With new high-profile VR game releases like Half-Life: Alyx and Microsoft Flight Simulator, frequent price drops making headsets more affordable, and heightened interest among investors for education-focused VR initiatives, there’s never been a better time to jump into the world of virtual reality – whether as a medium for learning, or simply a new gaming or entertainment device. But with dozens of competing headsets available on the market, getting started can feel a bit overwhelming – which is exactly why we’ve put together today’s roundup of the 2020 virtual reality hardware landscape. Whether you’re seeking a state of the art VR setup, or simply hoping to try the technology as inexpensively as possible, we’ve got recommendations for users of all budgets and hardware setups – oh, and be sure to give us a shoutout on Facebook or Twitter if you found our article to be helpful!
Kicking off today’s list are a selection of low-cost headsets which offer limited movement tracking features and reduced graphical fidelity when compared to more expensive premium VR devices, but nonetheless are still perfectly acceptable (and affordable!) ways to dive into the world of virtual reality.
Devices in our entry-level category include the iconic (and $15!) Google Cardboard, a smartphone-powered solution which enables users to access hundreds of simple VR experiences, including Google’s classroom-focused Expeditions suite! Also of note for owners of the Nintendo Switch game console is Nintendo Labo VR, another cardboard-based product which transforms your undocked Switch console into a VR gaming and creation toolkit. And finally, the most high-end of the entry-level devices on our list today is the Oculus Go – a portable, all-in-one headset designed primarily with video consumption in mind. Folks interested in an inexpensive inroad to the world of VR can’t go wrong with any of the products in our entry-level category – however, those seeking features like room-scale tracking and access to graphically-intensive experiences like Beat Saber and Job Simulator will instead need to seek out a more premium VR hardware setup.
A significant step up in both price and power, devices in this category offer users the full-fledged VR experience – high-resolution displays, 6DoF positional tracking, and access to a growing library of games and experiences. Rather than the standalone devices highlighted in our next section, these headsets must be tethered to a VR-ready PC or game console in order to function – and while this does mean you won’t be able to easily take these devices on the go, in exchange you gain access to an expansive selection of VR apps available on storefronts like Steam, the Oculus Store, and the Playstation Store.
Within this category, there are no shortage of devices to choose from – Sony Playstation 4 owners will surely want to check out Playstation VR, which offers an unbeatable lineup of exclusive games like 3D platformer AstroBot: Rescue Mission and modern horror masterpiece Resident Evil 7. Folks who already have (or plan to acquire) a VR-ready PC, on the other hand, can pick from a selection of options ranging from Microsoft’s budget-friendly line of Windows Mixed Reality headsets, to the tried and true Oculus Rift and HTC Vive family of devices, and even Valve’s Index headset, which offers a state of the art VR experience for a best-in-class price point of $999.00.
Premium (Standalone – No PC/Console Required)
Unlike the PC/console-tethered devices highlighted in the previous section, standalone headsets offer users a true all-in-one VR experience – meaning that no external hardware is needed to play. This makes standalone devices perfect for folks who want access to high-quality VR games and experiences, but don’t want to invest in an expensive gaming console or PC alongside their headset purchase. Oh, and VR on the go, anyone!?
At time of writing, one device reigns supreme in this category: the Oculus Quest. A future-facing all-in-one headset powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor (the same processor powering high-end Android devices like the Samsung galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2), the Oculus Quest offers users access to a huge library of VR applications anywhere, anytime – until your device’s battery runs out, of course! And better yet, the Oculus Quest also offers PC connectivity, allowing users to plug their device into a gaming PC using an Oculus Link cable and access Rift games and experiences on their Quest – giving the device additional utility for folks who already own a VR-ready PC.
More virtual reality insights from the Filament Games blog: