Three contenders enter the ring but only one can take the virtual reality crown. Oculus, Sony, and HTC have all publicly stated this isn’t a competition just yet. They want to establish and grow the virtual reality market before they pull out any knives and get to cutting. However with their high prices and technical requirements a lot of us will need to choose among the three if we want to join in on the virtual reality fun. Let’s run down the basics of virtual reality and each helmet.
What to look for:
Resolution and refresh rate is pretty important. Not just because it makes games look better but it will also save your stomach. Those reports of nausea and sickness partially come from the lower resolution of early development models. The finished products boast better everything and hopefully that means less laying down after fifteen minutes of game time.
Second, be wary of price. While the prices listed of each helmet is accurate it isn’t the whole story. The Vive and Oculus require pretty beefy gaming PCs to run properly while PS VR only requires a PS4. However PS VR doesn’t come with everything you need in box. Toss in the price of games, accessories, controllers, wires, USB ports, and the overwhelming embarrassment you’ll feel while your roommates watch you flail around and VR can cost a lot more than we expect.
Finally there is the unknowable. Since none of the helmets have launched we have no way of knowing what life with VR will be like. What will the marketplaces and stores look like a year from now? Which helmet will have the game to play? Which will drop in price first, or offer the best bundle? Will VR even last? It’s enticing to see new technology emerge so impressively but being cautious never hurt anyone.
HTC Vive, $799, April 2016:
Even if you have the scratch to throw at the Vive, preorders have been underway for weeks now and wouldn’t ship out until at least May of this year. The price does give the Vive some advantages since it includes two base stations that plug into your PC. This gives full room immersion within virtual reality, meaning the Vive knows your positioning within the room. These stations allow you to actually move around without fear of furniture.
The Vive also comes with three games, most notably Job Simulator, and two controllers but still requires a decent PC to attach to. The screen screen resolution and refresh rate match the Oculus’ which makes the $100 difference hard to swallow. The Vive is for rich folk and VR display booths but I can’t imagine a world, virtual or not, where this is the helmet everyone clamors over.
Playstation VR, $399, October 2016:
The cheapest price but the longest wait. If you don’t have a PC that can properly support the Vive or Oculus then Playstation’s option is by far the cheapest. A PS4 and VR helmet would cost the same as an Vive alone. PS VR might leave you with a fatter wallet but you’ll really have to wait. Sony might be aiming for October but preorders and the holiday season may leave a lot of us waiting to get our hands on the helmet.
PS VR also doesn’t pack the biggest technical punch and you are getting what you pay for. The helmet will require a Playstation camera, available in a separate bundle or by itself, and its own seperate box to plug into. However Sony has been upfront about their dedication to 60 FPS and 120Hz or 90Hz refresh rate for all its VR games. Their resolution might be lacking and their $400 price point isn’t everything you need but it’s the cheapest and easiest entry into virtual reality.
Oculus Rift, $599, March 2016:
The VR Kickstarter that launched a thousand helmets. The price may hurt, especially if you don’t have the proper PC to handle it, but it does come with an Xbox One controller, a sensor, and it’s own remote. It does match the Vive in resolution, refresh rate, and field of view, leaving PS VR behind. However all that technology doesn’t come for free. The USB requirement alone for the Oculus is enough to make PC gamers roll their eyes.
Oculus does come with Lucky’s Tale and EVE: Valkyrie but doesn’t come with custom controllers like the Vive does, yet. Oculus does have their Touch controllers ready to roll out later this year but that only adds to the already growing price tag. Oculus is out very soon and boasts a lengthy lineup but with the amount of preorders you may be waiting a month or so to pick one up.
With all the money in the world I’d choose all three but as an owner of a weak gaming PC and a PS4, PS VR seems like my only choice. For now. The Vive packs a pretty mean punch to the wallet but exploring a world with my own two feet rather than sitting in a chair is mighty tempting. And the Oculus seems like the defacto leader for virtual reality.
Now that you know the prices, the release dates, and the basics of virtual reality which will you be buying? How long are you willing to wait before virtual reality becomes more reality?