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After long periods of development, the most famous VR platforms have finally seen the light, with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in the lead and with PlayStation VR for PS4 owners. On the other hand, however, this ambitious technology still has a long way to go before carving out a sizable slice of the gaming market, given the current difficulties in distribution and above all the price. And yet, to date, various solutions are available for each price range, so as to allow everyone to approach the interesting world of Virtual Reality even for simple curiosity. In this guide we will show you all the solutions currently available on the market, according to your needs, your equipment and especially your budget. So let’s find out the best VR headset that’s right for you.
Best VR headset to buy
Starting from the lower levels of the Virtual Reality market, the most economical solutions are all about the interaction between VR headsets and smartphones. The Cardboard category – the name given by the well known Google cardboard viewer – provides, in fact, the illusion of a dynamic virtual environment. Both Android and iOS devices have made available to users a rather rich catalog of applications to take advantage and showcase the possibilities in the VR environment. However, even though the main retailers today offer an endless list of Virtual Reality devices, they are not all the same even in the same price range, varying in some fundamental characteristics.
The classic Cardboard, for example, has been set up for use of predominantly passive content: this means enjoyable content without direct interaction. A simple example: all the 360° videos ever more present on YouTube.
Moving on, we have a choice between the two best VR headsets namely the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Occulus boasts an independent platform with an attached store, which currently has about 50 exclusive titles. on the other hand, the HTC Vive guarantees the resounding support from the likes of Valve and it’s Steam VR platform: this way the possibilities offered by Vive count on active support of users through the Steam Workshop and an extension to other third-party devices, as in the case of Razer OSVR. HTC Vive’s lineup offers several titles while many others will launch in the near future thanks to the support of several first-rate software houses.
Best low-end VR headset
Xiaomi Mi Box VR
The Chinese giant has decided to officially make its way into the world of virtual reality with the interesting Mi Box VR. Adopting the classic style of Cardboard headsets, the Mi Box presents a curious design with Lycra materials and a zip for the smartphone housing. The two lenses – not adjustable – offer a quite impressive panoramic view, while the top has a magnetic switch for interacting with the VR app. The housing can hold devices with displays from 4.7 to 5.7″ and offers two front openings for headphone and camera input, especially useful for applications dedicated to augmented reality.
The AUKEY VR headset offers a more solid housing with a spring system to keep the smartphone securely attached during use. Once the compartment is closed, you can also remove the front bezel to allow better cooling of the smartphone and especially the use of the camera for all augmented reality features. The improved optics have a regulator for focusing on the upper side and another to set the distance of the lens, so as to increase or decrease the viewing angle.
Among the most appreciated cardboard headsets, the HOMIDO VR boasts a decidedly superior optic experience that makes it the best VR headset of its price range, offering a better visual rendering even with mid-range smartphones. The product is easily adjustable both for focus and for viewing angle, however there is no magnet for quick actions. On the other hand, the semi-open front housing allows the use of smartphones up to 6″ and ensures the immediate insertion of headphones for a more immersive VR experience. Given the locking system it is recommended to use it in a rather dark environment to avoid spoiling the experience with the intrusion of external light.
Best mid-range VR headset
Xiaomi VR Headset
Compared to the lower-end model this Xiaomi Virtual Reality Headset offers several additional features that make it a much more premium product. First of all, the headset incorporates motion sensors that are independent of the functionalities present inside your smartphone, offering a more immersive and realistic experience. In addition, Xiaomi will support this product with exclusive applications designed specifically for this headset. The only drawback is that it’s use is limited to Xiaomi Mi 5, 5s, 5s Plus and Note 2 devices.
Zeiss VR ONE Plus
The Virtual Reality headset developed by Zeiss brings with it different pros and cons. Compared to the other “cardboard viewers”, the VR ONE guarantees a top viewing experience thanks to the lenses of exquisite workmanship that allow a very high visual rendering. On the other hand, the Zeiss device does not allow a “universal” use: the headset in fact, is sold with a housing compartment created to order for each model.
Best high-end VR headset
Among the well known headsets for Virtual Reality, OSVR is perhaps among the least considered. The open source project of Razer, one of the leaders in hardware and gaming accessories, is the most economical among the high-end VR headsets. Although currently available only in the Dev Kit edition, OSVR allows a complete experience thanks to a 5.5″ Full HD OLED display, a gyro sensor, a programmable accelerometer and an IR camera, ensuring a complete immersion in a virtual environment. Among the definitely positive notes Razer OSVR supports the Steam VR platform, ensuring immediate access to a well-stocked catalog of titles. To guarantee an optimal experience on every PC, Razer also promises a variable optimization based on your hardware specifications.
At the moment PlayStation VR is the only product intended for the console market. Formerly known as Project Morpheus, PlayStation VR allows a unique level of entertainment thanks to the hardware power of the viewer combined with the numerous agreements stipulated with leading software house in the sector. The device is equipped with a 5.7″ OLED screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (960 x 1080 pixels per eye), accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope and a refresh rate of 90-120Hz. In addition to the many possibilities dedicated to gaming, the headset provides a Cinema mode so that you can enjoy all of its multimedia content just like in front of a giant movie screen. To operate, however, the PlayStation VR requires the presence of a PlayStation Camera to ensure recognition of the player in the game environment.
When it comes to VR headsets, Oculus Rift is undoubtedly the best known name and almost a real reference point for the entire sector. The company was recently acquired by Facebook and launched the final version of Oculus Rift, after the great success of the previous Dev Kit 1 and 2. The device offers an incredible visual quality, with a 2160 × 1200 pixel OLED screen (1080 × 1200 per eye), low persistence and a 90Hz refresh rate. Add to this an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a magnetometer and 360-degree positional tracking, as well as an integrated 3D sound system for total player immersion. The downside are the hardware requirements: for optimal use you will need a PC with an equivalent or higher Core i5-4590 CPU, a GeForce GTX 970/AMD Radeon R9 290 GPU and at least 8GB of RAM.
This other flagship of Virtual Reality headsets does not stray much from its main competitor, the aforementioned Oculus Rift. This VR headset resulting from the collaboration between HTC and Valve features a 2160 x 1200 pixel OLED display with a refresh rate of 90Hz. In addition to the sensors inside the Vive is distinguished above all by the presence of a front camera for use in augmented reality and the greater liberty it offers: thanks to two external laser detectors, in fact, it is possible to cover an area of 16 x 16 feet, allowing the player greater freedom of movement. The PC hardware requirements are the same. Sadly the HTC Vive, despite being the best VR headset available on the market, is available at a price of around €700.
Best VR viewer based on Windows Mixed Reality
The basic solution for Mixed Reality proposed by Lenovo is a light and comfortable, but qualitatively high-level headset, thanks to the presence of excellent optics with an eye resolution of 1440 x 1440 pixels and a refresh rate of 90Hz, in order to limit the maximum eye strain and motion sickness. Added to this are several sensors for detecting movement and position, with gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer that match the two front cameras which detect movements and objects in real and virtual environments.
Acer Mixed Reality Headset
Exactly like the model proposed by Lenovo, Acer’s device is also based on the Windows Mixed Reality platform. We find a display with a resolution of 2880 x 1440 pixels (1440 x 1440 per eye) and 90Hz. There is no lack of sensors for detecting movement and position, enriched by the two frontal cameras for augmented reality interactions. Inside the package we also find two motion controllers.