Let me gaze deeply into a crystal ball: You want to buy yourself a VR headset and don’t know which one. You have read a lot of reviews and comparisons. But I can tell you they are missing some fundamental facts for your particular case.
If you look for comparisons or reviews of VR headsets on Youtube and Google, you will get dozens, if not hundreds of videos that compare the pros and cons of the different headsets in their studios. They deal with resolution, performance, and other hard facts. But most likely, this doesn’t give you the big picture.
You will rarely find someone who tells you which headset is suitable for you if you have a room with a window heading west where you get up to 30°C (86 °F) in the afternoon. Or if you have only 1m² (10 ft²) in front of your desk. Or if you have high cheekbones. All in all – If you don’t have the perfect preconditions for VR.
I am a VR enthusiast since I noticed the Oculus for the very first time back in the days. I knew, sometimes I have to have one. A little short on the money, my VR adventure started in 2017 when the Oculus Rift CV1 was on sale.
I owned a couple of the most popular VR headsets until now: Oculus Rift CV1, Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, and the Valve Index. I would suggest we do it that way: I tell you what I experience with the different headset, and in the end, I give you a recommendation which you can either follow or not.
Oculus Rift CV1 (CV = Consumer Version)
The CV1 is outdated. I include it in this post for the sake of completeness. Besides the low resolution, it has great speakers and is pretty comfortable, it is still an excellent headset, and if you want to spend only a little money, it is worth it.
A downside is the three IR-sensors that you had to place in your room to get the 360° tracking. The must be connected via USB with your PC and must be positioned around you.
The most important aspects first: You can play either in stand-alone mode or connected to a PC as a “normal” headset. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help you when you don’t have enough space to use that freedom. I have only a little space, and so it isn’t that helpful.
To cut a long story short: It was disappointing. A lot of people praise it to the skies. I can’t agree. From the facts, the Quest is excellent: The resolution is high, it is an OLED display, and to me the sound is acceptable. You can use it both stand-alone and connected to the PC. Sounds good, doesn’t it? There are two relevant downsides.
- The Quest is weighty at the front, and the strap is a cheap solution. That makes the headset lying on your cheekbones what is going to be very uncomfortable after a couple of minutes.
- The lenses are relatively far away from your eyes, which significantly reduces the FoV.
- It has a refresh rate of 72 Hz, which is the lowest of all headsets. Some people recognize it, some not – So I would call it half a problem 🙂
To fix 1. there is a solution which is called Frankenquest. You exchange the strap with another one which contains much better speakers. Now the weight is evenly spread over the head. But now it is even more massive.
For many testers, it is the Holy Grail among VR headsets. Don’t get me wrong – The Index is great! It has a wider FoV than its competitors (Except the headsets from Pimax, but their large FoV comes by the cost of substantial distortions and a higher price), absolutely great speakers and impressive displays. There is almost no screendoor effect anymore. When I used it for a while, it was mind-blowing. Not to forget are the Index controllers which support tracking for every single finger. But there is a price for that awesomeness:
- It’s almost the most expensive headset. In Germany, it comes to a total of €1079 in Germany and $999 in the US.
- It is quite massive. Many people call it one of the most comfortable headsets they know – At least for my skull, I cannot agree. It is heavy and somewhat front-heavy.
- You have to place at least two so-called base stations for the Lighthouse tracking, which need to be connected to an outlet.
- It gets warm. Not a little but remarkably warm. I don’t know why this is barely mentioned. It got so warm that the sweat ran down my face. That was the reason why I returned it. If you start sweating quickly, forget about the Index.
- God rays from hell. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen that before. I don’t know why such a great product has such a deficiency.
Oculus Rift S
It is as expensive as the Oculus Quest (€450 resp. $399) and very comfortable due to its halo design, which spreads the weight evenly. Another great functionality is that you can move the headset away from your eyes a little bit. When you need to check something quickly, you don’t need to take off the whole headset. It’s very lightweight. The displays are fine, and as the Oculus Quest, you get inside-out tracking. That means you don’t need any external sensors. As the Oculus Quest, it is shipped with the touch controllers that haven proven successful. But like the others, it has its disadvantages.
- Poor speakers. For me, it is acceptable, but many people mention them for a good reason.
- There is no IPD adjustment. If you don’t have an average eye distance, you could get a blurry image.
What about Windows Mixed Reality, Pimax & Co?
They are not part of this comparison because I wanted to show the most popular headsets on the market at the moment.
Oculus Rift S. To me, it is the best package. But as the headline says – It is a subjective rating.
- It is well-priced
- unlike the Quest, it is very lightweight and due to its halo design very comfortable
- The halo ring doesn’t cover too much of your head. So sweating is not such a problem
- The lenses stay cool – As I wrote, to me on the Valve Index that became a problem quickly
- The displays are state of the art
- You get the touch controllers
- Inside-out tracking. You can use it out-of-the-box – Not sensor placing needed
But there are some limitations:
- If you want to play Playstation games in VR, you need a PSVR set – make an educated guess 🙂
- If you don’t have a computer that has enough power to run games in VR, at the moment, there is no option than the Oculus Quest
Why not the Valve Index? It is more than twice as expensive of a Rift S, and even if this would not be a problem: Think about the heat. If you tend to sweat quickly, you won’t have much fun.
If you have any further questions or feedback, feel free to write a comment. I hope I could help you besides the hard facts and give you an orientation on what you should keep in mind. Thanks for reading, and see you next time.