For decades, virtual reality (VR) has been the dream of gamers, tech enthusiasts, and entertainment companies. Capable of immersing users in a realistic environment, the best VR headsets are sure to revolutionize video games, social media, healthcare, and other business ventures.
Since 2010, with the creation of the first Oculus Rift prototype, several competing companies have been racing to the market to deliver the best VR headsets. So far, only a handful of virtual reality headsets are available, with each offering different capabilities and uses. While most of the best VR headsets are designed for gaming, their uses extend into learning, movie and concert viewing, training and education, and even amusement park ride enhancement.
Choosing the Best VR Headsets
Like choosing a new TV or gaming laptop, there are several unique specifications and features that go into choosing the best VR headsets.
- Resolution – Resolution is the amount of pixels that can be displayed. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the image is.
- Field of View (FOV) – FOV is how much you can “see” while wearing a VR headset. For a human staring straight ahead, the FOV is about 135 degrees. A VR headset with a high FOV results in better immersion into the VR environment.
- Refresh Rate – This is how many times per second a screen “updates” the image. It happens so quick, the human eye can’t process it. The higher the refresh rate, the better. A low refresh rate would result in a flickering image, and that’s no fun.
- Compatibility – Is the VR headset compatible with only a certain platform or smartphone, or can it be used across the board? For example, the PlayStation VR is only compatible with the PlayStation 4 and the Samsung Gear VR is only compatible with Samsung smartphones.
Top 6 Best VR Headsets
Top 4 Best VR Headsets Reviews
For some virtual reality enthusiasts, the best VR headsets might not be the most technologically capable, but rather the most affordable. The Samsung Gear VR offers the best of both worlds – highly affordable and capable of giving users an immersive VR experience. With competitive features like 2560 x 1440 resolution, super low latency, and a side-mounted touchscreen, the Samsung VR Gear is the most affordable and best reviewed VR headset on the market. It was created in conjunction with Oculus, a leader in VR technology.
Using Oculus Home, Samsung VR Gear users have access to hundreds of virtual reality-ready apps and games. One drawback of the Samsung Gear VR is that it’s only compatible with certain Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Priced at under 100 dollars, the Samsung Gear VR is one of the best VR headsets on the market and a great starting point for those just getting into VR.
Taking a step in the opposite direction of its competitors, the Google Cardboard is exactly what it sounds – a VR headset made from cardboard. Made from simple materials and two 45mm lenses, Google Cardboard is a smartphone-based VR headset. Simply download the Google Cardboard app, place your smartphone into the holding area, and you’ve got a DIY VR headset! Google Cardboard is compatible with almost all of the most popular smartphones, including iPhone.
Google Cardboard was created as a low cost incentive for VR developers. Whereas other VR headset prototypes and development kits cost several hundred dollars, Google Cardboard can be had for the price of a few cups of coffee. If you want to experience the VR craze at the lowest price possible, Google Cardboard is the way to go.
Capable of turning a simple room into an incredibly vivid virtual reality environment, the HTV Vive allows users to move and interact with their VR world, resulting in almost complete immersion. Created in conjunction with the Valve Corporation, the HTC Vive uses an innovative light system called Lighthouse to pinpoint a user’s movement. Combined with the 70 sensors and camera on the HTC Vive headset, this virtual reality experience is possibly the best on the market right now. As such, it’s also the most expensive.
HTC Vive is mostly used for computer gaming, but the catalog of compatible games is still small at this point. Hundreds of games are in development with strong support from the Steam community. The potential for uses outside of gaming is nearly limitless, especially since all that is needed to run the HTC Vive is a PC (sorry Apple users). The HTC Vive is for those who want all out VR immersion, a lot of future gaming potential, and the best VR technology available. Just make sure you’ve got the room for it!
From a simple Kickstarter campaign to being bought by Facebook for $2 billion, Oculus Rift is the device that started it all. After several developer kits and prototypes, the consumer version of Oculus Rift was released in May 2016. Like the HTC Vive, but a bit cheaper, Oculus Rift is used for computer gaming, movies, education, and training. Compatible with the Microsoft Xbox One controller, Oculus Rift may not have full body movement tracking, but it boasts an impressive lineup of VR-ready games.
From Minecraft and Ether One to Final Fantasy developers Square Enix, Oculus Rift is the most game-friendly VR headset on the market right now. Taking advantage of the open-source software, modders have even found ways to play games like Skyrim and Legend of Zelda using Oculus Rift. For those that don’t have a high end computer, a bundle package is available that includes an Oculus capable PC and VR headset.
One of the most promising and easy to use VR headsets is the PlayStation VR. Seamlessly synching up with the PlayStation 4 console, the PlayStation VR has features that are competitive with the best VR headsets on the market. With an October 2016 launch, the PlayStation VR has dozens of compatible games. If adoption of Sony’s PlayStation VR is widespread, this could be the VR headset that truly brings virtual reality to the forefront of gaming.
Virtual Reality Technology – It’s All Coming Together
The tech industry is continuously being upgraded with faster and smaller computing power and more realistic screens. Where others have failed (sorry Nintendo Virtual Boy), just as many companies are now taking up the gauntlet, with several competing to bring us the best VR headsets ever made.
The cheapest VR headsets, like the Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR, operate using a smartphone. With these, one simply connects a smartphone to the front of their VR headset. For those who just want to get their feet wet with virtual reality, these cheap smartphone-based VR headsets are fine. If you want full body immersion, you’ll need to jump in at the deep end with best VR headsets like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
The best VR headsets, and most expensive, operate based on a game console or computer. Not just any old computer will do – we’re talking a modern machine with a lot of processing power, capable of running the newest games.