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Best VR headset 2017: The best PC, PS4 and mobile virtual-reality headsets money can buy

Expert Reviews logo Expert Reviews 14/03/2017 Vaughn Highfield

VR headsets finally became reality in 2016 when the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR made it to market after years in development. Now, a few months into 2017, virtual reality has proven itself to be more than just a flash in the pan – and the ever-growing market for smartphone VR headsets shows no signs of stopping either.

With so many VR headsets to choose from, it can be confusing to figure out what you should be looking for. Do you want a seated experience or a room-scale one? What is “room-scale” anyway, and can mobile-based VR headsets do that too? Here we’ll guide you through the buying process and let you know the best VR headset for you.

How to buy the best VR headset for you

How much space do I need to use a VR headset?

That depends. Mobile VR experiences can be had anywhere and only require you to find a seat to sit down on. Seated experiences require a little more room: Oculus Rift played with an Xbox Controller requires little more than a chair and PlayStation VR just needs you to sit at a comfortable distance from your TV – likely where you already sit when playing on your PlayStation. Standing and room-scale experiences do need more space. Oculus Rift played with its Oculus Touch controllers requires enough space to move your arms freely – around 2 x 2m, while the HTC Vive’s room-scale setup is best had at around 2.5 x 3m but a 4 x 4m space is recommended.

What is the cheapest way to get a VR experience?

That smartphone sitting in your pocket is the answer. Mobile VR headsets are powered by a smartphone slotted into a cardboard or plastic shell, and these use the processing power and display on your smartphone to power a basic VR experience. Due to the limitations of a smartphone’s graphical performance, most of these experiences are rudimentary and video-based, rather than completely interactive – although both Google Daydream View and Samsung Gear VR allow for more game-like experiences.

How much does a virtual-reality headset cost?

Prices for virtual-reality headsets vary greatly depending on what it is you want to buy. Google’s cheap and cheerful smartphone-powered Cardboard will set you back £20, whereas the mobile VR headset Samsung Gear VR costs £80. Moving into more premium devices, Sony’s PlayStation VR enters at the low end with a price tag of £350, while the HTC Vive sits at the top at £760.

What is room-scale VR?

Room-scale VR setups allow for free movement within a designated space, interacting with your virtual environment using hand-tracked controllers. You’ll need a fairly big room to create a room-scale setup, though, and you’ll need to make sure that the area is clear of potential hazards. If you’re thinking of setting up room-scale VR in your living room, for instance, you’ll want to remove anything that’s breakable, expensive or particularly pointy, as the likelihood of falling over things or smashing stuff while flailing around in VR is very high.

What can I actually use a virtual-reality headset for?

VR headsets are, currently, primarily focused on the games market over everything else. The only exception is that mobile VR tends to consist mainly of video-based content such as YouTube 360, or experiential VR video apps. Seated and room-scale VR setups, however, place game-like experiences first – currently, there isn’t the breadth of choice for video-based or more artistic experiences. In any case, content is still very limited in either camp.

Do I need a PC to use VR?

Not exclusively, no. Mobile VR headsets require a compatible smartphone, and the PlayStation VR is powered by either a PS4 or PS4 Pro. Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive both require a PC to run, and lesser-known devices such as Razer’s OSVR and the Fove VR headset also need a PC to work. Oculus Rift is also supported by the Xbox One (although currently it only generates a huge virtual flatscreen to play on; it doesn’t do “proper” VR). You’ll have to wait for the upcoming Xbox Project Scorpio before Microsoft dips its toes into real VR.

The best VR headsets you can buy in the UK right now

1. HTC Vive: The best VR headset for room-scale VR

Price when reviewed: £760

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

If you’re opting for a room-scale setup for your VR experience, you can’t do better than the HTC Vive. Right out of the box you get absolutely everything you need for room-scale VR, including two beacons that map out your play space, two spatially tracked controllers and the headset itself. The HTC Vive can also be used as a seated VR experience too, but it’s at its best when you’re not shackled to your seat.

Read our full review here

2. PlayStation VR: The best VR headset for gamers

Price when reviewed: £350

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

If games are your thing, you can’t do much better than the PlayStation VR. Anyone with a PlayStation 4 can pick one up and dive straight in, and Sony’s headset has a library full of brilliantly fun VR games that offer up short bursts of fun or perfect lengthy playthroughs. It’s also the only way to scare yourself silly with Resident Evil 7 in VR. It’s certainly not the most feature-filled headset on the market – especially compared to the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift – but with almost one million sales in its opening months, Sony has clearly got the price-to-performance ratio almost perfect.

Read our full review here

3. Oculus Rift: The best VR headset all-rounder

Price when reviewed: £598

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

Oculus Rift may have been the headset that started off the VR craze, but it’s oddly not the best on the market. Instead, it’s an excellent all-rounder. If you want a straightforward seated VR experience, the Rift is fantastic. Pick up a pair of Oculus Touch (at extra cost) and you’ll have even more interactivity in your games. Snap up an extra camera, and you’ll be able to have a room-scale VR experience akin to the HTC Vive. Its room-scale setup may still be in its early stages, but the Rift gives you the flexibility to build a VR setup that works best for you.

Here’s everything you need to know about Oculus Rift

4. Samsung Gear VR: The best VR headset for Android users

Price: £79

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

If you don’t happen to have a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S7, S7 Edge or a Note 5 in your pocket, this Android VR headset isn’t for you – Samsung’s second-generation Gear VR only supports Samsung’s own phones. Still, for the millions of Samsung phone owners out there, the Gear VR is a fun way of dabbling with basic VR apps. Using the Galaxy’s sharp display, accelerometers and processing power – complete with Oculus VR-made lenses and integrated navigational touchpad – the Samsung Gear VR offers up unrivalled mobile VR experiences such as games, videos and Facebook-style 360-degree images.

Read our full review here

5. Homido VR V2: The best VR headset for iOS users

Price: £50

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

VR experiences on iOS are, unfortunately, a rather rare occurrence. Short of YouTube 360 videos, Facebook panoramas and some bespoke VR content through certain apps, there’s not an awful lot you can do on iOS. If you want to experience VR on Apple’s smartphone, but don’t like the idea of Google Cardboard, the Homido VR V2 is an excellent choice. Its frame is big enough to accommodate the iPhone 7 Plus, and it comes with a 100-degree field of view, focal point adjustments, comfortable face padding and a secure and sturdy three-point headband to keep it on your face. It also comes with its own app packed with VR content to use and it’s compatible with Android devices too.

Best VR headset 2017: The best PC, PS4 and mobile virtual-reality headsets money can buy © Expert Reviews Best VR headset 2017: The best PC, PS4 and mobile virtual-reality headsets money can buy

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