Virtual reality has a myriad of applications, from lifelike games that simulate real-life experiences to augmented reality in fantasy based arenas.
As a result of advancements in technology, virtual reality is now available in our living rooms, and applications for virtual reality continue to expand into education, medical research, and driving simulations.
Sony's PlayStation VR brings the latest in virtual reality gaming to the PlayStation 4.
What is PlayStation VR?
PlayStation VR is Sony's latest venture into the realm of virtual reality that runs on the Sony PlayStation 4, and rivals competitors Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. While Sony is long established in the gaming and tech industry, its plunge into virtual reality is relatively recent, with the PlayStation VR being the very first of its VR headsets.
What makes PlayStation VR stand out among its rivals, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive?
First and foremost, among the PlayStation VRs unique features is its PlayStation 4 compatibility, while rivals require the use of expensive gaming PCs. Where virtual reality was once the domain of those with disposable income, PSVR brings a lifelike experience into the average gamer's living room for under $300.
PlayStation VR uses a PlayStation camera, specialized blue light sensors, and PlayStation Move controllers to create a highly immersive virtual reality experience, once connected to its processing unit and PS4.
What Makes PlayStation VR Different from Other VR Systems?
Although Sony includes the PSVR's user manual in its very own box, the setup process is relatively self-explanatory. Two words best summarize the setup process of the PlayStation VR: HDMI cables.
While the PSVR's setup isn't necessarily complicated, it does involve several interconnected wires but typically takes about ten minutes to complete. The PSVR's central processor unit does require its own power outlet, and one USB slot must be free to connect the processor to the PlayStation 4 console.
As far as PSVR's hardware setup process is concerned, it runs on par with most other VR sets on the market, as current VR technology requires rather extensive HDMI cables and wiring to operate.
Once powered on, a user-friendly screen guide directs players through the remainder of the PSVR's installation.
Given the PlayStation VR's budget price point at under $300, the design specifications of the headset do not lack in style, comfort, or appearance.
While many VR headset designs center directly around the face, PlayStation VR is anchored primarily on the user's head, balancing its weight more evenly and, from our experience, not touching the face at all. Where the PSVR headset is attractive, it is equally sleek in design.
For its powerful performance, the unit is minimal and lightweight in design, featuring a matte black shade screen and seven specialized blue light sensors throughout the front of the device (plus two located on the back). PSVR's specialized sensors reflect images into the PlayStation camera to track users motion and head movements.
If we have one contention about the PSVR's headset, it would be the very slight gap that's consistently visible while wearing it, a consequence of the headset's design.
At times, the headset's gap allows light from surrounding areas into the headset and can disrupt the immersive quality of the device, but overall, it's infinitely more comfortable than alternatives that close the gap by resting directly over players' eyes and face.
When it comes to the PlayStation VR's display, its technical specifications rank slightly below competitors Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
However, from our experience, the technical specifications of the PSVR poorly reflect the device's performance in real time–which is truly impressive–and dare we say, outperforms the PSVR's competitors in many aspects.
The PSVR's display, comprised primarily of a 5.7-inch 1080p resolution OLED screen, has an unmistakably widescreen effect that boosts its realistic feel and gives users the fully immersive gaming experience they expect from VR.
By and large, if the PSVR's display has one definite drawback, it's the display's pixelation, with most of the games we tried out exhibiting pixelation with objects in the distant background.
As a long established brand in the gaming industry, Sony brings its partnerships with the topmost gaming corporations to the PSVR by offering exclusive titles for the system.
One of the PSVR's strongest selling points is its dual compatibility with PS4 games and titles released exclusively for PSVR, a unique advantage of its operation with the PS4 rather than with a gaming PC.
In addition to dual compatibility between the games themselves, titles released for the PSVR typically cost much less than PS4 titles, with the average PSVR game released at just $20-$30.
Gaming on the PSVR is a visually stunning experience, and because PSVR has a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz, it's easy to avoid motion sickness with most titles (even with typically nausea-inducing games like Eve: Valkyrie's Spaceships).
PlayStation VR headset technical specifications:
On paper, the PSVR's screen resolution is less powerful than more expensive VR systems on the market.
From our experience, the PSVR's resolution is rich in detail, brighter, and more immersive than any other virtual reality gaming system we've tested. The secret to the PSVR's clear picture at a lower resolution rate is likely due to the dense quality of the display, where other VR display screens are wider and longer in appearance.
A real-time way to test screen resolution is through the "screen door" effect, a series of small black lines that are visible with poor resolution quality. For its display size, the PSVR demonstrates little to no screen door effect, compared with other VR displays currently available.
One of the most significant factors in virtual reality gaming is the cost of VR headsets, accessories, and the consoles that are necessary to operate each system. In terms of pricing, the PSVR has a built-in advantage with its PS4 and PS4 Pro compatibility.
The PSVR's compatibility with these two gaming consoles, both of which are already in many techies living rooms, break down the initial cost barrier many gamers face when entering into the world of VR.
The PSVR bundle currently runs at around $350 and includes the PlayStation camera, PlayStation Move controllers, and Skyrim VR.
For PS4 and PS4 Pro owners, the affordable price point of the PSVR bundle makes it a no brainer when compared to VR systems that require expensive gaming PCs to operate.
For interested gamers who don't yet own a PS4, the system can be purchased for around $280, averaging a final cost of $630 with PSVR, lower than HTC Vive and Oculus Rift when the cost of gaming PCs are factored in.
How They Compare: PSVR VS Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
Ultimately, the virtual reality battle is between PSVR and its two higher-end competitors: Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
From our experience, PSVR stacks up to its higher-priced competitors, while outperforming both systems in essential aspects like comfort and user experience.
While The PSVR's most obvious advantage over Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is its lower price point, its lower cost in no way relegates the PSVR to the arena of a 'budget' VR system that lacks in quality or performance.
While PSVR is as much as half the cost of its competitors when gaming PCs are factored in, its performance rivals both Oculus and HTC much more closely, with Oculus and HTC only slightly outperforming PSVR in certain technical aspects.
Pros and Cons
PlayStation VR is an affordable, convenient, and visually stunning way for gamers to break into the world of virtual reality.
Sony has introduced an expertly designed system that allows a wider audience of potential gamers to bring the VR experience directly into their homes and offices, while higher-end competitors are better suited to seasoned gaming enthusiasts who own (or don't mind purchasing) expensive gaming PCs.
From the PSVR's quick setup, sleek design, and luminous display–it's clear that PSVR packs powerful technical specifications and performance into its low price point.
While the PSVR's low price point is a significant factor, it's far from the system's only attribute. The PSVR offers several unique attributes, with its exclusive game titles and PS4 compatibility among the most rewarding. We find PSVR's PS4 compatibility most convenient, as Sony plans to release a wealth of new VR titles for the console.
In addition to cross compatibility, games produced exclusively for PSVR are lower in price than PS4 games, averaging only $20-$30.
Where PSVR's minor drawbacks(such as lower resolution display) are concerned, the system more than makes up for its disadvantages with a gaming performance that's on par on with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Overall, the PSVR's realistic user experience and powerful technical specifications at a low price point make it our top pick among its competitors.
We recommend PSVR for the gaming enthusiast eager to break into the world of virtual reality, where Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will appeal to seasoned VR gamers looking for the richest and most detailed experience possible.
Where the average gamer is concerned, we rate PlayStation VR 4.5/5 stars.
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