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Focus on wow factor: heads-up on best virtual reality headsets

Gamers spoilt for choice with Google Daydream View 2, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets – with new enhanced models also coming soon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2017, 9:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2017, 9:31am

Virtual reality is no longer just an abstract promised land. We’ve not only just entered the age of VR, but companies have started to successfully commercialise it.

Whether you’re in the market for a stationary or a mobile VR gaming experience, we’ve rounded up the cream of the crop, to make sure that when you’re being chased by zombies or hostile aliens you will be screaming just as if your life depended on it.

HTC Vive

This headset, built in partnership between HTC and Valve, is making both virtual – and real – waves in the tech world. The excellent resolution of the device features 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye, while it offers a 110-degree field of vision.

Techies may already know this, but it was revealed in November that the HTC Vive is to be updated.

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A new model, called the HTC Vive Focus, is billed as an all-in-one VR experience. It will features 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) tracking, which promises greater freedom of movement.

Pre-orders of this headset have been accepted on its Chinese website since December 12 and will continue until January 12. The electric blue version is priced at 4,299 yuan (HK$5,175), while the “almond white” version is slightly cheaper at 3,999 yuan.

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Price: US$599, including headset, motion controllers and base stations.

Tethered or mobile: Tethered

Oculus Rift

The future of gaming is here. Step into Rift.

A post shared by Oculus Rift (@oculusrift) on Oct 11, 2017 at 10:41am PDT

The OG of VR gaming systems, the Oculus Rift is truly in a class of its own – especially now that it comes with the Oculus Touch included, instead of the XBox One controller.

The Oculus Touch, or the controllers, are intuitive, and therefore very easy to use. The addition of Touch makes this one of the most (if not the most) immersive VR systems on the market; it excels at blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.

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However, it’s not only the visuals that make this an incredible experience, the sound is great as well. The Oculus Rift headset comes with 360-degree spatial audio, which helps you to immerse yourself in games.

Fans of Oculus Rift should keep their eyes open as a new mobile model, the Oculus Go, is being planned for release in early 2018, priced at US$299.

It is part of the mission of Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook – parent company of Oculus – to offer VR to one billion people.

Seeing how easily (at least, that is how it seemed) Zuckerberg completed the same mission for Facebook, that goal seems like an attainable one.

Price: US$399, including Oculus Touch and two Oculus Sensors.

Tethered or mobile: Tethered

Samsung Gear VR (2017)

Samsung has its fingers in every industry pie, from home electronics to fashion, so it’s no surprise that it is also exploring the frontiers of VR.

The South Korean company is leading the pack with regards to mobile VR headsets.

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Sceptics need only visit Samsung’s flagship 837 location in New York City, where they can test an eclectic mix of the brand’s latest gadgets, from smartphones and laptops to smartwatches and smart refrigerators.

To get started, all you need is a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and a Samsung Gear VR headset, in which to slot your smartphone. The mobile headset experience will depend on the type of smartphone you are using, so you will need to think about what sort of phone you plan on using, or buying.

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However, the Gear VR is powered by Oculus, which is a safe bet. It comes with one controller, not two, but using it is an intuitive process.

Price: US$130 for the latest 2017 version, not including controller.

Tethered or mobile: Mobile

Google Daydream View 2

Another headset, and another thumb in another pie. Google, which has a proven record of expanding the horizons of the technology industry, aims to conquer another frontier with its Google Daydream View.

The best thing about Google’s model, apart from the technical specs, is that it is compatible with a wide range of smartphones, from its own Google Pixel 2 to LG V30, Asus ZenFone AR and even Huawei Mate 9 Pro.

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The new updated Daydream View 2 version looks a lot like the original, which was launched in 2016.

The biggest update is that it boasts new custom-designed lenses, which promise a wider field of view: it now offers a 100-degree field of view, instead of 90 degrees.

Thanks to Google’s own Google Cast technology, you can now stream whatever game you’re playing onto a television, so that others can also see your adventure.

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It comes in three different colours, which might sound like a petty detail, but since most other headsets come in only one or two colours, if you’re lucky – this detail might interest the more fashion-conscious enthusiasts.

Price: US$99 from the Google Store, including a controller.

Tethered or mobile: Mobile