Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets Buying Guide and VR Glasses for Smartphones

Virtual Reality Headsets Buying Guide and VR Glasses for Smartphones

The way people talk about Virtual reality (VR), or virtual reality headsets, it seems it is some latest technology. However the fact is that the technology is not new, but it has grown immensely during the last few years.  Consumers have started using VR products, and the popularity is increasing at a rapid pace. The use of these virtual reality glasses by the consumers is a new trend. However, before we talk about headsets, first let us see the most simplistic way of describing virtual reality.

In simple words, we try to simulate a 3D environment with the help of some software and by using some state-of-the-art sensors, and then we feel that environment with the motion of our body. Although we can use the technology in many ways, currently it is mostly used for video games and drones. Modern headsets have revolutionized the video game industry. It takes the games experience to the next level and enhances the fun and joy.

The players feel like they are part of the game environment. As a result, the technology immerses the users into the virtual world of the game while they are stationary in their room. For example, when they turn their head, they can see what is behind in that environment; provided, they are wearing VR headsets!  However, you also need to have best VR games to get an awesome VR experience. Similarly, drone enthusiasts are also using headsets to get amazing flying experience.

The Hype Started after 2014

During past few decades, people have made many attempts to come up with some consumer products, but the most of those attempts failed until recently. Then in 2014 Google announced its cardboard VR headsets and another leading company Oculus also successfully sold their first VR headset in spite of many shortcomings. After that, we can see a series of VR headsets coming to the market at a rapid pace.

What else you need with VR headsets.

virtual world experience, one has to put some time and resources. You need a Computer, some software, a lot of cables and accessories and the best VR games in the market. First, depending on the type of the headset, a VR headsets essentially need any one of the following:
1. A smartphone
2. A PC or a
3. Gaming console
Then the other accessories depending on the technology used in the headset. These may include tracking motion controllers and related accessories, powering setup, software used for setting up the headset and hopefully the best VR games designed around virtual reality.

What features are desirable in a virtual reality headset:

Following are some of the features you should be aiming at when buying a headset.
(i) Motion tracking
(ii) High resolution
(iii) High graphics quality
(iv) Field of View (How far you notice the boundary when you move your eyeball when wearing the headset)
(v) The level of freedom of body movement. Room scale movement is considered the best at present. Also, 360-degree spinning capability would be another advantage because some games might require this.
(vi) Low latency: the difference between the movement of the head and the movement on the screen.
(vii) Types of adjustments you have (This can help you in focusing)
(viii) Being lightweight is an advantage.
(ix) High refresh rate in frames per second.
(x) Compatibility with your powering device
These are qualitative features, and you get only for what you can pay for!

Top companies making virtual reality headsets:

Oculus (now owned by Facebook) is the leader in this field. The company played a crucial role in the popularity of VR headset technology. HTC and Sony are the other two companies making top-end headsets. Samsung is the maker of the best affordable headset in the mid-range market. Then there are countless companies entering into the market every day.

Virtual Reality Headsets for smartphones

The good news for consumers is that they can enjoy the virtual world experience in less than $100. There are phone-based VR headsets for smartphones available in the market which do not cost you a fortune.

Some of the most popular VR glasses for smartphones are the following:

1.  Samsung Gear VR

Samsung gear VR Headset

Samsung Gear VR is the best budget headset. It is compatible with many smartphones which you must check before buying any of smartphone headsets. The latency and resolution of this headsets are good. The immersive experience is not the best but it gives an opportunity to everyone to try virtual reality in an affordable manner (under$100).

Buying Options:

1. Samsung Gear VR (2016)
2. Samsung Gear VR (2017)

You can also compare the Amazon prices with BestBuy price here.

You can also buy Samsung Gear VR controller separately.

2.  BNext VR

It is another phone-based VR. It is a cheap and affordable way to experience the VR world. You need to download an app, put your phone inside the phone holder and slide it inside and enjoy.

Bnext VR is one of the most popular VR headsets for smartphones.

3. Ultralight Virtual Reality Headset with Stereo Headphones

This is a newly released smartphone VR headset with stereo headphones. you can buy this in less than $50. It is suitable for all smartphones which have screen between 4.7 inches to 6 inches. It has a special and efficient heat dissipation design which is open-style and keeps your phone cool.

If you have iPhone 7 or 7 plus, you would need a 3.5 mm convert plug to connect.

4.  Google cardboard

Google cardboard is the best ultra-cheap choice to get experience with VR. It is a piece of cardboard which you can fold and turn into a headset. Then you place a smartphone inside this, and it becomes your VR headset.  It uses the gyroscope and accelerometers (types of sensors) of the smartphone for head tracking. You also need the Google Cardboard app for this to work.

Mid-Range VR Glasses (under $300)

1. Dell – Visor Virtual Reality Headset

This is a VR headset for WIndows-based PC’s. Dell Visor is one of the best mid range VR headset. It has some very cool features such as wireless controllers, weight-balanced, cushioned headband and bluetooth. It provides an immersive VR experience.

2.  PlayStation VR:

It is a PlayStation based VR headset and uses PlayStation camera. what this means is that you can use it only with PS. It has a resolution of 1980 X 1020 which is slightly less than its competitors Vive and Rift. PS VR has some capabilities for a room scale experience.  If you compare the cost of buying Rift or Vive (with a PC) with PS VR (with a PS), you will notice that as a whole PS VR System would be a cheaper solution for getting a high-quality VR experience.

It uses LED technology for tracking which is inferior to the infrared technology used by Rift and Vive. furthermore, you are limited to PlayStation with this headset.

Top Rated High-end Virtual Reality (VR) headsets (up to $800?)

  1. Oculus Rift
  2. HTC Vive
  3. PlayStation VR

The first two are PC-based VR platforms while PlayStation VR is obviously gaming console PlayStation based platform. These three are currently considered the top 3 virtual reality headsets in the market. They are all very well designed and have a lot of amazing features. A short review of these three is presented next:

1.   Oculus Rift:

Oculus Rift is a gaming PC based virtual reality headset. You need a powerful PC for a better VR experience. There is a list of PC’s available on their website, and you can check if you need an upgrade to your normal pC or not. For example, your PC should have a three USB3 ports, etc.  The installation of this VR system is super easy.  To install the system, you just go on the website and start the software and then go from there.  You tell the software about the 2D space in which you will be playing by drawing it. It has a superior design and built quality.

The material used is high grade, and it looks awesome inside a suitcase type packaging. It comes with one head tracking sensor which is very simple to integrate and a Xbox controller.  Their main game hub is Oculus Home. You will get a list of VR games as a launch lineup series, and you can try anyone which may interest you. Some games are multi-platform type while some could be exclusive. Oculus Rift is, without a doubt, a top level highly immersive and the most advanced VR System.

It is more comfortable than Vive. For more enhanced experience, you can buy Oculus Touch VR controller which will give you an added advantage of a second camera.

The basic system is not designed for room scale VR experience. However, you can get some sort of room scale experience by using additional one or two cameras. The head tracking sensor is not adjustable.

2.   HTC Vive:

HTC Vive is a PC-based headset. Two track motion controllers and a lot of color coded cables and accessories are included in the box.

The positional tracking system is different than oculus rift and is based on laser-based lighthouse technology. It gives you a room scale VR experience. You need to mount these lightbox stations in various locations in your room according to the instructions.  Power is required for these light boxes and also for the headset. Mounts are included to mount these light boxes. There is a provision to mount using a tripod if you wish to do so.  You do not need to wire these lightbox base stations, only power is required. By using an analog cable, these can be connected to each other to work as a pair. The only thing is that they should be able to see each other. When they can see each other, a white light will be shown. You can extend the range by putting extra range extenders which company sells separately. These lightboxes do have moving parts in them and often break, so, be careful when handling. The tracking motion controllers have an excellent battery life and the charging time is on the higher side.

The tracking motion controllers have an excellent battery life and the charging time is on the higher side. The resolution is 2160 X 1200 which is fantastic and a field of view of 110 degrees.

The weight of HTC Vive is relatively high when compared to its competitors Oculus Rift and PS VR, and this weight seems to be not distributed well, and you feel pressure on your nose if used for a longer period.

What are Best VR games

When we say best VR games, it means video games that give us a better 3D environment experience with headsets. Furthermore, there are plenty of games available in the market. Steam VR games are the most popular ones. Some games are exclusive to certain platforms. All top-end VR headsets are compatible with Steam Vive games. Some of the top VR games are following:

  1. The Lab
  2. DriveClub
  3. Valkyrie
  4. Edge of Nowhere
  5. Arizona Sunshine

Is there any health issues related to the use of virtual reality headsets?

Most manufacturers and expert advise that children should not use these devices because their eyes are growing. Simulator sickness is a term sometimes used for the feeling some people have when using headsets. To avoid simulator or motion sickness, one should take regular breaks. Nausea is another symptom which is not very uncommon. Different people experience it with different level of severity, but it can happen to you. Some companies mention the minimum age limit on their products, but some do not.  However, new headsets have improved a lot and simulator sickness is not a big issue now. It is still better not to use the headsets for a very prolonged period. Sometimes these are too heavy for you and you may feel uncomfortable.

So, What’s Next

I think even the most skeptical people would think VR is not a fluke, but an under-developed technology and there is much room for improvement. We would be seeing more accessories and objects coming to the market in coming months and years. Those devices when entering to VR world will enhance the user experience.  Also, it does not look very distant when we might start using wireless VR devices. YouTube’s 360-degree video streaming is another opportunity for VR content creators to share some amazing contents.