Do you fathom to possess control over the world? While it is improbable to acheivein this chaotic real world, a virtual world can make it possible. Virtual Reality is a milestone in technological advancement of creating a three-dimensional alternative, interactive, simulated reality. At the behest of powerful processors, the developers create a reality catering to a specific purpose. While the application of virtual reality goes beyond entertainment, the gaming industry has become a benefactor of VR technology.
Mesmerising visuals and stimulating audio are integral to immersive gaming. Depending on the required experiential depth, the virtual environment may include a gaming controller or a VR glove. But the headset is indispensable to the quality of the virtual reality experience. The best standalone VR headset can offer an immersive, believable experience in the absence of a device or a computer or a console.
The Virtual reality is in its early stages. The dominant market players are improving their VR/AR products, and are designing products to pair them with Personal Computers, Gaming Consoles and smartphones. As the world developed an inclination towards portability through wireless technologies, the market leaders have turned their attention towards portable solutions for VR. Standalone/All-in-one Virtual Reality Headsets seems to be the initial step into the world of VR solutions.
Types of Virtual Reality Headsets
Tethered VR Headsets: The tethered-virtual reality headset works in collaboration with a personal computer or a gaming console. Tethered VR headsets are suitable for professional and gamers, in possession of a powerful personal computer, looking to have an immersive virtual reality experience.
Standalone VR Headsets: The Standalone VR headsets have inbuilt processors, battery, memory, and a display. If you cannot afford the cost and space for a fixed gaming setup, the standalone VR headsets are a viable alternative. The system is wireless and offers mobility. With minimal graphics and lower refresh rates, the Standalone VR headset experience doesn’t compare to quality and experience PC/Console tethered-VR headsets.
Smartphone VR Headsets: The Smartphone VR headsets use the smartphone as a source of the content for the headset. While they can give a whiff of virtual reality, the experience is limited. The performance of a smartphone VR headset depends on the compatibility, support, design of the device and its software. Compared to the other headsets, smartphone headsets are the least powerful.
Best Standalone VR Headset
1. Oculus Quest – Best Standalone VR Headset 2021
The Oculus Quest finds the perfect middle ground between the cost and quality of an immersive Virtual Reality experience. It makes the VR easier to deliver a compromising experience that can pause the necessity to buy expensive console/PCs.
The Quest comes with two hand controllers, which are compatible with the comprehensive list of games/applications that come with Oculus library. The built-in sensors can track the movements and the touch controllers as you navigate inside a room. It can fit into handbags or a backpack to keep them within reach, in case of a break amidst work or social gatherings. It takes less than a minute to set up and start playing. Adding an Oculus Link cable to the Quest can connect it to a PC for a better VR experience.
The headset weighs 571 grams. The foam padding at the front and adjustable straps at the rear side distributes the weight. It makes Quest comfortable to wear for hours of gaming. The Quest has a 6-DoF that can track the movements along all three axes. The Quest’s movement tracking can deliver a realistic experience, which bridges the gap to quality of tethered Headsets.
The Guardian room tracking system lets you define the dimensions of the space. In case, the user gets close to the wall; the system warns you with a mesh-like virtual fence. The screen display size is 1440×1600 pixels per-eye. The screen-door effect might be visible as a light grid over your FoV (field of view). The Quest has a refresh rate of 72 Hz, which is lesser than tethered headsets. The higher refresh rates mean less motion blur, which is less likely to cause motion sickness or nausea.
The Quest’s double touch controllers, that fit one each in the arm, with the fingers resting on triggers, buttons and a small joystick. The inside out sensors in the headset track the controllers giving an immersive experience. The Battery can last up to three hours of usage. It takes two hours for a full recharge. The Oculus Quest runs on a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 GB of Memory and storage of 64GB/128 GB.
2. HTC Vive focus plus – Premium Standalone VR System
The Vive Focus plus from HTC uses a Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of memory. The Vive Focus Plus has a refresh rate of 75 Hz. The AMOLED screen display delivers a resolution of 1400×1600 pixels per eye and has an inter-pupillary adjustable range of 60.5 – 74mm to accommodate eye-glasses.
The HTC Vive Focus plus comes with a wide field of view of 110 degrees. The headset and controllers can track movements with 6 Degrees of Freedom. The focus plus headset uses an ultrasound tracker to track the position of the hand controllers. It reduces the battery discharge and usage of computational resources. The Vive library features a few exceptional games and mixed reality exercise applications. It is familiar for its collection of indie games. Viveport Infinity subscription lets you access a library of content. Infinity allows using this headset with your personal computer.
The HTC Vive Focus plus is a business-oriented model. The Enterprise Advantage program comes with kiosk modes, batch configuration and content deployment. It enables the use of multiple headsets with a similar settings. The program allows tools to secure account data and handle with devices at multiple locations. With a microSD card slot which supports up to 2 TB data, expands the storage capacity to cater to business requirements.
The headset features a room-scale tracking system to define spatial measurements. Despite weighing 695 grams, the headset has an ergonomic design to redistribute weight across the device. The synthetic-leather face gasket is detachable, enabling users to remove and clean the face cushion. The headset comes with a built-in microphone, 3.5mm headphone jack and speakers.
The headset allows content playback from an external device with multiple modes like PC VR streaming mode, theatre mode, etc. The focus plus can connect to HTC phone through Bluetooth and receive notifications for calls/texts. The inbuilt rechargeable battery can handle three hours of active usage and requires two hours for a full replenishment. The headset has an internal storage of 32 GB.
3. Lenovo Mirage Solo VR Standalone Virtual Reality Headset
Lenovo Mirage solo sports a 5.5 inch LCD with a refresh rate of 75Hz. It features a 110 degree Field of View and a resolution of 1280×1440 pixels. The headset uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, a 4 GB RAM and Daydream to power the Mirage Solo.
Mirage solo comes with a single motion controller. While the headset features 6-degrees-of-freedom movement tracker, the motion controller has a 3 DoF movement tracker. It has an internal storage of 64 GB and a microSD slot which supports up to 256 GB. The content library has a few First-Person shooter games, action puzzles, RPG’s, racing game. It has access to streaming applications featuring Netflix, Plex and YouTube. The VR compatible videos in 4K resolution with a high-end audio set can offer an immersive experience.
Lenovo Mirage solo features a special pass-through mode, which allows you to see the actual environment through the cameras. The Mirage solo comes with a 4000-mAH user non-replaceable battery, which can last up to three hours of gaming. The headset features a Cast function to project your display on to television.
The headset weighs 645 grams. While it is heavy for head-mounted-device, it features an ergonomic, comfort-oriented design to fit different sizes. The load distribution minimises the stress on the front side of the headset. The 3-DoF motion controller sports an elegant design featuring a touchpad and volume controllers.
4. Oculus Go – Standalone VR Headset
The Oculus Go comes with a 5.5-inch LCD with a resolution 1280×1440 per eye. The Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor runs the headset. It comes with an internal storage of 32GB and 64GB version. The headset has a refresh rate up to 72 Hz. The tiny speakers behind the headset strap deliver audio to the ears. The speakers play a key role in delivering 3-Dimensional spatial audio, which is imperative for an immersive experience.
The Oculus Go comes with plenty of VR social spaces, including Oculus Rooms. It is a customisable virtual environment to interact with friends. Oculus Venues allows you to watch live concerts, sport and comedy shows. Oculus TV serves as a hub for streaming content platforms like Netflix, etc.
The headset has a 3-degree-of-freedom movement tracker and is suitable for games with minimal movement. Headset weighs 467 grams, and the foam padding eases its effect on the face, making it comfortable. The Go uses a Foveated rendering method to deliver a crisp display. The centre of the screen is sharper compared to the corners.The battery can last up to two hours of active usage.
Oculus Go, while it is available 32GB and 64GB of internal storage, it doesn’t feature an expandable memory slot. It limits the availability of offline content. It doesn’t support multiple user accounts. It acts as a portable solution for a virtual reality experience and comes at an affordable price.
5. Pico Interactive Goblin – Best Standalone VR Headset for Developers
If gaming is a secondary purpose, and you are looking for an open platform to develop and share an application, Pico Goblin can work for you. Although Pico has upgraded versions of Goblin are available, the Pico Goblin acts as affordable entry-level standalone VR Headset. Pico Goblin was one of the earliest models in the arena of Standalone/All-in-one Virtual Reality headsets.
Pico Goblin uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU and a 16G eMMC 5.1 ROM. It has a refresh rate of 70 Hz. The 92° Field Of View is a precursor to the world of immersive experience. The 2.5K LCD delivers crisp visuals. The Headset and the motion controller offer a 3-DoF movement tracking. It weighs 440 grams and comes with a cushion around the rim of the headset that makes it light on the face.
The inbuilt speakers take care of audio requirement, but it comes with an addition 3.5mm jack for headphones. The battery can last up to 2.5 hours of active usage. Pico Goblin runs on an Android system. The content library has a few games with a collection of shovelware applications. Pico comes with an open platform to cater to your creative urges. One can create projects, share and interact through the Sandbox channel.
Features of your best standalone VR headset
Screen Size: The screen with high resolution is vital to a VR Headset. Crisp visuals with minimal screen door effect and accurate representation of dark and bright colours make the virtual environment believable.
Degrees of Freedom (DoF): The Degrees of Freedom refers to the movement of an object in a three-dimensional space. The ability to track movements of the user is essential for delivering an immersive experience. While the advance standalone headsets have 6 DoF, 3 DoF is more prevalent. 6 DoF refers to the ability to track both rotational (movement around the three-axis) and translational (left/right) movements along the axes. 3-DoF means the tracking is limited to the rotational movements.
Content variety: The entertainment value improves with the variety of content the headset brings along with it. It could be movies, games, and art applications. Increasing the user base, a pipeline of projects/applications under development enhances the future scope of the headset.
Controllers: A VR headset package may include hand/motion controllers if the headset can track the hands of the user. Controllers should be comfortable to wear, intuitive to use. And if it can track the location of the hands reliably, it can probably improve the quality of the experience. Most of the cases, two separate hand controllers, are better than one.
Comfort: The comfort factor of the headset depends on the design, which can distribute its entire weight across the head. If the movement inside the headset doesn’t synchronise with the real-world movement, it can cause motion sickness resulting in nausea.
Battery life: One of the essential factors that ensure the headset can deliver hours of immersive VR experience. Headset with long battery life and shorter recharge time is imperative. If the headset supports portable battery packs, it can keep your experience non-disruptive.
Choosing the Best Standalone VR Headset
The virtual reality is in the nascent stage, there are opportunities for dominant market players, and niche researchers/manufactures. They are working to provide solutions for the challenges in Virtual reality ecosystem. While we can expect products to flood the market, there are limited products in the world of Standalone VR Headset. “Quest” is the latest headset from Oculus, a company with a backing of Facebook. It is the best standalone VR Headset, finding the optimal balance of features and price. Google, with Lenovo as a third party manufacturer, has come up with Mirage Solo. It offers 4K Ultra HD visuals while falling short in the content library and 3-DoF motion controllers. World sense tracking seems to be a step into the future of tracking.
The HTC Vive Focus plus is a premium product, keen to offer innovative Virtual Reality based business solutions. The Oculus Go is the best standalone VR headset at the entry-level. With its affordable pricing, it gives a taste of the world of virtual reality. Goblin interactive from Pico was the front runner in the Standalone VR Headsets. While it doesn’t have a content library to contend with other market players, it offers an open-source platform for the creative developers. The onus is on the consumer to understand personal requirements and preferences, to make the right choice while choosing a product. The products listed belong to major-market-players, which can guarantee durable products to a certain extent. There are small-scale researchers and manufactures are exploring the Virtual Reality market space with their products. If you can afford to experiment with such products, there are VR Headsets from Skyworth and TiYiViRi. They can surprise you with their features and pricing.
Last update on 2021-01-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API