VR Showdown – Quick review of 11 headsets

I’ve been lucky enough to try quite a few VR headsets, so I’ve finally decided to write some quick impressions about them.

Disclaimer: this is not meant to be an in-depth review of any of them. I have actually spent a very limited amount of time in many of them, so a rushed calibration/setup may have lead to incorrect conclusions. Don’t hate me please 😀

dk1Oculus Rift DK1

Visual bandwidth: 1280×800 pixels @ 60Hz = 61 megapixels/second
Remarks: first one to really reach a big audience without being a flop (Virtual Boy, I’m looking at you)

A promising product showing what’s possible with current technology, albeit with lots of flaws, as expected in such an early device: screen door effect everywhere, no positional tracking, bit uncomfortable to wear, very low resolution.


dk2Oculus Rift DK2

Visual bandwidth: 1920×1080 pixels @ 75Hz = 155 megapixels/second
Remarks: first famous headset with positional tracking

Already more than 2 years old, but still benefits from the latest Oculus software updates. Low persistency screen, reduced screendoor effect and higher refresh rates makes it the first and cheapest one to be really usable on a daily basis.


gearvrSamsung Gear VR

Visual bandwidth: 2560×1440 pixels @ 60Hz = 221 megapixels/second
Remarks: wireless, requires certain smartphone models to work

Only rotational tracking. Visually on par with the modern desktop headsets. First high quality VR headset for smartphones.

cv1Oculus Rift CV1

Visual bandwidth: 2160×1200 pixels @ 90Hz = 233 megapixels/second
Remarks: integrated headphones and microphone

Benefits from the best device drivers out there right now (async spacewarp reduces requirements down to 45FPS). One of the highest image quality when taking into account their lense design (when ignoring the god rays), and very comfortable for long sessions.

viveHTC Vive

Visual bandwidth: 2160×1200 pixels @ 90Hz = 233 megapixels/second
Remarks: includes VR controllers by default, front camera, room-scale

Similar overall quality as CV1, usually considered a bit less comfortable, but providing room-scale VR before anyone else did, along with proper VR controllers rather than a lousy gamepad.

psvrPlayStation VR

Visual bandwidth: 1920×1080 pixels @ up to 120Hz = 248 megapixels/second (not all games use 120Hz)
Remarks: best selling VR system not based on smartphones

Oh god, the tracking wobbles so much compared to Vive/Rift. Probably up to one centimeter at times. But it’s so cheap compared to the proper VR headsets.

Image quality is nothing special, but good enough. Not all games will run at 120Hz, so the visual bandwidth may be considerably smaller in many cases.

foveFOVE 0

Visual bandwidth: 2560×1440 pixels @ 70Hz = 258 megapixels/second
Remarks: eye tracking + foveated rendering

Tracking uses DK2 technology, but they will soon migrate to Lighthouse. Visual quality seems on par with CV1.

Eye tracking: works pretty good, but has some pupil position drift over time. They try to correct on the fly, but doesn’t work perfectly, yet. Does not work well with all kinds of faces/eyes, yet.
Once you try eye tracking, you feel the lack of it in all other headsets. It’s such an improvement.

Dynamic depth of field visual effect: useless. The pupils aren’t physically adapting to different depths anyway, and the effect is temporally smoothed (probably to prevent effect flickering), making the whole image feel blurry overall. Best turned off.

Foveated rendering (rendering lower quality wherever you are not directly looking at, to vastly improve framerates): works perfectly. I couldn’t notice any lag between gazing and the corresponding increase in detail. This is the future!

qcommQualcomm VR820 ref design

Visual bandwidth: unknown
Remarks: wireless with positional tracking, not going to be commercialized

This prototype is self-contained, not needing a PC to run. It features inside-out positional tracking (similar to Google Tango or Microsoft Hololens).

The demo showed an octopus suspended in the air (water), moving up and down, and a completely flat blue background. This made it hard to judge the quality of its positional tracking.

m1000IdeaLens M1000

Visual bandwidth: 7680×4320 pixels @ 90Hz = 2985 megapixels/second
Remarks: huge FOV of 180º with an 8K screen

Huge headset for a huge FOV. The demo I tried showed real time streaming video from a nearby 360º camera. I suspect the video was pretty low resolution since image quality seemed on par with a CV1.

It packs a very wide set of lenses covering most of the inside, with one fresnel lense in front of each eye (similar in appearance to those in Vive, with big segments, rather than the thin ones in CV1), while the rest was filled with what seemed a regular lense design. The visual quality didn’t suffer much in those areas, I expected a much bigger drop in detail, but nope!

The rotational tracking was lagging a good 50-200ms, probably due to the stream being compressed server side and decoded on or near the headset. Couldn’t test positional tracking, I’m actually not sure if this headset even has it or not.

Under those conditions it is impossible to judge the headset properly, if anything it felt underwhelming.

k2IdeaLens K2

Visual bandwidth: 2160×1200 pixels @ 90Hz = 233 megapixels/second
Remarks: self contained wireless device, 120º FOV

Visual quality was standard, the headset was surprinsingly comfortable to wear despite its weight. The slightly bigger field of view is nice, but the tunnel effect is still noticeable.

piconeoPico Neo

Visual bandwidth: 2160×1200 pixels @ 90Hz = 233 megapixels/second
Remarks: wired gamepad includes the computer and battery

Another selft-contained VR system with smarpthone-like hardware and rotational tracking. Normal visual quality.

The computing hardware and battery is in a gamepad controller, that is wired to the headset in order to provide the image and receive the sensor data.

[en] | November 16th, 2016 |

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