VR headsets have gained a lot of popularity over the past five years, especially in the entertainment niche. Experimenting with this new technology should be everyone’s goal – not only will you be able to access a whole different type of gaming environment, but you will also discover new creative and professional endeavors. Before purchasing a headset, it is important to find out what types of VR headsets there are and which one is best for your needs.
- Tethered VR headsets offer the highest-quality graphics and immersive experiences but are limited by cable length and require a connection to a computer or gaming console.
- Standalone VR headsets are more portable and offer freedom of movement, with all necessary components built-in, but may have less advanced graphics and processing power.
- Mobile VR headsets use a smartphone as the display and processing device, making them the most affordable and portable option, but graphics and processing power are limited by the smartphone’s capabilities.
- When choosing a VR headset, considerations should be made for the purpose of use, budget, compatibility with existing devices, desired level of immersion, and graphics quality, as well as reviews and recommendations from experts and users.
What is a VR headset?
A VR headset is a type of device that provides a user with an immersive virtual reality experience. It consists of a headset with a display, sensors, and headphones.
VR headsets also have features such as hand controllers, cameras, and an adjustable head strap. It’s important to consider purpose, budget, and compatibility when choosing a headset.
Types of VR headsets
There are four main types of VR headsets: standalone, tethered, smartphone-powered, and console-dependent. Each of them proposes different specs and, therefore, can have different applications.
Tethered VR headsets rely on a PC connection to function. That means that their performance is based on the tech specs of the PC and the constant cable connection to it. Those types of headsets require the use of a more powerful PC and a proper environment for setting up base stations.
You’ll get the highest-quality graphics and immersive experiences with tethered VR headsets. They offer the best graphics and processing power, which improves the gaming experience immensely.
Plus, tethered headsets have adjustable comfort and field of view features for prolonged use. They’re also compatible with existing devices like PCs or gaming consoles.
Firstly, physical cables limit the user’s movement and require a specific setup space.
Secondly, they’re more costly compared to standalone headsets and require a separate PC or gaming console.
Lastly, they can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
With its advanced graphics and immersive experiences, tethered VR headsets are great for gaming, simulation, and other professional applications.
Gaming areas, education, tourism departments, and art and design are some of the sectors that benefit from tethered VR headsets. The technology offers an advanced level of immersion and interactivity, making it ideal for establishing more effective professional practices.
Tethered VR headsets like Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro 2, and HP Reverb G2 are the go-to choice for those looking for an advanced VR experience.
Standalone VR headsets don’t require any external tethering and can function on their own. However, most of them do provide a tethering option, especially if you want to play PC games. They offer more freedom of movement and portability but may come with certain tradeoffs.
Enjoying the freedom of movement that standalone VR headsets provide, you can experience VR on the go. Plug-and-play functionality makes setup a breeze, plus portability allows for VR on the go. Room-scale VR eliminates wire constraints, and cost-effectiveness compared to high-end PCs is attractive.
- Quick set up without lengthy installations or cable connections.
- Room-scale VR without wire constraints.
- Cost-effective compared to high-end desktops or laptops.
These headsets have less processing power than tethered headsets, lower display resolution, a narrower field of view, higher lag and latency, shorter battery life, and limited onboard storage.
The hardware limitations of the headset may not meet the requirements of more demanding virtual reality experiences. Additionally, the cost of these headsets may still be too high for users on a budget.
These headsets are perfect for casual gaming, watching movies, and social VR experiences. But are not suitable for longer use because of their poor battery life.
Popular models like the Meta Quest 2, HTC Vive Focus 3, and Oculus Go don’t require physical tethers and offer plug-and-play functionality.
Smartphone-powered VR headsets are an affordable and portable way to experience virtual reality. They use the power of your smartphone to create a more immersive experience.
With a smartphone-powered VR headset, you can enjoy the convenience and portability of virtual reality on the go.
- Low cost compared to other types of headsets
- Compatible with a variety of smartphones
- Easy to use and set up with plug-and-play functionality
Graphics and processing power are limited by the phone’s capabilities, resulting in visuals that may not be as immersive as with tethered or standalone headsets.
The field of view of mobile headsets is often narrower, and the refresh rate and resolution may not be as high.
Additionally, the battery life of smartphones may limit the amount of time spent in VR.
Comfort and adjustability may also be compromised, as the headsets are designed to be used with a variety of phones.
You can enjoy the convenience of smartphone-powered VR headsets for casual gaming and streaming movies, but all other VR tasks would probably require a more advanced type of VR headset, either tethered or standalone.
If you have a smartphone with a 4 to 6.3 screen size, the Bnext VR Headset is a great option. It offers a comfortable fit and an immersive experience.
For those looking for an affordable option for Android/iOS phones, the VR SHINECON VR Headset is a good choice. It offers decent graphics and performance at a budget-friendly price.
If you own a Samsung phone, the Samsung Gear VR is a compatible option. It is designed specifically for Samsung phones and offers a high-quality virtual reality experience.
These types of headsets require a connection to a gaming console like the PlayStation or Xbox for a powerful virtual experience. They are compatible with certain console models only, and therefore, owning a console is mandatory for the exploitation of such headsets. However, there are regular tethered headsets, which also offer compatibility with gaming consoles. An example of such a headset is the Sony Playstation VR2.
Console-dependent headsets share similar advantages with PC-tethered ones like:
- High-quality graphics
- Access to a myriad of VR gaming titles
- Decent refresh rates
A console is needed, which limits portability and requires additional setup. Plus, the cost of the headset is always similar to the cost of the console itself, which makes it not a budget-friendly option.
The cable length may limit user movement, and the system must stay powered on for the headset to work.
Additionally, the graphics and processing power may not be as advanced as experienced with PC-powered headsets.
Console-dependent headsets have limited applications due to their compatibility restraints. That’s why such headsets are mostly purchased by people who already own a gaming console and want to elevate their gaming experience through virtual reality.
Play Station VR2 is one of the most popular, and critics acclaimed console-dependent VR headsets on the market.
Other VR headset categories
These are a few more specific categories of VR headsets that are used when classifying their specific features.
Mixed-reality headsets combine virtual and augmented reality for a unique experience. They use a blend of physical and digital elements and allow users to interact with digital objects in the real world.
Here are some features of mixed-reality headsets:
- Mixed-reality headsets are designed for use with motion controllers.
- The user’s physical environment is accurately mapped and tracked in real time.
- Headset features include inside-out tracking, hand-tracked controllers, and advanced optics.
They offer a wide range of interactive content and applications, from gaming to educational and professional use.
Augmented reality headsets
Augmented reality (AR) headsets combine the real and virtual worlds to create an enhanced experience. They use cameras and sensors to capture the user’s environment and add virtual elements to it. This allows users to interact with their environment in an engaging way.
Such headsets are often used for educational, gaming, and entertainment purposes. Examples of these headsets include Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One. They’re also used in industrial sectors, such as for training and simulation purposes.
The main advantage of augmented reality headsets is that they provide an immersive experience without the need for physical tethers or wires. However, the capabilities of these headsets are limited by the computing power of the device.
These devices combine the best features of both tethered and standalone systems, offering freedom of movement and high-quality graphics. Features include built-in headphones, hand controllers, and adjustable comfort.
VR headsets by DoF
VR headsets could also be classified by their Dof (degree-of-freedom) specs.
3-DoF headsets allow the tracking of rotational motion but not translation. When a user is wearing a VR headset, they’re able to track whether they look left or right, rotate their head up or down, and pivot left or right. However, with 3-DoF, it cannot be determined if the user has moved in the scene through real-life translation.
Examples of 3-DoF VR headsets include Google Cardboard, Oculus Go, Merge VR, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream.
Six-degree-of-freedom headsets are capable of tracking both rotational and translational motion. They can tell if the user has rotated their head and moved forward or backward, laterally or vertically, up or down. This kind of tracking is essential for virtual reality experiences with translational motion, and it gives the user much more freedom to explore places, observe details, and carry out real-life activities in VR.
Examples of 6-DoF VR headsets include the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and Pico Neo.
Which type of VR headset should I buy?
When choosing a VR headset, think about:
- Purpose of use (gaming, simulation, entertainment)
- Budget and affordability
- Compatibility with existing devices
- Graphics quality
- Reviews from users and experts
As people who have tested most of the popular headsets out there, for beginners, we recommend starting with an entry-level standalone headset. They are just easier to set up, and you can start enjoying the virtual reality immediately. Also, it is not worth it to invest in high-end gear while you are still not sure that the entire VR thing is for you.
An example of an entry-level headset is Meta Quest 2, you can check our review here.
Tethered headsets are ideal for people who want the highest-quality graphics and immersive experience. Standalone headsets are more portable and offer freedom of movement, while mobile headsets are the most affordable and portable option. PC-powered headsets have the most powerful graphics, while standalone headsets emphasize unfettered mobility.
No matter what your needs are, there’s a VR headset out there for you. From tethered to standalone to mobile, the options are seemingly endless.
When making your decision, consider features, comfort, and price. By doing so, you’ll be sure to get the most out of your immersive experience and take your virtual reality adventures to the next level.