It’s happening – finally. Virtual reality (VR) is back and this time with a bang; almost every major mobile manufacturer seems to be developing a headset these days, with the goal of controlling this new media market.

While previously VR failed to ever really take off during the 90s the best is clearly yet to come as developers race to create new mind-blowing and immersive experiences, tracking head movements in a three dimensional world to create revolutionary games and movies.

From the big boys like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR to the starter packs from iCandy and Google Cardboard, it’s clear that VR no longer requires extremely complex and expensive technology, and some of the best attempts thus far can be experienced with simply a smartphone and an attachable headset or even a fancy cardboard box.

But what are the best VR headsets and which one should you choose? We take a look at what’s currently available and what should soon be hitting the shops and select our top six picks.
 

Sony PlayStation VR


Project Morpheus, the PS4 powered headset finally has a name and a release date – the PlayStation VR is due out in the first half 2016; which is a shame as it was previously touted for a pre-Christmas launch. The latest news came at the Paris Games Week in October and centred on the quality of the screen.

According to Sony, the prototypes 5-inch LCD has been replaces by a 5.7-inch OLED, improving motion blur and enable low persistence;  couple this with the prototypes refresh rate being increased to 120hz making high-quality gaming a true possibility and the PlayStation VR is sure to be an exciting release next year. We await further release information.

 


HTC Vive


Another one that was touted for release this side of Christmas, but now seems more likely to launch in the New Year, is the HTC Vive. The Steam powered collaboration with Valve and HTC was launched at the MWC 2015 but there has only been a limited release thus far, meaning a limited number of headsets were made available for pre-registered customers.

The Vive will plug directly into a PC and will work alongside Valve’s large gaming infrastructure. It will also be compatible with all VR-enable Steam games.

Packing roughly 70 sensors and 360 degree tracking and a 90Hz refresh rate (keeps latency down), there is also a ‘context aware controller’ on-board the HTC Vive, giving you the ability to shoot, move and interact with the VR world.
 

Samsung Gear VR


Samsung have also entered the fray; meaning out of all the main phone manufacturers, Apple is the only company not joining the party. Unlike Sony and HTCs attempts the Samsung headset is an Oculus Rift powered device that uses a Galaxy smartphone (S6 or S6 edge for the Innovator Edition version).

The handset slips in front of the lenses and into a Micro USB dock and uses the phone’s super AMOLED display for the screen. A whole host of games and video content is already available and the Samsung Gear VR is so far considered to be one of the best all-round and consumer friendly headsets on the market, as long as you have one of Samsung’s flagship smartphones of course.

Topping it off, the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition is already available to buy for €249.99 at Carphonewarehouse.ie.
 

Zeiss VR One


Similar to the Gear VR, the hardware powering this headset comes from your phone; but unlike Samsung, the Zeiss will work with any iOS or Android handset between 4.7 and 5.2-inches.

It has a built-in media player for images and YouTube videos, including an AR app for augmented experiences and open source Unity3D SDK which basically means there is loads of room for further development and growth, so there’s plenty to be excited about here.
 

Google Cardboard


Simple and effective, the easiest way to describe this effort from Google, unveiling at I/O 2015, is that it’s exceptionally easy to work. Just pop your smartphone into the cardboard container and strap it to your head.

Low cost, functional and an effective way to experience VR, Google Cardboard also has sensors (gyroscope) and positioning systems to accurately track head motion. 


iCandy VR Goggles


Similar to Google Cardboard, this VR headset is a cheap and simple entry-level piece of equipment. With YouTube announcing 360 degree video support, this device will work with any good smartphone as long as it has the relevant gyroscopic sensors and software built-in. The interesting thing about products like this, and Google Cardboard, is that they are essentially holders for the phone incorporated with some lenses, just showing how simple VR has become.

As the price suggests, it won’t be on the same level as a headset like the Samsung Gear VR, however, for €29.99, it will make a great stocking filler this Christmas and is sure to keep the recipient entertained for hours on December 25th.


Main image by Maurizio Pesce