2019 has been a spectacular year for Virtual Reality headsets. With new releases from the big technology players like Facebook, HTC, and Valve, the lineup of VR devices has been significantly refreshed. What are the headsets worth having in 2020?
Mobile VR started to disappear from the market, largely giving way to Standalone devices, such as Oculus Quest. PC-based tethered VR maintains its market share throughout 2019. Thus we will largely focus on Standalone and Tethered VR headsets.
It is the cheapest of the three flagship Oculus products, coming at $200. A 3DOF device introduced in 2018, it is still used in cases where 6DOF is excessive. The headset has a lightweight single controller that recognizes hand motion, clicking and tracking. It has built-in audio, LCD display, 1280 by 1440 pixels-per-eye resolution and a refresh rate of 60Hz. It is a basic VR device that still provides an immersive feeling.
Oculus Go is also available as an enterprise model.
Oculus Rift S
This Oculus PC-powered VR is one of the most popular VR products out there. It provides an smooth VR experience with its Oculus inside-out tracking (marketed as Oculus Insight), along with the two lightweight Oculus touch controllers that follow your hands in VR. It has built-in audio, high graphic fidelity Fresnel lenses, LCD display, 1280 by 1440 pixels-per-eye resolution and refresh rate of 80Hz. It requires a PC with 8GB RAM and a solid graphics card, and has a massive library of supported applications. At $400, Rift S is one of the best mid-level wired headsets for PC.
This is the Oculus flagship Standalone VR headset, packed into a slim frame and operating on the Snapdragon 835 processor. It features an all-in-one VR advanced experience. Selling at $400, it also has an inside-out tracking system with two touch controllers. It has OLED display, 1400 by 1600 pixels-per-eye resolution and a refresh rate of 72Hz. It is one of the few available VR standalone devices, next to the HTC Vive Focus.
HTC Vive Focus
Originally introduced in the Chinese market, this standalone HTC Vive VR headset is selling at $700. It has a dual AMOLED 3.5-inch diagonal screen, 2800 by 1600 pixels-per-eye resolution, Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 degrees-of-freedom, inside-out tracking, and a refresh rate of 75Hz.
HTC Vive Pro
Vive Pro is a long-sought update to HTC Vive headset, and has seen the light of the day in early 2018. It features room-scale VR tracking, and is powered by SteamVR tracking technology. It has some unique features like its front-facing cameras, dedicated base stations with wireless syncing. It has a dual AMOLED 3.5 inches diagonal screen, 2880 by 1600 pixels-per-eye resolution and refresh rate of 90Hz. Although expensive at $1400 when compared to Oculus Rift S, the ability to move at a room scale makes this Vive Pro headset stand out.
Index offers high-end PC VR experience with its unique features. This headset features very impressive visuals, on par with Vive Pro and Quest, but at a higher refresh rate of 120Hz (up to 144Hz in the experimental mode). Its 130 degree Field-Of-View is the best out there and also boasts other impressive technology like the per-finger tracking, USB pass-through, and crystal clear audio.
Transition into 2020
There has been a number of announcements that allows us to foresee what happens in the VR headset market, now that we are in 2020.
While introduced in late 2019, this newcomer Vive Cosmos, can still be called a headset for 2020. It features all-round improved features and significantly boosts the VR experience, compared to Vive headset. Cosmos has 1440 by 1700 pixels-per-eye resolution. Cosmos relies on an LCD panel with full RGB subpixels, leading to a very crisp and vibrant panel.
Oculus is rigorously working on making VR accessible and affordable. Likewise, in terms of flexibility, with Oculus Link, set for the early months of 2020, making it possible to connect Quest to PC, Quest owners can access a wide range of Rift S applications.
Likewise, Oculus introducing hand-tracking to the Quest is another technology to watch out for.
More to Come
While the major players have recently updated their product lines in 2019, it is unlikely that entirely new products will be introduced. We can however expect updates to be released for Oculus Quest and Vive Focus headsets.
With all that, the VR market is still steadily growing, with a predicted size of $120.5 billion by 2026, up from $7.5 billion in 2018. With 5G technology and Edge Computing taking shape, 2020 will be a big year for all us operating in VR space. This year will see more hardware and software putting focus on affordability, flexibility and improved experience for the end users.