After several hours of research, I established my selection of the best VR headsets currently on the market.
Headset for smartphone, headset for console, independent headsets or headphones, I tried to find something for all tastes. Nevertheless, the best quality/price ratio of the moment remains very probably the inevitable Oculus Rift.
I invite you to consult my purchase guide at the end of the article to determine the issues of virtual reality and the headset that will meet your expectations.
The best cheap VR headsets
In this price range, I could offer you two headsets for smartphone. I tried to select only models that offered good comfort, good ergonomics, quality lenses, and a variety of interesting games.
Samsung Gear VR : the best cheap
- Good immersion
- One of the best controllers
- More and more applications. Access to the Oculus Store
- Lack of compatibility
At the end of 2015, the Samsung Gear VR, the result of Samsung’s collaboration with Gear VR, launched the virtual reality market for smartphones.
But its supremacy is disputed: in fact, the Samsung Gear VR is only compatible with Samsung smartphones … And still, not all! The version I propose is one of the most complete, since it is compatible with Galaxy S6 / S6 edge / S7 / S7edge / S8 / S8 plus / S9 plus, Note 8 and A8.
As a result, users of other smartphones have claimed their share of the cake, which has stimulated competition … But still, from a technical point of view, Samsung’s VR headsets remain among the best. In short, if you have a Samsung Galaxy, it’s a must.
The strength of this headset is that the power and resolution of the Galaxy coupled with the quality of VR makes it a competitor of models (without smartphones) at a much higher price. It comes with a remote control directly inspired by the first controller HTC Vive – it’s a good point – with a sensitive and solid joystick and a good grip. The pairing of the remote control and smartphone via Bluetooth, it is a child’s simplicity.
Let’s talk about design – and there is more to it. More bulky and heavier than the Daydream that I present to you a little further, it remains very comfortable to wear. It can be adjusted in one motion and the foam pads are very comfortable.
This headset also has a USB-C port for charging and connecting to your phone – a big improvement over the micro-USB.
On the top of the helmet is the lens adjustment ring. These are very good quality. Add to that the resolution 2.560 x 1.440, become standard on the Galaxy, and it’s simply unbeatable for this price range.
If, to date, the number of VR applications is greater on Google models than Samsung, the brand is catching up on this subject. You should be able to enjoy it for (very) many hours.
Google Daydream View 2017 : the new Google VR headset version 2017
- Excellent design
- Large area of lenses
- Smartphone room not perfectly closed
Aesthetically, Daydream View is a favorite. Its design is more than neat, with a heather fabric coating available in several colors. The parts in contact with the face are padded, and it is placed on the head thanks to a fairly comfortable adjustable elastic band.
It comes with a small remote – and that’s the most. Other VR headsets have made the choice to place the controls on the device itself. But there is nothing like the pleasure of really reaching out to shoot or cast a spell. She is small, minimalist, super-design. A small sensitive pad acts as a joystick.
The room in which the phone is placed closes with a simple little lace. If one can be dubious, in the first place, faced with such a system, it is quickly realized that a discreet rubber coating can perfectly maintain the smartphone in place. And while it is compatible with many models, it does not detract from stability.
The lens space is large enough for eyeglass wearers. It is therefore quite comfortable to wear, except that, like many of these devices, it leaves a red mark on the forehead and cheeks. No way to make a small part discreetly in your room while you are supposed to review your exams, otherwise you would get caught quickly!
A downside however: unlike its competitors in terms of VR for smartphones, the smartphone room is not perfectly closed. With the shutters open, there is therefore light leaks of light that come to highlight small dust or fingerprints on the phone screen.
Once again, the Daydream app gives you access to a growing range of apps and games, including the Netflix VR and YouTube VR apps.
The best mid-range VR headsets
On the menu, the first independent headsets of the selection, as well as the famous console headset from Sony.
Oculus Go : the best mid-range
- Quality components
- Rift inspired design
- Very comfortable
- Gap under the space of the nose that lets the light filter
- Disappointing autonomy
With the Oculus Go, released this year 2018, Oculus has produced its first autonomous helmet. Designed in consultation with the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi, it does not require a PC, smartphone or any external box except during its installation.
It also wants easy and intuitive: we download the application on his smartphone, and it guides us step by step to configure the headset and connect to WiFi. Everything is really user friendly .
Autonomous says integration of a whole series of components. With its Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC processor, 6 GB of RAM, internal memory (here 64 GB but there is a 32 GB version), and its 2560 x 1440 LCD screen with a 110 ° field of view, we can say that he has some in his belly. And yet, it does not even heat (unlike the two models that I have proposed above).
Level design, it is reminiscent of the excellent Rift: sober and elegant look, front facing everything in curves, no mistimed LED display or other colorful assets generally present on everything that is dedicated to gaming, …
According to users, it would be one of the most comfortable on the market, thanks to its flexible attachment system that allows adaptation to any morphology, and thanks to its antiperspirant coating around the eyes. Glasses wearers will also experience no discomfort, given the space allocated, and even if that was not enough, they can increase the gap between the lenses of the helmet and eyes with a gadget directly supplied to the eye. ‘purchase.
There is only one point that could be blamed on this level: there is a slight gap under the space of the nose, which allows the light to filter. Some users believe that it is a total immersion, while others say it is not a problem and that, on the contrary, it allows even a quick glance at the real world when needed.
Of course, as it is a standalone headset, everything is set via the headset itself or the supplied remote control. It has a trigger, a touch-sensitive surface, a “Back” button and a “Home” button. In addition, via a long press on the “Home” button, you can refocus the camera.
The rest is found on the same headset: power button and volume button at the top, left headphone jack. Note that the headset has two speakers but, given the quality of listening barely correct, the use of a headset will be more than welcome.
Level immersion quality, we find ourselves facing something that is closer to the Gear VR than the Rift (well, it was to be expected at this price): there is no possibility of deep play, the control only works on 4 axes, and therefore immersion can not be total. It is nevertheless very satisfactory in this price range.
Honestly, this is probably one of the best quality / price of the moment, with a headset that focuses on immediacy and comfort of use. Two criticisms can however be addressed to him: on the one hand, Oculus did not allow any expansion of memory. If you opt for the 32 GB model – cheaper – it’s a safe bet that you quickly run out of space. secondly, the autonomy is disappointing: you can count on only 2 to 3 hours of use, while a full recharge takes 3 hours. There is a famous improvement niche for Oculus but, apart from that, it is an excellent choice for those who want to discover the potential of virtual reality.
Playstation VR : an excellent VR headset for the Sony console
- Futuristic design
- Easy to install
- Angle of vision is limited to 100 °
If, originally, this VR specially designed for Playstation stood out for its attractive price, but to which it was necessary to add the purchase of the primordial “accessories” that are Playstation Move (which act as a kinectic joystick) and the PS camera , which quickly pushed up the bill, there are now packs containing all the accessories at a price remaining democratic.
When he left, he was one of the most acclaimed helmets, and that’s still the case two years later. What makes him one of the best VR helmets?
Let’s talk about design and ergonomics first. The weight is a bit higher than HTC Vive (610 grams) but seems better distributed. Indeed, some of the electronic components migrate behind the head, comfortably balancing the weight between the front and the back. The design is very “Sony”: black and white, futuristic, with a side Mass Effect that I appreciate quite well.
The settings are complete, so that the wear remains a real pleasure. The installation, very intuitive, usually takes no more than 5 minutes for everything to be perfectly adjusted. It is probably, despite this, the most comfortable of the category of independent VR.
As with the HTC Vive, you have to connect the headset and the console to a relay box. This serves both as a link with the Playstation and power source for the headset. The camera, meanwhile, connects directly to the console.
However, the definition displayed for each eye is only 960 × 1080. It seems little. So, what does it give in real life? In fact, Sony has done a lot of DIY.
On the one hand, they did a manipulation, called “reprojection”, which doubles the refresh rate, and that’s a good point. The problem with VR is that all visual performance needs to be doubled. With games at 60fps, the rendering is 30 per eye. In total immersion, and so close to the screen, one can be subject to nausea or ophthalmic migraines. Sony boasts of reaching 120 fps thanks to a record refresh rate of 120 Hz. And it is true that, thanks to their manipulation, the effect is rather convincing.
On the other hand, the angle of vision is limited to 100 °, while the human eye perceives an average of 110. Some may feel an embarrassment, as a blocking effect in their peripheral vision, which will remind them that they wear a helmet.
I am now going to a point that will please the lawyers of the almighty PC. If VR headsets for PCs are greedy graphics card, the result in quality of textures and movement is at the rendezvous. Now, take the graphics performance of a Playstation – which are not bad – far from it – but do not compete with those of a good PC – and divide them by two.
It must be honest, the result is not very beautiful. The monsters of Resident Evil 7, stuffed with textures and details on PC, are a little figurine plastic. The skin of the characters is waxy, and the textures suffer a little aliasing.
My verdict? The ergonomics are impeccable. Optimizing the image really does its best. The problem is perhaps the Playstation itself, a little limited for one of the most greedy technologies of the moment.
The best high-end VR headsets
In this last section, I present you two helmets which, despite their age, remain the emblematic figures of the VR movement, still unmatched at the moment.
Oculus Rift : the best upscale
- Good image quality
- Immersive experience convincing
- Good audio quality
- Maybe a heavy nothing
Launched in 2016, the VR helmet co-developed by Facebook had made a great noise, to the point that “VR helmet” would almost become synonymous with “Oculus Rift”. Surrounded by a battery of accessories rather nice, and given the considerable decline in its price in recent months, it continues to continue to wreak havoc, to easily keep first place in my ranking.
The Oculus Rift comes with an imposing but comfortable helmet, which is held on top of the skull thanks to a second elastic headband. There is also a pair of headphones attached to the helmet for total immersion. In this special pack, we also have two Oculus Touch controllers.
The set gives a direct impression of power … Which will be even more true given the technical constraints it embeds. So, to make it run on your PC and have a good rendering of 1080 x 1200 (per eye!), You will need what was the top of the top in terms of gaming in 2016. Namely 8 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GTX970 or higher or an AMD Radeon 280 in graphics card. It also takes a processor powerful enough to handle this additional device, at least an Intel i3-6500, ideally an i5-4590. Honestly, if it was very heavy when it came out, it is still quite rare at the moment to meet a less efficient PC, unless you are really going to hit the low prices.
And if you do the right thing and you are well equipped, the experience is worth the cost. In addition to lenses, the screen inside the device is slightly curved, which also covers peripheral vision. And this, much better than the headphones for smartphone or even the Playstation VR.
You’ve probably seen these videos of people panicking because they see themselves falling into virtual reality. That’s the level of immersion that the Oculus Rift offers.
To install it, just plug it into HDMI to your computer. You will also find two USB cables to connect the sensors and the headset to two USB 3.0 ports on your PC or XBOX. For XBOX users, do not forget to download the XBOX Stream App.
By putting on the helmet, you can see that it is rather comfortable, with its fairly dense foam, and that even if it weighs a certain weight, nothing uncomfortable is manifested over time. You can adjust the length of elastics with a Velcro, so that it fits all.
The small audio device is really well thought out: it can be tilted to position it on the ears. The sound is in 3D stereo to enhance immersion. But you can also disassemble them and plug in your own headphones.
The design of the controllers is often appreciated, to the point that HTC copied thereafter. The hands slip into the motion sensors, and the buttons are well placed. Both hands then appear in play. The measured latency is 4 tenths of a second, which is a little bit long. But we do it.
A series of sensors put the device on standby when removed. These same sensors provide a measure of movement really at the top.
In the end, the Oculus Rift is certainly not perfect, but it offers a very compelling virtual reality experience. And if the HTC Vive, which I’m talking to you soon after, is even better on some points, it clearly has the advantage of being offered at a much more affordable price!
HTC VIVE : the most immersive headset
- The best immersion
- Accuracy of motion recognition
- Not the most comfortable
- Annoying cables
The HTC Vive probably provides the best VR experience available on the market. And for good reason, two giants worked together on its realization: HTC and Valve.
This is undoubtedly the most successful VR helmet model. And at the same time, its price is simply terrifying. For almost double the price of the Oculus Rift, does the HTC Vive provide double the performance?
A small tour of the included material is required. In the pack that I propose, there are two HTC controllers, all the necessary connectors and two infrared sensors to record your movements in the room.
The HTC Vive is different from the Oculus Rift in that it is a mobile headset. If, with the Oculus, you stay still and move around via the controller, the HTC offers the ability to move through space. The minimum required is at least 8m² of space free from obstacles, furniture and – some have found out at their expense – carpets.
The helmet itself offers a slightly higher visual performance than the Oculus Rift. If the resolution per eye is the same (1080 x 1200), the field of view is 110 °, or within 10 degrees better coverage of peripheral vision than the Oculus. The refresh rate is 90 Hz, as for its competitor.
And the PC performance required? They go up a notch. At least, it will require a GTX 970 graphics card or an AMD 290 – but these performances are not optimal – and an i5-4590 processor or AMD FX 8350. Just to run the HTC Vive, it will take 4GB of RAM, but 16GB of RAM is highly recommended.
Let’s talk ergonomics. This is one of the heaviest VR headsets on the market, weighing 600 grams. The weight is mainly concentrated at the level of the screens, which unbalances a little the whole. The HTC Vive is not the most comfortable, especially since the foam around the eyes is permeable and keeps it warm. For a technology that gives cold sweats, it is quickly a problem of hygiene …
The joysticks, they are the most accomplished that exist. Suitable for right-handed and left-handed users, they feature a touch and click pad and a trigger.
Setting up is confusing with ease. Just plug the two infrared sensors into power on either side of the room, then connect the various cables (HDMI, power supply and USB) to a box. It greatly simplifies the connection to the PC, especially since the lengths are comfortable.
The HTC Vive then makes you go through a series of calibrations – detection of the floor, the walls and the play area – and off you go. The experience is indeed one of the most immersive in terms of virtual reality.
Three points are however often pointed out. The first is that we are still with many cables on the ground, and that for a VR headset that is mobile, it is quickly problematic. The second is that, outside the arcade, it is wrong to allocate 8 m² of empty space to this activity alone. Finally, the weight of the device makes the experience quite tiring over time.
Pity ! No migraines, no blurs, perfect 3D calibration. But it is the physical aspects of the device that end up fatiguing. Do you have to shell out almost 900$ to get this gem of virtual reality? It’s up to everyone to judge.
How to choose VR headset?
If the concept of virtual reality is not new, it has gained new acclaim on the market in recent years.
Thanks to this technology, the different manufacturers allow us to live an experience where our brain is literally fooled to plunge us into a world apart where experiments are potentially limitless (I myself tested a jump from a building of 100 floors … It’s cold in the back and we get nauseated!).
The type of VR headset
If the basic principle remains the same (technical point of view, we observe a screen through a lens and a calculation is made either by the helmet itself or by the machine to which it is connected to make us live this immersive experience ), different types of VR headsets exist.
The VR headset for smartphone
VR headsets for smartphones do not offer the same freedom of use as full virtual reality stations. But they are a low-budget option very practical to discover a little this technology without necessarily spending a fortune.
The concept is simple: you install a virtual reality mobile application on your smartphone and place it inside the glasses. Lenses do the rest to give an impression of depth, filter the lighting and produce the desired effect.
If you are far from complete Oculus Rift helmets, the result can be surprising. The quality of the image depends, of course, on the resolution of your phone. The experience is not ideal in Full HD but 4K is sometimes a real pleasure.
The advantage is that we find at all prices, the most basic model and the cheapest is the Google Cardboard . I did not include it in my comparison because, honestly, it’s a little cheap and the denomination of virtual reality is debatable, but it is nevertheless a nice Christmas gift idea and ultra-economical.
The independent VR headset
These are the first VR headsets on the market. The main difference with a smartphone headset is the presence of a picture feedback from your PC inside the headset. Of course, this characteristic has an influence on the price: it is difficult to find less than 340$ that really hold the road.
The VR headset for console
The two major consoles (Playstation and XBOX) were soon interested in the vein of virtual reality. If XBOX has made the bet to rely on the Oculus Rift, Sony has developed its own helmet.
The autonomous VR headset
They were mainly born in 2018, and are considered the future of virtual reality.
As their name suggests, these are headphones that operate without cables or smartphones, to provide freedom of movement to improve the user’s comfort, without breaking the immersive experience.
The challenge is to develop technologies that provide an immersive image quality and experience that is at least comparable to an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but does not go into a crippling budget.
Everyone is differently sensitive to the effects of virtual reality. It’s the same with 3D, or the rainbow effect of video projectors. The phenomenon is a bit unpredictable and often not fully solved by the builders. For my part, I tend to become nauseous when I use a VR headset.
The important thing is the ability to adjust the distance between the eyes and the screen, a resolution at least Full HD and a sufficient refresh rate. 30 fps per eye, it is not enough to avoid the effect of saccade, unmissable when you are so close to the visual support.
Many users are wondering about the usefulness of a VR headset, bringing it back to the status of high tech gadget. They are not completely wrong, but they are not right either.
Virtual reality – and augmented – has been groping a lot in recent years. The episode of Google Glass had a cold on the industry. But today many domains are beginning to use virtual reality.
YouTube supports 360-degree videos since 2016, and encourages its creators to try the format. Hollywood is working on film projects in virtual reality, but at the same time we already have access to a lot of media of this type. Netflix, for example, has made a selection of accessible virtual reality concerts.
Of course, there is also the world of video games. While the FPS easily fit into the VR model, other genres are following. Minecraft in virtual reality? Already done. And many other puzzle and construction designs whose immersion has been greatly enhanced by this new technology.
And it is this software development that also opens the way to the artistic world. There are several areas that focus on: architecture, graphic and digital arts, interior design, design, 3D creation in general and even animation.
Google is still working today on a VR project to visit Mars, Paris, the Amazonian jungle or the Mariana Trench.
The fields of education are not left behind, with several projects of major French publishing houses to develop VR friendly software . The idea? Explore the visual learning opportunities offered by this technology.