In depth: Cheap versus premium VR headsets
VR headsets are everywhere – from the cheapest to the most premium of premium kinds. These VR headsets fall into two categories: cheap and premium. Take note that the word “cheap” does not refer to low-quality VR headsets, but pertains to the least expensive end of the price spectrum. Many VR headsets today are the brainchild of third-party hardware developers that took their brightest imaginations on virtual reality and turned into projects that tech crowds are more than happy to fund and support. Cheap VR headsets are often associated with the openness and fun vibe of its intended use.
On the other hand, premium VR headsets are packed to the brim – they are sitting on the farthest and highest end of the price range. Along with the high price associated with them are the key advantages that these premium VR headsets have in contrast to the low-end and the mid-range VR gear in the market. From the coolest features, to the most technologically advanced specifications, premium VR headsets speak of cutting-edge technology and live up to the expectations. VR headsets of this kind include the Oculus Rift, Sony Project Morpheus, and the HTC Vive, not to mention other key names in high-end VR. Premium VR is often associated with the greatest immersion on virtual content – it’s the perk that you get for the price you pay.
All VR headsets, whether the most expensive or the most affordable, carry one principle: to provide a fun, immersive, and realistic virtual reality experience every single time. But there are certain features that make them stand out from the rest, or just makes them unique and fun to use. Let’s take a look at the features of VR headsets in the market today and the differences between cheap and premium ones.
Google Cardboard is the best example of what a cheap and affordable VR headset should be. It has all the basics for getting into VR for the first time – without breaking the bank. All you need is a smartphone, and the Cardboard kit itself to experience VR. It is, in fact, staying on the “fun” side of the VR headset spectrum because of its price-to-features ratio as well as the fun experience of assembling it from scratch (if you do the DIY way). Similar VR headsets to the Cardboard are the Samsung Gear VR, Homido, Zeiss VR One, and all the similar crowdfunded VR projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Being made by Google, the Cardboard’s smartphone compatibility is only restricted to Android smartphones, which can be a bummer for iOS fans out there who wants to try out Cardboard. Fortunately, there are other VR headsets such as the Zeiss VR One which is compatible with iPhones and Android smartphones to give affordable VR experiences for everyone.
Using a cheap VR headset also has its drawbacks. First, the immersion factor isn’t that great on cheap VR. VR headsets like Cardboard is restricted to the smartphone’s hardware capabilities to render virtual content, which can be a factor for a less immersive experience. Comfort and ergonomics is also a concern with cheap VR headsets. To lower costs, many ergonomic features are left out in favor of other features. Nonetheless, cheap VR is always cheap – for the price, you get what you pay and then some.
On the other side of the VR spectrum lies the premium VR headsets, going by the names of the Oculus Rift and its contemporaries like the HTC Vive and Razer’s OSVR. They are the most feature-packed, most immersive, most everything. As of now, these VR headsets are far from mainstream production as they are being developed. Their continuous development is to further refine the VR experience with these headsets towards perfection. With the estimated price to be associated with these VR headsets, its users only deserve the very best VR experiences the naked eye has ever seen.
The Oculus Rift started as a Kickstarter project and had skyrocketed its development thanks to Facebook’s buyout. The VR industry think tanks say that the Rift will be the benchmark for the future of VR. Its features include a wide compatibility with third-party applications and hardware, and fully immersive VR experiences thanks to its enclosed hardware construction which doesn’t allow any ambient light to pass through the user’s field of vision. Some of the VR projects like haptics hardware, omnidirectional treadmills, and stationary bikes all make use of the Oculus Rift because of its wide compatibility and great set of features.
Contemporaries of the Oculus Rift include the Vive headset, which is made by HTC’s partnership with Valve, and the Razer OSVR. They share similar features, but with different target audiences. The HTC Vive is optimized for gaming applications since it’s developed with Valve in mind. The Razer OSVR is an open-source VR headset that any developer can use to develop customized VR experiences. All these premium VR headsets are only available as a developer edition, but you can get one for yourself if you want to get your hands (and eyes) early on these VR headsets. For the relatively high price you pay, you get a set of premium VR features that won’t get obsolete for years to come.
Cardboard is great for trying VR for the first time. The Oculus Rift offers a great VR experience, even in its developing phase. Whether it’s cheap or the high-end ones, you can’t go wrong either way. VR headsets are very forgiving when it comes to features. Both kinds offer amazing VR experiences, but if you need to have all the bells and whistles, premium VR is the way to go.