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While plenty of sci-fi movies have predicted a future dominated by virtual reality, the technology isn’t quite that widespread — yet. But more and more people are starting to discover what the world of VR, which allows you to strap on a headset and become fully immersed in a new environment, actually entails.
Games are of course one of the most popular ways to use VR technology, but other experiences, like virtual film festivals or concerts, are becoming more widespread. Most importantly, while the world is still very much in the thick of a pandemic, VR allows users to interact with crowds in real life.
Wrote IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, “The technology now provides much more than interactive movies and games: It’s the ultimate panacea to sheltering in place, where people can gather without inhaling the same air in immersive spaces. Filmmakers and musicians have begun using it to explore ways to share their work, and the results could even address the industry’s current exhibition and creative challenges.”
If you, too, are looking to get into VR, these are the basic setups you can purchase to metaphorically dip your toe in the water — which, of course, you can do virtually using your new equipment. Keep reading for five of the best VR headsets for gaming (that can also be added to your holiday gift list). For more tech gear see our picks for the best gifts for gamers.
The most exciting new headset according to IndieWire VR expert Eric Kohn is the Oculus Quest 2, which recently landed on the coveted list of Oprah’s Favorite Things. It hit the market last year, so you’ll be getting the most up-to-date Oculus technology, though it’s not a huge step beyond the Oculus Quest. It is, however, the most consumer-friendly VR headset available because it allows users to tether it to their own PC — something the previous model did not — and it offers more gaming access. Notes Kohn, “specifically, gamers can play the VR game HALF LIFE: ALYX, which is supposedly the best VR game to date but so far only playable on higher-level headsets.”
Specs, per Oculus, include: next-level hardware (i.e., a “blazing-fast processor” and the highest-resolution display the company offers); all-in-one gaming (backward compatibility means you can play both new titles and old favorites available in the Quest content library); immersive entertainment with 3D cinematic sound (live concerts, films, exclusive events, and more); easy out-of-the-box setup (just download the Quest smartphone app to connect everything and you’ll be ready to go, even without a PC or console, and with the required Facebook login, you’ll be able to meet up with friends quickly and easily); a premium display with 50 percent more pixels than the original Quest; ultimate control with redesigned Oculus Touch controllers; and PC VR compatibility with an Oculus Link cable (sold separately right here). Your purchase includes the VR headset, two Touch controllers, a charging cable, two AA batteries, a power adapter, and a glasses spacer.
The next step up on the Oculus tree is the Oculus Rift, which has higher processing power and higher resolution. You’ll also need a PC to go along with it.
The Rift includes access to the top VR gaming library — hundreds of games and exclusives are already available in the Oculus store, with more to come, according to the company — plus improved optics, including next-generation lenses and a sharper display for a reduced “screen-door” effect; ergonomic design thanks to a Halo headband that sets in place with a quick twist of the Fit wheel; updated Oculus touch controllers; and Oculus insight tracking that translates your movements into VR no matter which way you’re facing, and provides room-scale tracking without external sensors. It too requires a Facebook account for login, making it easy to meet up with friends and explore new communities.
The main Oculus contender is probably the HTC Vive, which offers PC-powered VR and a reimagined user interface with its wide tracking field-of-view thanks to its six tracking cameras; sound-isolating on-ear headphones; ventilated faceplate; superior visual fidelity with 2880 x 1700 combined-resolution, 90Hz refresh rate, and adjustable interpupillary distance (IPD) dial for visual comfort and quality; convenient flip-up design; lightweight ergonomic headset design; Steam and Viveport library access for games and apps; plus two months of unlimited VR play of more than 700 games and apps with the included code for Viveport Infinity. Your purchase comes with your headset, two wireless controllers, four AA batteries, link box, DisplayPort, and USB 3.0 cables.
If you’re not concerned with the social experiences available with VR and would rather just focus on gaming, then the PlayStation VR might be what you need. Pair a PlayStation VR headset, a PlayStation camera, and two PlayStation Move motion controllers and you’ll be able to play the gaming system’s VR fare. This Marvel-themed bundle includes a PlayStation VR headset, PlayStation camera, two PlayStation Move motion controllers, Marvel’s “Iron Man” VR Blu-ray disc, and Demo disc 3.0.
With the HP Reverb G2 headset, you’ll get realistic visuals and immersive soundscapes, alongside superb tracking and performance. Developed in collaboration with Valve and Microsoft, the Reverb G2 has four cameras built into the headset so you can track movement without needing external sensors. It’s equipped with mura-free, 2160 x 2160 LCD panels that makes images more vivid. The VR headset is ergonomically designed for comfort and optimized for compatibility, and features industry-leading lenses and speakers from Valve. Besides the headset, inside the box you’ll find a 6m headset cable for desktop and mobile PC’s, two motion controllers, one DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort adapter, USB-C to A adaptor, and a power adaptor.
Once you make the VR jump, you’ll want to stock up on a few key accessories to make your experience even more enjoyable. This carrying case fits your Oculus Quest 2 headset, controllers, charging cable, and power adapter in its custom inlay and molding, which means they’ll all stay neatly organized in the durable, protective case. There’s also additional space included for the Elite Strap if you choose to purchase that.
Speaking of the Elite Strap, you can purchase one of the official premium rigid hard straps, which enhances stability and ergonomics while playing and comes with a flexible, head-supporting brace for longer and more comfortable playtime. The rear Foot wheel easily adjusts tightness to make sure it stays in place. And if you want to ensure the best possible fit for your headset, try out an Oculus Quest 2 Fit Pack.