The year 2016 is almost over. Some said that 2016 would be the year of Virtual Reality. In fact, some big name companies released their VR headsets: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream View. It seems that the sales of this year aren’t as good as their expectations, but it’s thought to be growing towards 2020. It’s probably the right time to have an interest in VR. This post is the rerview of 5 best VR headset 2016.
HTC Vive is a VR headset developed by HTC and Valve Corporation. It was released in April 2016. HTC Vive provides “Room Scale” technology. You can use your room as 3D VR space. Two laser position sensors (called Lighthouse) track location and movement of the headset and handheld controllers so you can walk around (up to 15-by-15-foot) and interact with objects in VR by using the controllers. It costs $799 and includes the sensors with mounting brackets and the controllers. With a VR-ready PC, you can start having a premium VR experience.
Oculus started developing a VR headset as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. In March 2014, Facebook bought up Oculus for $2 billion. Then, Oculus Rift was released in March 2016. The headset has an integrated headphone that provides real-time 3D audio effects. Oculus Rift utilizes the headset’s positional tracking system called Constellation. It costs $599 and includes one Constellation sensor and one Xbox One controller. A motion controller called Oculus Touch is sold separately. Constellation system tracks the controllers in 3D space so that you can interact with objects in VR by using the controllers. Oculus Touch costs $199 and consists of a pair of controllers and one Constellation sensor. Constellation can be used with multiple sensors working together. Two sensors (one from the Rift and the other from Touch) track your position, but it’s very limited. If you want Room Scale experience, you will need at least one more sensor ($80). And keep in mind that each sensor needs to be connected to USB port of the PC.
PlayStation VR is released in October 2016. It uses a PlayStation 4 game console as a platform. A design of the headset is unique and comfortable. While almost all other VR headset is like a ski goggle, PSVR headset is like a sun visor. A band goes around your head and forehead. Integrated elastic bands make it easy to wear, and a dial on the rear of the band gives a little pressure as a final adjustment. A part that consists of a display and lenses moves horizontally, so it fits your face without pressure. It costs $399 and doesn’t include anything else but a headphone. You will need PlayStation Camera ($60) to track the headset movement. If you already have a motion controller (PlayStation Move), you should have the camera as well. And, these accessories can also be used for PSVR. Sony released a bundle called PlayStation VR Launch Bundle, which consists of the headset, a pair of Move controllers, Camera, and some demo games for $499. Currently, PSVR provides either sitting or standing VR experience, not Room Scale. And keep in mind that Move controllers are less precise than Oculus Touch or HTC Vive’s controllers.
In collaboration with Oculus, Samsung developed VR headset and released the first consumer edition called Gear VR last year. In August 2016, the new model was released alongside the Galaxy Note 7. Gear VR is different from three headsets above. The headset needs a smartphone placed in the headset and uses it as a display. It doesn’t need any cables to connect, and you can carry around and use it anywhere as long as you have a compatible smartphone. This type of headset is called mobile VR headset. Although there aren’t any wires or cables attached to the headset, you can’t walk around in VR world because there is no sensor to track your position. Gear VR has an integrated touchpad and buttons on its side. It also has built-in sensors, which connects to smartphones via micro USB port. The built-in sensors make more accurate and less latency for rotational tracking than generic mobile VR headsets such as Google Cardboard. As of now, compatible smartphones are Samsung Galaxy S6/Edge/+, S7/Edge, Note 5. Gear VR costs $99, but there is a promotion frequently, like buy Galaxy phone get Gear VR for free.
Daydream View is released in November 2016. It’s a mobile VR headset and compatible with some new smartphones with latest Android OS; Nougat. The headset is made with soft fabric. It looks very compact and stylish. Integrated NFC chip launches a Daydream platform automatically when a phone is placed in the headset. It comes with a wireless controller. To some extent, this controller can interact with VR apps and games. Daydream View costs $79. Currently, there are very limited number of apps and games in Daydream platform, and compatible smartphones are Pixel/XL and Moto Z/Force.
HTC Vive is the best of all. If you already have a powerful PC, $799-package is all you need to start Room Scale VR experience. On the other hand, Oculus Rift, $599-package doesn’t include motion controllers. The controllers (Oculus Touch) costs $199. Rift and Touch include one position tracking sensor each, but two sensors can’t cover enough tracking volume for Room Scale. You will need at least one more ($80) for that. The total cost exceeds HTC Vive’s, but it still doesn’t cover as much tracking volume as HTC Vive does.
One thing that Oculus is better than Vive is the controllers. Unlike Vive’s wand-shaped controllers, Oculus Touch is a very ergonomic and easy to use. You may need little or no time to get used to them. It’s worth noting that Oculus Touch was released very recently (December 2016). So next year, Oculus may be going to release a bundle package including Rift, Touch, and tracking sensors with a reasonable price. And I believe that is the way for Oculus to compete with HTC Vive.
If you have a PS4 game console, PlayStation VR would be a great option for its price. But $399 package doesn’t include any accessories. You need Camera and either a DualShock 4 or Move controller to play VR games. $499 PlayStation VR Launch Bundle includes the headset, Camera, a pair of Move controllers, and some demo games. Please note that its screen resolution is lower than Vive and Rift. And it’s not Room Scale experience. Since it uses a single tracking sensor (PS Camera) placed in front of you, tracking volume is very limited. If you turn around, Camera will lose track of the controllers.
If you don’t like to spend hundreds of dollars on a VR headset, consider a mobile VR headset. If you own Samsung Galaxy or Daydream-ready smartphones, there is no doubt that Gear VR ($99) or Daydream View ($79) are the best. These headsets provide better rotational tracking with less latency than generic mobile headsets. If you own iPhones or different phones or don’t want to spend that much, there are a variety of generic mobile headsets from $15 to $100. For generic headsets, you shouldn’t spend $100 because it’s not worth. You can get a good one for around $30-$50. Just make sure that it has basic features like focus wheel, durable, comfort, etc. And don’t forget to check if your phone is capable of play VR contents beforehand.