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Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR) Review

So, What’s Wrong With It?

Fragility

The PlayStation VR is an impressive piece of tech, but it’s certainly not perfect. As mentioned previously, the headset construction has a couple of weak points that could prove to be a problem over time.

The mechanical headband is clever, but we worry that it will eventually fail. Tension comes from a rubber band on each side of the headset. Every time you put the HMD on your head, you must pull the elastic bands. Nothing lasts forever, especially after repeated stress. It's not a matter of if, but when the elastic breaks.

The relief system for the headset is also clever, but again we suspect it might be a weak point. It’s easy to forget to grab the headset by its headband, rather than the visor, when you pull the PSVR off your head. This puts a lot of strain on the mount.

How’s The Tracking System?

You may have read complaints about the PSVRs tracking system, but in our view those concerns are blown out of proportion. The tracking system isn’t as robust as Valve’s Lighthouse technology, but it also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. We think it's good enough for most people.

Yes, Sony could have implemented a solution with better tracking performance that never needs to be recalibrated. But that would have delayed the PSVR’s launch, likely driving up its cost at the same time. Sony already had Move controllers, so it was much easier to adapt the same tracking system to the PSVR.

You will find that the headset and controller’s orientation drifts to the side sometimes, and we've seen incorrect controller orientation, too. Fortunately, recalibrating the headset and controllers is as simple as holding the DualShock 4 controller's Options button, or the Start button on the Move controllers.

Most of the orientation problems happen during the day, when there's a lot of sunlight beaming into the room. The darker your play space, the better the tracking. This makes sense. The PlayStation Camera can track LEDs easier in a dark room. You probably want to avoid positioning the camera near large window to avoid calibration problems.

Expensive Content

Most of the content for PlayStation VR is expensive compared to the titles available for the Vive and Rift. You can find dozens of free and cheap experiences on Steam, but you won't find much free content on Sony's marketplace. Several developers offer demos of their games, but the full cost of admission exceeds the average VR game on Steam.

For example, Batman Arkham VR is $20 and Robinson Journey costs as much as a triple-A console title. The hardware is relatively affordable, but the price of content isn't going to help attract new users to VR.

  • blackmagnum
    Sony going after the affordable market? You've got to be kidding me! What's Apple say on this?
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Thanks for the thorough review, Kevin. Is OSVR's HDK2 in your queue? I understand it has display tech similar to PSVR's, but with the same pixel resolution as Rift & Vive.

    If I buy PSVR, I'd wait for PS4 Pro to get updated so the breakout box is unnecessary. They should've just put the PSVR ports right on the front of it. Then, sell me the whole kit in one box.

    As for the lack of room scale, it's hardly surprising, if they're just using the stereo camera for tracking. It has to be able to see the controllers, which it can't do if your body is in the way. Even if they have built-in IMUs, those will drift without periodic registration with the camera.

    Finally, I'm impressed that it can send different images to the HMD and TV. Although this will only add to the burden on the PS4's GPU, it's a nice feature. Reminds me of the Wii U, a bit. I don't own one, but saw a couple games make good use of the private view afforded by the tablet.
    Reply
  • Dosflores
    19196429 said:
    Finally, I'm impressed that it can send different images to the HMD and TV. Although this will only add to the burden on the PS4's GPU, it's a nice feature.

    It doesn't necessarily add burden on the GPU. It's only needed for "social gaming", and that kind of games can live without great graphics. For "standard games", the breakout box simply undistorts the image being sent to the HMD, and outputs the result to the TV.

    You're right about the PS4 Pro. It should have included the PSVR ports, and not only to reduce clutter. The PS4 Pro supports HDR output (and the standard PS4 now does it too), but the breakout box doesn't. If you want HDR output to your TV, you have to disconnect the breakout box and connect the PS4 directly to the TV. If you want to play some VR game again, you have to disconnect the TV and connect the PS4 to the breakout box again. This design flaw is enough to convince me not to buy PSVR until the next update of either the PS4 Pro or the PSVR system.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    You did not touch on the actual gaming experience very much.

    I read and watched a few game experiences and reviews using PSVR and the biggest complaint that was due to how low the processing power was of the PS4 they had to really really compromise on the graphics.

    The graphics of the VR games on PS4 were absolutely terrible including missing/no textures lots of things just not rendered period and low res up-sampled.
    Reply
  • Agente Silva
    Born Dead...
    Reply
  • Agente Silva
    ... and I´ll explain why:

    1. In an era where game developers are heading into unified platforms it will be very hard to see proper games (instead of "experiences").

    2. Gamers don´t want to have a strapped screen to their face.

    3. Enthusiasts won´t spend 500$ on something that doesn´t display AAA games (not even mentioning mainstream).

    4. For the mainstream this is a showroom equipement.
    Reply
  • Jeff Fx
    >Premium-grade virtual reality demands more performance than you would expect a PS4 could provide

    Yes it does.

    >, but Sony pulls it off.

    No, this is PSVR, which is far from a premium VR experience.
    They can't deliver the tracking accuracy or video quality of a premium VR system.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    19196429 said:
    Thanks for the thorough review, Kevin. Is OSVR's HDK2 in your queue? I understand it has display tech similar to PSVR's, but with the same pixel resolution as Rift & Vive.

    If I buy PSVR, I'd wait for PS4 Pro to get updated so the breakout box is unnecessary. They should've just put the PSVR ports right on the front of it. Then, sell me the whole kit in one box.

    As for the lack of room scale, it's hardly surprising, if they're just using the stereo camera for tracking. It has to be able to see the controllers, which it can't do if your body is in the way. Even if they have built-in IMUs, those will drift without periodic registration with the camera.

    Finally, I'm impressed that it can send different images to the HMD and TV. Although this will only add to the burden on the PS4's GPU, it's a nice feature. Reminds me of the Wii U, a bit. I don't own one, but saw a couple games make good use of the private view afforded by the tablet.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the review. OSVR HDK2 is on my list. I hope to have a review sample in the near future.

    I was also suprised/impressed that it could do social screen gaming when I first hear about it. Check out my interview with Richard Marks (linked in the review) for more insight on that.

    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    19198130 said:
    You did not touch on the actual gaming experience very much.

    I read and watched a few game experiences and reviews using PSVR and the biggest complaint that was due to how low the processing power was of the PS4 they had to really really compromise on the graphics.

    The graphics of the VR games on PS4 were absolutely terrible including missing/no textures lots of things just not rendered period and low res up-sampled.

    I wrote the review before the PS4 Pro launched but it was delayed due to the Rift review, holiday break, and CES. At the time of writing the review, I hadn't had a chance to try many games. Sony didn't provide us a review sample, so I purchased all the games that I have.

    I've since updated to the PS4 Pro and picked up a number of games. Watch for follow-up content about some games soon.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    19198536 said:
    ... and I´ll explain why:

    1. In an era where game developers are heading into unified platforms it will be very hard to see proper games (instead of "experiences").


    Care to elaborate? I'm not following your logic here.
    Unity and Unreal make it easy for developers to support Oculus, SteamVR, and PSVR with minimal effort.

    19198536 said:
    2. Gamers don´t want to have a strapped screen to their face.


    That's an incredibly generalzed, and ill-informed statement. Sony stated it sold "many hundred of thousands" of PSVR headsets upon release and the hardware has been in high demand to the point where Sony has not been able to keep up with demand. Its sold out practically everywhere.

    In my experience, after showing over 3000 people VR hardware, people think they don't want to strap on a screen until they try it, and then they want one of thier own.

    19198536 said:
    3. Enthusiasts won´t spend 500$ on something that doesn´t display AAA games (not even mentioning mainstream).

    Resident Evil 7 drops tomorrow with full VR support start to finish.
    Robinson: The Journey is easily a AAA title.

    AAA titles are coming. It takes time to make AAA games, though. Many games take 2 to 3 years or more to develop. Sony hasn't had developer kits of PSVR out in the wild for that long.


    19198536 said:
    4. For the mainstream this is a showroom equipement.

    Yup. That's how new technology launches.
    When CDs hit the market in the 80s, DVD players were thousands of dollars.
    When PCs hit the market, they were well over $5000
    When Cell Phones came to market, they were thousands of dollars with no subsidies.

    I could go on and on and on all day long about new technologies launching at crazy prices.
    Early adopters always pay a higher price to be first in line. As units sell in higher and higher volume, manufacturing costs come down, which leads to lower consumer price tags.

    VR hardware won't always be $500.

    Reply