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vr headset guide

VR Headset Buying Guide

Zornitsa Vuteva 8 months ago 0 16

The surging popularity of virtual reality and its increasing adoption are some of the main reasons more people have started to show interest in this intriguing technology. Owning a VR headset is the key to entering the world of virtual reality and thus experimenting with it. If you’re considering buying a VR headset, there are a few key factors that you’ll need to consider. From hardware specs to content accessibility, it’s important to understand what you need the headset for and how you can get the most out of it.

Key Takeaways

  • Figuring out what you want to use virtual reality tech for is the first step to choosing the right VR headset
  • Consider the type of VR headset you think will work best for your needs
  • Pay attention to the resolution of the display for an immersive experience
  • Check the level of comfort the headset provides for long gaming sessions
  • Research the price and look for deals or bundle packages

What do you need the VR headset for?

Make sure you have figured out how you wish to take advantage of the headset’s capabilities. Whether you’re seeking pure entertainment like gaming and streaming, or you wish to make use of improved and more effective exercise and working sessions, there are certain VR headsets that would help you fulfill your goals.

Gaming

If you’re looking for a VR headset to use mainly for gaming (like us), you’ll need to consider a few different factors:

  • The type of platform you want to use – depends on the type of games you plan to play. Most headsets support PC, PS4, and Xbox, but some are exclusive to one platform.
  • Cost – some headsets are more expensive than others, and you may want to look for deals or bundle packages. For a long time, the best-value headset was the Meta Quest 2 at $299. However, this changed after the Meta Quest 3 release. After 3 days of gaming on Meta 3, I can confirm – the higher price of $499 is definitely worth it, as long as you can afford the difference. If not, Meta 2 remains a solid choice, and it will be a completely functional headset for a while.
  • The resolution of the display – it is responsible for the quality of the graphics, as lower resolutions can cause image blurring. Although the high resolution of 2160 x 2160 per eye (HP Reverb G2) is what a gamer should aim for, Quest 2’s 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye resolution is also reasonable for low-entry gamers.
  • The level of comfort the headset provides – this is very important when gaming for long periods of time. Make sure the headset fits securely and comfortably, and check the weight distribution.
  • Audio – it is always convenient if the headset has built-in audio, especially if the audio quality is of great importance to the player.

Exercise

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or increase your overall fitness, a VR headset can help you do it. It allows you to participate in activities such as virtual hikes, yoga classes and simulated running, all from the comfort of your home.

Standalone headsets are way more convenient when used for working out. A higher resolution will make your virtual environment more immersive, although it’s not as significant as it is in the gaming experience. While a wider field of view will give you a greater sense of presence. Additionally, look for a headset with a comfortable fit, so that you can wear it for extended periods of time without disruptions.

Social life and work

There are many VR games and apps for socializing like VRChat, which allow the users to spend their time with friends in a virtual setting. Thanks to virtual reality apps like Horizon Workrooms, working remotely is much more convenient. Scheduling real-time office meetings and improving work effectiveness is easier. And all you need is a reliable VR headset, which doesn’t have to be that powerful or have very high resolution.

You’ll also need to consider whether the headset has built-in audio and microphone capabilities, which is convenient for work meetings and chatting with friends.

Lastly, research the available software and content to ensure the headset is able to provide the best experience for your needs.

Consider the different types of headsets

When shopping for a VR headset, you should consider the type of headset that best suits your needs.

Standalone VR headsets are cordless and can run on their own power, providing increased comfort and mobility for learners. Their greatest advantage is the freedom of movement and the lack of additional setup devices. However, they are less powerful compared to tethered headsets and thus not so convenient for advanced gamers. The best wireless headsets are the Oculus (Meta) Quest 2, Pico Neo 3 Pro, and VIVE Focus 3

Tethered VR headsets operate when connected to a PC through a cable connection and are more powerful than wireless VR headsets, providing higher-end graphics with real-time lighting and effects. Such headsets require additional devices like base stations and light boxes for tracking. Some of the best tethered VR headsets are the Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro2.

There are also console-based VR headsets like the PS VR ones, which require to be connected to a specific console in order to function.

If you’re a beginner in VR, standalone is the way to go – it’s cheaper, enables mobility, is easy to set up, and its use lays out the perfect learning foundation for any VR enthusiast.

But tethered headsets are more suitable for those who have the proper know-how regarding the use of the technology – they’re more powerful, propose better graphics audio, and can play all types of games.

Console-based headsets are only recommended for those who already own a console but keep in mind that those can cost just as much or even more than the console itself.

Read our detailed guide on the different types of VR headsets.

Hardware specs

The hardware specs of the VR headset determine the overall quality of the experience and affect the amount of time you would feel comfortable using the headset.

Display

When buying a VR headset, you should be aware of the three main types of display technology: LCD, OLED, and AMOLED.

  • LCDs are fast, with the capability of displaying up to 90 frames per second, but colors are washed out.
  • OLEDs are thin, generate their own light, and are ideal for VR applications.
  • AMOLEDs offer deep blacks and oversaturated colors, making them a popular choice for VR headset use.

OLED displays are considered the best for VR as they offer deeper blackness levels, which is essential due to the proximity of the wearer’s eyes to the screen. Moreover, OLED requires the least amount of energy, making it the perfect choice for wireless VR.

Resolution

The higher the resolution of the headset’s display, the better the image quality. Too low, and the viewer will see pixelation or the “screen door effect.” This effect is caused by gaps between pixels, making the display grainy and not as sharp if the resolution is not high enough.

Popular headsets such as the Meta Quest 2 have 1,920 by 3,664 pixels, while the highest resolution available is 4896 x 2448 pixels. If you’re after a crisp and clear display, look for a headset with a resolution as close to this as possible.

Field of view

Field of view (FOV) is the observable environment at any one time. Good-quality VR headsets have an FOV between 100° and 110°.

There are two types of FOV:

  • Monocular FOV is the view from the pupil to the side of the head.
  • Binocular FOV is the combined view of both eyes.

Humans usually have a total binocular FOV of 200°–220°. Consequently, wider FOV makes the VR experience more immersive.

FOV can be defined in three ways: horizontal or vertical, diagonal, and total binocular. The highest value is diagonal, which is usually the figure that VR headsets show.

Although a high FOV is important during gameplay, it doesn’t compromise the VR experience for remote work or social activities. Pro gamers who have enough financial resources would definitely invest in a headset like Pimax 8KX, which has a 200-degree FOV, the highest among all VR headsets.

Refresh rate

The refresh rate is measured in frames per second (fps) and should be at least 90 fps for an optimal experience. Higher refresh rates, such as 120 to 144 fps, provide an even more fluid and realistic experience. A low refresh rate can cause latency between frames, resulting in choppiness and motion sickness.

Keep in mind that mainly high-end and pro-gamer headsets have very high refresh rates. The new Meta Quest 3 is a complex and powerful standalone headset that has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, but that doesn’t compromise its overall performance.

Built-in audio

Having a good built-in audio setup in your headset will make your VR experience more enjoyable and realistic. So, make sure to check the audio quality and compatibility before making your purchase. Most headsets do have a 3.5 mm jack for headphones, which, though not optimal, still allows you to make use of what you already have.

Compatibility

It is very important to make sure your VR headset is compatible with your PC or console. Each headset has a list of required tech specs, which are mandatory for tethering. Also, some are designed for specific platforms, while others are compatible with multiple ones.

For headsets with a tethering option, your PC must meet the required minimal tech specs like processor, operating system, RAM, etc. The more advanced the headset is, the more powerful PC it would need in order to function optimally or at all. Consoles may also require a specific model. For example, PS VR2 can only be connected to the PlayStation 5.

We highly advise you to check the compatibility of the headset and the device you intend to use before purchasing a VR headset. If you don’t have a powerful PC and you’re a beginner in using VR, it’s best to opt for a standalone headset as you won’t have to connect it to anything in order to work.

Content accessibility

Choosing a VR headset with an extensive range of content ensures that your experience is both engaging and entertaining. Standalone headsets like the Quest 2 have access to both Meta’s game library and PC games when tethered with a Link Cable. This makes it ideal for those who want access to a variety of content. However, you should always check the available library of content before making your purchase.

Price

It’s also important to consider your budget when buying a VR headset, as they can range from affordable to high-end models. If you’re on a budget, the Meta Quest 2 Quest ($299) is a great choice. It provides an immersive experience without breaking the bank.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to invest more, the Valve Index ($999) is the most advanced and powerful headset available.

Keep in mind that you can find many headsets second-hand at a lower cost, which makes it even easier to purchase the desired product without putting a strain on your budget. But be careful where you find those deals and always opt for a testing period and return option.

Conclusion

Choosing the right VR headset doesn’t have to be a daunting task, especially if you know how to wish to make use of it. With the right research, you can find the headset that fits your needs and budget. After you sort your priorities, it will be easier to set yourself on a suitable headset.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Comfortable Is the Headset?

VR headsets are comfortable, thanks to the cushions that help reduce pressure and ensure the headset won’t slip or slide while in use. They also have adjustable straps that fit your head securely for a comfortable experience.

How Easy Is the Headset to Set Up?

It depends on the type – if it’s a standalone headset, it is ready for plug and play. However, tethered ones have base stations and light boxes for mounting.

What Is the Battery Life of the Headset?

It can vary, but typically you’ll find headsets with anywhere from 2-4 hours of battery life.

Is There a Warranty With the Headset?

Many headsets come with a guarantee, so be sure to look before you buy, as they tend to vary.

How Durable Is the Headset?

Although the external part of the headset – shield, padding, and straps are made to last, the cameras and the lenses are fragile.

Written By

Meet Zornitsa, our Content Manager, specializing in all things VR headsets and innovative VR use cases. With a passion for exploring the latest in virtual reality technology, Zornitsa is your trusted source for expert insights and informative content that will elevate your VR experience.

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