Gaming has reached a new level. Since the days of the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, tech research and graphics development has consistently booted up crisper, clearer gameplay and more vivid, vibrant ways to enjoy our favourite titles.
And, while it may not have the mainstream following or fanbase that conventional consoles enjoy, VR is the current pinnacle of immersive gaming.
And where there’s big success, there’s big investment. From Facebook to Logitech, established brands are flocking to create and innovate limit-pushing, ground-breaking new gear for virtual reality gamers. Below, we’ve rounded up the best — whether you’re new to the virtual reality revolution, or you’ve been plugging into the matrix for years…
For first-timers, go for an all-in-one wireless headset
Firstly, let’s fire up some entry-level headsets. Since VR broke onto the gaming scene, there have been countless technological leaps and bounds — with many launches opening up this virtual, immersive world to first-time gamers, or those with a limited budget. The best innovation? The Oculus Quest. Launched two years after its older, wired brother, the Quest is now in its second generation. Offering a lightweight first foray into the VR experience, there are over 200 games and apps to choose from. For your introduction to VR, we can think of no headset better.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo is similarly inexpensive — at around half the price of a Playstation 5 — but still throws you headlong into the lifelike digital world of VR. Like the Quest 2 above, it doesn’t require a PC or smartphone to run, and has a solid 2.5 hour battery life.
Our final wireless option is a little more involved. Recently revealed by HTC, the VIVE Wireless Adapter does require a PC — as it is not a headset, but rather an accessory for both the HTC VIVE Pro Series, and VIVE Cosmos Series. That means you’ll need to splash out between £700—£900 on a headset, and buy this adapter on top. But, if you’re a real enthusiast, it’ll afford you freedom of movement and enhance your VR experience dramatically.
Upgrade your PC set-up with a wired headset
Next, we’re stepping up a gear — and introducing the wired headsets. These are higher-specced, higher-priced bits of kit that plug into your gaming PC to really immerse you into the virtual world. They tend to have better fidelity, improved optics and higher resolution than the all-in-one wireless headsets. But, if you want the most true-to-life experience, they’re the only way to go.
Top of the pile is the Valve Index. With off-ear speakers for auditory immersion, edge-to-edge clarity and accurate colours across a high frame rate, Steam’s in-house hardware is the top option. The kit below includes headset, controllers and two SteamVR 2.0 Base Stations — that work to sharpen up tracking. We’d also recommend the now-discontinued Oculus Rift S. Thanks to Oculus pulling the headset ahead of a new Rift launch, the S has become an affordable option for those looking to dabble with PC-based VR — if you can find it.
Finally, the HP Reverb G2 was developed in collaboration with Valve and Microsoft, and is a reliable, more affordable — if not terribly exciting — option. With a 2160 x 2160 LCD panel per eye, 9.3 million pixels and above average audio, it’s a solid choice if you don’t want to shell out top dollar for the Valve Index.
Don’t underestimate the importance of immersive audio
And so we come to headphones. Most VR headsets, be they wired or wireless, have audio set-ups that leave us wanting. Some have speakers sitting in the straps, others go for more of a ‘surround sound’ approach — but all can be improved on. That’s why, to plug this hole in the market, some of the sound industry’s biggest hitters are creating accessories to augment your VR experience.
Chief amongst these brands is Logitech. Known for webcams and computer hardware, the Swiss company partnered with Oculus to create some of the best standalone VR headphones we’ve tried. Most kit in this category takes the form of simple earbuds, and is available cheaply on Amazon — but Logitech’s G Pro Gaming Headset goes over-ear for noise-isolation and deep immersion. The G333 earphones are similarly impressive, with dual dedicated audio drivers to really deliver on bass.
Otherwise, you’re looking at Oculus itself — offering chic-looking, but simply-made earphones that cost almost the same amount as the superior Logitech option.
Logitech G333 VR Gaming Earphones
Logitech G Pro Gaming Headset
Invest in the best extras to enjoy full immersion
Finally, the really fun part; the wider accessories and gear. And there’s plenty to choose from here. Oculus, unsurprisingly, offers the largest range of accessories — with everything from ‘Elite Straps’ to ‘Prescription Lenses’ available. But we’re firmly following the inventions and innovations of exciting Korean electronics brand, bHaptics.
This year, during CES in Las Vegas, the brand presented a range of incredibly immersive gear. The centrepiece is the Tactsuit X40, a wireless haptic vest that packs 40 individually controllable, vibro-tactile motors into its action-hero design. It’s the only haptic suit that has been integrated into VR games, so plug this into your headset and you’ll feel more present and alive in your games than ever before.
bHaptics also create a range of more affordable — but slightly less immersive — accessories, including gadgets that fit to your feet, hands, arms and face to offer haptic feedback. It’s an incredible achievement in immersion; a literal slap in the face — but one well worth the money for enthusiasts. Otherwise, opt for practical accessories, such as Anker’s stylish charging dock for your Oculus Quest 2.
bHaptics Tactsuit X40
Anker Charging Dock for Oculus Quest 2
bHaptics Tactosy for Arms
Want more cutting-edge tech? Here’s why you should invest in a high-res audio player…
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