Sony has long been a company at the cutting edge of technology. Their original PlayStation console changed the face of home gaming and captured the hearts of a new generation of gamers. That was in 1995, and since then they’ve continued to push the boundaries of gaming. Their latest innovation is the PlayStation VR headset, known as PSVR. With this piece of hardware, the gaming giants have brought high-quality virtual reality into the living room. With a relatively reasonable price point, a wide range of titles, and stunning graphics, the PSVR is one of the most commercially viable headsets on the market.
For this article, we’ll bring you everything you need to know about Sony’s VR technology. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of what’s included with the headset, how it works, and what you need to play it. Finally, we’ll look at how much it costs and how it compares to some other top headsets, as well as some of the top VR games available for it.
What is the PlayStation VR?
The PSVR is a virtual reality headset that plugs into your PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro console. Doing so allows you to experience a range of immersive VR games, movies, and other media. It combines with two other peripherals, the PlayStation Camera and the PlayStation Move controller, to give a greater depth to the experience. The first allows for your movements to be tracked, whilst the second gives you virtual ‘hands’ in order to interact with the virtual world around you.
The headset goes over your eyes. You plug in headphones and connect the system to your PlayStation 4. Once set up correctly, it will then track your head and arm movements and translate that into a virtual space. As you move your head, your point of view will change, and the sound you hear will also adjust. This experience is meant to give a feeling of ‘presence’ in another space; the system does its best to trick your audio and visual senses into believing they are elsewhere. The hardware is more complex than some of the mobile headsets we’ve looked at so far but maybe falls slightly short of the premium Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets.
How the PlayStation VR Works
In the PSVR headset is a single 5.7” screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. This full-colour OLED RGB display has two lenses that are focused on it to create a stereoscopic image of the content being delivered by the PS4. By creating a rich and vibrant colour through the RGB display, the PSVR creates a real sense of immersion. Furthermore, a refresh rate of 90Hz or 120Hz on the screen keeps the image smooth and reduces the risk of motion sickness.
With the headset are a series of blue LED tracking lights and motion sensors. The PS Camera is used to track the position of these sensors, and therefore your head, so that it renders the correct visuals. Much like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the PSVR has 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) regarding tracking, giving greater depth to the experience. However, it doesn’t have full room-scale support like the other two. In terms of interacting with the environment, there are a few options. You can use a standard DualShock 4 controller, or for greater interaction, either the PlayStation Move controllers or PlayStation VR Aim controller. The latter two offer more precision and better motion tracking.
PlayStation VR Requirements
So, what do you need in order to make use of the PSVR? For starters, you’ll need a PlayStation 4 console if you don’t have one already. Not long after the PSVR was launched, Sony announced a more powerful version of their console, the PS4 Pro. Both the PS4 Pro and the base model are compatible with the PSVR, although the former outperforms the latter slightly; it’s a bit less blurry and has better anti-aliasing. However, either version works fine.
In addition to the console and the headset, you’ll also need a controller of some kind. As we mentioned, the standard DualShock 4 one will suffice, but the Move and VR Aim controllers are better. Finally, you’ll need the PlayStation Camera to track your movements and get the system set up correctly. Everything else you need, the processing unit, power cable, and HDMI lead, is included in the box.
How Much Does the PlayStation VR Cost?
As with most other VR headsets, the cost to experience virtual reality depends a great deal on what hardware you already have. Just the headset alone costs around $212/£257. However, you’ll also have to add on the cost of a PS4 console if you don’t already have one. This can cost around £300-400/$300-400 depending on whether you buy the Pro version or not. On top of this, you’ll want to add the PlayStation Camera and two Move controllers to get the most out of your experience. These can cost around £40/$50 each.
Added together, this soon gets expensive. It’s cheaper than purchasing a high-end PC and either an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift but not massively so. If you’re committed to experiencing the best VR headsets on offer and don’t own a PS4, there are possibly better options. However, if you already own the console and peripherals, it’s surprisingly affordable.
PlayStation VR vs Oculus Rift
As one of the top headsets currently available, the Oculus Rift is one often held up as the one to beat. In some respects, the two devices are comparable. The basics of the tech are the same, with head tracking and motion controllers playing a central part in both. Each also needs to connect to a powerful device, either a PS4 or PC/laptop. The Rift has a better quality screen, capable of delivering more pixels per inch and greater image clarity. It removes the ‘screen door’ effect that the PSVR often suffers from, which is where visible pixels break immersion. However, the Oculus headset costs significantly more than Sony’s, particularly if you consider how much a high-spec PC costs.
Overall, the Rift delivers a better VR experience. The ability to track your movements in the room is incredible and adds an added layer to the experience. If you can afford the extra cost, it could be worth it.
PlayStation VR vs HTC Vive
The other top competitor is the HTC Vive. Currently the most expensive VR headset available (particularly if you opt for the Pro version), the Vive just about delivers the best experience available. It’s much like the Oculus and PSVR in terms of setup, but the quality of the parts are just that little bit better. This means that it’s visually stunning, tracks your movements better, and feels like a high-quality product. One significant benefit that the Vive and Rift have over the PSVR is the wider angle of view. Both have 110-degrees compared to just 100-degrees with the PSVR. However, the Vive also requires an immense amount of processing power and space. If you’re short on either, it could be a costly system to pick up. The PSVR excels in the fact it offers good performance for relatively little money.
PlayStation VR vs Lenovo Mirage Solo
Lenovo recently launched their Mirage Solo headset. This is an exciting standalone headset that offers 6DoF (just about). It’s a really interesting prospect because until now users have needed either a smartphone, PC, or console to power their VR experience. The Mirage Solo, like the Oculus Go, has everything you need right out of the box.
Compared to the PSVR, the Lenovo Mirage Solo is similarly priced. However, despite a slightly better resolution screen and a broader field of view, there are some drawbacks. The head tracking isn’t always that accurate, and the content library isn’t available for the Lenovo. Those looking for a more varied and high-quality VR experience should perhaps opt for the PSVR or Oculus Go above the Lenovo.
PlayStation VR for Entertainment
Although primarily considered a gaming device, the PlayStation VR headset can be used for a wide range of entertainment. One interesting feature for non-VR games is the ‘cinematic mode’ that the PSVR offers. If you launch a non-VR game while using the headset, you will be shown a virtual screen on which to play it. This mode essentially mimics the effect of sitting six feet away from a screen, of which you can change the size. You can use this same mode to watch a variety of movies and TV shows too, which creates a fascinating and cinematic effect.
There are some VR-specific movies available, although not many. These are worth checking out, and hopefully, more content will be added as time goes by. YouTube also supports PSVR, which means you can experience 360-degree content this way. One final point worth mentioning is that for most PSVR apps, you don’t actually need to have the TV on. This is ideal if you share a TV and both want to use the same room; one person can watch the TV while the other uses the PSVR.
PlayStation VR for Gaming
Of course, the PSVR was designed specifically with gamers in mind. Although other headsets feature a lot of games, Sony really does know its audience better than most. We’ve thrown around the word ‘immersion’ a lot in this article; it’s a VR buzzword and no mistake. However, that’s what this medium is all about, particularly so with gaming. You want to be transported to another world, or to space, or back in time. And Sony’s system does this incredibly well. The PS4’s graphics are well up to the challenge, creating rich and vibrant environments. Although the headset’s display isn’t as good as some, it’s still up to the task of rendering beautiful content.
There’s no denying that the experience is made better by having two Move controllers to use. It provides more refinement and interaction with the system, particularly with some of the better titles available. Hopefully, Sony and other developers keep adding titles to the PlayStation store to progress the medium.
PlayStation VR Top Games
There are a lot of good titles available right now, so picking out the best PSVR games isn’t an easy task. However, we’ve picked out a few that are worth note:
This PSVR exclusive launched alongside the VR Aim controller. It’s a game that harkens back to arcade shooter action, particularly when combined with the Aim. Players take the role of a marine stranded on an alien planet.
A charming game with some stunning environments, Moss is a VR platformer. Users take control of a tiny, sword-wielding mouse to explore this story-driven adventure.
The Doom series has been around for over 20 years and continues to delight fans. This VR version puts gamers right in the thick of the action, allowing them to get immersed in the genuinely visceral combat.
Gran Turismo Sport
Another series that’s a firm favourite is Gran Turismo. In VR, you can jump into the cockpit of a range of stunningly rendered supercars and try your hand on the track. The experience is even better if paired with a gaming wheel.
PlayStation VR Review
That concludes our look at the PlayStation VR system. As you’ve read, it is one of the better headsets available and aimed specifically at gamers. Those who already own a PS4 or PS4 pro should definitely consider this headset as their route into VR. It offers a better experience than most of the mobile-based VR systems on the market, and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Vive or Rift, it’s still an impressive piece of tech.
Budget-wise, the PSVR itself is reasonably affordable. However, you need to bear in mind that you’ll have to add a PlayStation Camera, as well as two Move controllers to get the most out of the experience. Ultimately, the system marks the start of console-based virtual reality and has set a high precedent to follow.