R (or virtual reality) has been around for decades but it’s only after modern technological developments that is has properly emerged into the public stratosphere. Far from the unobtainable and disruptive experiences of the past, VR is now something that can be enjoyed by anyone, from the comfort of your home.
But what actually is VR?
Put simply, virtual reality is what it says: a virtual world that gives you the sensation of being in a different time or place. Previously only existing in the domain of the super-tech gurus of the world, it has now been picked up and commercialised by the likes of PlayStation and Samsung, and it has become the hot topic of conversation on everyone’s lips. After all, who wouldn’t want to see themselves in an alternate universe filled with aliens or left swimming in a tank of sharks?
So, without further ado, here’s a round-up of the best VR headsets out there, for budgets and gamers of all levels.
Oculus Quest 2
One of the most-popular VR headsets out there, Facebook-owned Oculus Quest 2 is renowned for offering a good virtual reality experience, but one of its best characteristics is the fact that it is wireless, meaning you can move around much more freely.
At 503g, the headset is lightweight and comfortable, with two adjustable straps and a focus alterer to ensure the best fit, as well as the added bonus of a removable glasses spacer for those who need it. If you are using it for extended periods, however, I would recommend their elite strap, which takes some of the pressure of your noggin.
As for the two motion controllers, they are comfortable to hold and slip easily into your hands but for those who fear getting a little trigger-happy, there are also wrist straps. The controllers are generally easy to use but if they really feel out of your league, the headset can also be used just with your hands, although it should be noted that interaction tends to be less accurate.
Sony PlayStation VR
Sony’s PlayStation VR is designed to be used with the PS4 or PS4Pro, making it a great option for anyone who already owns the console.
The headset itself has a substantial fitting system, with a headband and adjustment wheel to get it to the correct size for each individual. Despite being a solid 610g – one of the heaviest on the market – its ergonomic nature means it certainly doesn’t feel it.
Something worth noting, however, is that the two Move motion wand controllers (which are similar to those from the Wii, if you can remember that far back!) work with visual tracking, rather than infrared like most others, and because of this there can be the occasional issue with interference from ambient light. But in general this is a minor issue in what is otherwise a great mid-range product.
After the popularity of their console, it’s no surprise that the PlayStation VR headset has taken off.
HTC Vive Pro
Unlike many other single-camera headsets, the Vive has two base stations to follow your movements, which immediately gives it plus points in terms of the accuracy of its tracking.
The screen offers an extremely extensive 110-degree field of vision and can track 10mx10m, both of which are within the widest ranges on the market and really boost the virtual experience. This, along with controllers that are large but arguably more user-friendly than more traditional designs due to the trackpad in the centre, makes the Vive an excellent choice for anyone wanting to max out on graphics.
Samsung Gear VR
If you’re not quite ready to splash out on the VR supremos, Samsung has got you covered. The Gear is one of the cheapest yet still effective ways to experience VR for anyone who already owns one of their smartphones.
Of course, on the other side of this it means that the headset – which is compatible with all of its new Galaxy S10 handsets – is out of range for any iPhone mortals out there. But you can’t win ‘em all.
The headset is obviously much lighter than its counterparts (as you clip your phone in the front, instead of the technology already being inside) but even with the addition of the phone it is still comfortable to wear.
One point of contention is the singular controller, which may be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask, but for those looking for ease, it is much less technical than other controllers and the motion tracking is still accurate despite there being only one.
HP Reverb G2
Its price stands it right in the middle of the VR headset market, which helpfully mirrors performance of the Reverb G2.
The headset looks much like any other, with Velcro straps on the side and top, but the addition of a padded ring on the back is a bonus for those who have not been overwhelmed by the comfort of headsets gone by.
One of the major perks of this headset is the high resolution which, at 2160x2160 pixels per eye, goes way above average. This is enhanced by the 114-degree field of vision, which again improves performance.
The only slight downside is the controllers which work well in terms of doing what they are supposed to, but certainly leave more to be desired in terms of ergonomics as they do not sit particularly easily in the hands.
But for gaming fanatics who will likely appreciate little visual boosters here and there, this is the headset for you.
With no smartphone necessary, and no annoying wires, Lenovo’s Mirage may just be the answer to your troubles.
The first and one of the best features about this headset is the minimal setup. Unlike many that require you to complete myriad complex steps in order to play, the Mirage is ready to go in just a few clicks of a button.
Many have commented on the comfort of the headset, which is fully adjustable with a dial at the back, which is a major draw for those who want to game for anything more than an hour.
The controller does all the basic functions and is easy to hold but does let itself down a little in that it does not match up to the performance and advancement of the headset in terms of spacial tracking.
However, the Mirage does have the great addition of a microSD car slot which is really useful and absent from a surprising number of others.
After a peek at its price tag it’s no surprise that the Valve Index is often claimed to be the best VR headset available to consumers. But is it worth the hype?
The headset is a pretty standard design but does have that extra bonus of having a harness padded with memory foam and was clearly made with extended wear in mind.
It isn’t wireless, which may be a drawback for some, but where the Valve Index goes above and beyond is with the precision of the controllers, which is frankly next to none. Physically, this is due to the fabric strap that rests over the knuckles and allows the controllers to sit comfortably in your hands even if you let go. But the technicality is where it really brings it home. Sensors individually track each finger, allowing you to utilise their full range within the VR. This really is next-level VR.
If cost isn’t an object, the Valve Index is the perfect choice for hardened VR enthusiasts and gamers who really want to feel themselves getting inside the immersive experience.
Intempo Bluetooth VR headset
Intempo’s Bluetooth VR headset is just the job for entry-level VR users and, unlike Samsung’s, is compatible with a range of smartphones.
While most headsets remain out of touch for many people, with their sizeable price tag, Intempo’s comes in at a cool £29.99, giving everyone the opportunity to experience reality virtually.
The wireless headset has adjustable straps and foam cushioning, and the clip ensures the phone slots easily and securely inside to allow you to watch a film in 3D or play a game from your home. It also helpfully has headphone jack if you don’t want to use your phone’s loudspeaker.
Sure, it may not have the best graphics out there or be as well developed as other brands, but as far as bringing VR to the masses goes, this ticks all the boxes.
On the Oculus Quest 2, the head tracking is accurate and, at 1832x1920 pixels per eye, the resolution is good. This is all packaged up with user-friendly controllers that interact well. At £299, it’s by no means cheap, but the level of quality it provides certainly makes it worth it.