VR tech has come to stay. No doubt about that. So you want to jump into the VR bandwagon but don’t have a clue which hardware to acquire? This article on the top 10 best VR headsets in 2021 will guide you in this respect.
With the proliferation of VR headsets which has produced notable brands in the last couple of years, you might want to back up a bit and do some research before you tap the buy button. We break it down for you right here. You’ll notice there is a buying guide section where you’ll find useful information to also guide you. This would not only help to tailor your choices but also help you get the best value, irrespective of the choice you would make.
First off, the table below gives you a breakdown of the top 10 best VR headsets in 2021.
- Comparison Tables for the Top 10 Best VR Headsets in 2020
- Oculus Go
- Oculus Quest
- Oculus Rift
- Pimax 5k Plus
- HTC Vive
- Oculus Rift S
- Valve Index
- HTC Vive Cosmos
- PlayStation VR
- HTC Vive Pro
- Top 10 Best VR Headsets in 2020 Buying Guide
- Tethered vs Non-Tethered Headsets
- Minimum System Requirements for VR Gaming
- Commonly used terms in VR Gaming
- Concluding Thoughts
Comparison Tables for the Top 10 Best VR Headsets in 2021
Last update on 2021-03-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Last update on 2021-03-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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Top 10 Best VR Headsets in 2021 Review
Oculus Go – Best Overall/Budget VR Headset
The Oculus Go is a standalone Virtual Reality Headset that is not only comfortable, but also affordable. It lets you explore the world of Virtual Reality without making costly investments on hardware. Let’s consider its physical characteristics.
This VR Headset has a plain grey plastic face which bears the Oculus logo at its top. It however doesn’t have a fabric cover over the visor. The power button, volume rocker and an indicator light are present in the front edge of the top of the visor. The headset also avails you the opportunity to use headphones/earphones, as it has a 3.5mm jack on the left side of the headset. It should however be noted that usage of headphones/earphones are optional because it has its own in-built sound system.
Still on the left side of the headset, there is a micro USB port for charging. In terms of storage however, there seems to be a slight setback with this headset as it has a limited 32 or 64GB built-in storage (depending on the version), and this is because there is no micro SD card slot.
One of the factors that make this headset very comfortable to wear is the presence of the fabric-covered foam that runs around the back of the visor, where it comes in contact with your face. As such, the headset can be used for long hours at a stretch and it has a battery life of three hours. However, if you are prone to headaches and/or motion sickness, it is not advisable to use the headset for this long at a time.
The visor is attached to your face with a three-point headband that is made of wide of wide elastic straps. The straps aren’t easy to adjust, although they stay firmly in place with the help of hook and loop fasteners. You can connect to the sides of the visor with two long brackets and to its top, with a single eyelet hole that is behind the face mask insert. The headset weighs slightly over a pound.
The headset has an included three-degrees-of-freedom (3DOF) motion controller. However, unlike the Oculus Touch or HTV Vive controllers, it is unable to track positions. The controller comes with a clickable touch pad and physical Back/Home buttons. It fits the hand more like a pistol rather than a remote control and this could be attributed to its front facing trigger.
The controller also has a wrist strap for tracking and it uses an AA battery for power. Similar to the controller, the Oculus Go Headset itself has 3DOF rather than 6DOF and as such, it’s capable of tracking your motion and determining the direction you are facing. However, it can tell the exact direction of motion relative to your current position (whether you are moving upwards, downwards, sideways, etc.)
Another disadvantage of the 3DOF compared to the 6DOF is that the VR software – to a large extent, has to be stationary and this implies that you wouldn’t get the VR of the whole room.
The Oculus Go display uses the same 2560×1400 px resolution which is then split up to 1280×1440 for each eye. It is however an LCD and as such it doesn’t have the same deep blacks and wide color gamut as the OLED display used by the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift etc. The refresh rate of the headset also switches between 60Hz and 70Hz, depending on the software.
The motion pictures appear crisp but the expanse of space in sci-fi games and science apps do not appear as dark as it does on OLED display headsets. The Oculus Go Headset is a bit faster than its corresponding smart phone version and this is because it uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU. Although it is still a less powerful processor compared to most of the other headset brands.
The headset, in addition to having an in-built sound system also provides headphone-like audio without physically touching your ears. This is because it has a set of targeted speaker drivers that project the sound into your ears when you wear the headset. The speakers also don’t come off louder to others than it does to you.
A standard selection of movie and TV streaming apps are available in the Oculus Store including Oculus Go versions of Netflix and Showtime. However, a dedicated YouTube app isn’t present on this version, but you can still watch 180 and 360-degree videos on YouTube via its in-built web browser.
Asides from this, there are also several dedicated browsing apps alongside other intriguing VR apps for reading, viewing, and productivity. You can also look at outer space in Virtual Reality. It should also be noted that the games are however not as sophisticated and this is yet another limitation of the 3DOF.
Oculus Go Key Technical Specs
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU|
|Field of View||101 degrees|
- Relatively affordable and provides great value.
- Standalone and doesn’t require a smartphone, PC, or game console
- There are a few limitations due to its 3DOF.
- It doesn’t track position.
- It has a one motion controller.
- Compared to other smartphone-powered headsets, the Oculus Go is underpowered.
The Oculus Quest is a product born out of many lessons learnt from previous headsets like Oculus Rift and Oculus Go. It provides an evolving platform for Virtual Reality and many improvements have been made – especially in the software, which has significantly improved user experience and mainstream appeal.
The Oculus Quest is the fourth consumer VR Headset from Oculus, which is both convenient and has a low powered design. Just like the Oculus Go, it has a standalone design and as such does not require any external connection point like a phone or PC. On the flip side, while the Oculus Go is meant for stationary TV or movie viewers; Quest is meant for gaming.
It also has an included dual hand controller – rather than a single remote, and it is stuffed with four wide angle tracking cameras. These tracking cameras helps the user walk around a fairly large space. In terms of gaming, it supports similar experiences with the Oculus Rift.
Its body is covered in black fabric and it has a trio of head straps, which gives off a conservative aesthetic design feel. Though the headset works just fine with its increased weight, it is however not as comfortable. The distance between the lenses can also be adjusted by making use of the slider. Though the headset is very sleek, you might just be tempted to plug in earbuds anyways, because it leaks sound.
The insides of the headset are stuffed with various electronics, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile chipset and 64GB or 128GB of storage – depending on the version. It also has several features such as volume rocker, a power button and a USB-C charging port. The Quest also has a thick convex front panel and it is completely wireless, which means you wouldn’t require a gaming PC.
Often, users could have issues with jumping cable ropes, tripping accidentally or even having wires/cables get stuck in inconvenient locations – the Quest solved this problem effortlessly. It is also amazingly easy to map out your play space; because while VR calibration requires walking around a room to track boundaries, all you have to do with the Quest is simply to put it on and paint the virtual lines on the floor of your space.
You can also move between rooms without having to change the set up because the Quest can theoretically remember up to five spaces, and snap between them. Although this feature might not work perfectly because it takes a few seconds to redraw – but that is only a minor performance issue. The Quest also provides an arena scale VR that teases the possibility of nearly limitless virtual motion. You are however not allowed to draw boundaries longer than 25 by 25 feet, as that is the maximum play space that the Quest provides.
The controller’s motion is as accurate as that of the headset and you wouldn’t have trouble stretching your hands either to the side or above your head. The Oculus Quest controllers are different from the old controllers, because Oculus has flipped a tracking strip from below them to above your hands – here, the head mounted cameras can find it. Besides that, the basic controls haven’t changed as you would still find the same two face buttons, dual triggers and an analog stick on each controller.
The analog stick has however been shifted upwards and the face of the controller is narrower, because Oculus removed a capacitive touch panel which initially detects the position of the user’s thumb.
All in all, the Oculus Quest headset is sophisticated and convenient. While it is fairly well balanced when worn on the head, it is still quite heavy and could leave you with a throbbing forehead. On the brighter side, it has a higher resolution display of 1600×1400 pixels per eye and it uses improved lenses.
If you’ve got a spare $400 and tolerance for a light physical and social discomfort (restrictions from engaging other people while using the headset), the Oculus Quest would be perfect for you. If you are a gaming buff, you might also want to consider that though the Quest has an amazing design, there however are a few restrictions to the games you might want to play.
Oculus Quest Key Technical Specs
|Resolution||1600×1400 pixels per eye|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Chipset|
|Field of View||–|
- For a standalone headset, it creates an immersive VR experience.
- The headset has superb controls and full positional tracking.
- Being a standalone headset, it requires no phone, PC or game console.
- The setup is easy and the view of your surroundings is enhanced due to the pass-through cameras that allow for this.
- It’s closed off design would only permit/run apps and games for Quest.
- It is not suitable for outdoor use.
- It has a mobile processor thus it’s not always as good as that of a PC.
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The Oculus Rift is a powerful PC-tethered VR Headset with the inclusion of Oculus Touch motion controllers. In recent times, the Oculus Rift has become more appealing than the more expensive HTC Vive because of the reduction in price. It ranks as one of the best PC-tethered Headsets – not only because of its approachable price, but its Oculus Touch controllers and support for whole room Virtual Reality.
Provided you have a computer that can handle it, the Oculus Rift provides a functional and immersive Virtual Reality experience.
The Oculus Rift design is simple and quite minimalistic. It has a plain black rectangular visor with rounded edges and little aesthetic flair. Its front panel is completely flat and only marked with an Oculus logo. The sides of the headset are similarly flat and they connect to the arms, which pivot slightly up and down, and are attached to the harness – which is three strapped, for securing the device on your head.
The straps are held in place with hook and loop fasteners and can be easily adjusted. A set of headphones sit on the arms and they are able to separately pivot and flip up and down, to properly fit on your ears. The headset is quite light weighted and comfortable to wear. Unlike most of the other headsets, you can wear glasses with the Rift but this would make it fit a bit tighter. Likewise, putting the Rift on and taking it off might also be a bit awkward, depending on the size of your frames. It could hurt you badly too if worn for long periods of time.
The Rift connects to your PC directly through a lengthy cable that splits off near the end into HDMI and USB 3.0 connectors. The lengthy cable makes it a little more awkward than the over-the-top-of-the-head cable of the HTC Vive, because you could find yourself struggling to find a comfortable position – without the cable sitting distractingly on your shoulder. A single external sensor is used and the black cylinder sits on a nine-inch tall metal desktop stand.
The sensor can tilt up and down and must be placed where it can maintain a clear view of the headset, when in use. There is a second identical sensor that tracks the Oculus Touch controllers and the two sensors work hand-in-hand, to improve tracking and cover a larger area. Each eye is separated by lenses on the headset and a 2160×1200 OLED panel produces a 1080×1200 picture for each. The lenses can be adjusted using a small lever on the right underside of the visor.
The Oculus Rift controls were initially introduced as an optional addition, but has since been added to the standard Rift package. The controls are however not the only control options that are included. The Oculus remote is a small rounded bar with a large, circular navigation pad. It also has back, menu and up/down buttons. It also includes an Xbox One wireless controller and a Microsoft Xbox wireless adapter for Windows.
The Oculus Rift controllers are handy for VR games that use conventional, non-motion based control schemes, and the headset’s control scheme is very comfortable and gives off a natural feel. In addition to the motion tracking feature, it has responsive physical components like analog sticks and face buttons.
Oculus Rift Key Technical Specifications
|Ports||HDMI 1.3, USB 3.0 (4-meter headset), USB 2.0|
|Field of View||100 degrees|
||Integrated over-ear headphones and microphone|
Oculus Rift System Requirements
|CPU||Intel i3-6100 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater||Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater|
|GPU||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater|
|RAM||8GB and above||8GB and above|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10|
|USB Port||3x USB 3.0 ports, plus 1x USB 2.0 port||1x USB 3.0 port, plus 2x USB 2.0 ports|
|Video Output||Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output||Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output|
- It also provides an immersive Virtual Reality experience.
- It can work with both Oculus and Steam VR platforms.
- The Oculus Rift now includes both convectional gamepads and Oculus Touch controllers.
- The Oculus Rift Headset requires four USB ports to function fully (three USB 3 and one USB 2).
Pimax 5k Plus
The Pimax 5K Plus offers a fresh look at ultra-wide Virtual Reality, although the headset wouldn’t be suitable for everyone; it is expensive and demands a lot of adjustments to get the settings perfect. If you’re new to VR, we wouldn’t recommend the Pimax 5K Plus but if you are well experienced in VR and you want something fresh and unique, then this is just what you need as the peripheral vision in VR that Pimax 5K Plus offers, would definitely rekindle your love for it.
The Pimax 5K Plus provides crisp display and a wide field of view (FOV) – this feature is what seems to draw many to the headset amidst its flaws. The Pimax 5K Plus is the largest VR Headset to be tested and reviewed so far. Its dimensions are about: 11.5 inches (29.21cm) across, 3.75 inches (9.5cm) tall and a maximum depth of 4.5 inches (11.4cm). The large size makes the headset appear quite ridiculous on the head, as it sticks out from both sides.
However, it’s enormous size compared to other headsets is for a reason, as it requires enough space to accommodate two side x side displays, in other to produce the headset’s signature 200-degree FOV.
The wide FOV of the Pimax 5K Plus is what gives it an edge over the Vive Pro as the latter has a 110-degree FOV. The size of the headset’s displays is still quite vague but its frame suggests the screens are roughly 5 inches across. It has a total resolution of 5120×1440 pixels (this is what the company refers to as ‘5K’), from which each panel features 2560×1440 pixels.
The headset uses custom made panels called CLPL (Custom Low Persistence Liquid) displays. The CLPL panels do not show any noticeable ghosting or tearing. However, they are lacking in color reproduction. If you’re looking for OLED level color reproduction, the 5K Plus wouldn’t be able to give you that.
However, in the 5K BE (Business Edition) – which is a business version of the headset, the OLED panels are featured in the same ultra-wide configuration and quite surprisingly too. Despite the large size of the headset it is relatively light. Unfortunately, the light material that was used for the headset is also a weak one as past review units have had cracks on their shells that resulted from minor bumps. This gives the HTC Vive and Give Pro an edge over the Pimax 5K Plus.
The headset has three straps with a Velcro harness that keeps the headset on your face but that’s pretty much all there is to it as the straps do not provide a comfortable fit. The headset doesn’t include headphones which is bad for a $699 headset. However, Pimax is working on a mechanical strap upgrade which would include headphones and possibly correct the issue of the headset not fitting on properly.
It’s also important to note that the current price of the headset doesn’t include controllers or base stations. To utilize the headset to its full potential, you must source controllers and base stations from a Vive or Vive Pro System. On the brighter side, it doesn’t need a PC much more powerful, as is the case with Pimax 8K, and it is also cheaper than the latter. The screen of the headset also provides a rich, detailed environment.
Pimax 5K Hand Tracking
The hand tracking module can be attached to the front of both headsets. The tech used in the hand tracking module was supplied by Leap Motion. This tech however, doesn’t support an interactive demo that is; there is nothing to pick up, touch or point to. It only has some trippy hand visuals that you can wave about in front of your face.
The Leap Motion tech can also detect individual finger movements and the sensors. Due to the wide field of view, you wouldn’t have any problem using your hands and making movements at the widest points of the Pimax screens, close to the edge.
Pimax 5K Plus Eye Tracking
Having lacked a demo in the hand tracking, the eye tracking greatly improved in that regard. The eye tracking tech provided by 7Invensum, is quite similar to a whack-a-mole game – where you had to hit the little critters popping up simply by looking at them. This was a bit of a challenge though as it tested both the speed and accuracy of the 7Invensum technology.
The process isn’t too complicated: after a quick calibration – which doesn’t occur all the time, look at the several dots one after another then give the moles a long stare. Most of the time, the eye tracking worked exactly as anticipated, even as your gaze moved between the digital moles in quick successions. While further modifications would be needed, what was offered by the 7Invensum technology was certainly an impressive stepping stone.
Pimax 5K Plus BE
This headset is one that most consumers usually don’t opt for when considering buying a VR headset – the Pimax 5K Plus Business Edition (BE). There however are two major differences between the consumer Pimax 5K Plus and Pimax 5K BE and they are: Price and Screen. The Pimax 5K BE retails for $999 and comes with an OLED screen rather than the CLPL in Pimax 5K Plus.
The OLED display definitely did seem impressive comparative with the bold colors and details expected of an OLED screen but there wasn’t enough difference between this and the general Pimax 5K Plus, that you would want to spend that amount of extra cash for – just for a display. The normal Pimax 5K Plus does pretty much a satisfactory job in that regard.
The Pimax controllers look almost identical to the Stream Knuckles controllers, although they only appeared as basic prototypes. The controllers had travel buttons, and a strap that tightens around the back of the hand works satisfactorily. In terms of comfort, the controllers feel great and it provides an easy access to the grip and trigger. The strap also holds the controller in place when trying an action such as throwing.
The controllers – just like the headset, are quite bulky but lightly weighted. They are also pretty impressive but require additional development.
Pimax 5K Plus Key Technical Specs
|Ports||USB 2.0/3.0 DisplayPort 1.4|
|Platform||PC with Windows OS|
|Field of View||200 degrees|
|Audio||3.5mm audio jack, integrated microphone|
Pimax 5K System Requirements
|CPU||Intel i3-6100 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater|
|GPU||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater|
|RAM||8GB and above|
|Operating System||Windows 10|
|USB Port||3x USB 3.0 ports, plus 1x USB 2.0 port|
|Video Output||Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output|
- Provided you get the settings right, the Pimax 5K Plus provides high visual clarity.
- The headset also offers peripheral vision.
- It is light in weight
- It has a fragile build with weak head straps.
- Headphones aren’t included in the package.
- The headset is not cost-effective.
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The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are the two best PC-tethered Headsets in the market currently, so then the big question most consumers are faced with is; which to buy? Earlier on, we reviewed the features and specs of the Oculus Rift in depth. With the details on the HTC Vive that would be provided in this section, we sure do hope it would help you narrow down your decision.
The HTC Vive is a comprehensive PC-tethered Virtual Reality system that supports both motion controls and whole room VR. There was a need to create a Virtual Reality system that would rival the infamous Oculus Rift, so HTC and Valve worked together to that effect and indeed produced a system – in form of HTC Vive. The final forms of the HTC Vive have been released and although the hardware hasn’t changed, the prices have.
The HTC Vive was initially more expensive – at $799, but is now at $599. Asides from being more cost effective, it also supports whole room VR for playing in a wider workspace than the Rift allows and this feature has given it an edge over the latter for certain types of games, although consumers generally prefer the Oculus Touch controllers to that of Vive’s.
The headset has a large, black, plastic visor shaped almost like a rectangular mushroom. It has a curved front that bells out to hold the thirty-two motion tracking sensors – which are all over its surface, and one optical camera located in the center of the front panel. On the left side of the headset, you would find a button and an indicator LED while on the right side; there is a small knob that can adjust the distance between your pupils (Pupillary Distance), for the sole purpose of helping you focus.
The Vive uses a single 2160×1200 LCD with a refresh rate of 90Hz. It is also paired with two lenses that separate the display into 1080×1200 pixels for each eye – which is the same for Oculus Rift. A set of three wide elastic straps secure the headset to your head by means of hook and loop fasteners, and one of the three straps goes over the top of your head to help ensure a stable and snug fit.
There is also a part of the focus system that helps you change the distance between the LCD panel and the lenses; this is found at mounts – where the side strap connects to the headset. By pulling the rubber ring backwards or pushing it forward, you can easily adjust the distance to suit your preference although, this could be quite a hassling adjustment to make because the two sections are connected very stiffly.
Fortunately, you can also wear glasses while using the Vive, and the default focal length should work just fine. Around the edge of the headset’s face mask, there is a foam padding that is connected to hook and loop fasteners and can also be easily removed from its place for cleaning if it soaks up a bit of sweat. A triple cable runs over the top strap and down the back of your head to connect the Vive’s Link Box which in turn, connects to your PC.
The cable is about 10 feet long and includes HDMI, Power, and USB connectors. A fourth shorter cable reaches just the back of your head and it contains a 3.5mm headphone jack. The headset also comes with a pair of earphones but they aren’t too appealing, because they are extremely short (just about 14 inches), and could pop out of your ears by the slight turn of your head. However, that doesn’t pose as much of a concern because you can also use your own pair of headphones if you choose to.
The Vive’s link box is a small device, just about the size and shape of a Sony PlayStation TV. One side of the link box bears a DisplayPort, HDMI, Power, and USB connectors marked in black, which indicate that they connect to the PC, or to a power outlet with the required wall adapter. However, the Vive works with either the HDMI or DisplayPort, so you don’t need to connect both.
The other side of the link box holds HDMI, Power and USB connectors too but on this side, they are marked in orange – indicating that they connect only to the headset’s cable. The standard Vive package comes with an adhesive rubber foot that helps secure the link box to a desk or table. Without the adhesive foot, the tiny box would simply plop around at the slightest tug of its cable.
The Vive comes with two identical, both-handed controller wands that are about 8.5 inches long and are loaded with not only motion, but positioning sensors also. There is a circular touch pad on the top of each wand that is winged by Menu and VR buttons. The Menu buttons prompt up a menu which is dependent on the version of software you are using, while the VR buttons open up the stream VR interface.
There is a large trigger found at the underside of the wand and two grip buttons sit lower, on either sides of the handle. The circular touch pad at the top of the wand is a large ring containing positioning sensors that let the Vive track the location of the controller. The wands are functional and the touch pads/motion sensors allow for some concise inputs. However, the Oculus Rift controllers are still preferred because of the included Oculus Touch controls.
The Vive’s controllers, rather than touch pads, use analog thumb sticks instead of touch pads but they are curved to fit the hands comfortably and so feel more natural to hold with the trigger buttons that reflect the gripping with your fingers. The controllers function perfectly fine but the Oculus Touch controllers simply give off a better feel.
The Vive’s controllers depend on two base stations in other to determine the position of the headset and its controllers. The base stations are round boxes each measuring 3×3×2 inches. The front of each station is glossy and contains an indicator light, a small alphanumeric LED display and an array of infrared LED’s. The back on the base stations hold a Mode Button, a Power Connector and a 3.5mm audio port.
The stations should also be able to detect each other wirelessly, provided that they are properly configured but if they are not, they can also be physically connected by utilizing the 3.5mm port which is made possible by the inclusion of an extremely long cable. Hence from all that has been discussed, the Vive asides from the major components of the system, also comes with three Power Adapter for the Link Box/Headset and Base Stations, two USB Power Adapters and USB-to-Micro USB cables for connecting the link box to your PC.
It also comes with a second Foam Pad for the Face Mask, wall mounting hardware for the Base Stations and the aforementioned included Earphones and Sync Cables.
HTC Vive Key Technical Specs
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU|
|Field of View||101 degrees|
HTC Vive System Requirements
|CPU||Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 or better||Intel Core i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or better||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better|
|RAM||4GB or more||4GB or more|
|Operating System||Windows 7 SPI, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10||Windows 7 SPI, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10|
|USB Port||1 × USB 2.0 or better port||1 × USB 2.0 or better port|
|Video Output||HDMI 1.4, Display Port 1.2 or newer||HDMI 1.4, Display Port 1.2 or newer|
- The Vive provides an immersive Virtual Reality experience.
- It also includes motion controllers and external sensors for whole room VR.
- It is expensive
- It is a tethered headset
- It makes whole-room VR tricky.
Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift S is a modest upgrade from the original Oculus Rift with a new look, some new features and a $50 increase in price. It however doesn’t look much like the original Oculus Rift.
Design and Setup
The Oculus Rift S is currently Oculus’ biggest and best platform for exclusive gaming experiences and it has to be wired to a gaming PC or console. One of the major differences between the original Oculus Rift and the Oculus Rift S is the addition of the insight system which uses tracking cameras that are built straight into the headset, rather than ones that are mounted around the room. The insight system was first seen on the Oculus Quest and this version of the Rift S is fundamentally similar to it.
The Rift S has five cameras unlike the Quest which has four, and instead of having wide angle cameras on either corners of the headset, the five cameras are placed differently (Two cameras on the front, one on each side, and one on the top of the headset). According to Oculus, the inclusion of the five cameras should give your hands a little more range compared to the Quest but unlike the totally wired Quest, you are still tethered to a PC so the advantages of the Rift S over the Quest aren’t quite as remarkable.
To get the arena scale virtual reality effect from the Rift S, one would also need a backpack PC and you can check out some demos of the arena scale VR on the Quest as shown by Oculus. On the plus side, the original Rift required arranging the first generation’s camera stands, occupying all your computer’s USB ports in the process and its default two cameras couldn’t track your controllers if you turned around. Not only that, to get a room scale three-camera set up, you would have to run wires all across your room. This is quite frustrating to say the least.
The Rift S solves these problems as it is an improvement over the original Rift. Its setup process is far simpler because all that’s required is plug in one cable and one DisplayPort cable, then run the Oculus software which would in turn guide you through the whole setup process.
Likewise, drawing boundary lines with the Rift S is also quite easy to do as you would simply put on your headset, pick up one of the two hand controllers and trace lines on a grainy video feed of the real world, which is quite similar to the Quest’s system.
There’s no fiddling with camera stands or running wires all over the room to get them powered up. Oculus has also slightly re-designed its old touch controllers. The new model isn’t significantly better or worse than the old touch, which still has the reputation of being one of the best VR controllers created so far.
The insight system is however the only significant feature that distinguishes the Rift S from the preceding one. The remaining changes that were made are less distinguishable upgrades.
Also one of the added features is that the old over-the-ear headphones were removed and replaced by directional speakers which are designed to direct sound into your ears but just as seen in most other headsets, they leak sound so badly that one would even consider using the optional Oculus earbuds when around other people or using personal headphones.
The Rift S also has a slightly higher resolution than that of the original Rift at 1280×1440 pixels rather than 1200×1080 pixels, but its resolution is still not as high as the Quest’s and its screen refresh rate has been downgraded. Some users will wonder why the refresh rate would be much of a big deal, but it determines the image quality in VR. If they get too low, they can increase likelihood of motion sickness. Most headsets, including the old Rift, have aimed at a minimum refresh rate of 90Hz but the Rift S is 80Hz.
This has caused quite some dismay among users as the screen of the Rift S doesn’t feel better than the original Rift as one would have expected – for a headset that was released three years after. However, it could be quite understandable that Oculus made these compromises in other to avoid altering the Rift’s computing requirements. That is, if your gaming PC meets the old Rift’s recommended system specifications, it should work with the Rift S.
However, if you have a more recent machine, you still can’t take advantage of its power as modern graphic cards should be able to push higher refresh rates at the resolutions of the Rift S displays but rather sadly, there is no option for that. The Rift S also looks so bland aesthetically and a school of thought believes that the headset wasn’t actually designed for hardcore VR fans but rather for VR headset developers. Compared to the distinctive and elegant old Rift design, the Rift S appears purely practical.
The Rift S headset was manufactured by Lenovo and it imports some elements of Lenovo Mirage Solo, as well as Sony PlayStation VR. The headset is also optimized for comfort as to where the original Rift used three plastic head straps, the Rift S has a halo-style ring that rests around the top of your head and tightens with a wheel at the back.
Although the headset weighs slightly more than the original Rift, partly because of its new tracking cameras, the halo ring helps to distribute the weight around your head. This makes the Rift S more comfortable than the Quest as the latter uses the old Rift’s design.
Oculus also removed the manual slide that allows you to adjust the distance between lenses, and instead opted for a software tweak that’s supposed to replicate the process. Although this trade-off doesn’t exactly affect everyone, however, people with dramatically wider or narrower distances between their pupils would certainly be affected. On the brighter side, a new button helps you slide the headset’s screen forward or backward – just like the PlayStation VR (PSVR). This makes the Rift S easier to use with glasses.
The Rift S has two controllers with ten buttons, two analog sticks and two touch sensitive thumb rest that are both instinctive to operate with a usable design, and a tactile feedback. Due to the constellation sensors, the controllers have precise, low latency motion tracking which offers three degrees of positional tracking, and three degrees of rotational tracking.
Asides from the constellation sensors, the controllers also have additional infrared LED sensors for higher, more accurate hand and head tracking. Each of the controllers both requires AA batteries for power.
Oculus Rift S Key Technical Specifications
|Resolution||2560×1440, (1280×1440 per eye)|
|Ports/Connectivity||DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0 (5-meter)|
|Field of View||115 degrees|
Oculus Rift S System Requirements
|CPU||Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater||Intel i3-6100 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater|
|GPU||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater|
|RAM||8GB and above||8GB and above|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10|
|USB Port||1x USB 3.0 port||1x USB 3.0 port|
|Video Output||Compatible DisplayPort video output||Compatible mini-DisplayPort video output (mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter included)|
- Provides clear imagery with less screen door effect
- The headset and its accessories are easily adjustable
- High-resolution display
- Doesn’t require external sensors
- It gets sweaty quicker than other headsets
- The Rift S is still a tethered experience
- Its long cable is inflexible and sometimes gets twisted.
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Valve Index – Best High-End VR Headset
The famous gaming company Valve pioneered Virtual Reality as we know it by being the first company to introduce a modern VR tracking system and releasing several headset prototypes. The company also runs the popular Steam VR platform and partnered with HTC on the production of the Vive, but up until the release of the Valve Index, the company had not actually produced a Virtual Reality headset. That narrative was however changed with the release of the Index: a high end, PC tethered headset.
The Index still offers first generation VR that isn’t significantly different from the Rift or Vive as you wouldn’t find features like eye tracking or striking displays. It’s a tethered headset which means the cable could feel extremely limiting especially after trying out the Quest. The device is highly recommended for people who play VR heavily, or use headsets for professional work as the Index delivers a rich VR experience with very few compromises.
By Virtual Reality standards, the Valve Index is specialized and expensive – it costs $999 which is twice as much as the $399 for the Oculus Rift or the $499 HTC Vive. The system also requires a gaming PC. So if you need convenience and portability, the Index would most likely not be a good choice for you, plus there are several other headsets with higher resolutions or wider field of view (FOV) that can be purchased for a cheaper price. However, if you spend a lot of time in VR, the Index offers solid visuals, an ergonomic hardware design and the coolest controllers on the market.
Speaking more on its external features, the Index adopts some great overall design elements from other headsets. It has a comfortably padded helmet with a headband that can be tightened by a dial on the back. The padded strap design also feels incredible. However, the headset isn’t the lightest though. After some time spent in VR, one would get used to its weight. The distance between the lenses can also be adjusted to find the best focus which is an excellent feature that Oculus controversially removed from the Rift.
Another dial also lets you change the distance between your eyes and the lenses giving you more control over the imagery. Like many other VR companies, Valve is also experimenting with speaker based audio systems and the ones in the Index turned out pretty impressive. The headset features two speakers that look a lot like headphones, but they actually are not. They sit about an inch away from the ears projecting sound into them, but not actually pressing against your head. These headphone-like audio speakers are quite comfortable – especially in long VR sessions, and sounds come out richer than the strap-based speakers of the Oculus Rift and Quest.
Although there is one challenge with this design: everyone can hear exactly what you are doing from several feet away but thankfully, the Valve provided room with which you can plug in your own headphones. The company however doesn’t make any pretenses towards minimalism as the headset is a big, black, attention-grabbing one that’s covered in dials and sliders. There is a strip of shiny plastic at the front which you can pull off to reveal a little compartment with a type A USB port, so users can plug in other devices.
The headset is also quite bulky and its two front-facing cameras liken its look to that of the Rift S, but that is absolutely justifiable because although the design of the headset seems clunky, it certainly doesn’t feel or look cheap.
Specifications and Setup
The Index uses the same Lighthouse tracking system as the Vive so it ships with two base stations that are laser-emitting. You would need to mount the base stations on the opposite corners of your play space, facing the center. These base stations are second generation stations unlike those of the Vive that are first generation. Although the second generation base stations offer fewer syncing problems, they are still frustrating to set up. Hence it’s going to be quite the struggle for anyone who’s trying the Valve’s system for the first time, as the Index is aimed at people who have used their systems over the years.
The Lighthouse system hasn’t offered a substantially better experience and the tracking isn’t flawless as the controllers occasionally drift off while gaming but they recover quickly, so it isn’t much of a challenge. The two front cameras also have a part to play in the added weight of the Index, and they are one of the features that support the statement by Valve which suggests that the headset can be used for computer vision experiments.
The screen shares the same resolution as the Vive Pro – 1440×1600 pixels per eye, and it easily bumps down that of the Rift and Vive. The images on the Index appear smooth and bright and its refresh rate that can go all the way up to 120Hz, just adding the icing on the cake. Due to the LCD display, some grayish-black patches could appear at times but it is still a very impressive screen. You can make use of the NVidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD RX 480 graphics card, at the low end, but a GTX 1070 or a higher one is recommended.
The field of view depends on how far the headset’s screen gets away from your eyes and this could be quite tricky as one wouldn’t be able to keep the lenses close for a long time because the plastic rims would still dig into your face, despite the buffering from the headset’s padded mask.
The Index’s controllers are strapped around your hands rather than held and they don’t quite look like a remote or gamepad. A central stock on each controller detects one’s finger and pressure from squeezing. It also has sensors that can detect when your hands are close to, but not yet touching the controllers. The top section includes an analog stick, two face buttons, and a little trackpad groove. The controllers feel amazingly natural to hold and you can open/close your hands freely rather than the usual grip or trigger features in most other headsets.
The major hardware setback of the Index controllers is the lack of efficient tactile feedback. When used as a basic grip button, it doesn’t relay solid information that one has squeezed hard enough. So if you fail to pick something up in a game, it is not immediately clear why. However, the Valve Index is definintely one of our preferred Top 10 best VR headsets in 2021.
Valve Index Headset Key Technical Specs
|Resolution||1440×1600 pixels per eye|
|Ports||5m tether, 1m breakaway trident connector. USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, 12V power|
|Audio||Inbuilt Speakers and Mic|
|Field of View||110-130 degrees|
Valve Index Headset System Requirements
|CPU||Dual-Core processor with Hyperthreading||A quad-Core processor or better|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / AMD RX 480||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or better|
|RAM||8GB and above||8GB and above|
|Operating System||Windows 10, Linux, SteamOS||Windows 10, Linux, SteamOS|
|USB Port||USB 2.0 port||USB 3.0 port|
(Index does not support HDMI, and will not work with DisplayPort to HDMI adapters)
|Display Port 1.2||Display Port 1.2|
- Good screen resolution and satisfactory field of view
- Cool controllers
- User-friendly interface
- Comfortable design
- Very costly
- The Lighthouse setup system is quite inconvenient
- It is still tethered to a PC
- Controller not sensitive enough
HTC Vive Cosmos
The HTC Vive Cosmos is currently HTC’s latest VR headset and it is a significant upgrade from both the original Vive, technically wise, and the more expensive Vive Pro. The Vive Cosmos does not need external sensors and the re-designed motion controllers are a huge step forward although its price is a hard pill to swallow. It costs $699 whereas the Rift S can be purchased for $399. That’s a massive increment in price and one would wonder if the changes and improvements made match the price bump up. Yes, it’s a powerful PC tethered headset, but then you’ll still have to wrestle with an awkward cable while you play around in VR, and after using the standalone Quest it could be quite hard to comfortably go back to a tethered system, no matter how powerful it could be.
The Vive Cosmos looks a bit more colorful than the original Vive. It has a dark blue outer body that is covered with a triangle pattern. Its two forward-facing cameras that almost reminds one of the human eyes, are joined by four more cameras with two mounted on the top and bottom edges of the front, and the other two on the left and right side of the visor. A knob to adjust the pupillary distance sits below the right facing camera and beneath the left facing camera. A power LED button sits there too.
The whole visor sits astride a single hinge that connects to a large plastic arch, on the front of the three-point headband. The headband wraps around the back of your skull to a second plastic arch, with a clicking wheel that loosens and tightens it.
Both arches are padded with foam and then overlaid with faux leather. An elastic strap loops from the back arch on both sides to the front, and they are connected together with hook and loop fasteners to ensure a secure fit.
The sides of the headband have short arms which have a set of on-ear headphones. The arms can flip up/down and slide vertically to adjust to your ears. Sadly, the hinge is a bit too loose thus making the arms quite flexible so you would need to reach up to the hinge itself and press it down firmly to get the headphones to click in place over your ears. Merely trying to pull the headphones without manually clicking the hinge closed wouldn’t do because they would pop right off your ears.
The Vive Cosmos features a 1700×1400-pixel resolution picture to each eye and that gives it an added advantage over the Quest and Vive Pro’s 1600×1440 resolution for each eye. It has a similar 90Hz refresh rate and that keeps the movement of pictures and imagery smooth. Amidst all the comparisons, the Vive, Vive Pro, Rift S and now the Vive Cosmos still suffer from the same problem: the cable. As a physically tethered headset, one needs to be aware of the cable’s position so as not to tug it or trip over it.
The lengthy and stiff cable doesn’t help matters too as it can easily get caught on itself. Although HTC offers a wireless adapter for $299, it’s still a costly expense to pay, adding to the initial price of the headset itself. On the other hand, the Vive Cosmos offers a fairly high resolution, improved motion controllers and it doesn’t require any external sensors.
Up till date the Oculus Touch controllers has remained one of the most preferred controllers in the VR space but with the Vive Cosmos it seems the HTC is finally catching up with the Oculus’ ergonomics for controls with a completely new set of controllers. They are quite similar to the Oculus Touch with rounded grips, curved triggers that are natural to your index and middle fingers, and analog sticks rather than touch pads.
The controllers feel very comfortable in the hands unlike that of the original Vive that was more rigid and straight, and just like the Oculus Touch there is a thick plastic ring that extends upwards around each controller’s button and analog stick. The ring also features translucent bands around the edges and geometric patterns along the middle that light up when the controllers are turned on. This not only makes the controllers look more intriguing, but also help the headset’s cameras track the controller’s position.
System Requirements and Setup
A link box (a small, grey, plastic box) identical to the one that comes with the Vive Pro, connects the Vive Cosmos to your PC. The back of the box holds the power, USB and mini DisplayPort connections, while the front has a connector for the headset itself which fits the end of the headset’s 15-foot cable. The link box can be connected to a computer with an included 3.0 USB cable and a mini display-port-to-display-port cable which is also included.
The mini DisplayPort end connects into the link box and is plugged into a power outlet with an included adapter. You would however require a fairly powerful PC to use the HTC Vive Cosmos, possibly an Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 CPU, 8MB of RAM, a DisplayPort 1.2 output, a USB 3.0 port and an NVidia GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 480 graphics card and above (although HTC typically recommends at least Radeon Vega 56 or NVidia GTX 1070).
Head Tracking without Base Stations
The six cameras on the headset mark the biggest trade off the Vive Cosmos has over the Vive and Vive Pro. The cameras can track the position of the headset by monitoring its immediate surroundings, thus completely removing the need for external sensors or base stations. This makes the setup process a whole lot easier, as properly placing the base stations at two prime corners of your play space could be quite frustrating. However, this is a little setback.
Considering the new feature from a hardware perspective, the array of cameras certainly seems functional but for a headset with that many tracking cameras one wouldn’t expect lighting to be a challenge. For instance, during the review, when setting up the test space, the headset kept showing an error saying the environment was too dark to track motion, whereas it was tracking it just fine. It wasn’t until more shades and curtains were opened to allow more light into the test space, that the headset began to function normally and even with that the lighting errors still popped up occasionally.
However, HTC has pushed forward a software update that allows you dismiss the lighting errors whenever they pop up and the headset can also be used without the warnings.
HTC Vive Cosmos Key Technical Specs
|Resolution||1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels combined)|
|Sensors||G-sensor, Gyroscope, Eye Comfort Setting (IPD)|
|Audio||Stereo Headphone, mic|
|Field of View||110 degrees|
|Ports||USB-C 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2|
HTC Vive Cosmos System Requirements
|CPU||Intel i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 or better||Intel Core i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 or better|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB, AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB equivalent or better VR Ready graphics card.||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070/Quadro P5000 equivalent or better, AMD Radeon Vega 56 equivalent or better VR Ready graphics card.|
|RAM||4GB or more||8GB and above|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10|
1 × USB 3.0 or newer
1 × USB 3.0 or newer
|Video Output||Display Port 1.2 or newer||
Display Port 1.2 or newer
- Doesn’t require external sensors
- Improved motion controllers
- Crisp display
- Long, awkward cable
- Requires a full size 1.2 DisplayPort
- Still a tethered headset
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The PlayStation VR (PSVR) is Sony’s first break into the VR space and indeed was quite a decent entry as the PlayStation VR is simply one of the best VR headsets on the market today.
The device is cost-effective as it represents the cheapest of the big three on the market, without compromising on its quality and performance. It is significantly cheaper than both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and is currently the only option for technology-inclined console gamers. Not just that, it is incredibly striking to look at and amazingly comfortable to wear. The games available on the PSVR are also some of the best VR gaming experiences you can have currently.
The PS looks like an expensive tech piece that you would be happy to have on your shelf. Everything about the headset looks stunning with its sleek white edging, the black fascia, and the cool lights which allow for motion tracking. It’s pretty sizeable with a cable coming out of the back, trailing down to a small adaptor that bears the controls of the headphones (which are also plugged into the adaptor) volume, as well as a button to turn the headset on and off.
Unlike other headsets, it doesn’t fasten to your face with Velcro but instead, you press a button at the back of the headset to extend the plastic band, place it over your head and it automatically adjusts to fit on your head like a vice. If the headset still feels a bit loose after doing this, there’s a plastic dial you can turn to tighten it a bit more. One of the reasons why the headset is very comfortable is that it feels very natural to wear, and it’s never like it’s “gripping” your head. The weight of the headset rests equally on your forehead and extends to the back of your head.
There could also be external light bleed but there are rubber flaps that sit on the nose which prevents that occurrence. Unlike with Oculus and Vive, one can wear glasses while using the PSVR and the system also allows the player to turn 180 degrees while it still tracks movement. This is made possible thanks to the two tracking lights on the back of the headset which gives you the freedom to turn and face the opposite direction.
Another cool feature is the ability to move the box on the front of the headset – which houses the display, forwards, and backwards. Consumers do this primarily to find the perfect focus of the image. Beyond this, this feature also allows you to carry out simple tasks in the real world like sending a text or looking around for something while taking a break from gaming. However, there is a downside to this design. With this feature, one is able to permanently see beneath the headset no matter how close you push the display to your face and this could pose as a distraction while gaming and also give rise to some light bleed.
Due to the bulkiness of the headset, using larger headphones could also be a hassle. On the flip side, one of the many tradeoffs of the PSVR is that it isn’t massively demanding on space. Even with the relatively sizeable play space, you can play games with relative comfort. However, if you are one who is very particular on tidiness, you would most likely face the challenge of keeping a presentable play space as the PSVR mass of cables could be quite annoying to put away.
Of the three big-name VR headsets, the PSVR is the lowest in terms of display quality. It uses a single 1080p, 5-7-inch OLED screen while the Oculus and Vive deliver a 2160×1200 resolution to each eye. Although this drop in quality is hardly ever noticeable except in low lightning scenarios, the screen door effect could be quite obvious and images at a distance could appear blurry but notwithstanding, the games still come out excellent as the imagery has great detail and beautiful colors.
The PSVR also has the capacity to render games both at 120Hz and 90Hz which is a feature that neither the Rift nor Vive could offer. This enables the PSVR to provide a smoother and more comfortable gaming experience. Likewise, due to the fast refresh rate of the PSVR, motion sickness is almost non-occurring. You can also play regular PS4 games with the PSVR, thanks to the cinematic mode. There are also three virtual screen sizes available on the PSVR: Large (226 inches), Medium (163 inches), and Small (117 inches)
Sony launched a camera alongside the PSVR launch and two versions have been released this far. In the previous version, the camera’s cable was at the side and it was quite inconvenient because the camera was often dragged away from its preset position particularly when the wire dropped. As an improvement to the new version, the cable now sits at the back of the camera which gives it better stability.
This is definitely an improvement from the previous version, but the cable is still surprisingly fiddly. Not just that, it is also thick and heavy as well – relative to the weight of the camera/stand, and still has the tendency to pull back the camera. You might have to wedge the cable so as to get the camera to sit firmly in the position that you want it to.
The setup process of the PSVR actually sounds a lot more complicated and trickier than it actually is. The entire process shouldn’t take longer than thirty minutes – all things being equal, as you are only required to feed a series of HDMI cables from the PS4 to the PSVR processing unit, and then to the headset itself. You wouldn’t have to bother about any of the components because the standard PSVR package comes with the PSVR Headset, a processor unit, an HDMI cable, instructions handbooks, a set of on-ear headphones, a lens cleaning cloth, and all the power cables you many need.
At its release, the processing unit was indeed a mystery to many for a long time until Sony revealed it all too-important functions as it carries out a few key ones. To start with, it helps carry out object-based 3D audio programming which means you can pinpoint exactly where noises come from in games. This feature makes the sound effect in games not only superb but terrifying as well. It also displays a standard PS4 screen in cinematic mode which allows you to watch movies and play non-VR games on a display the size of a movie theatre’s screen.
The processor also has the social screen feature which means it can render the images you see in VR on the TV screen, though at a lower resolution. The issue with the processing unit is that it requires a dedicated power supply, which shouldn’t be an issue on its own but when you turn off the PS4 completely, the unit remains partly powered with an annoying red bar permanently on. It constantly uses electricity thus, after powering down the whole set up you would need to unplug it so as to avoid the extra power consumption.
However, with the PSVR, you are simply ready to explore the world of VR when everything is plugged in as it should. That means no drivers to update, no graphics option to tweak, and more common amongst other headsets, no excessive system requirements to fiddle with.
PlayStation VR Key Technical Specs
|Resolution||1920 × 1080 pixels|
|Refresh Rate||90Hz / 120 Hz|
|Field of View||100 degrees|
- Simple setup and installation
- Offers better value than Oculus and Vive
- Comfortable to wear even with glasses on
- Amazing quality of games and movies
- Cool games are already available
- The processor unit needs to be unplugged to power down
- PlayStation camera is still fiddly
HTC Vive Pro
Of most of the new entrants in the virtual reality space in recent times, HTC Vive Pro is one of the most promising and the original Vive was its first-generation VR Headset. Since the release of its predecessor, all the advances in technology that have been made over time are all consummated in the Vive Pro’s system. The resolution of the screen has been significantly upgraded, compared to the original Vive. However, that’s not the only striking factor that differentiates the Vive Pro from it, as the physical design of the latter is also quite striking.
Design and Specifications
The Vive Pro looks like a bigger, navy blue version of the original Vive. It has the same general shape with a rounded visor that is now equipped with two cameras rather than one for outward-facing 3D tracking. The original Vive focused more on a basic elastic strap that primarily tried to keep the headset in position, rather than provide comfort to the user. This created a problem of weight distribution because the headset weighed heavily on the front of the face, thereby pulling the head forward and creating neck aches over even medium-length periods of use.
On the flip side, the Vive Pro has a more substantial strap which ensures even distribution of weight across one’s head and it doesn’t cause neck aches nearly as quickly. This doesn’t mean that your neck wouldn’t feel sore after several hours of use because the increased weight of the headset even attributes to this, but the aches wouldn’t come as quickly as it would have with the original Vive. The Vive Pro’s strap also has a pair of built-in on-ear headphones, which makes the headset more comfortable to wear.
Although the ears cups didn’t come down enough to sit entirely over the ears, it still remains a significant improvement and a better option over having to put on headphones. There is also an inclusion of the headphone’s volume controls at the rear of the left ear cup. Being more polished than its first-generation model, the Vive Pro certainly feels like a device that is approaching a perfectly finished state. Unlike the original Vive, where you would have to fiddle severally with the headset’s straps, the Vive Pro provides a better fit and solves the challenge of light bleed into the headset via the nose opening.
The screen resolution was bumped up from 2160×1200 to a significant 2880×1660, and this results in an increase in the quality of images and a decrease in screen door effect. The screen also has a 90Hz refresh rate and a 110-degree field of view. However, the field of view of the headset could actually be wider than it is and the cushions are a little “too-sweaty”, so the material used would definitely need improvement. Nevertheless, the Vive Pro is definitely a massive step forward, especially its hardware design.
Base Stations and Controllers
The Vive Pro uses the same two external base stations and motion controllers as the original Vive. If you already have the older Vive version you can as well use its sensors and motion controller, if you do not want to spend another $300 on the Vive Pro. There is however a major trade-off for the Vive Pro. Despite its $800 price tag, the standard package doesn’t come with its own motion controllers and sensors.
This is a pretty steep expense for users to make especially for an already expensive headset. However, if eventually bought, the Vive motion controllers are functional and very reliable although, the Oculus Touch controllers are still preferable for its usability and conventional gaming controls.
The Vive Pro connects to your PC using a small device about the size of a cellphone, that serves as a connection hub between your headset and PC. The headset connects to the front of the link box through a proprietary connector at the end of the cable’s length which is hard-wired to the top of the visor. A round blue button on the front panel of the headset is responsible for surging power through it and the presence of power inflow is indicated by a green LED on the top.
The back of the box holds a micro USB port and a mini-DisplayPort for connecting to your computer with all the cables you would require already included. A barrel connector port is also present at the back of the box for the included power adapter. However, the link box doesn’t have an HDMI port and this could be an issue depending on the type of PC intended for usage. In the same vein, even if your PC is “VR ready” and fulfills all the necessary technical requirements for the Vive, you should make sure that you have a display port or mini display port alongside an adapter.
The setup process of the Vive Pro is quite identical to that of the original Vive and here is a step by step guide you can follow:
- Place the base stations apart from each other in your play space, facing the center.
- Plug them in and confirm that they are synced by checking the LED on the base stations.
- Plug the headset into the link box and then, plug the link box into your PC with the USB and DisplayPort. After which you plug in the power adapter
- Charge the motion controllers with micro USB cables
- Finally, install the Viveport software and SteamVR. If you don’t already have the SteamVR installed, the Viveport installer would put you through it.
HTC Vive Pro Key Technical Specs
|Resolution||1440 x 1600 pixels per eye (2880 x 1600 pixels combined)|
|Audio||Headphones and Mic|
|Field of View||110 degrees|
|Sensors||SteamVR Tracking, G-sensor, gyroscope, proximity, Eye Comfort Setting (IPD)|
HTC Vive Pro System Requirements
|CPU||Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 or better||Intel Core i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070/Quadro P5000 equivalent or better, AMD Radeon Vega 56 equivalent or better||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better|
|RAM||4GB and above||4GB and above|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 7 SPI, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10|
|USB Port||1 × USB 3.0 or newer||1 × USB 3.0 or newer|
|Video Output||Display Port 1.2 or newer||Display Port 1.2 or newer|
- Comfortable fit
- High-resolution screen
- The straps prevent light bleed
- Built-in headphones
- The standard package doesn’t include the base stations and motion controllers that it requires to function
- The field of view could be wider
- The setup process is still involved
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Top 10 Best VR Headsets in 2021 Buying Guide
As earlier mentioned, choosing the best VR headset could be a very tricky process without proper guidance and sufficient information. To make the process easier and to help you narrow down your options, there are two main factors to consider:
- Your budget
- The hardware you currently have
If you are new to virtual reality and you merely want to test the waters, then a cheap headset that can run with a compatible smartphone would be perfect for you. You can either go for this or consider getting a standalone headset, with which there wouldn’t be a need to plug in other devices. Both aforementioned options would provide you with an immersive VR experience at reasonable prices.
In contrast, the ultimate home VR setups are systems that rely on a connection to a reasonably powerful PC – one that has been built and run over the past years. To have such a setup, you would not only need a powerful computer but also a reasonably high-end VR headset, such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift S. Other high-end VR headsets such as the Valve Index, are for people that really want one of the best VR headsets money can buy, as it has almost $1000 price tag on it.
You would also need to consider how much space you are willing to dedicate solely to your VR setup. If you want a room-scale experience, you would require a decent amount of clear floor space and if you live in a small flat or you have limited space for a gaming setup, this might be a problem for you. If this is the dilemma you find yourself in, you need not worry as you can still get immersive VR experiences from a comfortable sitting position.
Headsets such as the Sony PlayStation VR – which is solely dedicated to PS4 and PS4 Pro, would give you such an experience without any hassles involved. Still speaking on space, let’s now consider the differences between Tethered and Non-tethered VR Headsets and how they could ultimately influence your choice of a headset, depending on the available amount of space that you have.
Tethered vs Non-Tethered Headsets
There are three main kinds of VR Headsets on the market today: Tethered, Non-tethered and Mobile. However, due to the versatility of Tethered and Non-tethered headsets, we would be discussing them a bit more. Though both are useful and innovative in their own ways, having a VR experience that suits your needs could be largely dependent on the kind that you opt for.
Tethered headsets are headsets that have a connection cable linking the headset to a PC or game console. The PC or game console transmits signals to the headset for the user to experience through this connection cable, and tethered headsets are credited with being the most powerful VR headsets you would find around. However, this power comes with a cost as tethered VR headsets are more restrictive in terms of the mobility of the user. Not only does it affect the user’s mobility, but it also affects the user’s sense of immersion as it is physically tied to a device.
This could go a long way in restricting the overall VR experience. Tethered Headsets also require more room and specific space requirements in order to perform optimally. Judging by the need for the headset to be connected to a PC and various hardware peripherals such as base stations e.t.c, you would also require more storage room to keep all these. So if you have limited play space, tethered VR Headsets might not exactly be the best choice.
There are also quite a number of tethered VR headsets on the market today such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. All of these require a physical connection to a PC except the PS VR, which is usually connected to a PS4.
Non-tethered VR Headsets also commonly known as Standalone Headsets, are headsets that do not require a connection cable to provide a VR experience. Instead, they rely on a Wi-Fi connection to receive and transmit VR signals and content. They are the newest kind of VR headsets and are a more convenient option compared to their tethered counterparts, as there is no additional hardware required.
Non-tethered VR headsets are wireless and as such, are well known for providing a more immersive VR experience for the users. You wouldn’t have to bother about tripping over a cable while exploring the world of VR, or storing up so many hardware equipments. This extra freedom and movement, however, also comes with a cost which gives tethered headsets an edge over non-tethered, and that is Power. The lack of non-tethered headsets in this regard is caused by the absence of a PC or game console to support it and as such, one can’t access certain content libraries and titles.
In the case of restricted play space, a non-tethered VR headset would definitely be a preferred option as you wouldn’t have to worry about where to store up all those extra hardware, but ultimately in VR, having a sizeable amount of play area would definitely be a big plus.
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Minimum System Requirements for VR Gaming
There is a wide variety of VR systems available to average users on the market today. Yes, virtual reality offers an immersive experience but your PC might require updates in order to support your VR system, and provide you with a seamless experience.
The compatibility of your PC with your VR system could depend on a number of factors such as your CPU, GPU, RAM, USB ports, and a few other necessary components. However, as a general rule, here are the basic requirements outlined below.
|Oculus Rift S||Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||DisplayPort, 1x USB 3.0 port||Windows 10|
|Oculus Rift CV1||Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output, 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port||Windows 10 (Windows 7/8.1 no longer recommended)|
|Oculus Quest with Oculus Link||Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Super / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||1x USB port||Windows 10|
|Valve Index||Quad Core CPU||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1070 / AMD equivalent or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 2.0 port (USB 3.0 required for camera pass-through)||Windows 10|
|HTC Vive Cosmos||Intel Core i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater||4GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 3.0 port||Windows 10|
|HTC Vive Pro||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 or greater||4GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1070 / Quadro P5000 / AMD Radeon Vega 56 or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 3.0 port||Windows 10|
|HTC Vive||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 or greater||4GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||HDMI 1.4 / DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 2.0 port||Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10|
|Windows Mixed Reality||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1400 or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD RX 470/570 or greater||HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 (may vary based on specific headset), 1x USB 3.0, Bluetooth||Windows 10 (Note: Not supported on N versions or Windows 10 Pro in S Mode)|
|Pimax 8K||Intel Core i5-9400 or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA RTX 2060 / AMD equivalent or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 2.0 port||Windows 10|
|Pimax 8K Plus||Intel Core i5-9400 or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA RTX 2060 / AMD equivalent or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 2.0 port||Windows 10|
|Pimax 5K Plus||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD FX8350 or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA RTX 1070 / AMD equivalent or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 2.0 port||Windows 8.1 / Windows 10|
|Pimax 5K XR||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD FX8350 or greater||8GB RAM or greater||NVIDIA RTX 1070 / AMD equivalent or greater||DisplayPort 1.2, 1x USB 2.0 port||Windows 8.1 / Windows 10|
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Commonly used terms in VR Gaming
Virtual Reality could be quite an intimidating aspect of technology for new users, especially with all its terminologies, and one could feel almost woozy from trying to grasp everything at first. Let’s look at some commonly used terms in the world of VR that you should acquaint yourself with before you start exploring.
Virtual Space: This is a computer-generated, three-dimensional representation of an environment where all VR games and activities take place. Users usually perceive themselves to be in this space.
Meat Space: Refers to any space in the real world.
HMS: Acronym for Head Mounted Display, which can be used interchangeably with Virtual Reality Headset. Virtual Reality Headsets are however not the only HMS’s.
Haptics: Refers to vibration, touch or motion feedback provided by controllers as the headset only creates a virtual sense of sight and sound.
Head Tracking: Carried out by a device that tracks the orientation and position of your head.
Eye Tracking: Carried out by a device that can track the direction to which your eyes are looking at.
Positional Tracking: Carried out by a device that utilizes sensors to determine where you are within your play space.
Field of View: The range of vision a VR headset has.
Blind Spot: Areas in VR display where images cannot be shown (i.e past the edges of the display)
Focal Length: The distance between your eyes and the display shown.
Inter-pupillary Distance: Commonly known as ISD. It is the distance between the pupils of both eyes.
Latency: Time difference a headset takes between receiving an input and updating its display.
Judder: Destabilization of the VR image a user is being shown, which could be in the form of shaking or smearing.
Refresh Rate: Refers to how rapidly images are shown to a user.
360 Degrees Video: A video taken by a camera that records all 360 degrees of a scene simultaneously.
Stitching: The process of taking videos from multiple sources and then combining them to form one virtual experience.
VR Sickness: Simply another term for Motion Sickness.
Image Distance: The distance perceived by the user from a VR image.
Social VR: A VR space created solely for the purpose of communicating with other users.
Cinematic VR: These are VR experiences meant to be treated as a movie, TV series or video.
Virtual Theater: A space where a virtual screen is used to show traditional movies or videos to users.
Directional Sound: The art of moving sounds in such a way that it is perceived as though it is coming from a particular place in a VR space.
By getting yourself properly acquainted with the information provided and following the necessary guidelines, getting the best VR headset that suits your budget, and still gives you great value for the money spent shouldn’t be so complicated anymore. What are your thoughts on this article on the top 10 best VR headsets in 2021? Do you think we left any important detail out?
Please drop your feedback in the comment section to let us know. You could also check out our other reviews, PC build guides, and our ultimate guide on how to build your PC step by step.
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