Virtual Reality has really come into its own this year with a handful of new devices that hit the market, and for anyone that hasn't already picked up a VR headset of their own, with Christmas coming up just around the corner there is a good chance that you may still wake up on Christmas morning to find one under the tree nestled amongst all the other presents, wrapped up nice and neat. While VR has been around since before 2016, the market has really picked up this year thanks to the likes of Google, Sony, HTC, and Oculus, providing interested consumers with some heavy-hitting and exciting hardware.
As a quick look back at what's happened in the world of VR so far this year, Oculus kicked things off with the launch of the Rift headset early on, releasing in late March, boasting a decent amount of games to go along with what could be considered the lower level of the high-end VR headset options, coming in with a price of $599. The Oculus Rift was followed by the HTC Vive in the first week of April, which also launched with a fair amount of games to begin with, although it currently sits at the high end of the pricing scale at $799. With the launch of HTC's Vive out of the way, the VR market fell a little bit silent for a while until Sony launched their PlayStation VR. Releasing in the middle of October, followed by a launch of Google's Daydream View headset in early November, both Sony and Google released their options for VR just in time for the Holidays, making sure that plenty of consumers have the ability to scoop one up for someone special as a gift. Of course, while not a major launch as it was more of a redesign, Samsung also launched their new version of the Gear VR with some subtle refinements, a new color, and an overall better user experience. Now that we've recapped the big stuff to happen in VR this past year, lets look at what people could potentially receive as VR gifts.
Once a lone company and now a technology owned by Facebook, Oculus has been in the hearts and minds of VR enthusiasts for a while. Transforming from early builds into the sleek, polished looking headset that it is today. When it comes to the big guns in the VR department, the Oculus Rift is the less expensive of the two, with the other being the HTC Vive. For a cool $599, or $798 if you're wanting to spring for the added Oculus Touch controllers, the Rift is your ticket to high-grade virtual reality experiences that are sure to delight. Of course, those costs don't include the compatible PC price. With a healthy and growing list of games that you can find on both Oculus own store as well as on Steam, there is really nothing not to like here, and although the it doesn't have the snazzy sensors and camera on the front to sense the things around you in the room, it has the added benefit of built-in audio so you don't have to add one more device into the mix when using it, which is definitely a benefit over the Vive.
While the HTC Vive certainly comes in at a more noticeably expensive price, there's a reason for it, and it's a good one. The HTC Vive is a VR experience unlike any other as it provides you with a way to move around the room like not other headset can provide. While it's not recommended that you gallivant around the house while playing your favorite game, after the room is set up properly with the included sensors, you can move around freely within a set space to as not to feel too confined, yet without breaking the feeling of immersion. The HTC Vive comes in at $799 for the headset, but it's not just the added sensors and camera technology that are integrated that are cause for the higher price, it also comes with two paddle controllers, a set of earbuds, a link box, and two base stations to get the room setup where you'll be using it. With all of that bundled in, it's about equal with the cost of the Oculus Rift when you include the two Oculus Touch controllers.
Sony PlayStation VR
If you're a console gamer, and specifically in the PlayStation 4 camp, then Sony's PlayStation VR is your best option for getting the most out of virtual reality. It comes in at the cheapest cost between it and the two headsets above, with a starting price of $399 for the headset alone, or $499 for the bundle which also comes with the headset as well as the PlayStation camera and two PlayStation Move controllers. Of course you'll need the PlayStation 4 as well, and that comes with DUALSHOCK 4 controller which will still allow you to play if you prefer them to the Move controllers. If you don't have the PlayStation camera already though, you're likely better off just getting the bundle. PSVR doesn't quite have as many games as the Rift and the Vive, but it does have some excellent options available such as the VR content coming to the recently release Final Fantasy XV, and you can play Resident Evil 7 in VR all the way through if you like, and if you can stomach it. You'll also find the Batman: Arkham VR, as well as a host of other games at your fingertips, all in an ecosystem that you're familiar with.
If you'd like to be more mobile, there's no doubt that Google's Daydream View is the best option here. There are a few phones which are compatible with the headset, and it has the shortest list of games, but it's much cheaper than any of the other three options as Google is only asking a price of $79 here. That said, you will need at least another $650 if you're going with the 32GB version of the Google Pixel, which is one of three compatible devices that currently support Daydream. Still, it's a lot less expensive than the Oculus Rift and a gaming PC, and you can take the experience with you wherever you go. Plus, it now comes in three colors, and has a nifty little controller that is easy to use as well as easy to store thanks to Google's ingenious design team. If you haven't already picked one up, you can grab one at the Google Store in either Crimson, Snow, or Slate.
Samsung Gear VR (Newest Version)
Samsung's latest iteration of the Gear VR is in close comparison to the Daydream View, although it is backed by the Oculus software and the platform has been out longer, so there is admittedly more content available here. It might be limited to Samsung Galaxy device compatibility, but at the moment there are more Galaxy devices that work with the Gear VR than there are Daydream compatible devices that work with the Daydream View. Samsung has refined the design just a touch here with this version of the headset, and it comes in a new darker color instead of the white that Samsung used for the first two versions. It also comes in at $79.99 just like the Daydream View, so the cost for the headset itself is just the same, and provides an exciting experience too.