Virtual reality is has finally landed with a range of high profile headsets looking to revolutionise the way we play games, watch movies or enjoy sport. However, the price of some of the premium products can be intimidating for the sternest constitutions. However, the VR marketplace is much larger and more varied than you might imagine. Indeed – there’s something for every price range, so here’s how to find the right unit for you.
The cheapest products couldn’t come more basic – a couple of magnifying glasses and some cardboard. All you need is a smartphone screen and a cardboard viewer and hey presto you’ve got yourself a virtual reality experience. Google has started selling its own cardboard sets and is working towards a set of official standards which can best be described as a Google Cardboard stamp of approval.
These are not built for comfort and you won’t want to wear one for very long. There are plastic models which last a bit longer, but not much. Even the most expensive of these are only around £20 a piece.
These are a step up from the cardboard. They may have their own tracking sensors, controls, focus wheel and sometimes their own screen. The most well-known and sophisticated of these is the Samsung Gear VR. Other models are coming into the market – for example, LG has just released its own mobile headset and rumour has it Google will be doing the same in the next few months. However, quality and value can vary wildly between the different options. Many suffer from poor design and build quality while the viewing experience is not very nice.
A good headset can cost anything up to £100, but if you time it right you may be able to get one for free. Samsung, for example, has started throwing new ones in as an add-on for their phone orders. However, make sure that your phone is compatible. VR generally only works with the top of the range smartphones.
Here is where the headlines are really made. Top headsets such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR are capable of wonderful things. Features such as motion tracking, hi-res screens and the best graphics known to man will put you right in the very heart of the action. No expense has been spared in reducing any jump between movement which keeps motion sickness down to a minimum.
However, these are only just coming to market this year so it’s definitely something for the early adopters. The price tags are huge. The HTC Vive is being retailed for £689 while the Oculus Rift is £499 but there’s also the unknown cost of the controllers. You may also have to dramatically update your PC. These only run off the most powerful PCs – the kind that only video editors or severe video game fans will be using. In short you could easily end up spending more than £1,000.
There is, then, something to suit every taste and every wallet. The technology is only in the early stages of the development and as it matures we could see some of those top end costs come down. We’ll also see some of the glitches which hinder VR performance ironed out offering a much better experience for fans.
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