10 Best VR Headsets and Glasses in 2016
Virtual reality or VR headsets have dramatic price variations. When you start shopping around for a VR headset, you will find some like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive costing well over $500. On the lower end, you will also find VR headsets for less than $100 and others for less than $50. You can even make your own cardboard kit for virtually nothing if you have some DIY skills.
With such radical price variations, it can be challenging to make the right purchase decision. So we have listed the best VR headsets that provide most value for your money. These VR headsets include those that were launched in 2016 as well as those that are reported to be in development.
1. HTC Vive
At a time when there is no shortage of good VR headsets, HTC Vive beats them all. It is considered by pundits and users alike as the best virtual reality headset you can spend your money on. The headset combines innovative features and advanced technology to create a truly immersive VR experience.
Released in April 2016, Vive is also the most expensive headset around. If you want to experience its immersive reality, get ready to shell out $800. This is not to mention the cost of buying the right PC, if you do not have one already.
For all the money spent, what do you actually get in return?
For one, an extremely immersive experience. Once you put on the headset, you quickly forget you are in a physical room. The two 1080 x 1200 screens provide graphics crisp enough to completely immerse you in a virtual reality.
The resolution is startlingly good with a tall (9:5) aspect ratio to help you look up and down without having to move your head. The high refresh rate (90 frames per second) ensures a smooth flow of graphics and results in a more realistic feel.
To enhance the realism of the virtual reality, Vive employs excellent room scale. This means that the user is able to move about physically and make real world gestures. By replicating real life movements in the virtual world, the headset delivers a thoroughly immersive experience.
There are a lot of great things to say about HTC Vive, and several flaws we can mention too. But it is an epitome of where VR technology needs to go. Yes, you might have to spend over $1,000 for the entire headset and PC setup but the experience is fully worth it.
2. Oculus Rift
The closest competitor to HTC Vive is Oculus Rift. Both are built primarily for gaming and each delivers a slightly different experience. Starting off, Mark Zuckerberg’s Oculus Rift is much less complicated than its rival, HTC Vive. Vive comes with around 16 items in the box while Oculus’s packaging comes with around 10 items to unbox.
The Oculus headset is fairly lightweight, a good thing for gamers planning to play late into the night. It comes with detachable foams around the eyes to maintain comfort even when worn extra tight. But like any other VR headset, there is no escaping the nerdy look.
Where it matters most, total immersion, the Oculus Rift is not too bad. Each screen boasts a 1080×1200 resolution, similar to HTC Vive. The refresh rate is also similar at 90 frames per second. At this high refresh rate, the graphics are extremely realistic and smooth. Most importantly, the high refresh rate helps prevent eye fatigue and nausea even after hours of using the headset.
In terms of cost, be ready to dig deep into your pocket. The Oculus Rift goes for $600. This is just a little bit more reasonable than HTC Vive but still insanely expensive. But when you consider the amount of work that has gone into it and the experience it delivers, the price does not sound too bad. But you also have to remember there are extra costs for the PC setup, if you do not have one.
Since the headset requires advanced computer specs, prepare to spend even more on a good PC. As with Vive, you might find yourself spending over $1,000 for the full setup.
Both the Oculus and Vive are great products but only for avid gamers and tech enthusiasts. For other people who want the VR experience, you are better off with cheaper alternatives we will discuss below. Samsung Gear VR immediately comes to mind when talking about cheaper alternatives. But there is also another surprisingly affordable but high-end gaming VR headset; the Sony PlayStation VR.
3. Sony PlayStation VR
As a major player in the gaming industry, Sony was not about to be left in the dust by the likes of Oculus and Vive. These companies were luring users away from the PlayStation with the promise of a more immersive and interactive experience and gamers were starting to bite. Sony had to act quickly, hence the PlayStation VR headset.
Unlike its competitors, Vive and Oculus, PlayStation VR is yet to launch. The expected launch date is October 13. At an expected price of $399, Sony will be by far the cheapest high-end gaming VR headset. This should give it an edge over its competition. But what really matters is the kind of experience it will deliver to gamers. After Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the bar has been set quite high. Can Sony clear it?
From the reported specs, it very well could. It will have a 5.7 inch OLED 1080p display. A 100-degree view range promises an extra wide field of view. Even more interesting is the refresh rate which has been reported at 120 Hertz or frames per second. This is a solid 30fps above Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. If they manage that, the gaming experience could be a step up from the competition.
There is another major advantage that Sony enters the VR gaming industry with; no need for an expensive PC. The headset will plug into the PlayStation 4 console. Most gamers already have it at home, providing an easy and relatively inexpensive way to get into VR gaming. Instead of spending more money on a powerful PC, you simply buy the headset, plug it into your PS4 console and you are good to go.
But even as we praise the $399 price tag, note that it does not include everything. You only get the headset and cables. Controllers are sold separately. Do not be surprised if the final cost reaches $500.
4. Samsung Gear VR
If you are looking for an affordable entry-level VR experience, Samsung Gear VR comes highly recommended. It does not require the fancy PC setup of Oculus or Vive and it is quite easy to use. At a $100, the price is not too bad either.
The lightweight headset lets you play immersive games, watch movies and do a few other neat tricks. The experience is no as rich as in other high-end VR headsets but it is interesting nonetheless. Just make sure you have the right Smartphone. Currently, the headset is compatible with Samsung’s range of Galaxy Smartphones.
The headset is comfortable to wear with plenty of padding and enough eye room even for glass wearers. However, most users report eye fatigue after an hour or two of watching movies or playing games. For the price, Samsung Gear VR is quite good.
The experience will of course not be as immersive or rich as in Oculus or Vive but it serves as a good introduction to the world of virtual reality. For non-gamers who want something simple and affordable, this is a great choice. A big advantage of Samsung Gear VR is that it is completely wireless. You can move around freely without dealing with any cumbersome cables.
5. Razer OSVR
When it comes to gaming VR headsets, Oculus and Vive are the talk of the town. Razer OSVR is a lesser known gaming VR headset. OSVR stands for Open Source VR, meaning third parties are free to mess around with the hardware and software.
In fact, Razer OSVR is targeted mostly at developers who want to make applications for VR headsets without cumbersome software and hardware limitations to deal with. The headset has a modular design, meaning you can interchange parts with others. This makes it easy to upgrade its capabilities.
There are two main versions of OSVR; the HDK 1 (hacker development kit) and HDK 2. You can get HDK 1 for $300 and HDK 2 for $400.
We recommend the Razer OSVR for developers and avid gaming enthusiasts who want to tinker around with the hardware and software. For ordinary consumers however, there are other more consumer-ready alternatives.
6. Google Cardboard
If the $300+ price tags of some of the mentioned VR headsets make you angry, the Google Cardboard may be for you. You could potentially spend $0 to have your own headset. Cardboard was Google’s project to make basic VR accessible to everyone. The kit consists of cardboard. All you need to do is pop your phone in and strap the headset to your head.
The headset relies on the phone’s sensors to track your head movement and position. The result is a fairly immersive VR experience. While Google has ceased selling these kits, you can get them from other online sellers for around $20. You can also get fancier setups for a little bit more. If you are up for a challenge, you can also make your own Cardboard headset for almost nothing.
Google Cardboard is great for anyone who needs a cheap introduction to VR. It does not require any fancy equipment or computer knowledge.
Google is reportedly planning to release an improved version of Cardboard called Daydream. Keep an eye out for it towards the end of 2016.
7. Sulon Q
Sulon Technologies, the company behind the wildly unique Sulon Q headset, has big ambitions. In unveiling the Sulon Q VR headset, the company was seeking to set itself apart from the likes of Oculus and Vive.
One area where the headset is bound to stand out is the lack of tethering cables. The makers claim that users will be able to put on the headset and move around without having to stay connected to a PC. Already, this removes the stress of getting a powerful PC out of the equation for users.
Even more interestingly, the headset is equipped with technology that combines both virtual and augmented realities. These two realities work in concert to create a virtualized world out of your real-time environment. For example, you can kick a virtual ball in your living room and see your precious glass flower vase shutter virtually.
The headset comes with some impressive specs; 8GB memory, 256GB internal storage, an insane 2,560×1,440 resolution, built in earbuds and noise cancelling microphones, sensors,Wi-Fi and Bluetooth among others. The system will run on Windows 10 and AMD’s LiquidVR platform.
Essentially, Sulon Q is a fully-fledged computer that will sit on your head. There are reports that it will even come with a keyboard and mouse. Beyond all these impressive specs, the main concern for most people and experts is battery life. The headset’s design includes a hefty battery pack.
Let’s hope that will be enough to power the wonder that is Sulon Q.
Basic (and Budget) VR Kits
There are plenty of VR headsets that provide basic VR capabilities for a low cost. Most of them are just fancier versions of Google Cardboard with a few added controls and a little bit more style. Make sure you check the phone requirements before making a purchase.
- Habor VR Glasses, which come with a comfortable faux leather padding and blue lenses for an easier time on the eyes. You can get it for around $60 on Amazon.
- Tepoinn VR Headset. It is designed for phones between 3.5 and 5.5 inches and features adjustable lenses. You can get one on Amazon for the dirt cheap price of $16.
- Jasmonic VR Headset Glasses. Designed for phone sizes between 4.7 inches and 6 inches. Perfect if you want to experience 3D movies on your phone. The headset costs $21 on Amazon. This includes a Bluetooth handheld controller.
VR Headsets – Conclusion
Clearly, the options for VR headsets are many and varied. From the expensive high-end gaming headsets to the ridiculously cheap Cardboard-like kits, there is something in the market for everyone. 2016 has often been billed as the year for VR.
Tech companies have risen to the challenge by producing a plethora of VR products. Some of them are terrible, most are great and a few are amazing. We are excited to see what they come up with in 2017 and beyond.
Which of the above VR headsets excites you most? What improvements would you like to see for future headsets? Leave your comments below.