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Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR) Review

Our Verdict

Sony’s PlayStation VR is a great product the get into high-end virtual reality for more palatable price tag than the PC-connected options.

For

  • Relatively affordable
  • Comfortable
  • Best HMD for glasses
  • Vibrant display

Against

  • Fragile mechanical adjustments
  • Confusing bundle SKUs
  • Expensive content

Introduction

The idea of virtual reality isn’t new, but the era of consumer VR is barely past the incubation stages. Over the past 12 months, several consumer virtual reality devices hit the market, including Samsung’s Gear VR mobile headset and two PC-connected systems, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Gear VR introduced millions of people (Oculus said it has over one million active monthly users) to basic virtual reality. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of early adopters picked up the Rift and Vive to experience premium VR at home.

Without question, Oculus, HTC, and Samsung got the ball rolling. But the first real test of mainstream interest in VR must be passed by Sony. After all, the PlayStation VR system costs less than the PC-connected options, and it's more accessible thanks to compatibility with the PS4. Sony said it sold more than 40 million PS4 consoles before it launched the PSVR, which means there are tens of millions of VR-ready households out there.

The PlayStation VR has very simple system requirements: you need a PlayStation 4. Sony recently launched its PS4 Pro console, enabling 4K resolution and HDR. But you don't need the newest version in order to enjoy the full PSVR experience.

The install base of PlayStation 4s in some ways puts the fate of VR in Sony's hands. Many millions of gamers spend their play time in front of consoles rather than PCs, and a lot of them will have their first VR experience on a PS4. The onus is on Sony to deliver an exemplary product. If PSVR is successful, the people who have one will share it with their friends, and their friends will want one too. If it's simply not compelling, the adoption of VR won't be as rapid.

VR Requires A High-End PC; How Is Console VR Possible?

Premium-grade virtual reality demands more performance than you would expect a PS4 could provide, but Sony pulls it off.

Believe it or not, Sony started working on PSVR long before it created the PlayStation 4 console. Last year at Immersed 2015, we spoke with Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Dr. Richard Marks about the PSVR development process. Marks oversees Sony’s Magic Lab, which is an experimental research lab within PlayStation’s R&D department. He explained that Project Morpheus (PSVR’s code-name) officially started in late 2010, but experiments with some of the technology found in PSVR could be traced back to the beginnings of his 17-year career at the Magic Lab. Clearly, Sony put a lot of time and effort into developing its VR technology.

It also had the advantage of designing every facet of its VR headset in-house. The team responsible for bringing PSVR to fruition leveraged a diverse pool of expertise from within the massive multinational corporation. Sony has its fingers in many pieces of the electronics industry, so its hardware engineers and lens designers could work hand-in-hand to create the components that compose PSVR.


MORE: The HTC Vive Review

MORE: The Oculus Rift Review

MORE: Razer OSVR Hacker Developer Kit 1.4 Review

MORE: The Oculus Touch Motion Controller Review


MORE: Oculus Rift Vs. HTC Vive Vs. PlayStation 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