The events that happen today in the industry of VR-technologies can be compared with an unusual marathon race. Just imagine competitions in which as great sportsmen so amateurs take part! A race in which you can put the skids under your rival or gain someone's support! A marathon an end of which has not been seen so far, and there could be no winners at all...This is risky, uncertain but extremely challenging!
One year ago in April 2015, we tried to name the most perspective virtual reality headsets. Then we underlined the whole line of projects, most of which were still at the initial development stage. These were the headsets Oculus Rift, Sony Morpheus, AntVR Kit, Avegant Glyph, Samsung Gear VR, Valve HTC Vive and OSVR. It was difficult then to choose the leader of “VR racing” based only on promises, although we gave credit to the developers of Oculus and HTC. All other projects gained a status of a “potential leader of the market” with one or two exceptions.
A year has passed. The majority of review participants have never reached the mass buyer: the products are still being finalized and ungraded by unhasty developers in their headquarters. The situation in “Top-7” has significantly changed instead. OSVR, AntVR, and Avegant Glyph have dropped out of the race. The first headset didn't try to claim for the commercial success and left as a tool for developers. Avegant Glyph appeared to be a splendid 3D theater “on the nose bridge”, not suitable for games and virtual reality. And AntVR Kit … is a miserable Chinese fake, to tell the truth. Now the “magnificent four” is striving for a potential buyer (some gadgets have changed their names, but the core remained the same): HTC Vive, Oculus Rift. Sony VR and Samsung Gear. Let's compare them and check out the chances of each project to win in VR racing! But before we remind some technical aspects of the issue.
Technical aspects: virtual reality headsets
Are there still any people on the planet who confound VR-gadgets with video glasses and glasses of augmented reality? These are three different types of electronic devices, which differ in functionality much like an iron,a curling iron, and a frying pan.
Video glasses – is a cool home cinema. You can watch films in them as Full-HD at home or on the board of an airplane and immerse into other reality. They can entertain you with 3D and spherical cinema. However, you will not be able to stroll around a fictional world: just sit and watch.
Augmented Reality Glasses (AR glasses) have temporarily died out as a project, although Microsoft Hololens give big hopes (there are no guarantees that they will become a mass product). But we will remind: these transparent glasses project an image over the real image that can be useful in educational and social projects. However, they are not able to immerse a person into the virtual space completely.
And finally virtual reality headsets. This a the most powerful type of devices with enormous gaming, educational and even scientific potential. You will be able to travel through huge designed worlds, be it the world of Quake, the surface of Mars or a picture of Van Gogh. Powerful hardware and a human movement tracking system help to achieve such result. In distinction from video glasses “ideal graphics” is not the main a goal in itself - the speed of response, tracking quality and methods of interaction with virtual reality are more important.
What are headsets for? It's already clear that the main buyer of VR products will be the gamer. The entertainment business industry is also quite promising - like 3D cinemas and attractions of virtual reality. Moreover, they already make VR movies and concerts in "360 degrees" format (and porn among them) . But now gamers and only gamers will buy it! Unless the 3D-designers and fashion designers make their modest company.
What awaits headsets for smartphones? The last 2015 was a year of introductory variants of virtual reality headsets, where a powerful smartphone was used as a screen and a brain of the gadget. You should only download primitive applications on it such as simple games and movies.
For sure in the coming years these gadgets will lose their ratings: still no smartphone can not be compared to a fully-featured powerful gaming headsets. But the cheapness and availability of the content will turn them into a decent alternative to costly Oculus and PlayStation. Headsets review read in our article: “Compare virtual reality headsets for smartphones: Google Cardboard, Homido, FreeFly and Samsung Gear review”.
How to choose a VR headset?
Before defining the leaders of our rating, let's define: what criteria are really important for VR gadgets. The list is not so large, and it's easy to understand it.
Price. All of our "magnificent" four by no means refer to the concept of "budget devices." So far, the virtual reality helmets are premium products and very expensive. Especially taking into account the fact that you should buy powerful gaming computers to use Oculus and HTC. About how we built a gaming PC for VR read our review “Building a PC for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for $898”.
Graphic characteristics. They can be presented by viewing angle, resolution, update rate and the degree of images smoothing. If the viewing angle is almost the same in all models, then other parameters can differ. Pay attention to them: when the screen is placed close to the eye bulb, the higher is the resolution and fps the better. This is a golden rule. In other case your eyes will get tired, “waves on the screen” and other troubles.
Completeness. Even when it goes to pre-orders, everything is not so clear. It's better not to hurry here and read the first user and experts reviews. Here Oculus entered the market a couple of days ago – and the first complaints appeared! Plus, none of the developers do not conceal that their gadgets will greatly upgrade soon. It turns out that sometimes it is better to wait for these updates and then buy the product. In other case already in a year later you will stay with the out-of-date helmet for 1000 dollars.
Access to content. If a year ago many headsets developers hoped to succeed due to their games and hardware now the majority understood, that future belongs to the common content. “Open source” rules: everyone exchange the weak software resources for market promotion. Samsung became friends with Oculus, HTC Vive is trying to make friends with everyone and only Sony is hoping to attract a buyer with a limited products PlayStation4. However, knowing the ratings and the number of Sony consoles all over the world, it may even play into their hands.
Controllers. Here everything is clear. Even now there are multi-purpose and brand controllers . Step by step "treadmills", sensors that track movements of certain body parts, simulators of the sword and the gun, etc. are being added already . Which of the manufacturers will provide customers with the best controllers – that will be the coolest. Indeed, in the virtual reality, the most important aspect is the system of interaction with the outside world.
Tracking sensors. Here it's the same. To navigate the vast virtual worlds, you need to have a perfect human body movement tracking system. Someone has the sensors on the headset, someone sells a system of sensors that is located throughout the room ... No one has yet reached the perfection, but the difference between HTC and Oculus tracking systems can already be noticed. Valve clearly is in the lead!
Which Headset is Better? Review of the 4 Main Virtual Reality Gadgets 2016
Samsung Gear VR - Virtual Reality Headset
There is nothing to hide - a gadget from Samsung is definitely an outsider of this rating. All in all, it's the upgraded headsets for a smart phone, not a full-featured headset. However, we can't avoid it just because it has entered the market long ago! And at this moment, it's the #1 Best Seller in 3D Viewing Glasses category on Amazon.com. Perhaps because the developers of the gadget are working hard on the well-known troubles. On such criteria as “completeness” and “price” it will outrank each competitor. However as far as other issues is concerned everything is not so optimistic.
Price: ~$99 – here is the most cheap gadget on the entire list. However, in any case, you don't pay for the hardware only for a plastic case with a couple of sensors and a touchpad. And you should buy a phone to it (from a limited number of Samsung models). And this will cost you 600-1000 dollars more! For sure, all in all, it's cheaper than Oculus and HTC, but a little bit costly for headsets.
Characteristics: Although Samsung devices have the splendid SuperAmoled screen, you get just 2560х1440 pixels on two eyes and low update rate 60 Hz (lower than other competitors). Let's notice the built-in tracking system: cool for VR-headsets, However, HTC Vive has a better one.
Device weighs 310 g., but with the with the phone, it will be almost half a kilo. As a result, the gadget doesn't have special features, it weighs more than it's competitors and works worse.
Controllers: Everything is controlled by built-in buttons "confirm", "back", a touchpad and wireless joysticks, which you can buy. Enough for action games and shooters, but not enough for full-featured VR games.
Soft: From the main beginning Samsung successfully became friend with Oculus Rift V. They have a good program for entertainment content exchange. Nevertheless, the coolest games for Oculus will not reach buyers of the latest Gear: it simply lacks power to run them.
Troubles: Users have repeatedly complained about problems with Samsung Gear overheating. No one got burns yet, but the heat was too intrusive and aggressive. In addition, the developers did not try to resolve the "seasickness" issue. Although this is more a question for the mobile VR content, rather than for the headset. But Samsung doesn't adjust its smartphones for virtual reality, this is just one of its numerous functions. Hence, it has the specific inconsistencies.
Result: A year ago, you can safely buy Samsung Gear as the most perfect representative of the available VR-gadgets, but now it has more powerful competitors. It is our personal opinion - read nearly 1300 customer reviews on Amazon.com, to see whether it is worth $99.
At the begging of April Oculus finally entered the market. Although it was criticized: the headsets reached their buyers with delay, and some even didn't receive them at all. The developers commented that there were temporary troubles and promised to fix out the delivery system in several weeks. So we will believe them and take an honest look at the headset.
Price: If the initial price $599 seems feasible to you, don't rush to conclusions. The headset will not work without a powerful gaming PC that you will have to buy. For sure, Oculus developers reached an agreement with Dell and Asus, but even in that case a user will have to pay $1499 for the “full set”. Fairly speaking this is very and very expensive! See how much it costs on Amazon.com
Characteristics: Oculus Rift has good graphics characteristics: a user gets 2160x1200 resolution ( 1200 and 1080 on each eye), and updates rate 90 Hz. Yet it's a golden standard, although PlayStation4 promises to improve update rate. View field is ≥100 degrees as stated, but the first customers already have complaints about the lack of viewing angle ( probably they expected more, hardly Oculus has cheated someone).
With the device you will also get a tracking sensor and a usual xBox One controller. Nothing extraordinary: this will allow you to play simple shooters while sitting. It's still impossible to use legs during the gaming process.
Pay attention to the uneasy procedure of connecting via 1 HDMI port and 3 ports USB 3.0 and 1 port USB 2.0. The headset weights 380 g., however, in future it should become a little bit slimmer.
Controllers: On all shows in 2015 the headset Oculus Rift was presented with controllers Oculus Touch in the shape of the half-moon. Gorgeous things there were! Apart from buttons and triggers they were able to monitor the movement of hands on 360 degrees. However, in the original “April set” the magic controllers have not appeared. Moreover, Touch still hasn't reached the open market. According to insider information, Oculus launched work on new tracking sensors, which could cover the whole playing area in the room or apartment. So in this regard, our hero loses to competitors from Valve: one general controller + one simple sensor for such a headset is not enough.
Software: And as far as software is concerned it's going not so good at all. They stimulate indie developers and are friends with experienced game developers: the project has strong agreements with the developers of such games as «EVE: Valkyrie» and «Lucky's Tale». However, all this will bear fruit only in the long term. So far there are still few games that could show all the potential of the headset for $ 1,000. Only demos. Here Play Station can outdo them if adjusts for the headsetseveral their past super populargames.
Troubles: There is a whole heap of potential problems. Here are just some of them. Firstly, Oculus has announced about its work on a new version of the headset. It turns out that in a year or two a headset, that has been bought now will become completely out of date! And who will want to become the owner of an unfashionable and backward gadget?
Secondly, the first batch of headsetshas already been sold out, and now only new preorders are accessible. According to preliminary data, they willbe available only in June of 2016. A little bit late, to be honest.
Thirdly, several huge retailers in the United States rejected to sell Oculus Rift. The same director of GAME stores Martin Gibbs remarked that he simply doesn't know what these headsets are for, what to play in them, and considers that by selling them they fraud buyers. Well, about the major problems with the content and controllers we have already mentioned above!
How to buy. Now the Oculus devices are sold on Amazon by resellers. April 23 bundles with PCs were put on sale from $1,300 to $1,500, but they are quickly bought up. I think the same situation will be with Htc. Bundles will be available most likely in June, and the headsets itself at the end of July.
A joint product of HTC and Valve companies is considered to be the main competitor to Oculus Rift. These models are very similar to each other: both headsets work only with powerful gaming PC, practice a policy of open content, place stake on cool images and experiments with controllers. And HTC Vive went on sale just 2 weeks after the official release of Oculus. Here, also, it was not without delays and stocks, but apparently, this is the fate of all new products with many thousands of pre-orders across the whole world. So which of this superstar of gadget world isthe coolest?
Price: Officially HTC Vive loses to Oculus due to the difference in $200. After all, it costs $799. But for this money you get a couple of branded controllers and 2 space monitor sensors. A set more substantial and refined than Oculus offers.
What do you require to purchase additionally? Gaming PC. System requirements are rather high, but you will require twice fewer ports. So in this round, HTC beats Oculus.
Characteristics: Let's begin with graphics. Extensions and update rate parameters are equal to those of its main competitor: 1080 and 1200 on each eye and 90 Hz. By the way, PlayStation promised to surpass the one and the other, by providing customers with 120 Hz fps. But it is only a promise so far.
Back to Vive. As stated in documents viewing angle of 110 degrees was confirmed. It is already known that compared to the test models, the final HTC got brighter screen and telephony. Many were pleased with the front camera on the headset, which, however, you won't be able to use for the notorious selfie. It is placed here only for new ways to interact with VR (and even to find your gaming chair, without removing the headset).
Controllers: Well, what is here to write. Everybody already knows about the revolutionary system that allows tracking your position as you move around the room. Any buyer of the headset receives two room sensors, which are placed in the corners of the gaming room. As a result, all movements of the gamer on the territory of 15 square feet should be easily read by a headset. Moreover, to get a bang out of the gaming process, the user also gets wireless controllers with feedback and trigger buttons with a double stroke.
It should be noticed that currently Lighthouse system does not suggest free movement through the virtual world. According to customers' feedback, HTC Viveis more adjusted for'sedentary' games, as well as its competitors. Still, Lighthouse system provides gamers with much more freedom of movement than out-dated sensors of Oculus and Samsung Gear.
Software: It is clear that HTC Vive will try to use to the full all the advantages of Steam. The company has already announced that in the headset you will be able to playeven in two-dimensional gamesfrom this system. Moreover, it may happen that the main hit of Valve - the legendary Half-Life — might beadjustedto virtual reality . Whatever it was — this is a great potential that is used poorly so far. In the Steam store,you may find about 100 games for HTC Vive, but you will never find anypopular and famous "fighters" here.
Troubles: Apart from the lack of unique content it can only be said that HTC has lost "marketing war" to Oculus. In the minds of the masses, Oculus Rift is still the "virtual reality headset №1». This was encouraged by the historical primacy, active advertising and DK2 release, which only the lazy one hadn't checked. But in fact, Oculus Rift fall behind the Valve product in the most positions! Although this story has the opposite effect: high expectation of Oculur premier have already turned into disappointment.For some reason, there is no such reaction on HTC premier so far.
Resume: Still HTC Vive is head and shoulders above its competitors in the VR headsets racing. Here cool controllers and unique tracking system should be “thanked”. However, competitors from Sony and Oculus are already thinking about implementing their own sensors similar to Lighthouse system. Once they present their analogues, then something else should be added to stand out. If by this time a dozen or two of good games will not appear on Steam, the initial triumph may crash down. Monitor prices on HTC Vive.
PS VR by SONY
Let's talk about the "dark horse" of our marathon. The guys at Sony are going to present their project the end of October 2016. They fall behind Oculus and HTC as much as half a year. But who knows? Maybe this will help them to avoid competitors errors?
Price: This is a major advantage of PSVR over competitors. According to recent data, the headset will be sold for only $400. For sure, you won't have to buy an additional PC, as initially it's a solid device. Although, according to recent data, the Sony still allow to integrate it with personal computers. But it is only if a buyer wants so.
However, for comprehensive work you will need to purchase Playstation Move Motion Controller (from ~$25.95) and PlayStation Camera for ~$43 additional, which still not all owners of the console have. But still it's much cheaper than competitorsprice .
Characteristics: Let's start with the unpleasant fact. In all PSVR announcements, it is stated that the resolution is960x1080 pixels per eye. This is significantly worse than that of its competitors: somewhere minus 20% of the possible resolution. And an absence of powerful gaming computer indicates that here cannot be ideal smoothing or viewing angle.
However, there is also a positive moment. PlayStation promised to increase the update rate up to 120 Hz, that will substantially facilitate the process of perception of the image by thehuman brain. Well, we all know the difference between 90 Hz and 120 Hz, only in the virtual reality this difference is perceived even stronger .
It should be noticed that Sony is aware of the fact that their graphics fall behind the one of Oculus and HTC. Even the vice-president Ito Masayasu admits that PlayStation will not catch up with its competitors in this issue. However, his team does not set such goals: they want the new console to become a mass product with easy access to virtual reality.
Just a couple of words about the features of PSVR: the console favorably stands out from the competitorsby the possibility of switching to PS4. It turns out that army of fans of this platform will automatically turn into potential buyers of the "smart headset". Great marketing ploy, and good support for the last offspring of the PlayStation.
Controllers: So far, the Sony developers offer customers to use their classic controller Move or analogs of not less classic DualShock. However, only at the initial stage of PSVR evolved. According to the latest rumors, the success of HTC Lighthouse greatly affected the guys from PlayStation, and they are already working on their own sensors. Whether they will manage to complete it to the date of release - it's a great question! As it will be improper to delay further.
Software: Still PlayStation VR is the most closed platform out of all existing headsets of virtual reality. Developers don't ask something from others, and so are not going to share their games with competitors. And it's rather reasonable: PlayStation has an awesome base of developers, and also dozens of top games of various genres shooters, simulators, fightings, that can be easily adjusted to RV. Who won't want to play Mortal Kombat or FIFA in 360 degrees format? So PlayStation understands its advantage over competitors in the issues of content.
Another thing is that their philosophy does not coincide with the global trends that other developers recognize. Teamwork always provides more rapid progress, so there is the risk that PlayStation will simply fall behind its competitors in terms of content!
Troubles: The main problem of PlayStation is its tardiness. Although a lot has been written about them, but these are only suggestions. Unlike Oculus and HTC, Sony didn't release proper test versions and models for developers. So no one will be surprised if all the buzz around PSVR project will turn out to be a soap bubble. Such a thing happened already in the gaming world!
Resume: Play Station has a huge advantage is presented by the army of fans from all over the world. People love their products and get the band out of their games, and edgily wait for their premiere. All that is left to do is not to fail the fans and make PSVR a real best seller.
Still we see HTC Vive project as a leader in “headset racing”. Its main advantages are polished controllers, a position tracking system, and a gaming library greater than the one of Oculus Rift. In other aspects, these both devices seem to us equal and extremely perspective. Their further fate can be determined by successful game releases, selective upgrades, and bugs, that may come out after the first months of usage. And the PlayStation VR premier will show who own the future: independent budget headsets-consoles or really costly bundle "helmet + PC."
VR technologies should not be criticized definitely, they did a great job and just begin to develop, but to consider all pros and cons let's take a look at the table.
VR Headsets Comparison Chart
|Early release and high quality||
Implemented technologies become out of date very fast, as competitors have already “peeped”
March 28, 2016
|Full compatibility with Steam games||
|Big potential in the field of console VR games||Problems with independence of the headset||
|General usefulness||The possibilities shown in the trailer will be inapplicable in real life||