Affordable headset, sans the add-ons

The PS VR headset is very comfortable, with a thick padded headband that distributes weight evenly around the head.
The PS VR headset is very comfortable, with a thick padded headband that distributes weight evenly around the head.PHOTO: SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT

The Sony PlayStation VR (PS VR) is a great entry point into the world of virtual reality. Compared with other high-end VR headsets, it is relatively cheap, easy to set up and does not require a lot of processing power.

The PS VR went on sale here earlier this month for $599, making it one of the most affordable kits on the market. The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive cost US$599 (S$835) and US$799 (S$1,113) respectively.

However, do note that the PS VR's base price does not include the PlayStation Camera (available in a bundle with the PS VR for $649, or $79 on its own), which you need in order to track the headset's movements, and two PlayStation Move controllers ($59.90 each), which will definitely add to the overall VR experience.

Throw all those in, on top of a console which costs at least $449, and you are looking at a four-digit price tag for the whole rig - cheaper than a complete set-up for the Rift or Vive, but still a pretty penny.

It is reasonably easy to wire up the PS VR, despite its myriad of parts and cables. Out of the box, you get a processor unit, camera and headset which all need to be connected to your console and screen in a specific way.

Thankfully, the PS VR comes with a step-by-step, Ikea-style manual, with all the parts drawn out. Sony has also conveniently labelled all the wires with tags, so identifying them is easier.

Putting it all together takes less than 15min but, after that, you will be left with a pretty unsightly clump of wires on your table.

The PS VR headset is very comfortable, with a thick padded headband that distributes weight evenly around the head.

However, it is not the most immersive of headsets. Unlike other VR headsets, it does not have a focus wheel or lens slider which allows you to adjust the screens alone. Rather, you focus by moving the visor nearer or further from your face. This means that, unless you are using it at the shortest possible focal distance with the visor plastered to your cheekbones, there will always be a sliver of light creeping in from the bottom.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $599 ($649 with camera bundled)

    DISPLAY: 5.7-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 Oled display

    REFRESH RATE: 90Hz, 120Hz

    FIELD OF VIEW: Approximately 100 degrees

    SENSORS: Accelerometer, gyroscope

    HEADSET WEIGHT: 610g (excluding cable)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

Tracking on the PS VR was excellent during tests, and it kept pace even when I was playing a fast- paced game like Rigs.

There are tracking lights on the back of the headset as well, which means that it can pinpoint your position even if you are facing away from the camera.

Display-wise, the PS VR falls a little short on the specs sheet compared with other high-end headsets, as it sports a single 5.7-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels screen. The Vive and Rift both have two screens that combine to give a 2,160 x 1,200 pixels display.

Still, this is not something that you are likely to notice in-game, unless you are squinting at readouts on your tank in Battlezone or trying to see the details on faraway planets in The Playroom.

Where the PS VR does trump the other two is with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, compared with 90Hz. What this means is that the games are always smooth, potential nausea is reduced and there is greater immersion.

And creating this deep sense of involvement in the VR world is where the PS VR really excels. A range of excellent exclusive titles have been developed for the device, including the standout Batman: Arkham VR.

There are still relatively few titles in the PlayStation Store - only 43 now, including season passes and add-ons - but this library is sure to grow as the platform matures.

Once this content grows, and true blockbuster titles enter the fray, the PS VR stands a good chance of being the VR headset that truly brings virtual reality to the mass market.

Lisabel Ting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Affordable headset, sans the add-ons'. Print Edition | Subscribe