Cheap Virtual Reality Headsets Are Now a Reality, but Are They Worth the $20?

by Christy Roland    11.13.2018 07:16 PM
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This is a guest blog post written by a third party. The views expressed in this presentation do not necessarily reflect the views of AT&T.

By Joe Bardi, Senior Content Strategist for Marxent

man wearing VR headset in store

The cost of virtual reality (VR) headsets keeps dropping as more companies bring creative designs to the market. Two years ago, VR early adopters were faced with limited choices. The HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift occupied the high end of the market for head mounted displays (HMD), requiring expensive computer rigs and some level of technical expertise to operate. At the bottom end of the market were cheap virtual reality headsets like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, both of which offered stripped-down VR experiences. The former could cost more than $2,000 to get up and running, while the latter was often handed out free at trade shows or with a new cell phone purchase.

However, times have changed, and there are a wealth of inexpensive VR headset options now available to the public or on the way. And, as these technological advances transform the VR landscape, the value, price, required tech, and consumer expectations concerning all this newly accessible hardware are changing too.

Part of what’s driving down the cost of VR is the sheer number of companies attempting to get into the space. In addition to those innovative manufacturers—like HTC, Facebook, and Sony — who entered the VR headset arena early, traditional PC manufacturers, such as Dell, Acer, and HP are now offering the hardware as well. Google and Apple have both invested heavily in the space (though of the two, only Google has a product to show). And, as concerns emerge regarding the preservation of market share, even companies like Mattel and Disney are getting in on the HMD action.

A common assumption among VR newbies is that they need to have a powerful computer before even considering an HMD. While it’s true that high-end VR headsets like the Vive and the Rift do require high-performance “gaming” PCs in order to run VR effectively, consumer options in the space are changing. Sony’s PSVR, for instance, requires only a Playstation 4 gaming console (not a computer), shaving quite a bit off the price of entry.

At the very low end of the market are HMDs like the Archos VR glasses, Mattel’s View-Master VR, and the Fiit VR 2S, all of which require a smartphone running Android or iOS. Occupying the middle ground are a new generation of devices led by Facebook’s Oculus Go and Lenovo’s Mirage Solo. Both products are stand-alone devices that keep prices down by finding a compromise between cutting-edge graphics and an enjoyable, tether-free experience.

As these companies and others continue to look for the right mix to take VR headsets mainstream, they keep experimenting with materials, processing power, and feature sets. Materials can include different types of plastic, foam, rubber, and accents (like leather), each of which can radically change the quality of the build. It’s safe to say that, for the time being, the look and feel of the VR HMD remains fluid.

VR headsets all come with the ability to view a computer-generated world though the device. Beyond that characteristic though, functionality varies wildly. Top of the line headsets may include location tracking, stereo sound, higher-quality optics, a wider field of views, and more processing power. Manufacturers of the current generation of wireless headsets often build VR HMDs with chips originally intended for cell phones, which means the devices draw less power but deliver lower-quality graphics.

Businesses are leaning toward full-featured HMDs, like the HTC Vive, for in-store installations like the Macy’s VR Showroom, which rolled out nationwide this year. For consumers, it is currently the PSVR that possesses the most appeal. Sony holds this distinction for two reasons: one, it has a lower cost of entry; two, the company has an already-existing user base of 10s of millions of Playstation owners who need only the HMD to get into the virtual world.

In conclusion, there is no shortage of options for anyone in the market for a VR HMD — whether they’re looking for a cheap VR headset or something at the high end of the market. See for yourself in the extensive list below.

 

HIGH-END HMDs

HTC Vive Pro

Price: $799

Additional Equipment Required? High-end PC

Display: OLED

Resolution: 2160×1200 (1080×1200 per eye) at 90 Hz

Field of View: 110 degrees

Tracking System: Lighthouse base stations emitting pulsed IR lasers

Controller: SteamVR wireless motion-tracked controllers

Audio: 3.5mm audio jack for headphones, built-in microphone

Weight: 470 grams

Platform System: SteamVR running on Microsoft Windows in addition to Linux support and macOS

Connectivity: 1× HDMI, 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2, and 1× USB 3.0

Camera: Front-facing camera

Website: www.vive.com

 

Oculus Rift

Price: $399

Additional Equipment Required? High-end PC

Display technology: OLED

Resolution: 2160×1200 (1080×1200 per eye) at 90 Hz

Field of View: 110 degrees

Tracking System: 6DOF (3-axis rotational tracking + 3-axis positional tracking) through USB-connected IR LED sensor, which tracks via the “constellation” method

Controller: Xbox One game controller, Oculus Touch motion-tracked controllers

Audio: Integrated 3D audio headphones

Weight: 460 grams

Platform System: Windows, MacOS, and GNU/Linux

Connectivity: HDMI 1.3, USB 3.0, USB 2.0

Camera: No

Website: www.oculus.com/rift/

 

PlayStation VR

Price: $299

Additional Equipment Required? PlayStation 4

Resolution: 1080p RGB (960×1080 per eye,) at 90–120 Hz refresh rate

Field of View: 100 degrees

Tracking System: Positional tracking with 9 LEDs via PlayStation Camera

Controller: DualShock 4 controller

Audio: 3D audio through headphone jack and available microphone input

Weight: 610 grams

Platform System: Playstation 4

Connectivity: HDMI

Camera: PlayStation Camera

Website: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/explore/playstation-vr/

 

STAND-ALONE HMDs

Oculus Go

Price: $199

Additional Equipment Required? No

Resolution: 5.5-inch display with a 2560×1440 resolution (1280×1440 per eye) at 72 Hz

Field of View: 100 degrees (approx.)

Tracking System: 3 degrees of freedom tracking

Controller: Included

Audio: Integrated speakers with spatial audio delivered through head strap and 3.5mm headphone jack and built-in microphone

Weight: 467 grams

Platform System: Oculus Platform

Connectivity: None

Camera: No

Website: www.oculus.com/go/

 

Lenovo Mirage Solo

Price: $399

Additional Equipment Required? No

Resolution: 2560×1440 LCD screen

Field of View: 110 degrees

Tracking System: 6 degrees of freedom tracking

Controller: Wireless Daydream Motion Controller

Audio: Android™ N Pro Audio, 3.5mm audio jack with dual microphones

Weight: 645 grams

Platform System: Google Daydream

Connectivity: WLAN: WiFi 802.11 ac/n 2×2 MIMO Dual Band, Bluetooth™ 5.0 + BLE

Camera: Dual 6 degrees of freedom tracking cameras, Mirage Camera add-on allows users to capture 180-degree VR in 4K

Website: https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/daydreamvr

 

CHEAP HMDs

Archos VR Glasses 2

Price: $29.99

Additional Equipment Required? Compatible smartphone

Resolution: Varies

Field of View: 120 degrees

Tracking System: 360-degree tracking

Controller: No

Audio: Built-in 3D audio

Weight: 272 grams

Platform System: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile

Connectivity: No

Camera: No

Website: https://shop.archos.com/fr/objets-connectes/144-archos-vr-glasses-2.html

 

Mattel View-Master VR

Price: $29.99

Additional Equipment Required? Compatible smartphone

Resolution: Varies

Tracking System: No

Controller: No

Audio: No

Weight: 680 grams (approx.)

Platform System: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile

Connectivity: No

Camera: No

Website: http://www.view-master.com/en-us

 

Fiit VR 2S

Price: $20

Additional Equipment Required? Compatible smartphone

Resolution: Varies

Field of View: 102 degrees

Tracking System: No

Controller: No

Audio: No

Weight: 317 grams

Platform System: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile

Connectivity: No

Camera: No

Website: https://www.amazon.com/Niceskin-Virtual-Reality-Headset-Smartphone/dp/B06ZXXRX5G (Not currently available)

 

DEVELOPER EDITIONS

Microsoft Hololens Developer Edition: AR not VR, but still cool

Price: $3,000

Additional Equipment Required? Yes

Resolution: 2.3 megapixel widescreen stereoscopic HMD

Field of View: 35 degrees

Tracking System: Inertial measurement unit (accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer) with 4 sensors

Controller: Gestural commands via sensors and HPU

Audio: Sound spatial sound technology

Weight: 579 grams

Platform: Windows 10

Connectivity: IEEE 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Camera: 2.4 MP, 120 degrees×120 degrees depth camera

Website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens

 

COMING SOON

Oculus Quest: According to Wikipedia, “On September 26, 2018, Oculus announced a stand-alone VR Headset named Oculus Quest. It uses motion controllers similar to Oculus Touch, has four wide-angle cameras for positional tracking, and displays with resolution of 1600×1440 per eye, with option to adjust the lens spacing. The headset will be launching in spring of 2019 at a price of $399.”

 

MORE CHEAP VR HEADSETS

Bobo VR Z4

Homido Mini

Leji VR Mini

Powis

Merge VR

Pansonite 3D VR Headset

VRIT V2 VR

ETVR VR 3.0

Topmaxions 3D VR Glasses

Pasonomi

Sidardoe 3D VR Headset

VR Elegant

VR Box

TaoTronics 3D VR Headset

Meco VR Glasses

Fengfa 3D VR

U-Scene VR 2

Freefly VR

Merge VR Goggles

Next

Destek V4 VR Headset

Zeiss VR One

Incredisonic VR Headset

Ling VR

 

* The views expressed in this presentation do not necessarily reflect the views of AT&T.


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Comments
by allisonp on 11.13.2018 07:48 PM

Interesting breakdown of all the VR headset options available right now. Available content helps–I had a much better experience with HTC than the Google Cardboard. But some of the ultra-inexpensive headsets are fun if you’ve never experienced VR before. It’s great that there are so many options available.

by Uncle Rico on 11.15.2018 06:22 PM

Very cool and interesting read. I love it!

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