The HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the as-yet-unreleased Playstation VR have served to pique the interest of consumers and gamers. They offer a full Virtual Reality experience, but they all require access to a decent spec computer, and you will need to invest anywhere from $450 to $950 on this kind of high-end premium headset.
Whether you are looking into Virtual Reality (VR) for the first time or you want a mobile experience without breaking the bank, there are decent low-budget alternatives available. You can spend less than $100 and give Virtual Reality a try before spending big money, or you can buy a VR headset accessory for your mobile phone, but which is the best option for you and your budget?
1 – The Google Cardboard Viewer
By far the cheapest introduction to Virtual Reality is Google’s Cardboard Viewer option. In fact, they provide online plans for free so that you can build your own, but paying the minimal $10 to $15 price tag means that you get lenses and even control buttons in your DIY headset.
The experience isn’t great, to be honest. The cardboard ridges hurt, there is no strap so you have to hold the Viewer while using it, and obviously the build quality leaves a lot to be desired, but you get a lot more than you should reasonably expect when you’re paying such a small amount. It is likely that you will benefit from paying a little extra and opting for one of the premium headsets below, however.
2 – IncrediSonic Vue
The Vue costs about $40, which means that it is quite a lot more expensive than the Viewer, but it isn’t made from cardboard. It will house phones between 4.7” and 6” and the attention to detail is very impressive. You get a Bluetooth remote, but this only works with Android. You get batteries, spare nose pads, and you even get a cloth to clean the lens. The Vue is also light, so offers decent comfort levels, and this headset could offer the best possible mobile experience.
3 – View-Master Virtual Reality Glasses
The View-Master glasses manage to combine nostalgia with emerging technology, and it does have some decent and unique features. However, it’s lack of a head strap means that it is not one for long periods of use.
The sliding lever that once moved from picture to picture now serves as an action button, while the discs that would have held the reel of images are now essentially AR targets. Add a disc and the viewer will load AR objects that you can view in a real world setting. It’s nostalgic and gimmicky, could make the perfect gadget gift for Dads, but the $20 View-Master isn’t really an option if you are looking for a decent VR experience.
4 – Freefly VR Headset
If you’re looking for comfort, perhaps because you’ve experienced an uncomfortable viewing experience already, then you will struggle to find anything better than the Freefly VR headset. It has seriously comfortable faux leather padding, but you do pay a $70 premium for the privilege. You do get a mini joystick with the included Bluetooth speaker, which further improves the experience, and if you’re willing to spend the extra money to ensure that you give mobile VR the best chance then the Freefly could be your best option.
5 – Merge VR Goggles
You will always stand out when wearing a VR headset, but never more so than when you don the bright purple Merge VR Goggles. They’re comfortable, Merge claim that the goggles will work with any phone produced in the last two years, and sliding buttons control focus as well as on-screen controls. This lightweight unit costs approximately $50 so certainly isn’t the cheapest, but it is definitely striking.
6 – Bobo Z4
The Bobo Z4 represents another striking looking design, this time because of its brilliant white features. Less expensive than the Merge goggles, you should expect to pay around $35, and you also get a capacitive button. It does weigh more than some of its competitors, but it does have a comfortable frame which means that you shouldn’t notice the extra weight unless you put in an extensive gaming session.
The highly competitive price makes this a decent option, especially if you like the white design. It also has built in speakers so you can plug it into your phones’ headphone socket and enjoy stereo sound, albeit not at the greatest quality.
7 – Homido VR Headset
The Homido headset is one of the most expensive options, costing just under $60. It is comfortable, however, and it works well with larger devices, which not all budget options do. It boasts a 100° viewing angle which is among the better options, but we’re not sure if it truly warrants the $60 price tag for what you get.
8 – Pasonomi VR Glasses
Pasonomi is another company that has gone for the bright white design, similar to the Bobo Z4. This basic unit costs $30 and is very light and well built, especially considering the lower price tag. The Bluetooth controller, which replaces any usable buttons on the headset, won’t work with iPhones, as is typical with these devices, but you do get a 5 year guarantee which shows that Pasonomi are confident in the build quality at least.
9 – Archos
The Archos VR glasses are cheap, at $30 or less, and they will work with 6” model phones. There are no input buttons, which means that you are basically restricted to viewing rather than full immersion, and there is no foam nosepad, but for the casual, first time user, these represent a really good option.
10 – Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR costs considerably more than some of the options on this list, but makes it into the budget category by virtue of the fact that they cost a fraction of the price of the Oculus or the Vive.
You should expect to pay around $80, and the Gear VR will only work if you have a more recent model of Samsung mobile phone. The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge offer the best experience, but Samsung has put some effort into creating software to go with the hardware. The headset is light and comfortable, and it has intuitive and unique control panels on the sides of the headset.
If you have a decent Samsung phone and can afford the budget, and believe you will be more than just a casual VR user, then the Samsung Gear VR is the best option; tribute to the developmental relationship between Samsung and Oculus Rift that has led to this design of headset.
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