In recent years, virtual reality (VR) technology has not only improved, but it has also become much more accessible, with more options across the price spectrum to choose from. Still, there’s a lot to consider before making such a purchase, which in some cases will cost you in the hundreds of dollars, and more in the purchase of supporting tech like controllers and a high-end gaming PC.
According to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) is forecast to be $18.8 billion in 2020. The demand for the tech is certainly there, and there’s no better time to take dive into the exciting world of VR.
So, here are 4 things to consider before buying your first VR headset.
1. Why are you buying it?
Perhaps the most important question you should be asking, the reason you’re buying a VR headset is paramount. The reason is because there are many different options out there, ranging in price, functionality, specs and more. Buying a VR headset is no small purchase in most cases.
If you are looking to buy a VR headset for the novelty factor and light usage, then you are better off buying one of the lower-end headsets like the Samsung Gear VR or the dirt-cheap Google Cardboard. Both options are budget entry-level devices, though the catch is you need to have a smartphone that can power them, though with Google Cardboard this is rarely a problem.
If you intend to be a more serious user, be it for gaming and entertainment, or for scientific and development purposes, you have no choice but to shell out for the higher-end options like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The good news is these have dropped in price in recent years.
2. What’s your budget?
Aside from your reason to want to get into VR, price will often be a major factor to consider as well. In most cases, buying a VR headset is not a light purchase. Just like you would think twice before committing to buying a gaming console, laptop or smartphone, you’d be wise to exercise the same consideration and thought when buying a VR headset.
Here are some example scenarios:
- If you are looking to simply get a taste of VR for a price lower than $50, Google Cardboard is your best choice.
- If you have a couple hundred dollars to spend, we’d suggest going with the Samsung Gear VR, which has improved over the years and even comes with a motion controller.
- With a slightly higher budget than that for the Gear VR, you can opt for the even better PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset, which costs around $300-400 depending on the retailer. The catch is that you need to own a PlayStation 4. The good news though is that existing PSVR headsets will be compatible with the PS5 which comes out this year, so you’ll be getting more value for your money. However, the additional cost of buying a console can be off-putting, which is why PSVR is better for people that already own a PS4.
- If you want to go all out, you’ll rarely find better choices than the Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro, and Valve Index, top-end devices that deliver the best currently-possible VR experiences. However, note that not only will you be paying a pretty penny for these (around $1000 for the Valve Index, several hundred for the rest), you’ll need to either already own or opt to buy powerful PCs that can handle the graphic card and processing needs of a top-end VR experience. You’re looking at hundreds of dollars more to complement your VR headset purchase – thousands in some cases.
3. How much space do you have at home?
While this issue is becoming less of a problem with some VR headsets being independent of external sensors like the PlayStation Camera or motion sensors that need some space to set up, the fact remains that you need some decent space to enjoy even a basic VR experience.
Here’s what HTC recommends:
“Movement within a diagonal area of up to 5 m is supported. For example, a 3.5 m x 3.5 m space. For room-scale setup, a minimum play area of 2 m x 1.5 m is required. There’s no minimum for seated and standing experiences.
The good news is that many headsets support seated gaming and experiences.
If you want to fully immerse yourself, you can buy a third-party omnidirectional treadmill that lets you walk, run and jump in the real world and in VR, though you’ll need some decent space for one, not to mention the additional cost which is often in the several hundreds of dollars.
4. Do you easily suffer from motion sickness?
One of the biggest challenges the VR industry faces as a whole is that a lot of people get motion sickness after a few minutes in a VR headset, This is due to sensory conflict, where what we’re experiencing visually doesn’t match up with what our body is experiencing.
“With contemporary commercially available VR systems, the incidence of motion sickness after only 15 minutes is anywhere from 40 to 70 percent,” said Thomas Stoffregen, a kinesiologist at the University of Minnesota, as per ABCNews. For some applications nearly 100% of users get sick, he said.
Before you commit to a purchase, we recommend testing a VR headset for a decent amount of time at a store or at a friend’s.
Did you know? COVID-19 is creating renewed interest in VR.