The future is now. Get ready to step into a whole new world – don’t you dare close your eyes – a new, fantastic point of view. No one to tell us no or where to…I’ll stop. Virtual Reality is on its way to becoming what we all know it one day will become: our new reality. Welcome to the first generation, the cornerstone upon which all future VR experiences will build upon. From the world famous Oculus Rift to the not so famous Sarlar 3D VR Glasses, each of the following products takes us a little ways farther from our wretched existence on this mundane and cruel ball of muck we call the Planet Earth and into a world of pure imagination.

ModelDescriptionPrice
Oculus RiftPC, XboxCheck Price
Samsung Gear VRSamsung SmartphoneCheck Price
HTC VIVEPCCheck Price
PlayStation VRPS4Check Price
Google Daydream ViewAndroid SmartphoneCheck Price
Leelbox 3D VRSmartphoneCheck Price
Google CardboardSmartphoneCheck Price
VersionTech 360°SmartphoneCheck Price
SARLAR 3D VR GlassesSmartphoneCheck Price
FANNEGO VR HeadsetSmartphoneCheck Price

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

Here it is, the Oculus Rift. The Virtual Reality headset everyone in the World has heard of and wants to get their mitts on. But what exactly are you getting for its $600 price tag? Well the standard package includes a headset, a motion tracking sensor and an Xbox game pad – those incredible paired tracked controllers that have become synonymous with the VR experience are going to cost you a few hundred extra bucks – but what you’re really getting is a beautiful and exciting first taste of this cutting edge technology. With a growing selection of games, and a comfortable headset that doesn’t squeeze you or feel heavy on the head, this PC tethered headset is going to keep you and yours entertained for hours unending and thrilled with the tantalizing possibilities of what Oculus will do next.

However, do not expect crystal clear immersion with no problems. The technology is not there yet. The screen door effect (SDE), when an image is so close to your field of vision you can see the pixels, is still apparent but not as bad in the Rift as with other VR systems.

Pros

- The most well-known of all VR Headsets, you’re going to have some very excited friends clamoring to try it out
- You can wear this headset comfortably for hours
- Tracking is smooth and with almost no delay
- 1080 by 1200 per eye resolution – very clear, very crisp
- The SDE is less noticeable than the Vive’s.
- Great audio from the built in over the ear speakers.

Cons

- Requires a top of the line PC and graphics card to work smoothly, don’t waste money if yours doesn’t meet the minimum spec requirements
- A fairly common problem with defective headsets that won’t connect to HDMI. Oculus will replace your broken headset but it’s still annoying
- Fragile build: keep out of sunlight and do not use alcohol based cleaning products on the lenses
- Godrays and halos are going to give you a head ache, you may have to adjust your headset but the Fresnel lenses are the real problem
- Some connection problems may occur
- Difficult install with little support from Oculus

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung has partnered with Oculus to bring you the Samsung Gear: a Seated VR headset that is only going to work with your compatible Samsung smart phone (Note 5, S6 series and S7 series) so if you don’t have one of those then stop reading now. But for those lucky devils out there with a compatible phone, have I got some good news for you. Simply snap your phone into the headset, close the cap and BOOM! You’re exploring the ocean or flying through the solar system at break neck speeds. Pretty darn comfortable on the head and coming with access to an ever growing library of free and paid content, from mobile games to virtual Netflix theaters to made for VR immersive experiences, this $100 headset is giving you a lot of bang for you buck.

The headset includes an inbuilt controller on the side of the headset allowing you to get right to gaming – which is why you bought this thing, right? While inbuilt sensors are going to track your head’s movement as you explore your new virtual reality. Don’t forget that this headset doesn’t come with inbuilt headphones so you’re going to be using your own.

Pros

- Easy to set up and get going
- In built controller on the headset means you don’t have to buy one (though it is compatible with third party gaming controllers)
- Fairly high resolution for a mobile VR headset at 1440 x 1280
- Made by Oculus and thus has access to their store, app and extensive content library
- Cheap for what it is: a real VR workhorse

Cons

- Only works with certain Samsung smart phones (the Note 5, Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Galaxy S7, and S7 edge). Do not buy unless you have or are going to have one of these phones
- This is not going to match PC tethered VR headsets for image quality or resolution. This is a cheaper and easier way to access VR content, not a top of the line system
- May overheat your phone fairly quickly and shut it down automatically
- No headphones included, sound quality fluctuates for different headphones

HTC VIVE

HTC VIVE

The HTC Vive pulls out all the stops with this all in one PC tethered VR package. For $800 you’re going to get the headset, two controllers and two base stations that transform a ten-foot area into a virtual reality space. No more sitting down watching the world around you, these sensor stations allow you to move freely, making each experience far more engaging and immersive. I cannot stress enough how incredible this feature is and how much of a difference it makes between the HTC Vive and other VR systems. Where Oculus and Play Station VR have standing VR they do not allow you this amount of freedom. However, what you gain in immersion you lose in your wallet. $800 is a hefty price to pay and does not include the high-powered PC you’re going to need to have in order to run this VR system properly.

Running the Steam VR system, you’re going to have a ton of games to choose from with a lot more on the way. There is a growing community of independent developers creating games and content exclusively for the Vive and while we’re still awaiting AAA releases for VR if any system is going to run these with clarity and speed it is going to be the Vive.

Pros

- Only commercial headset with room scale VR allows you to get up and move around within a 10 foot cubed space
- Runs on the Steam VR system with access to an enormous library of content
- Anti-exclusive and open to developers.
- Comes with paired touch controllers made by the manufacturer, the only VR Headset that does
- Headset fits over most glasses
- 1080 by 1200 resolution

Cons

- Setup instructions not included. Boo!
- Requires a top of the line PC with an amazing graphics card to work at all. Like the Oculus minimum specs must be met and should be surpassed if you want to run the Vive with anything like efficiency
- Headset does not come with inbuilt earphones
- This is still a 1st generation system and suffers from the inherent birth pains of a new technology
- SDE isn’t bad but is still a little bit worse than the Oculus Rift
- You’re going to get sweaty moving around, be sure to wipe down before trading off with friends and family

PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR

Sony’s PlayStation VR is the first step in the natural progression of home gaming. Taking advantage of its preexisting customer base, Sony has created a fantastic and aesthetically pleasing VR headset that is tethered directly to your PS4. Strangely – and this seems like one of those antiquated moustache-twirling business tactics – the PlayStation Camera is sold separately even though it is essential to own for the headset to work. And if you’re in for a penny why not be in for a pound and buy those PlayStation Move controllers so you can get the full experience? All together you’re still not spending as much as the Oculus Rift without controllers.

This VR headset takes a back seat in performance to the Vive and Rift, but makes up in accessibility and reliability what it lacks in graphics and resolution. A PlayStation 4 is going to come in at a cheaper price point than any Rift or Vive compatible PC while the plug in and play functionality of the PS VR is second to none. You’re going to get a lot of mileage out of this headset, even if you have to buy the camera and controllers separately.

Pros

- Easy to install, use and comfortable to wear even with glasses
- Pretty much plug in and play
- PlayStation 4 is cheaper than a top of the line PC, but remember that when it becomes outdated the components within a PC can be upgraded where that PS4 will have to be replaced
- Allows you to play non-VR dedicated games in an IMAX sized VR theater, you can even do this while another person uses the TV.
- Can use the VR theater for other game systems but with limited head movement
- 3d sound is excellent and immersive

Cons

- Requires the separately sold PlayStation Camera to actually work and the PlayStation Move Controllers to actually work well
- It is easy for the PlayStation Camera to lose track of you if you move too much, this thing does not have the Vive’s sensor stations
- Resolution is worse than the Oculus or Vive at 960x1080
- Wires connecting you to the PlayStation 4 are short and can interrupt gameplay
- 100 degrees field of vision is ten degrees less than the Oculus or Vive. Those ten degrees actually do matter folks

Google Daydream View

Google Daydream View

Google’s Daydream View is the tech giant’s second foray into the world of retail Virtual Reality. Remember the quaint and frankly genius Google Cardboard, I sure do and am going to talk about it more below, the Daydream is the next step on Google’s probable long march towards dominating the VR marketplace. However, the Daydream is no leap forward. Much like the Samsung Gear you simply plug in your smart phone, close the case and suddenly you’re in your new virtual reality. As a response to the Gear’s onboard controls the Daydream comes with a handheld remote control with some limited motion sensor capabilities. This is Google firing a shot across Samsung’s bows, not an attempt to provide a controller on par with the PS4, Vive or Rift controllers.

The Daydream does not support the same smart phones as Google Cardboard, ditching the free love view of VR and narrowing its focus on newer Android phones. Google’s long game here is simple: create an Android VR ecosystem that can compete with Oculus and Steam while bullying Samsung Gear out of the Mobile VR market. The Daydreamer is a good start as its sleek look and color options are sure to sway more style conscious consumers while the VR experience itself is nearly equal to that of the more established Gear.

Pros

- A simple yet stylish design that is sure to appeal. Optional colors are slate, crimson and snow
- Easy and enjoyable setup and tutorial
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Intuitive hand held remote with a smooth design and some limited motion sensitivity

Cons

- Might not be compatible with your phone. Safest bet is the Google Pixel even if your phone runs on Android.
- This is not a direct competitor to the Rift, Vive or PS VR, do not expect the same quality
- Sadly the Android VR ecosystem does not have as much content nor is it quite as developed as Oculus’ of Steam’s.

Leelbox 3D VR

Leelbox 3D VR

From the maker of the Leelbox Android TV Box comes this particular peach tailor made for your VR viewing pleasure. And that’s all. This is strictly a VR viewer for your smart phone with the added benefit of 3d viewing capabilities once you have downloaded the necessary app. Despite that the headset itself says – “New Technology, New Experience” - these are nothing new, but that shouldn’t put you off to what is a reasonably priced and easy to use product. As with other such viewers, you simply insert your device and hop into whatever app or video you preloaded.

The Leelbox is nothing if it is not user friendly. The headset sports three control dials set to control lens width and screen distance, while the magnetic front cover keeps your smart phone nice and tight within the device. You can charge your phone while using this headset. The elastic strapping around and over the head provides a lot of support even while head banging to Cannibal Corpse music videos. This is actually an extremely important feature to every VR headset. You’re going to moving your head around a lot and erratically with a ton of quick changes of direction. If your VR headset’s straps aren’t up to snuff you are going to be rudely torn from your virtual reality as well as possibly breaking your headset. The Leelbox passed the Cannibal Corpses test, the only test that matters.

Pros

- A VR mobile viewer that supports a number of smart phones
- Comfortable and secure fit
- 3d works pretty well actually
- Front cover can be removed for ventilation. Camera lense is not obstructed by phone clutch allowing you to film while this baby’s off.

Cons

- Cheaply made but for a cheap price so what did you expect
- Even with the focusing knobs this thing is never going to look entirely clear
- Do not get the lenses dirty or this thing is going to be useless
- Might hurt the eyeballs after prolonged use
- No remote control or remote capabilities

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard

Released in 2014 and with five million sold since, Google Cardboard got the whole world jazzed by making VR as affordable as, well, cardboard. Simply by placing your smartphone into the box you are suddenly transported into a fantastic new world at an incredibly low price: $15! This low cost of entry allows anyone and their grandma to experience VR for the first time. With no head strap or remote control you are forced to hold the Cardboard to your eyes like binoculars as you move your head – relying on your smart phone’s motion sensors to alter your view or control your avatar. There is a lot of content out there for these bad boys: apps, games and ready to view 360 degree environments, but remember this is just a viewer. True interaction is going to be minimal.

But that’s not the point is it. The point of these Cardboard goggles is to harken back to when you were a kid seeing the wonders of the world for the first time through your View Master. Just like those fantastic red binoculars with the slide show built in, Google Cardboard is your first window into a new world. Access to VR is limited for the grand majority, I don’t know a lot of people with a top of the line PC and a thousand bucks to spend. But everyone I know has a smart phone and most have $15 to spare. I feel like a grandma after she’s just used the search engine for the first time when I say: “Thank you, Google. Thank you very much”.

Pros

- Cheap! This is the Cardboard VR Headset you can get for everyone in the family and not break the bank
- Easy to use and fun with access to a lot of apps, games and other content made exclusively for it
- Fits a wide variety of smart phones ranging in size between 4-6 inches

Cons

- No head strap so you’re going to be holding on for dear life
- Because of the fact that it is made exclusively with cardboard, velcro and glass this thing is eminently breakable
- Remember this is just a viewer, so you’re not really going to get the full blown VR experience

VersionTech 360°

VersionTech 360°

This night vision goggle looking headset is a budget buy coming with all the problems that entails. ShineCon, the maker, is a company out of Dongguan City, China that doesn’t really care if you use these as a VR headset or an overpriced blindfold. That’s not to say the Version Tech 360 is useless to everyone – some folks might get a lot of mileage out of this thing if they’re lucky or really into it – but there are some serious focusing difficulties that might render it absolutely useless to you.
But these are, like the Google Cardboard, a starter headset made to get you interested in a new technology. Well they’re actually made to make ShineCon a boatload of cash like any other VR headset, but there are purer motivations behind these as well. The Rift, the Vive, and the PS VR all come with a huge starting price tag that also depends on you having access to a piece of computing equipment that can run them. The Samsung Gear and Google Daydream meanwhile are twice the price but exclusive to their creator’s mobile suites. These third party headsets bridge the obvious gap. If you’re looking for a quick and easy first step for a very low price you’re going to get a VR viewer that will stand up to more abuse than the Cardboard and be strapped to your head (worth ten dollars in my opinion).

Pros

- Adjustable Pupil and Focal Distances allows you to attempt to get that perfect picture
- Fits for iPhone, android phones and windows phones
- In most cases you can keep your phone in its case while using this headset.
- Can charge your phone while it’s in use

Cons

- This thing is hard to get focused. You might end up with a blurry brick attached to your face.
- No remote control, you’re going to pulling out you phone, fiddling, and then pop it back in

SARLAR 3D VR Glasses

SARLAR 3D VR Glasses

It’s a little unfair to compare the Sarlars of the world to Oculus or HTCs. It’s even more unfair to compare them to Sony or Google. These are not VR Headsets made by a gigantic corporate machine with god-like resources and the capability to hire the best and brightest and pay them huge salaries. Sarlar, like ShineCon and Fannego, is the little guy. And although they don’t have the manufacturing or engineering capability of the tech giants mentioned above, Sarlar has still managed to come out with a dependable and exciting VR headset that will satisfy your curiosity until the big boys roll out the next, and hopefully cheaper, generation of home VR headsets.

The Sarlar 3d VR glasses work exactly like the Version Tech 360. Simply pop in that smart phone (she’s compatible with most) and start rolling. You can, of course, adjust the focal and pupil setting to you comfort level. The straps are elastic and secured with velcro, a design I am not necessarily a fan of since my hair inevitably gets caught. Of the off brand headsets I’ve used this is the one that had the least focusing issues and the cleanest image. Also the 3d actually looks good and is somehow less nauseating when it’s on your face rather than on the big screen or, God forbid, a 3d TV.

Pros

- An inexpensive but reliable VR viewer
- Works well with most phones
- Adjustable focal and pupil distances

Cons

- Cheaply made
- Elastic straps with velcro adjustments (I hate velcro)
- May have some focusing issues
- A VR 3d viewer for your smartphone, not a full VR system

FANNEGO VR Headset

FANNEGO VR Headset

What’s the difference between the Fannego VR and those other off brand Headsets? Well the Fannego comes with headphones attached! And that’s about it. It’s adjustable straps are made of plastic and those adjustments are rather finicky and easy to break. The headphones themselves are of workable quality but nothing to write home about. Overall the best word to describe Fannego’s attempt is: plastic – breakable, jittery, low quality plastic. But hey! The Google Cardboard is made of cardboard so you really can’t complain can you?

This is the headset you buy before getting serious about buying a better headset. There are problems with focusing, like the others, and there are cases of these babies simply not working right out the gate (You will get stuck paying the shipping to return your clunker so be wary). I can’t really talk too much smack about them though because Fannego, like Sarlar before them, has given you cheap access to an exciting and fun technology on the rise.

Pros

- Comes with headphones
- Compatible with IOS and Android phones
- Easy to use and fun for the whole family

Cons

- Uncomfortable plastic straps with delicate adjustments
- This is a VR viewer for your mobile, don’t expect a lot
- Headphones are just ok, you might have been better off using your own
- Outside light may get in even if you’re wearing these snugly

Well there you go: those were the ten best VR headsets of 2016. From the Rift to the Sarlar, the Vive to the Google Cardboard, all of these headsets provide a window into a strange and fascinating future where that window that is literally stuck to your face. If you’re looking for that expensive commitment to a tethered VR system you have the choice between the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages but of the three I have found that the PlayStation VR is the easiest to use and probably the most enjoyable. It also has the lowest cost of entry and, fingers crossed, will be compatible with the next generation of PlayStation. Of the Mobile VR Headsets I would suggest going with the Google Daydream. The Android ecosystem may not be fully developed but you can bet your sweet cash on the fact that Google is going to push, and push hard, to be a major player in the VR world. That means much more content for you and yours down the line. But before you make the investment in any of these systems I would highly suggest you bite the $15 bullet and try out the Google Cardboard first. You’re going to learn a lot about the technology and how your body (nausea is a real thing people) reacts to it. Remember, this is generation one on the visual reality path to domination, don’t expect too much.

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