What a crazy path consumer-grade virtual reality has followed! In the last year or so, we’ve seen three major platforms launch, the release of dozens of new games, and that was just the beginning. Nearly every major tech company is investing in VR in some way, and average consumers are finally benefiting from the years of prototyping and research. Whether you’re looking to lay down a couple grand for a top-of-the-line VR rig or only willing to throw in for the price of a large pizza, there’s a VR setup out there to fit your needs.
Splaks Google Cardboard kit
If you’re a VR skeptic or newcomer, it doesn’t make sense to bet big with an expensive headset. Instead, consider grabbing a low-cost Google Cardboard viewer that will work with most modern smartphones. It’s about as low-fi as it gets, but you’ll be able to try out neat VR experiences like the first-person Google Street View and 360 degree videos. If you like what you see, then maybe consider moving up to a full-fledged headset. Buy on Amazon for $ 12.99.
Google Daydream View
If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, the Daydream Viewer is a solid option for anyone with the likes of a Google Pixel or Moto Z Android phone. It’s still a relatively affordable smartphone VR headset, but it’s much nicer than Google Cardboard. It has a comfortable strap, a dedicated controller, and a surprising amount of tracking fidelity considering there are no external sensors to rely on. Buy on Amazon for $ 78.91.
Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch bundle
The Oculus Kickstarter sparked a surge of VR interest way back in 2012, and that snowballed into the VR market we have today. The first generation of the consumer-ready Oculus Rift is finally available for purchase, and the addition of the Oculus Touch controllers make for a fully immersive virtual reality experience. If you’re ready to fully invest with high-end VR, the Rift is hard to beat. Buy on Amazon for $ 598.
Valve teamed up with HTC to release the Vive last year, and the Steam storefront has been the best place to find strange, cutting edge VR content. Not only is the library vast, but the Vive is the only major VR platform that guarantees every player has access to two hand-tracking controllers. With that in mind, many VR developers seem to be targeting the Vive as the lead platform. It’s a big up-front investment, but it’s definitely worth the cost for hardcore VR enthusiasts. Buy on Amazon for $ 799.99.
The PSVR sits at the crossroads of casual VR and high-end VR. It’s not quite as robust as the likes of the Vive and Rift, but it still offers a full-fledged gaming experience that delivers well on the feeling of presence. It’s more expensive than the mobile VR solutions, but spending $ 750 or less for the console, headset, and camera is still cheaper than the cost of an HTC Vive by itself. Factor in the cost of a VR-ready PC to the other helmets, and the value of the PSVR as a mid-range device becomes crystal clear. Buy on Amazon for $ 397.97.
Although it isn’t bundled alongside the base headset, the camera is a required purchase for the PlayStation VR. It does a fairly decent job of keeping pace with your headset and controller movements, but if the camera can’t see the tracking lights, you’re in for a jittery mess. Sadly, it’s not as foolproof as the Vive’s tracking, but it’s affordable and easy to set-up. Buy on Amazon for $ 41.99.
PlayStation Move two-pack
Many PSVR games work fine with the stock controller, so the Move controllers aren’t technically mandatory. You can play VR Worlds, Rez Infinite, and Rhombus of Ruin just fine with the DualShock 4, but Job Simulator and Batman: Arkham VR are completely off the table. If you want to really feel like you’re inhabiting a virtual space, the Move is a vital piece of the puzzle. Buy on Amazon for $ 97.81.