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Is VR Worth Buying Yet?

VR is now a reality, but high-end setups can be pricey — and require powerful PCs. If you're considering the investment, try before you buy.
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using Oculus VR

I remember the first time I tried virtual reality vividly. It was 2013, and I had the opportunity to sit down with an early version of the Oculus Rift. I strapped the headset to my face and prepared for a virtual roller coaster demo I would not soon forget.

As the virtual train slowly made its way up a steep track, I marveled at the realistic landscape around me. I looked over my shoulder as treetops entered my view, then up at the blue sky and down at the ground below, anticipation mounting. When the train car reached the top of the hill and began plunging down, my stomach dropped — just as if I was on an actual roller coaster.

VR has the power to transport us somewhere else in a more immersive way than any other gadget. It's still the early days for this emerging technology, but high-end VR setups have been available for more than a year, begging the question: Should you buy now?

To help you arrive at an answer, we delve into current VR choices, costs, and content, and give you the lowdown on each.


HTC Vive gear

Know Your Current VR Options

If you're thinking about buying into VR, you can choose from a bunch of different options at a wide range of price points. At the top of the pack are pricey PC-based VR setups like the $799 HTC Vive and $499 Oculus Rift. Samsung also recently revealed that it's working on a high-end VR headset designed for pro gamers and media producers. The headset is still in development though, so don't expect it to launch any time soon.

If you're looking for something a little more affordable, there's the $399 Sony PlayStation VR, which works with the PlayStation 4, PS4 Slim, and PS4 Pro. On the lower end, you can get the 2016 Samsung Gear VR for considerably less than its $100 list price (like $52.99 at Jet.com at the time of this writing), or you can grab the $79 Google Daydream View. Both are designed to work with a smartphone instead of a PC or game console. (Be aware that neither works without a compatible phone.)

An updated version of the Gear VR is expected to arrive alongside Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone on April 21 for $129.99. That model will include a new motion-sensing controller, priced at $39.99 on its own.

SEE ALSO: 9 Things You Should Know About the Samsung Galaxy S8

If you're on a tight budget but still want to experience VR, Google Cardboard is a fun option that can help you dip your toes into the virtual waters.

High-End PC VR Is Expensive, but Prices Are Going Down

Price is still a major factor affecting adoption of high-end PC-based VR. The Vive and Rift aren't exactly cheap, but in early March, Oculus made its system more attractive for buyers. It dropped the price of the Rift headset to $499 (from $599) and the hand-tracking Touch controllers to $99 (from $199). The Rift plus Touch bundle is now $598, which is around $200 cheaper than at launch.

In early March, Oculus dropped the price of the Rift headset and hand-tracking Touch controllers by $100 each.

In a blog post last month, Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin said most buyers are gravitating toward less expensive VR setups. Inexpensive mobile VR is currently outselling console VR, which is outselling pricey PC VR.

"Bringing the higher quality of PC VR toward these lower price points is an obvious win for both consumers and PC VR," he wrote. "We believe this lower entry price will attract consumers to PC VR at a faster pace."


using HTC Vive

VR Still Needs One Killer Game

A huge factor in your decision to invest in VR will come down to content. In his March blog post, Oculus' Rubin admitted that while high-end VR systems have been available for more than a year, many people are still wondering when a "killer app" will arrive.

"I always give the same answer: No one could have predicted that Mario or Halo would be the definitive games in their era," he wrote. "I can't say for sure that this year's line-up is going to have VR's World of Warcraft or GTA, but with every new release, and with every new discovery, VR gets closer to finding its killer app."

SEE ALSO: 5 Must-Have Apps to Take Your Streaming to the Next Level

He pointed out that a typical AAA game today takes a "minimum of two years to make and averages three years or more." Oculus developers have had their dev kits for less than two years. "In 2017, we're going to see things take off as titles get closer and closer to ... the AAA games everyone desires," he wrote. Oculus currently has more than 350 Rift titles in the Oculus Store, including some new additions like Robo Recall, a VR shooter from Epic Games.

Another consideration is the level of interactivity you're looking for.

Some say that flight and driving titles like War Thunder offer the best, most polished VR experiences at the moment, so if you like these "cockpit-style" games, you might want to consider investing in the technology. On the other hand, "room-scale" games like the brief Budget Cuts demo, where you interact with the environment, are promising, but still need a lot of work.

Consider the Added Expense of a Computer

Keep in mind that the price of a headset isn't the only expense to experience VR. The Rift and Vive both require a PC with pretty beefy specs. To ensure good performance, Oculus recommends a PC with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 or better graphics card, Intel Core i5-4590 or better CPU, at least 8GB of RAM, an HDMI 1.3 video output, three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, and Windows 7 SP1 64-bit or newer. Those are very close to the requirements for the HTC Vive. A rig with those specs will set you back anywhere from around $500 to more than $3,000.


Oculus Rift headset

Try Before You Buy

If you're strongly considering investing in VR — especially if you're mulling over a high-end system — go to a demo location and try it out. VR can make some people feel queasy, so you'll want to make sure your stomach can handle it. Otherwise, you'll have another expense: the price of motion sickness medication.

VR can make some people feel queasy, so you'll want to make sure your stomach can handle it.

VR companies have made it easy to locate demos of their products. Visit the sites below, enter your location, and see all the stores in your area with a demo available.

The Bottom Line

If you have the disposable income, this could be a good time for you to invest in VR — especially with the promise of more content on the way. Just make sure you try it out first. The last thing you want is to spend your hard-earned money on a pricey PC VR system, only to watch it collect dust because your stomach can't handle the future of gaming.

Readers, do you think VR systems are worth buying yet? If you've taken the plunge, what VR setup do you own? Share your thoughts on this nascent technology in the comments below.


Contributing Writer

Angela is a DealNews contributor focused on consumer technology. You can also find her byline at PCMag.com. Follow her on Twitter at @amoscaritolo.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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9 comments
TheDealingProcess
It's of limited value unless you're into simulations like racing and flying. In which case it is worth every last penny, and enthusiasts of those already are used to spending inordinate amounts of money on those hobbies anyways.

Outside of that, don't expect content that's more than 20-30 minutes long for most titles, and very low budget games. The best VR is still existing games ported to VR, or cross platform with a wider audience so that there is an actual budget behind the game.

It's the chicken or the egg... there's no good content, so no reason to buy VR. There's not many VR headsets out there to sell products to, so no one will invest to create good content worth buying.
Flyby
I'm waiting for a VR headset that can display high resolution. I have friends who fly aerial-combat simulations and find the poor resolution makes it hard to read instruments, and difficult to spot contacts. For general flying about, the current VR headsets are said to be almost tolerable, but generally lacking. I know combat flight sims are a small market, but it's fans spend $$$ on high performance PC systems in the interest of suspension of disbelief. Manufacturers need to step up. Solve that and all else will fal lin line.
Flyby out
BlueOak
No.
VoidAndNull
A buddy of mine at a computer shop bought the Vive setup, and i played some games on it, and i am hooked. they are coming out with a few really fun titles, and when the price is right, ill buy one.

I am waiting for the resolution to go up a little, but the experience was so well crafted that i am sure we are around the corner from some big games for it. I built my PC 3 years ago for 1200 dollars, but next time i build one it will be VR ready.
bigbudz
I've first bought the PSVR and I was unimpressed with the game lineup (minus RE7). I found motion sickness to be a constant issue. I'm not sure if it was poor framerates or something else. I had random screen blackouts with the PSVR so I took that back and I bought a Rift w\Touch. I play it almost everyday and I hardly ever experience nausea like on the PSVR. I do have a 1080 powering it so that may be the difference. BTW the resolution on the Rift is noticeably better especially when you can crank up SS and HMD quality.

The game lineup on Oculus/Steam is impressive with many "full-version" games being developed and available now for VR. People are also working on apps to transform PC games into VR like Fallout 4 and the GTA5 mod. I personally play Elite Dangerous and it works well.

It was kind of a no-brainer for me since i already had the PC/PS4 to power it. Yes, VR is still in its infancy, but that is not a reason to "hold out" because it is amazing even with the first gens.
chrisbrendel
The problem with VR currently is eye strain, nausea-inducing episodes, and lack of whole body, room scale tracking.

I had a PSVR and really enjoyed it before selling the whole setup to save for a Vive (still saving). There are some fun titles out there, but they are still gimmicky. The exception perhaps being some of the flying sims.

Long gaming sessions are difficult due to eye strain and that sense of double-vision within your periphery, and I definitely had some bouts of nausea when standing while playing an FPS and my character jumping off a ledge which sent my stumbling and my stomach churning.

There are some very interesting omnidirectional treadmills which are still years away from being true consumer products.

I definitely think VR is here to stay now, but perhaps at a commercial scale for the moment. There are some amazing VR studios, like The Void in Utah, where all your VR dreams can come true.
mwhite67
Sounds like you don't have one. There's something good coming out almost every week now and they aren't demos.
HowardaC
That's really not true. There are tons of interactive demos for Vr setups atm but very few titles that most people would consider full fledged games.

This recent VR fad will most likely end as it has every few years that it has resurfaced since the 80's.... it'll fizzle out and you will be left with very expensive equipment and nothing to play on it.

Regular people please save your money... VR is the next 3D tv... aka a dead end.
mwhite67
I have had an absolute blast from day 1 with mine. Now there's tons of games out for it too. Highly recommended.
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