you have to pay extra 200 dollars for 6DoF. Vive Focus also has a built-in speaker and its 4000 mAh can run the device for 3 hours long. You can read more bout the details here.
Statistics show that Oculus Quest was much more popular than HTC Vive Focus, mostly because of almost the same specification for less money. But still, it’s a solid option for a standalone headset, especially if you are not on your way with Facebook.
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VR headsets comparison: Tethered
In opposition to the standalone headset, where the headset is everything you need to work with VR, tethered ones are special displays for an external device, like a PC, gaming console, or smartphone. They are as powerful as the device you use for them, so if you do not have a very efficient PC, the most expensive headset will not help.
For some people, a very long cable from a head to a PC could be problematic, but there is no doubt that PC-powered headsets provide the best experience. Here’s a list of the most popular headsets in this category.
- HTC Vive Cosmos
Let’s start with something we left off the previous chapter with. Another HTC product, Vive Cosmos, continuing Vive tethered headsets legacy. Its older brother, HTC Vive, was the best selling HTC VR headset ever and one of the best selling VR ever. Cosmos is not inferior to its ancestor, it’s basically the same idea, but improved and perfected. It costs 699 dollars (or 899 dollars if you want the ‘elite’ version with improved tracking) and for that price, you get the headset and two 6DoF controllers.
Double LCD with 1440 x 1700 pixels each eye and 90 Hz is doing a good job at simulating VR worlds, especially with a pretty decent 141° field of view. It supports the Viveport platform as well as SteamVR and it is always nice to have a choice.
Some people say that Vive Cosmos is too expensive for what it offers. But I think we have to respect the popularity of this device, especially in comparison to other devices at a similar price.
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- Valve Index
Here it is, a headset from one of the biggest companies in gaming and technology. When someone like Valve is making something in any field, the entire world will always watch and pray for it to be good. Is it good? Yes, it is! But for 999 dollars, which for some may be repulsive. Also, you need to prepare your room and install two Index Base Stations so the whole set can properly track your position.
Resolution of decent 1440 x 1600 pixels, amazing 144 Hz screen refresh rate and an astounding 158° diagonal field of view is what we get for almost 1000 dollars. Also, two Base Stations to install in your room and two 6DoF controllers with finger tracking.
There is no doubt that the Valve Index is a solid VR device, also very popular, especially for enthusiasts of electronic entertainment. But it is the most problematic and the most expensive of all options on our list.[table id=9 /]
- PlayStation VR
Not exactly PC-powered, because you need Sony PlayStation 4 or 5 to use it, but still you need an external device and still it is the best selling VR set to this day, with over 1.5 million copies sold worldwide, so it is definitely worth mentioning. PSVR is relatively cheap, it costs only 299 dollars, but in return, it is not very powerful. Also, you need a 59,99 dollars PlayStation Camera to work with PSVR, and it is sold separately so it is a major drawback.
Only 960 x 1080 resolution per one eye on a single OLED display is not satisfying in 2020, but a 120 Hz screen refresh rate is really good. Also, it has a decent 147° diagonal field of view. Controllers are not included, but you can use a standard PS controller or PS move controllers.
PSVR is one of the cheapest options on our list, but the only thing you can do with it is running PS games and apps. But because there are tons of PS users around the globe, making an app also for PSVR is very profitable.
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I’m not going to describe any device in this category, but it is good to know that smartphone-powered headsets exist. They are just special lenses on a stripe and a socket for a smartphone on which you have to run a specially prepared application. They are very cheap (the cheapest ones cost around 10 dollars), they are as powerful as your phone and, to be honest, they are not very exciting in comparison to the rest of the headsets categories.
There are over fifty VR headsets on the market right now. I focused my attention on describing only the most popular ones in each category because it would take forever to describe them all. I hope that information would be useful for you. No matter if you’re someone interested in VR just for personal use, a developer who wants to try himself in making VR apps, or a businessman that sees a lot of potential in selling VR related things.
If you want to see unusual projects for various devices, I invite you to visit the PORTFOLIO.