Tech

Virtual Reality Guide: This is what you need for VR


Virtual reality is getting better and cheaper. We present the current solutions and headsets and show what you need to get started.

VR is fascinating. If you dive into a well-made virtual environment, it leaves traces – usually at least sweat and an enthusiastic grin. Technically, there have been a few new developments in recent years. The major providers HTC and Oculus have both released the next generation of their headsets. At the same time there are interesting game titles, above all Half Life: Alyx. And, finally, the necessary hardware is affordable, there are suitable graphics cards under 200 euros.

In this guide we show which solutions are currently state of the art, which headsets are available and which graphics cards you need at least. The guide appears in our Virtual Reality theme world. We also published the individual tests for the different headsets there.

On the technical side, the current generation of VR systems has not made huge leaps. Instead, there are many small steps, different improvements in tracking, display, and input devices. An interesting trend is the change from OLED screens to normal LCDs, without the VR experience suffering greatly. Yes, you lose the great contrast and image values ​​of the OLEDs, but there are simply more panels with LCD technology. This is particularly evident in higher resolution – unfortunately less in cheaper prices for end customers.

The other big change concerns tracking: The first generation, such as Rift and Vive, rely on external sensors that determine the position of the headset and the controller in the room. This is a higher effort in construction and operation, but you get extremely precise tracking of the player position. As an alternative, so-called inside-out tracking is now good enough. Cameras on the front and on the side of the headset record the position of players and controllers. The software takes care of the rest and carries out the movements smoothly. Where in the past there were still problems with tracking, this has virtually disappeared in the current generation of VR headsets. Whether HTC Vive Cosmos, Oculus Rift 2 or devices based on Windows Mixed Reality, the inside-out tracking is now good enough for games.

The table shows the technical data of all VR headsets we tested

Comparison of VR systems

VR headset

Resolution per eye

Field of view

Repetition rate

Display technology

Tracking

link

HTC Vive Cosmos

1440 x 1700

110

90 Hz

LCD

Inside-out

to the test

HTC Vive

1080 x 1200

100

90 Hz

OLED

External

to the test

HTC Vive Pro

1440 x 1660

110

90 Hz

OLED

External

to the test

Oculus Rift

1080 x 1200

110

90 Hz

OLED

Exten

to the test

Oculus Rift S

1280 x 1440

110

80 Hz

LCD

Inside-out

to the test

Oculus Quest

1600 x 1440

100

72 Hz

OLED

Inside-out

to the test

Oculus Go

1280 x 1440

~ 95-100

60 Hz / 72 Hz

LCD

Inside-out

to the test

HP Reverb

2160 x 2160

114

90 Hz

LCD

Inside-out

to the test

Lenovo Explorer

1440 x 1440

110

90 Hz

LCD

Inside-out

to the test

Sony Playstation VR

960 x 1080

100

120 Hz

OLED

Inside-out

to the test

For a long time it looked as if the next VR revolution would happen on the smartphone. Projects like Google Cardboard and Daydream promised a decent VR experience on the cell phone. But things turned out differently. Google has now buried Daydream, the current generation of pixel smartphones no longer offer the features. There are still apps for Cardboard, but little is happening here. The technology is not dead, but at least in deep sleep.

Samsung looks similar. The Gear VR system had risen again briefly with the support of Oculus, but nothing has come since then. The last compatible smartphones were Galaxy Note 9, S9 and S9 +. That was at least two smartphone generations ago, we're currently talking about the Galaxy S20 and Co (guide). In other words, if you want to experience VR in a smartphone, you currently have little chance of getting really high-quality solutions.

Where smartphone VR has left a gap, Oculus jumps into the gap with two products. The advantage: Both products do not need a PC, but bring everything you need to get started straight away. Product number 1 is the Oculus Go (test report). Basically, it is a smartphone that has been firmly integrated into the headset. There is only one controller, overall the Go is primarily designed for mobile games and products that also support Samsung's Gear VR. We very much like watching films and videos in the test. Since you are completely disconnected from the environment, you almost get a cinema feeling. Overall, the choice of content is of course limited by the hardware, but the apps and games that are available work very well. The Oculus Go costs 199 or 299 euros.

The Oculus Quest (guide) has significantly more power. It's a middle ground between Oculus Go and a full-fledged VR headset. The headset comes with two controllers and, like the Go, relies on inside-out tracking. The big advantage of the Quest is that you can play real VR games while being completely wireless. This is particularly noticeable in games like Beat Saber. In the rhythm game you have to chop colored cubes to the beat of the music. What sounds so simple becomes very demanding when it is more difficult. The Quest costs just under 450 euros, which is roughly on par with the Oculus Rift PC VR glasses. The big advantage, however, is that you don't need a PC to operate.

Like the Go, the Quest is limited to the games Oculus sells through its own store. You have a comparatively large selection, including well-known titles such as climbing simulation The Climb, the shooter Superhot VR. or the ever-popular VR Beat Saber (comparison of VR platforms). But if you connect the Quest to a PC using the official link cable (or simply a USB-C cable), you can also use the headset with PC titles. Only then the computer has to be strong enough. You should be careful to use a good USB-C cable, see our guide USB-C cable: Not everyone can do everything.

The premier class is still VR headsets, which are fed with content from a PC. A look at the Steam Hardware Survey March 2020 shows many well-known names. The lion's share of the market is shared by HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with their various devices. The Valve Index Headset comes in third, followed by devices based on Windows Mixed Reality. Of course, the values ​​are somewhat distorted because Oculus owners only come into play if they also use Steam. Since the Valve Index was not really widely available at the time of going to press, we are concentrating on the devices available on the market.

In addition to the Quest headset, Oculus is primarily launching the current version of the Rift. The Oculus Rift S (test report) did very well in our practical test. This is mainly due to the fact that there is a coherent overall package. Thanks to the new inside-out tracking, the set-up is quick and easy to set up. If you want to complain, maybe because of the fact that a Facebook account is necessary. But that's all there is to it. The Rift S is an absolutely solid VR headset that works with Oculus games as well as with most Steam VR games.

HTC is on the other side. The company relies on the Vive Cosmos, quasi the further development of the HTC Vive. The modular structure is interesting: The Cosmos series should contain at least three products: Cosmos Play, Cosmos and Cosmos Elite. The devices are all based on the same platform and differ (actually) only in tracking. Comos Play and Cosmos rely on inside-out tracking with different numbers of cameras (four for play, six for Cosmos), the Cosmos Elite uses external tracking like the HTC Vive. In the test of the Vive Cosmos (test report), the system made an extremely good impression. It is more expensive than the Oculus Rift S, but can easily keep up and the tracking system is also sufficient for games.

Windows Mixed Reality-based devices are a bit wilder. All products rely on inside-out tracking – then the similarities end. We already had two devices in the test, the comparatively cheap Lenovo Explorer (test report) and the HP Reverb (test report), which is roughly in the price range of the Rift S. Where the Lenovo headset is just good enough, the reverb was particularly convincing with its extremely high resolution per eye. It is a shame that Microsoft is mainly developing it on a low flame, because we actually like both headsets in the test. They are quite usable and especially compatible with Steam VR and the large game catalog. At least for the most part, sometimes you have to adjust the controller assignment or tinker something. Nevertheless, thanks to its high resolution, the reverb is definitely an insider tip.

Playstation VR (test report) runs somewhat in parallel. Sony apparently has a similar ambivalent relationship to VR as Microsoft. In some cases, they are driving development through cheap headsets and very good hardware. Then VR falls completely asleep again on the Playstation. In the test on Playstation VR, we liked how smoothly everything runs and how little discomfort is when playing – especially with shooters like Firewall zero hour. However, the low resolution is slowly reaching its limits, compared to other current headsets everything seems a bit muddy. Rumor has it that there will also be a new VR version with the next Playstation. When the system is on the market is still in the stars.

Just two years ago, the price of each VR headset had to be around 1,000 euros for a suitable graphics card. Fortunately, that has changed. Thanks to several factors, there are now VR-compatible graphics cards under 200 euros. In our test PC we use a Geforce 1080 Ti as well as a simple Radeon RX580. This copes well with the current headsets, displays games smoothly and is all together a very reasonable solution. Of course, you can also get better cards, but if you normally play in Full HD resolution and want to use VR, you are still very well served with an RX580.

In the table we show different graphics cards that we sent through the VRMark benchmark. The current generation is still the benchmark Orange Room decisive.

Graphics cards in the VR benchmark VRMark

VR benchmark Orange Room

VR cyan room benchmark

VR Benachmark Blue Room

Points

Frames / second

Points

Frames / second

Points

Frames / second

Radeon RX 580

7692

167.69

4887

106.53

1242

27.07

RX 5700 XT

8542

186.21

9313

203.01

2529

55.14

GTX 1660 TI

8569

186.81

6374

138.96

1968

42.91

RTX 2060 Super

8654

188.67

8872

193.41

2737

59.67

RTX 2070 Super

8776

191.32

10112

220.45

3326

72.5

Overall, it is on the PC as always. You can get started comparatively small, whoever spends more money has more resources and can probably use the hardware longer. Currently, the requirements of the headsets are only growing slowly. We recommend an RX580 with at least 8 GB of RAM for the cheapest possible entry into VR, and it should also have at least one display port connection in addition to HDMI. But this is no longer a problem, all reasonably up-to-date cards have the necessary connections. If you want more power, you can upgrade to an AMD XT5700 or a GTX 1660 Ti from Nvidia. If you also value hardware-side ray tracing, for games like Control or the coming Cyberpunk 2077must buy at least one RTX 2060.

If you want to build a completely new PC for VR, we recommend our guidebook: VR gaming PC for less than 600 euros.

Which headset should I get? This is almost as difficult as recommending a special graphics card. If you want to be on the safe side, you should use Oculus Rift S or HTC Vive Cosmos. The two headsets have two large companies behind them that are completely dedicated to the topic of VR. That means there is enough incentive and enough software tools for developers to continue supporting these headsets. On the other hand, if you want to get started as cheaply as possible or just like to experiment, Windows Mixed Reality is worth a look. Devices from different manufacturers bustle here – but it all depends on how Microsoft supports and expands the concept. Still, for games like Beat Saber or Elite: Dangerous these headsets are easily sufficient. There are also the headsets of the last generation. They may be a little harder to find, but they still score with their good black levels thanks to the OLED displays. Again, you can say: Vive and Rift are still reasonable headsets, especially the Rift has a large fan base.

The Oculus Quest is an exciting compromise that also works completely without cables. Smaller games, such as Beat Saber (comparison of VR platforms) or Superhot VR, you can just play with it and you can use the headset on your PC thanks to the link cable. On the other hand, the cost of reasonable graphics cards has luckily finally dropped so far that you no longer have any hardware problems. The Oculus Go is a special case. It's very cool, but pretty limited. And, for the price, you can now get a fat graphics card. Especially if you like to play, you should rather use a full headset. Because in addition to the VR headset, you also have the power you need to play classic games properly.

Permalink: https://techstage.de/-4027805

Tags