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Best VR headsets on the UK market

Written by  Jul 29, 2018

It doesn't seem that long ago that the thought of a virtual reality headset was something reserved for films and fiction. Now VR is a growing market, so if you're not sure where to start, we'll give you a quick run through the basics.

The two main categories of VR headset are tethered and mobile. Tethered headsets run via software on a larger device, such as a PC or games console. They come separate to the device they are tethered with, so you need to have bought the computer or console already in order to use the headset.

Mobile headsets work with your smartphone and its downloaded content; essentially the headset is a house for the smartphone, and in this house are special lenses that transform the content into VR when the headset is worn. Most mobile headsets are limited in terms of their compatibility, so if you're buying one you need to make sure your smartphone can be used with it.

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The prices of the headsets vary widely, and there are often additional costs for accessories and viewable content. Bundles are worth looking at, as with these you can get most of what you need in one purchase. You also want to consider what you can do with the headset. Look at where you download the games, apps and films from, and how much choice there is.

If you can, try on the headset before you buy it. This will give you a chance to feel how it sits on your head and consider the weight – an important factor given that you could be wearing it for a while when watching films. For more specific insight to individual models, check out our reviews below.

HTC VIVE Pro

This is the latest release in VR headsets. It's essentially a more advanced version of the original HTC VIVE. There's a slight increase in resolution (1440 x 1600 pixels per eye), which is noticeable when you're playing games; it makes more digitally advanced games look awesome, but less complex builds look ropy compared to how they look through the VIVE.

New to the VIVE Pro, there are manoeuvrable integrated high-performance noise-cancelling headphones which make the whole experience even more immersive. You can't use your own wired headphones with it though, as there's no headphone jack. Compared to its predecessor, it's a more comfortable wearing experience thanks to the redesigned head strap, extra padding, extendable front and better weight distribution. It's definitely a step up even if it uses the same accessories.

£850 at Amazon Buy it now

PS VR Starter Bundle

If you love gaming, the PS VR headset will see you enter a whole other dimension of console/headset crossover gaming. To truly enjoy the PS VR, you need a PS4, the headset itself, the PS camera and two Move wireless controllers. Set up is a little complicated and involves trailing a few wires around, but if you get it right the tracking will be good. You can share the screen to the TV for inclusive experiences.

As you'd hope would be the case from PlayStation, there are many games to choose from including some that you can get on the other tethered headsets. The visuals in the majority of them exceed those of the mobile headsets and come close to the VIVE and Rift. The games vary in price, but all are cheaper than a console game would be. If you're buying a game bundle, consider going for VR Worlds – it does a great job of showing off the capabilities of the visual and audio aspects of the headset.

£229.99 at Amazon Buy it now

Google Daydream View

Google Daydream View

This, like the Samsung Gear, is another mobile VR headset. Less plasticky than the former, the Daydream is covered in a soft flat fabric, giving it a less techy and space-age feel. You can choose from three colours, too, allowing for customisation. The headset itself is light and nicely padded, feeling simple but enough.

It requires a Google Pixel or a Daydream-ready phone (Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, Note 8 and a few others), which slides in front of the eyepieces in the headset. It comes with a remote, which acts as the controller in games. That said, it is small, so imagining it as a golf club in simulator games is quite a stretch. As for game choices, plenty of apps are available from the Play store. You can share your screen via Chromecast, so your friends can see whatever you're seeing to make it more of a communal experience.

£69.99 at Carphone Warehouse Buy it now

HTC VIVE headset and controllers

The HTC VIVE is one of the major players when it comes to VR headsets. It's a tethered model that, to get the most out of it, needs to be run through a decent modern PC. The headset is relatively comfortable, with head straps, just enough room for glasses and adjustable focus. It comes with controllers and base stations for use with games.

Content can be downloaded through Steam and HTC's content platform Viveport, which has over 3,000 titles including experiences, games and more. These include Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR, both of which are a great way to feel the capabilities of VR gaming. The imaging is sharp, with 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye, a 90 Hz refresh rate and 110 degrees of vision. A microphone and directional audio enhance the experience, but it's most immersive through headphones – which you can insert via the 3.5mm jack.

£563 at Amazon Buy it now

Samsung Gear VR with Motion Controller

For this headset to work, you need to have a Samsung smartphone that is in the S6 line or later. The phone clips onto the front of the headset and the lenses of the headset transform the phone's visuals into 3D-looking content. Once that's done, you're free to choose from some 600 games, apps, films and experiences.

Included is a wireless companion controller, which acts as a remote. You're limited to point-and-click on the main pad and shooting with the trigger, which limits gameplay somewhat, but it's just a different way of doing things when you're used to all the buttons of a games console controller. The head strap and cushioning make it fairly comfortable, but it doesn't have the same quality of weight distribution that the VIVE has, so at times it feels heavy. It is neat for watching things you've filmed on the Samsung Gear 360 camera and short films, plus it's affordable.

£111.34 at Amazon Buy it now

Oculus Rift and Touch

Another well-known tethered VR headset is the Oculus Rift, which is best used with the two hand-held Touch controllers. Even though it's tethered, the set-up if pretty simple. Like with the VIVE, you need a modern PC with a lot of memory and a fast processor to get the most out of it. It comes with integrated headphones, which give the impression that you're surrounded by sound – perfect for immersing yourself in a game or film.

All of the games and experiences for the Rift are available on the Oculus Store, where there are all sorts of options (including Arizona Sunshine – a brain-chilling zombie game). If you have an Xbox, you can use the Xbox integration point to play your Xbox games on the Oculus Rift (in VR, they appear on a large cinema-like screen). If you don't know whether to go for the Rift or VIVE, it'll come down to the handheld controllers and the choices of games available, which are a matter of personal preference.

£399.99 at Amazon Buy it now

Verdict:

The tethered headsets stood out against mobile options with the VIVE Pro is at the front of the league, with the PS VR still a brilliant and more affordable option.

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