If you want a virtual reality setup, but aren't willing to pay top dollar for a PC-based system, then you're left with either mobile or console-based VR. Let's compare the features and specs of two of the most popular options, the 2017 Samsung Gear VR and Sony PlayStation VR.
Take these dimensions with a few grains of salt, since the two headsets have very different designs. But PSVR is clearly the bigger headset.
PSVR is also heavier, but there are also a few things to keep in mind here:
While PSVR looks heavy on paper, it's very comfortable to wear. The visor part hangs down from above, so it doesn't feel like your head is bearing its weight.
Both are primarily made of plastic.
You'll need a Samsung Galaxy flagship (2015 or later) to slide inside of the Gear VR.
PlayStation VR requires a PS4 or PS4 Pro console. (The latter will give the headset's games slightly upgraded performance.)
Being smartphone-based gives the Gear VR the advantage of being wireless.
On the other hand, mobile VR still doesn't have any positional tracking – so when you lean, stand or move while wearing the Gear VR, the entire world will lean, stand or move with you (an unnatural sensation).
While PSVR does have positional tracking, it earned that asterisk: We found its controller tracking to be unacceptably poor (keep reading).
While the Gear VR is now shipping with a controller (read on), it still doesn't support real motion controls that approximate hands inside VR worlds.
Sony's PS Move controllers sound great on paper, but we think VR's core illusion needs to hit a pretty high bar to successfully trick your mind. In our experience, that illusion was too often broken with PS Move. Expect jittery, juddering, occasionally floating hands in games that use these controls, which were remnants of the Wii era.
The "motion controller" that's bundled with the new Gear VR is less an alternative to the likes of Oculus Touch and the Vive controls, and more like a Wii remote for VR: It's primarily a pointy/clicky wand.
Both support classic gamepads – which, in the case of PSVR, means the DualShock 4 that comes with the PS4.
The Gear VR has a trackpad built onto the right side of the headset, though it could have just as well been phased out with the addition of the controller.
While Sony's RGB display handles pixels a little differently (despite those lower numbers, it looks very good), the Gear VR has the higher resolution.
Technically the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are capable of 1,480 x 1,440 per eye resolution in the Gear VR, but we don't yet know whether its lenses will cover their entire (more oblong) displays or stick with the 1,440 x 1,280 per eye you'll get from every other Gear VR-friendly phone. Either way, it's very sharp with visuals that are limited more by mobile processing power than screen quality.
Field of view
OLED displays are the norm for VR.
You can wear glasses underneath either headset. PSVR is the best VR headset for glasses wearers, as you can slide the entire visor forwards and backwards without hugging against your face.
On the other hand, specs wearers can ditch their glasses and use the Gear VR bare-faced. That's because it has a little wheel on top that lets you adjust your focus: The experience is similar to a machine you'd use to get your eyes checked in an optometrist's office.
Lens adjustment (forwards)
As we mentioned, you can slide PSVR's lenses forwards and backwards to make room for glasses or optimize the field of view.
Interpupillary distance (IPD) measures how far apart your eyes are, and PSVR can tweak this via software, rather than hardware. (The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both adjust IPD physically.)
Of course the phone inside the Gear VR runs Android, but the VR experience comes courtesy of Oculus (Samsung's partner on the Gear VR series). As the pioneering company in virtual reality, Oculus' developer partners have been stacking the Oculus Store with loads of mobile VR content since late 2014.
Sony's game selection isn't exactly jam-packed at the moment, but it will grow over time.
PSVR released last October, while the updated Gear VR launches on April 21.
The new Gear VR, which now includes that little remote wand, rings up for US$130. PSVR rings up for a heftier – but still tame compared to PC-based rivals – $399.
You still, however, need a PlayStation 4 Camera to use with PSVR, and unless you want a gamepad-only experience, you'll need to pick up a pair of PS Move controllers.
And remember, to say we were disappointed with PlayStation Move's choppy tracking would be an understatement – to the point that we aren't sure whether it's better than not having motion controllers at all.
Starting price (host device)
Of course the headset and controllers are still only part of your purchase. If you don't already own a PS4 (regular or Pro), you'll need one to play PSVR. And you'll need one of eight Samsung flagship smartphones to power the Gear VR: Galaxy S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note 5, S6 edge+, S6 or S6 edge. (We pulled the $250-ish price as the cheapest full retail price we could find for the two-year-old Galaxy S6.)
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