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The Ultimate VR Buying Guide – A Gamer’s Must-Read

Virtual reality is an experience everyone needs to try. The features and tips we discussed in our VR buying guide would let you have the best experience. You’ll also be saving cash.

Types of VR Headsets

There are three types of headsets around. The type you pick up would influence the price you’ll have to pay. We summarized them below.

Untethered headsets

Untethered headsets are the most popular. They are the most immersive as well, you don’t have a cord restricting your movements. The devices would connect to your computer or console via wi-fi.

Tethered headsets

Compared to their untethered counterparts, they come with more horsepower.

The more power lets them handle graphic extensive games. You generally have a bigger catalog of games if you purchase this type of piece too.

You’ve probably heard of the Occulus Rift S before. It’s a wired option that can handle some of the most extensive games around.

Mobile headsets

Mobile headsets aren’t common anymore. In fact, many would say that they’re obsolete. But you can still purchase them online.

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There would be a slot for you to insert your phone. It would act as the screen, letting you immerse in the VR content. The number of games you’ll be able to play would be very limited, sadly.

Smartphone headsets come with the least horsepower. You don’t get as useful of features as the above two either – don’t expect motion tracking or stereo sound.

If you don’t have a lot to spend, these choices are the best. One of the most famous would be the Google Cardboard. It costs less than $20.

What Features Should You Look For?

Now that you know what the type of headsets are, let’s talk about the features that differentiate the best from the rest.

Design

The cheapest options aren’t ergonomic. They tend to fall off your head as they either don’t come with head straps or don’t have proper ones.

Remember that wearing VR-sets can be sweaty. That’s why you want them to be made from quality materials. With cheap plastic around your eyes, ears and head, you’ll steam up. The materials could get sticky from the sweat as well.

The more expensive choices have headbands that’re double padded. Sweat wouldn’t collect and the pieces would feel like pillows on your head.

Speaking of design, we just have to talk about how good the device would look. If you spent a lot of money, you’d want the headset to look the part. If it’s shiny and black, or dark and matte, it’d generally look rich.

As you know, the most affordable ones work with smartphones. From the many available, the Google Cardboard, which we talked about earlier, is probably the cheapest. Nothing about it screams luxury. It’s just a cardboard box with lenses cut out.

Comfort

Ensure that the piece is the right size - imagine how sore you’d feel wearing something that’s too small for hours.

Something that would influence comfort would be whether the VR-set can fit your glasses or not. This is why you’re advised to try it on before buying.

If you’re buying it online, this might be an issue. You’ll have to check reviews and see what people who wear glasses have said.

Now:

How heavy is the headset? Even if it isn’t too small and has enough space for your glasses, wearing it won’t be fun if it’s heavy. Around 500 grams isn’t too bad. But if it’s made out of more premium materials, it might weigh more. Take look at the HP WMR headset – it weighs around 830 grams.

Price

Considering there are three very different types of VR gear, it shouldn’t surprise you that the price between them greatly varies.

The tethered options are the most expensive thanks to their extra horsepower. However, having a budget would help you find a superb one at a price you can afford. Something that’ll help would be looking at the ones available second-hand. Their prices would’ve been cut in half.

As the VR pieces are gaming gear, they regularly go on sale during Cyber Monday. If you have your eye on something, you could snag it brand new on a deal.

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Space

Let’s say you’ve found a great purchase. But unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of space at home. The tethered options require the most space. 

But:

How much space you’ll need would depend on the console/PC you’re using, peripheral size, as well as your tracking system.

Even with an untethered piece, you would still be confined. Remember that it connects to your console or PC through wi-fi, so you can’t be too far away.

If you have a smaller space, pick up a VR-set that has a reduced area mode.

How big of a space will be comfortable enough to play in? Think 6 x 6 - 7 x 7 feet.

Boy wearing black and white VR headset

Features

Light Blocking

Don’t expect superb features from more affordable headsets. You want a VR piece that doesn’t allow outside light to come in – the chances of you getting motion sickness would be reduced. Sadly, more affordable options aren’t like this.

How sharp and immersive your virtual reality experience would be on mobile headsets depends solely on the phone you own. So, how big is it? What is its screen resolution? Does it have an AMOLED or LCD panel?

Screen Resolution

There’d be a display built in the wired and wireless choices. The more cash spent, the higher their resolutions would be. You’ll be able to tell the pixilation by checking their resolution per eye. It’d be the pixel width x pixel height.

Refresh Rate

You also need a good refresh rate. A higher one would result in a more fluid experience. If the Frames Per Second are low, motion sickness would unfortunately be something you’ll deal with.

An impressive rate would be 120-144 frames per second.

Field of View

Virtual reality is supposed to transport you to another world. There’s no way a headset would be able to do this without a decent field of view.

The FoV would be the extent of the virtual environment you’ll be able to observe.

An angle between 100-110 degrees is pretty good.

Hidden Costs

Virtual reality via a PC requires a lot of horsepower. Just any computer won’t be able to handle VR games; you’ll likely have to spend over $1000 on a PC if you’re going to buy it just for Virtual Reality.

The experience you’ll have on a smartphone set depends on the mobile you own. A more expensive handset would result in a more immersive experience. Does this mean you’ll have to go shopping?

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Final Thoughts

Let’s sum things up. Virtual reality is something everyone needs to try. There are many headsets on the market, which is why you should heed our points. Depending on the console you’re using, you’ll be able to pick up a tethered, untethered or mobile option.

Tethered ones are the most powerful – this makes them more expensive.

Speaking of mobile headsets, they’re considered obsolete these days.

So, what do you think? If you’d like to learn more exciting virtual reality facts, do check our Pinterest out!

Author
Fabian Rozario
My love for tech started when I got the Motorola StarTac as my first phone. I’ve owned more than a dozen mobiles, tabs, and VR sets since then – my wife likes to joke that I hoard tech! My love especially for phones is what led me to become an app developer. When I’m not wracking my head with code, I spend my time on Converged Devices writing about all the devices you need to know.

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