It’s tough to imagine a more difficult buying decision than one in a relatively new product category like virtual reality (VR), especially when major innovations always seem imminent. We’ll witness many changes in VR platforms in the coming years, including significant enhancements like eye tracking inside HMDs (see the impressive demo we got from Tobii at CES 2018), peripherals and controllers that add more realism to games, hand and gesture tracking, and various forms of precision body tracking. And most recently, standalone VR headsets. Of course, if you’re always waiting for what’s next, you’ll never get to experience what VR has to offer today. Here are our current recommendations on VR systems.
Best VR Headsets
Among the many questions, we get about how to run PC VR HMDs (head-mounted displays) optimally is how to choose the best CPU for VR. Game developers and studios always list minimum specs, and as of this writing, they can vary wildly. We took some time to benchmark 11 VR games across a variety of CPUs to get a sense of how processing power affects performance. But that was before Microsoft pushed out its own VR platform.
We’ve been waiting for new approaches to PC-based VR for a while. Until recently, there essentially were two major players: HTC’s Vive (and the new higher-end Vive Pro), buoyed by Valve and its dominant PC gaming platform Steam, and Oculus’ Rift, backed by social media colossus Facebook.
But now, there’s another industry juggernaut solidly in the VR headset game: In October 2017, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Mixed Reality platform, which includes HMDs from several hardware partners like Dell, Acer, Samsung, and others. Oculus and HTC cater primarily to the gaming crowd (although both companies are after the commercial market, too), but Microsoft wants to corner the immersive productivity market. If you want to spend your workday in a virtual environment, a Windows Mixed Reality headset would be your best bet.Here’s everything you need to know about Windows Mixed Reality.
We are also on the cusp of a few new initiatives, including headsets with higher resolutions and wider fields of view. HTC’s Vive Pro (which hit the market in April 2018) includes a combined resolution of 2880 x 1600, and Pimax is preparing for a (possible) Q2 launch of its 8K headset (despite some delays), which features dual 4K displays and a wide 200-degree FOV.
All that said, despite new and exciting hardware always seemingly just over the horizon, the hardware that’s available today is still viable and compelling.
Best Windows MR Headset