Friday, October 19, 2018
Virtual RealityVirtual Reality HeadsetsVR games

Choosing a Headset for Virtual Reality Gaming

Which hardware is best for virtual reality gaming? That depends on a couple of factors.

There are many virtual reality headsets and systems out there, but which one is the best when it comes to virtual reality gaming? There are a lot of options in a lot of price ranges, but one of them will certainly meet your needs.

 

Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR isn’t just a mobile adapter. There are lots of VR headsets that are really just fancy ways to strap a phone to your face, but Gear VR is different. This mobile adapter is powered by Oculus, one of the biggest names in virtual reality gaming. Probably the best part about the relationship between Gear VR and Oculus is that Gear VR has access to Oculus apps, whereas with most mobile adapters you are limited to whatever apps are in the Google Play Store or on iTunes.

Samsung Gear VR
Samsung Gear VR

Gear VR isn’t the same as a stand alone headset like Rift, the flagship device from Oculus, but it does have additional sensors that your phone doesn’t have and that most mobile adapters don’t have, which does give you a better virtual reality gaming experience than you can expect from other mobile adapters. It also has some built-in controls, including a touchpad. The Gear VR also comes with an extra USB port that you can use for additional memory or to plug in third-party controllers.

There aren’t built-in headphones in the Gear VR, so you’ll have to rely on a standard or bluetooth set connected to your phone if you don’t want background noise. The Gear VR is battery-powered, however, so you aren’t tethered to a console like you are with higher-end headsets, which allows you to really explore the space while virtual reality gaming.

The good and the bad news is that Gear VR doesn’t work with just any phone; you have to have a Samsung phone that is a Galaxy S8 or newer. While it would be great for other mobile phone users if the Gear VR was less exclusive, Samsung’s recent phones are specifically tooled for VR and to work with the Gear.

 

PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR
PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR is the virtual reality gaming platform that is exclusively for PlayStation 4. While this high console exclusivity turns off many gamers, it’s perfect for people who already own a PS4.

PSVR works with the standard PS4 controller, but requires the PlayStation camera, which many PlayStation gamers may not have invested in. Bundles that come with PSVR and the PlayStation camera start at $300 from the manufacturer, which is still cheaper than most VR headsets for PC gaming.

If you want to pay more for a more engaging experience, PSVR has a couple of cool accessories that feel more real than a standard remote, including a gun adaptor for shooters, or a wand adaptor for sports games or swordplay.

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Oculus Rift

Oculus was one of the first big VR platforms and it’s still one of the best on the market for virtual reality gaming.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift

Rift is particularly good for PC gamers for more reasons than just its PC compatibility, though its PC compatibility does give it a wider range of games and apps than a lot of other platforms. Only certain computers are compatible because they have to be able to run VR programs, but dedicated PC gamers are already likely to have such a computer — Windows 10 or newer.

The Rift is also great for PC gamers because it is native to PCs and doesn’t try to create its own interface so much as it makes existing interfaces its own, with apps like “Dash” that put your computer programs and files into a 3D virtual space. Your 3D real space is put to good use as well, with wide-range sensors picking up more than just remote proximity for a more involving experience.

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Rift is a tethered headset but it does incorporate built-in headphones — a design point that a surprisingly small number of competitors have emulated considering how much it can improve the virtual reality gaming experience. Other aspects of the Rift’s hardware capabilities have become industry standards and have yet to be improved on, even in more expensive headsets.

 

HTC VIVE and VIVE PRO

HTC Vive Pro
HTC Vive PRO

HTC came practically out of nowhere to introduce VIVE, their first VR headset, and one of the best VR systems on the market. While VIVE isn’t marketed only for virtual reality gaming, it is produced with the help of Valve. Valve has been developing games since VR was just a rumor, and they run Steam, the popular cloud-based gaming platform with it’s own impressive VR portfolio.

In addition to it’s great gaming software, VIVE has some state-of-the art hardware in its headset. Matching Rift’s built-in headphones and impressive refresh rates, VIVE offers a virtual reality gaming experience that justifies its place as one of the most expensive VR systems out there. With basic systems costing at least $100 more than Rift, this machine is for serious gamers only.

If money is not an obstacle, HTC pulled out all of the stops on the VIVE PRO. With starter kits costing just over $1000, the PRO comes with a tricked out new headset and some updated hardware. HTC recently launched its wireless adapter that allows users to enjoy tetherless VR experiences.

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With that extra freedom, it makes sense that you would want some more space to move around in. The multiple sets of the VIVE PRO’s sensors can be set up in the same room to provide a gaming area significantly larger than that of other systems.

 

Virtual reality gaming is no different than other VR applications: what system you end up going with needs to be decided by what your interests are, what your price-range is, and what existing hardware you already own.

If you already have a PS4 it makes sense to go with PS VR. If you have a Samsung phone and a limited budget, you can’t beat Gear VR. If you’re a gamer with some cash but don’t have a PS4, Oculus Rift is one of the older names out there, but is still a quality model at a fair price. If you’re a professional gamer or just like to game like one, the HTC VIVE PRO costs more than a pretty penny but has a lot of great features that aren’t available anywhere else.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance writer specializing in Technology and Health. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife and cat.