There are now a few different choices for those looking to get into virtual reality with a number of different VR headsets available at varying prices. At one end of the spectrum that are headsets that use compatible mobile devices for their VR content while at the other end sits the high-end headsets that require a powerful gaming computer to run.
Oculus offer several different VR headsets including the Oculus Go, the Oculus powered Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift is currently the company's flagship device that needs a PC to run, while the other devices offer a wire-free VR experience. But what's the difference between these devices? We've got all the info you need to know.
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- Samsung Gear VR: 207mm x 120mm x 99 mm weighing 345g, 64GB onboard storage and MicroSD slot
- Oculus Go: 190mm x 105mm x 115mm weighing 467g, 32GB or 64GB storage
- Oculus Rift: 391mm x 165mm x 307mm weighing 460g
Each of these virtual reality headsets offers slightly different design features that make them stand apart. As such, they all offer a slightly different VR experience and which you choose will depend on the results you're after.
The Samsung Gear VR is a headset that's primarily powered by a smartphone. Like Google Cardboard and Google Daydream, the Samsung Gear VR is an entry-level virtual reality device that requires a phone in order to work.
This headset works with a limited number of devices including the Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, Note 8, S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge, A8 and A8+. Plugging one of these phones into the device gives access to a range of Gear VR games and apps that currently includes over 1,000 experiences. Since the Samsung Gear VR is phone powered it works on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks. The Gear VR includes 64GB of onboard storage and a MicroSD slot for downloading even more.
Oculus Go is a step up from the Gear VR - offering a standalone virtual reality experience that's wireless and doesn't require a smartphone in order to work (apart from for initial setup). This headset works over Wi-Fi and is powered by Android internals and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. The Oculus Go is designed to work with Samsung Gear VR compatible apps giving users access to the same 1,000 experiences as on that device as well as over 100 apps specifically designed for the standalone headset.
Both Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR come with a single controller for in-game control.
The Oculus Rift is currently the flagship VR device offered by Oculus. This is a virtual reality headset that requires a gaming PC in order to run. It's the most expensive headset, but also offers the best VR experience with access to a mass of gaming titles and apps. With room-scale tracking it's also the most immersive VR headset on this list and allows freedom to move around in the virtual world. It is wired though and needs to be constantly connected to a PC in order to run. Minimum specifications for the accompanying computer are:
- CPU - Intel i3-6100/AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater
- Graphics Card - NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti/AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater
- Memory - 8 GB+ RAM
- OS - Windows 8.1 or newer
The Oculus Rift comes with two touch controllers that include traditional action buttons, thumb-sticks and analogue triggers. It's also compatible with gamepads including Xbox One controllers - allowing a variety of control options for VR gaming.
Display resolution and specifications
- Samsung Gear VR: Resolution depends on device, 60Hz refresh rate, 101-degree field of view
- Oculus Go: 5.5-inch display, 538ppi, 2560 x 1440 WQHD resolution, 72Hz refresh rate
- Oculus Rift: 2160 x 1200 resolution, 90 Hz refresh rate, 110-degree field of view
Samsung Gear VR relies on a smartphone to run, meaning it needs the processing power of that phone to deliver the VR experience. This headset delivers different resolutions depending on your device, but is theoretically capable of at least 1280 x 1440 per eye with a 60Hz refresh rate and a 101-degree field of view.
Oculus Go is able to be slightly more powerful thanks to having its processing power integrated within the device itself. This means it can deliver better visuals with a 2560 x 1440 WQHD resolution and a maximum 72Hz refresh rate. This headset has upgraded lenses and a strong focus on comfort enabling users to play for hours.
The Oculus Rift, meanwhile, works with an attached gaming PC to deliver a 2160 x 1200 resolution with 90 Hz refresh rate and a 110-degree field of view. This headset is also powered directly, so can be used for longer than the other headsets which are battery powered.
Audio quality and features
- Samsung Gear VR: Audio via compatible smartphone
- Oculus Go: Integrated speakers with spatial audio delivered through head strap and 3.5mm headphone jack and built-in microphone
- Oculus Rift: Integrated 360-degree spatial audio headphones and built-in microphone
The Samsung Gear VR's audio is powered by the smartphone that's attached to it, the volume of which can be adjusted by the wheel on the headset or dial on the controller.
The standalone Oculus Go uses an integrated speaker system which delivers spatial sound through the head straps. Alternatively, there is a 3.5mm jack if you want to use your own headphones. A built-in mic also allows users to chat with other VR users in multi-user experiences such as Oculus Rooms.
The Oculus Rift offers 360-degree spatial audio via integrated headphones and also has a built-in microphone for easy communication while gaming.
Tracking compatibility and upgrades
- Samsung Gear VR: Three degrees of freedom tracking via 3DoF Gyroscope, Accelerometer and Magnetometer
- Oculus Go: Three degrees of freedom tracking via 3DoF Gyroscope, Accelerometer and Magnetometer
- Oculus Rift: Six degrees of freedom movement tracking including room-scale capabilities via IR LED tracking sensors
Both the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Go VR headsets use Gyroscope, Accelerometer and Magnetometer tracking systems to deliver three degrees of freedom tracking. In practice, this means that these devices are capable of tracking the rotation of your head and movement of the accompanying remote control, but not full body movement.
The Oculus Rift offers more freedom and accurate tracking. Using IR LED tracking sensors, the Rift is compatible with room-scale VR tracking meaning you can walk freely through the virtual world in an 8 x 8 foot space. Seated and standing play is also possible with this device.
If you're looking for the very best VR experience and considering these devices then the Oculus Rift is the device you should turn to. It does come with the biggest price tag and requires a powerful gaming PC for the best results, but also delivers a superior visual experience and room-scale tracking too.
If you already own a compatible Samsung phone, then the Gear VR is a good way to get into VR and it's the most affordable headset on this list. It won't deliver the best results, but it does give easy access to over 1,000 games and experiences as well as the ability to watch video content on a big private VR screen.
The Oculus Go is the most accessible device on this list. It's a standalone device that works on its own, so offers easy access to VR for anyone and everyone. There's plenty of content available and its designed to be easy-to-use and easy to share with friends too. The Oculus Go is also a great way for iPhone users to get into VR where most mobile powered headsets require an Android phone. The Oculus Go offers a noticable visual improvement and other enhancements compared to the Gear VR and so might offer a nice upgrade for current owners.
Oculus Go is available for £199/$199/€219 for the 32GB model and £249/$249/€269 for the 64GB version from Oculus.com.