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VR headsets are vessels for humans to explore the next frontier of reality.
Immerse yourself in the ultimate gaming and entertainment experience and transport yourself to other worlds with virtual reality.
A virtual reality headset (often shortened to ‘VR Headset’ plunges you into believable, interactive 3D computer generated environments that you can explore so you feel you are there, both mentally and physically, experiencing everything that occurs.
Let’s take a deep dive into what they are, and how to buy the best headset for you…
- 1 What are VR Headsets?
- 2 What to Look for when Buying a VR Headset
- 3 Virtual Reality Headset Cost Guide
- 4 Tips for Using Your VR Headset
- 5 Best VR Headsets of 2020
What are VR Headsets?
Worn over the eyes like a pair of large swimming goggles, inside a VR headset are two lenses which provide individual LCD screen images for each eye.
The two separate images are in 2D, but combine to form a single 3D image when looked at together with both eyes.
Whichever way you turn your head, the screens mounted to your face follow your movements, allowing you to ‘move’ through the virtual world, and many VR headsets feature special movement trackers to pick up even the tiniest movements, and more hi-tech versions even feature eye movement trackers.
Images are fed to the headset screens via WiFi, or a cable attached to a console or computer, and depending on the headset technology you choose you can navigate through the 3D world using your smartphone, wireless controllers, joysticks, or voice commands.
Here’s a great video primer on how a virtual reality headset does its thing:
What to Look for when Buying a VR Headset
VR technology is relatively new and is constantly changing and improving, which can make it confusing when trying to choose the best VR headset.
There are however a few important points to consider when buying a VR headset which should inform your choice…
A few of the most hi-tech VR headsets use a greater number of cables and accessories to get the best experience, and increase your ability to move around, so require more dedicated space within the home.
If you’re short on space, like to avoid clutter, or don’t want to move your furniture around every time you play, a more simple mobile device may be a better choice.
The best VR headsets have a high screen resolution with a fast refresh rate to give you the clearest image possible.
Top quality VR headsets feature powerful processors to deliver a smooth 3D experience, and versatile and sensitive sensors to accurately track your movements.
Are you likely to spend a lot of time exploring your virtual world?
If you’re only a casual gamer and have a smaller budget, a less expensive and more basic and intuitive VR headset such as a mobile device could be enough to satisfy your virtual itch.
However, hardcore gamers who play on a daily basis will probably want to spend the extra cash and invest in a top of the range VR system.
Accessories vary for each VR setup, and some of them can be really fun, as well as ameliorating your VR experience.
Headphones for realistic sound, chairs with foots pedals that allow you to ‘run’ whilst sitting, vests that vibrate when you take a hit from an enemy…
If you’re looking for the fullest VR immersion possible you’ll want to consider a VR headset which is compatible with the accessories you want.
What devices do you already own?
If you have a console or smartphone that is compatible with a certain VR headset you may want to stick the the technology you already have to hand if you want to invest less in your VR system.
Virtual Reality Headset Cost Guide
With so much new VR technology constantly emerging, prices for VR headsets vary widely, costing anywhere between $15 right up to almost $700.
Generally speaking, paying anywhere under $100 will get you a basic VR headset, although headsets at this price range have limited interactivity and aren’t designed to be used for long periods of time.
Mid-range headsets costing between $100 and $400 offer some great features and are suitable for the average gamer, whilst anything over $400 is for the more serious gamer who wants high end features.
Tips for Using Your VR Headset
- Be safe! You’re going to be immersed in another reality, so you will be less aware of your surroundings in the real world. Make sure to move delicate objects or items that could hurt you if you trip or fall out of the way before you play. Even better, have a friend on hand to help you.
- Go slow! Virtual realities can take a bit of getting used to, and playing for too long too soon can result in headaches or even motion sickness. Get your brain used to the experience by starting slow and building up the time you spend playing without a break.
- Sit down! Whatever is happening in your virtual world, staying seated in the real one will greatly reduce the risk of you having an accident or smashing your VR headset to smithereens.
Best VR Headsets of 2020
Oculus Rift + Touch Virtual Reality System
This VR headset is a beast. And widely considered one of the best gaming headsets on the market.
Featuring high resolution OLED screens for each eye, a 110° field of view, and a super fast refresh rate of 90 Hz, the Oculus Rift offers a seamlessly smooth, quality VR experience.
A remote plus two ergonomic hand controllers allow for easy movement and use, and numerous sensors within the headset — plus an independent freestanding sensor — effectively track your movements.
Built in 3D spatial audio headphones provide an outstanding immersive experience. PC compatible, you can do more than just play games with this VR headset, including watching movies and 360° videos.
- Fantastic high quality graphics
- Great price for the features
- Light and comfortable to wear
- Comes with 6 VR games included
- Responsive and lag free
- Very immersive
- Ergonomic and intuitive
- Requires a powerful PC to get the full benefit
- Not wireless
Samsung Gear VR w/Controller (2017)
Got a recent generation Samsung smartphone?
You can simply clip it into this VR headset for an affordable VR experience.
The lightweight and streamlined design of the headset is comfortable to wear, and the accompanying wireless motion controller adds one-handed, easier controls in phone apps.
Depending on your phone, this VR headset will deliver a varied performance, but the 2,560 x 1,440 high resolution display screen of compatible phones guarantees a visually immersive experience.
Not only that, but you can watch movies and videos, virtual chat with your friends, browse the web, and more.
- Totally wireless
- Comfortable to wear
- Simple to set up and play
- Well made
- Good selection of compatible apps and videos
- Requires a compatible Samsung phone
- Doesn’t really track motion
Pansonite VR Headset with Remote Controller
Another smartphone compatible gaming headset, the Pansonite VR headset is designed to be super comfortable, with breathable leather interior and eye protecting adjustable lenses to reduce vertigo and ensure that your VR experience is easy on your eyes.
The lightweight and ergonomic design with adjustable strap relieves pressure around the eyes and face, and features built in 3D audio headphones and a 120° field of view.
A Bluetooth 360 degree motion detection controller allows you to move around within 3D virtual worlds, answer phone calls, and play movies or videos.
The Pansonite VR headset is compatible with a multitude of Android, Windows, and iPhone smartphones.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Suitable for users wearing glasses
- Easy to set up
- Has headphones built in
- Compatible with a wide range of smartphones
- Good value
- Image quality depends on the phone used
- No true motion control
HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System
Along with the Oculus, HTC VIVE is one of the major players when it comes to the best gaming headset.
The Vive VR headset has a unique selling point — it actually allows you to walk around inside and interact with the virtual environment.
The headset of this PC compatible VR system is adjustable for a comfortable fit, and houses two high 1080 x 1200 resolution displays with a 90Hz refresh rate for a super smooth video feed.
Over 70 sensors track even the most minute of head movements, and two remote base stations track your physical location and body movements within a 15 by 15 foot area.
Two handheld controllers with built in sensors feature triggers and buttons and allow you to reach out and ‘touch’ the virtual environment.
- Incredibly immersive
- Excellent quality, works well
- Intuitive controls
- Simple to set up
- Very little motion sickness
- Fantastic range of games available on Steam
- Requires a lot of space in the home and a powerful PC
- Lacks integrated headphones
- Not wireless
Oculus Go Standalone Virtual Reality Headset
This all in one VR headset makes virtual reality accessible for everyone.
Oculus Go is a standalone system, which basically means that it doesn’t need to connect to anything (like a smartphone or PC) in order to function — this in itself makes it unique.
The plastic, padded, adjustable headset is very light and comfortable to wear, and being wireless it is also supremely portable.
Apps and games can be downloaded direct to the headset from the Oculus online store using your Android or iOS smartphone.
The high quality 2560 x 1440 resolution LCD screen is sharp — perfect for game play or watching high definition TV or movies — and speakers mounted on the headset’s side straps give a good sense of spatial depth and offer greater VR immersion.
A single handheld easy-to-use controller has all the controls necessary for moving around inside a VR world and contains sensors to track your hand and arm movements.
- Incredibly convenient — works independently from a phone or computer
- Superb image quality
- Huge range of games and apps available
- Simple to set up and use
- Fun for social chat in VR
- Wireless and comfortable
- Features built in sound
- Suitable for glasses wearers
- Motion tracking is limited
- Battery only lasts around 3 hours before needing to be charged
Official Google Cardboard
A VR headset for less than 20 bucks? It sounds crazy, but the Google Cardboard headset is offering just that.
Literally made out of cardboard, this budget VR headset is essentially a cardboard box with a pair of lenses inside specially designed to hold a smartphone securely in place (with velcro).
A single magnetic button on the top of the headset can be used to interact with your phone’s features during gameplay — simply hold the Google Cardboard up to your face and get playing!
- Incredibly cheap
- No set-up required
- Compatible with any smartphone
- No need to invest in additional software or hardware
- No head strap — can be uncomfortable when used for long periods of time
- Extremely basic
RokJam 3D VR Headset Technology
Durable and comfortable, the lightweight and adjustable RokJam 3D VR headset features a solid plastic shell and soft foam padded interior to ensure that the headset fits snugly around your face.
With a 90° field of view and adjustable high quality fast focus lenses, this headset offers an affordable VR viewing experience compatible with any smartphone — just clip your phone into the headset and you’re good to go.
- Universally compatible design
- Comfortable to wear
- Convenient adjustable lenses
- Reasonably priced
- Suitable for spectacle wearers
- Simple set up
- Some phones may pop out of the internal phone holder
- Doesn’t have any built in controls
Which do you think is the best VR headset?