Best VR Viewer: Virtual reality is already a consolidated technology, especially in the gaming and business areas, and it is the best way to get immersed in a three-dimensional environment, more or less advanced.
To access it you need a VR viewer , a device that often takes the form of a helmet with one or more close-up displays placed in front of the wearer’s eyes. VR is not only useful for video games, but allows you to experience real virtual experiences, more or less realistic.
There are several helmets for virtual reality on the market, not many, but still fragmented into different platforms compatible with specific ecosystems. In fact, we have VR viewers that can be connected only and exclusively to the PC, other specific models for video game consoles, others for Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform, or even more or less inexpensive models (some even in cardboard!) That they work using the smartphone as a display.
Best VR Viewer: Buying Guide
Whether you are looking for an inexpensive or advanced VR viewer, for PC or any platform, and you don’t know how to orient yourself in the choice, don’t despair: you’re in the right place! On this page, I will recommend the best VR viewer for each individual category and platform, both for gaming and for living different experiences, explaining the differences between different models and making you understand why the necessary expenditure can range from a few tens up to several hundred euros.
How VR Viewer Works
A VR viewer , or virtual reality viewer , is an accessory that allows you to view a 3D environment from a first-person perspective, entering a sort of simulated alternative reality. Who wears the viewer can turn his eyes to do the same in the simulated reality thanks to the use of head tracking , a technology based on accelerometers and other sensors, whose data are synchronized with the software graphic engine.
Among the most widespread head tracking technologies we have two: one is based on orientation , which can verify the rotation of the head; while the other is based on the position and is more precise, being able to detect the movements of the head also in relation to the movements made by the body.
When you are inside virtual reality, you can often move into the surrounding environment – within certain limits – by using a combination of sensors or monitors in the room that are able to track your position.
We can also interact with the elements of simulated reality, for example through cameras in the same viewers, or alternative accessories, such as controllers or gloves , made specifically for the purpose. Often, controllers can also simulate the resistance of various objects through a vibration system, which makes objects such as knobs, handles, levers, switches, and other such elements material.
There are also overalls or other devices that allow you to immerse the entire body of the wearer in virtual reality, even if they are very expensive and not very widespread.
A VR viewer is based not only on sensors and cameras, but also on one or more displays . This is the most important component of the system, and it is where the innovation of the various manufacturers is pushing the most. We’ll talk more about it later . You can learn more in my in-depth guide on how virtual reality works .
Also, if you’re wondering if VR viewers are bad , the answer is: it depends. The close distance of the lenses can tire the eyes after prolonged use, but the various manufacturers have studied different methods to counteract this feature. Some users suffer from nausea and dizziness during use (the so-called motion sickness ), but this may also depend on a bad habit in the use of technology.
Differences between VR and AR
Before probing the individual components present in a virtual reality system, a very important distinction must be made: that between VR and AR . What is the difference between the two technologies? The answer is very simple: VR stands for Virtual Reality , and represents a completely simulated reality.
The user is immersed in an alternative world completely recreated in three dimensions, which has nothing to do with the real one. AR instead stands for Augmented Reality , Augmented Reality , and is instead a technology that creates a user interface over the view of the real world that surrounds the user.
It follows that the destinations of use of virtual and augmented reality are different: the first meets the needs of video games or virtual experiences, such as a simulation of the surfaces of other planets or satellites or of distant places with respect to where we are in a certain moment, the second one allows us to take advantage of indications or on-screen descriptions about the things we have around us (for example premises, monuments), or allows us to see elements that in reality are not there (furniture in the app to furnish the house , to see how they adapt to the room, or various configurations and customization on a car).
In short, virtual reality completely isolates the user from the surrounding environment, instead augmented reality aims to enhance the senses and abilities towards everything around them.
VR tethered or standalone viewer
Once we understand the difference between VR and AR, we can talk about what distinguishes a VR viewer , and one of the main things is design . On a purely aesthetic level they are more or less all the same, however the design of an augmented reality viewer is very important: it is a device that you will keep on your head even for long periods of time, so it is important to check its weight and find out about how comfortable it actually is.
The materials of a VR viewer are important for this, and those used for the coupling system are no exception.
It is also necessary to make a distinction between the so-called tethered viewers and the standalone viewers : the former must be connected to a source device, such as a computer or a smartphone (which can also be used as a display), and with the PC they can almost always do it via cable .
This last solution is naturally inconvenient, since while in simulated reality it is not difficult to trip over cables, with potentially disastrous results! However, cable connections are often the fastest.
Furthermore, consider that, on a PC, virtual reality requires high computing power, especially – but not only – in terms of graphics. For more advanced games, you will need a very powerful video card (GPU), at least one nVidia GeForce GTX 1060 or later or any nVidia GeForce RTX , while on the AMD side I recommend an AMD Radeon R9 390 or later.
The standalone VR viewers remove the problem, but offer a power and a lower reactivity with simulated experiences less impact. Regardless of the type of viewer, each product in this category has two lenses from which the FOV ( Field of View ) is determined , ie the field of vision .
This parameter indicates when the portion of the room that can be displayed in a single frame is large, without having to turn the face.
As you may have guessed by now, and as I told you a little above, the display is a fundamental component in a VR viewer, since it represents the very first approach you have with simulated reality. The VR viewers for PC and the PS4 VR viewers often make use of two integrated displays present inside the body (and invisible from the outside), one for each eye.
In many models, the user can customize the position based on the shape of his face and his needs. The VR visors for smartphones , however, do not have an integrated display, but they have a compartment within which to insert the smartphone.
An important feature in a VR display is the resolution , which is the number of pixels in the display, but the definition or density of pixels (which is measured in ppi ) is even more important . Since the display is actually a few centimeters from the eyes, it is very important that there is a high density, since otherwise you would have single pixels that are too large and an inadequate level of detail.
The displays of the VR viewers are OLED or LCD IPS : in the first case, they offer a superior color depth and blackness, thanks to the possibility of turning off the pixels, and also have a delay in generating more contained images. However, the distance perceived by the user from one pixel to another can be more marked on an OLED due to the use of the PenTile matrix, so the two technologies have different strengths and weaknesses. On an ultra-high definition display, an IPS LCD is better, while otherwise the OLED may be preferable.
In any case, the display (or displays) of a VR viewer generates a stereoscopic view through the use of an internal lens system that divides and manages the image in such a way as to create the sense of depth needed to recreate the three-dimensionality of the simulated reality.
It is very important, in the display of a VR viewer, to update the frequency , also called refresh rate (in English) and measured in Hz . With these terms, we measure the number of updates per second the panel is capable of and, obviously, the higher it is the better. This is not a purely aesthetic factor, given that a high refresh rate (such as 60 or 90Hz) combined with a low latency can help to reduce the risk of motion sickness (or motion sickness ), or of the generated by the movement differences nausea virtual than those perceived by the brain in the real world.
Controllers and accessories
A VR viewer can be sold together with controllers and accessories , often essential peripherals to take full advantage of virtual reality. Among the most widespread controllers, we have grip joypads that allow you to simulate your hands in the simulated environment, both in terms of position and gestures.
Through a controller we can interact with the elements of the simulated reality, collect them, or use them (for example shooting arrows or shooting with a weapon).
Some models can even be combined with gloves , while earphones (or headphones) are indispensable (and almost always present ) in order to have an audio system that is not only immersive, but also and above all synchronized with the user’s position. compared to the various elements present in the environment.
Not all VR viewers are compatible with all systems. As I wrote above, there are standalone models, which do not need other hardware to work (except for the controllers), but there are also VR viewers that are compatible with smartphones, PCs or game consoles, such as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Of course, manufacturers declare all devices compatible with every virtual reality display model, so always check before each purchase whether the VR viewer you are choosing is compatible with the devices you want to use them with.
Among the various existing platforms, there is the Windows Mixed Reality , created by Microsoft to offer experiences in virtual reality and augmented reality at the same time. These viewers can mix real elements and virtual elements: they are closed helmets that allow you to see what is in the surrounding environment thanks to cameras that reproduce in real time what is happening around. Obviously they work only and exclusively in a Windows 10 environment.
Which VR viewer to buy
Now that you know all the main notions regarding this topic, I propose you a series of products currently on the market with which you can live the experience of virtual reality . Below you will find a list of the best VR viewers for PCs , consoles , smartphones and even the best VR standalone viewers . In short, make yourself comfortable and choose the best one for your very personal needs!
Best VR viewer for smartphones
- VR Box Virtual Reality Glasses
You can find thousands of VR viewers for smartphones on the market and they are all very similar to each other. These anonymous Virtual Reality Glasses contain no electronics inside, but they are just a case in which to store the smartphone through which to reproduce virtual reality experiences. It is compatible with any device, be it iOS or Android, with a maximum size of 16.5 x 8.5 cm and with displays from 4.7 to 6 ″.
- Google Cardboard
The Google Cardboards are VR cardboard viewers, very simple in structure, light, but quite effective. They arrive “dismantled” and the user must be the one to shape them, but in the end it is possible to insert into the smartphone and enjoy virtual reality through the lenses present. These models can be used with various smartphones on the market and represent a very economical solution to approach the first few times to VR.
- Zeiss VR One Plus
The Zeiss VR One Plus is a VR viewer without electronic components inside it, capable of operating through a smartphone to be applied in the specific compartment. It is cheap, but it offers a much stronger plastic structure than a Cardboard. Even the quality of the lenses is of greater value thanks to the experience gained in the sector by Zeiss. The weight of this product is 590 grams.
- Samsung Gear VR
A viewer that has made history in this area has been and still is the Samsung Gear VR today . Now you can buy at a very low cost, and require the installation of a smartphone inside it. This model uses a very light ergonomic design, and can be operated via touchpad although in a rather limited manner.
- VR Shinecom Glasses
Among the best-selling VR viewers for smartphones we have this Shinecom model , which offers a 120 ° field of view for three-dimensional videos and wide compatibility with smartphones between 4.7 and 6 inches diagonally. In addition it has a pair of headphones to immerse yourself in the simulated environment even at the audio level. You can use it with both iOS and Android, provided you use apps compatible with virtual reality.
- Xiaomi Mi VR
The Xiaomi Mi VR is a VR viewer compatible with multiple smartphones, but recommended for the company’s proprietary devices. Also in this case we do not have any electronic components inside, however we provide a convenient remote control that can interface via Bluetooth with all compatible smartphones.
Google Daydream View
Google Daydream View VR is the first viewer designed specifically for the Daydream platform, designed by Google for Android 7.1 Nougat and later. This platform was created primarily to respond to the needs of companies and exhibitors, and its viewer is characterized by the fabric design and the presence of a supplied Bluetooth controller. You can find all the details on this product family on the Google Daydream website .
Best standalone VR viewer
- Lenovo Mirage – Star Wars: Jedi Challenges
The Lenovo Mirage – Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is not really a VR viewer, but it is more like an AR viewer supplied with a lightsaber-shaped controller in the official equipment. With this model you can challenge the characters of the Star Wars series in a duel, and defeat them by simulating the shots of the weapon as if you were facing the enemy.
In addition to the fights it is possible to play Holochess (typical holographic chess of the Star Wars lore) as if you had the pieces right in front of you.
- Oculus Go
Oculus Go is definitely the best standalone VR viewer that you can find on the market at this time. Available in 32GB and 64GB versions of integrated storage, it does not require a smartphone but has all the necessary equipment. It is completely autonomous, and has no cables that prevent you from moving.
It is made of lightweight materials and the fabric is breathable, while the display is a fast-updating LCD of excellent quality. Integrated in the viewer we find an immersive positional audio technology, and the Bluetooth controller is supplied in the original equipment. The supported resolution is 2560 × 1440 pixels, divided into 1280 × 1440 per eye with a pixel density of 538 ppi.
- Oculus Quest
Oculus Quest is one of the most complete standalone VR viewers, and is available with original experiences and games to take full advantage of it. It is sold with two dedicated controllers and has a more advanced six-axis position detection system than the Go model. Furthermore, the user’s hands are reproduced within the virtual simulation, while as regards the display resolution we have 1600 × 1440 pixels per eye, with a refresh rate of 72Hz.
It implements the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor in its interior and can adapt to any environment by bringing the limits of movement into the simulated one.
Best VR viewer for PC
- Razer OSVR HDK 2
The Razer OSVR HDK 2 works only if connected to the PC and is a particular product, not entirely designed for the general public. It uses two 2160 × 1200 pixel displays with OLED technology capable of offering a pixel density of 441ppi with a 90Hz refresh rate. It only has a camera to detect facial movements (from 100Hz), but with this model it is not possible to move within the virtual environment.
- HP VR1000 Windows Mixed Reality
This VR viewer compatible with the Windows Mixed Reality platform connects via cable to all compatible PCs and has a 2880 × 1440 pixel panel with 90Hz refresh rate. It offers six degrees of freedom, so it also allows you to move around in the environment, and is offered with two controllers provided.
- Lenovo Explorer VR Windows Mixed Reality
Lenovo Explorer VR is a Windows Mixed Reality viewer, with ergonomic design, two controllers supplied, and compatible with most computers with Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (or later). It has two cameras for tracking movements, several sensors and a 2880 × 1440 pixel display. It interfaces with the computer via a cable, but allows you to move around in an area of 3.5 x 2.5 m.
- Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift S is one of the most successful virtual reality helmets among PC models. It adopts a 2560 × 1440 pixel LCD display (1280 × 1440 pixels per eye), capable of an 80Hz refresh rate. It connects to the PC with a supplied 5-meter cable, can be used on the PC both sitting and standing, and offers six degrees of freedom (you can move around the room and detect movements even in the simulated environment). Included are also two controllers, one for each hand, with vibration.
- Acer OJO 500 Windows Mixed Reality
The Acer OJO 500 is another VR viewer compatible with the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Like other models, it has a slightly lower FOV of 100 °, and features a 2880 × 1440 pixel display with a 90Hz refresh rate. This model connects to the PC via cable and has several sensors to detect the movements of the wearer’s body and head.
- HTC Vive
HTC Vive is one of the first VR viewers to have reached the market, and uses an OLED screen with a resolution of 2160 × 1200 pixels with a 90Hz refresh rate. It offers a 110-degree FOV and for each eye it can reproduce a resolution of 1080 × 1200 pixels.
This model requires two satellites to track the user’s position in the environment and to reproduce each movement even in alternative reality. It is not recent and it is quite expensive, but it still offers an engaging VR experience today.
- Pimax 5K Plus VR
A very interesting but expensive product in this category is the Pimax 5K Plus VR . It is not known, nor emblazoned, but it has two 2560 × 1440 pixel panels combined with a lens system that allows a 200 ° wide field of vision. It offers a very enjoyable virtual reality experience, but is sold at a high price and without a controller.
The particular resolution is not well managed by all the experiences, moreover, for a product that still remains a fine style exercise. It can be used with SteamVR and Oculus Home games.
- HTC Vive Pro
HTC Vive Pro is one of the most advanced VR viewers that you can find on the market among those compatible on PC. This model offers a lens system capable of a FOV of 110 °, and the integrated display is 2880 × 1600 pixels (therefore 1440 × 1600 pixels per eye). Supports a 90Hz refresh rate, the headphones are integrated and have satellites to be placed in the environment and a gyroscope to detect the position.
The original equipment does not lack two controllers with vibration to interact with the surrounding environment.
Best PS4 VR viewer
- PlayStation VR
PlayStation VR is the one and only VR viewer compatible with the PlayStation 4. It uses a 5.7 “OLED display at a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels, so unfortunately not very large, but with a refresh rate of 120Hz.
This model uses a motion tracking system with a reduced latency time thanks to the presence of nine LEDs and the PlayStation Camera. The system is equipped with a single band to lighten the entire structure and ensure a comfortable fit. The FOV of PlayStation VR is 100 °.