As it stands, Sony is the only console maker to have embraced virtual reality technology. The PlayStation VR, or PSVR, is currently the only headset for consoles on the market. This exclusivity certainly gives it an edge, but there are plenty of alternatives when it comes to VR headsets. Both mobile-based and standalone devices have improved or been introduced over the last year, while the high-end devices still offer some of the most appealing specs of all. With this in mind, we got our hands on the PSVR to see how it stands up against the competition.
Sony released the PSVR back in 2016, so it’s had a couple of years to mature and gain momentum. Yet at the most recent E3 expo, the device got very little coverage at Sony’s main press conference. However, sales of the headset have been impressive, particularly with some recent price reductions. In our review, we examine the key features, performance, specs, price and available content of the PSVR. It’s a headset that we really like when the conditions are right.
PlayStation VR Pros and Cons
Excellent catalogue of games available.
Affordably priced, providing you own a PS4 already.
Smooth visuals across the board.
Motion control tracking is hit and miss.
Accessories aren’t bundled and are fiddly.
PlayStation VR Key Specs
Let’s get started by looking at some of the key specifications of the headset. This gives us a chance to understand exactly the niche that the PSVR is trying to fill. It should be noted that in 2017, Sony released a slightly updated version of the hardware, model CUH-ZVR2. This version has a more streamlined connection cable and a processor that supports HDR video. It’s the one we reviewed.
The PSVR’s screen is a 5.7” OLED panel with a resolution of 1920×RGB×1080.It has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, and a field of view (FoV) of around 100-degrees.
Sony’s headset runs off either the PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro. The latter gives some marginal improvements to frame-rate and graphical fidelity.
One interesting feature of the PSVR is the additional processing unit that is required to run it (included in the box). It doesn’t add any extra processing or graphical power, but rather handles some of the 3D processing, the ‘social screen’ on TV outputs, and the ‘separate mode.’ Separate mode is where the headset and the TV are sent different audio and video outputs, an innovative feature that affects games.
The PS4 has 8GB of DDR5 RAM, whilst the Pro version boasts an extra 1GB of DDR3 RAM and faster clock speeds.
The PS4 Pro has 1TB of storage, enough for multiple VR games.
The PSVR uses two HDMI cables, a USB cable, and a device-specific VR cable. It also supports stereo headphones.
PS4-based Wi-Fi and wired connection.
Six-axis motion sensing system, accelerometer, gyroscopes, supported by PlayStation Eye camera and Move controllers.
610g (1.34 lbs)
Around £200/$200 plus the cost of a PlayStation Camera and Move controllers.
That’s an impressive set of specs considering the cost. However, it must be noted that the headset alone is not enough to experience VR. Sony has retrofitted the PlayStation Eye camera and Move controller to power the PSVR’s tracking. The base version doesn’t contain these. However, there are plenty of bundles available that do include all three at a reasonable price.
PlayStation VR Hardware
Next, we’ll focus on the hardware itself. As we mentioned above, there’s actually quite a lot that goes into the PSVR, which we found made setting it all up a bit of a hassle. The processing unit needs plugging into the TV and the PlayStation console, the camera also requires connecting and configuring, as does the headset. Sony’s website says the camera needs to be ‘about 1.4m (4’7”) high and about 2m (6’) away’ from where you’re playing. The room also can’t be too bright or too dark. One of the things we loved about the HTC Vive was that the controllers were specifically designed for the best possible VR experience. With the PlayStation VR, it definitely feels that the Move controllers and camera have been shoehorned into the system. Even after extensive set-up and configuration, there were still some issues with motion tracking.
The headset itself is a very competent piece of technology, however. It’s evident that Sony spent a lot of time perfecting it to balance visual fidelity with smoothness. The screen isn’t the highest resolution of available headsets. The Oculus Go and Lenovo Mirage Solo recently launched standalone devices that have higher quality, for example. It also doesn’t have the widest FoV. The Oculus Rift has 110-degrees, and there are headsets on the horizon that are targeting 200-degrees. The PSVR also suffers from the ‘screen door’ effect, which can occasionally break immersion.
However, despite these issues, we found the PlayStation virtual reality experience to be fantastic. Game visuals are beautiful and respond excellently to head movements. Sony’s vast experience in the gaming industry definitely pays off. The only slight downside of the screen is its ability to render details in the distance, which can soon become blurry and break the immersive experience.
PlayStation VR Key Features
Now we’ll share our thoughts on some of the distinguishing features the system has, aside from being the only console VR headset available.
Move controllers and Camera
We’ve already touched upon both of these areas. When they work, they work well. However, each can be a little tricky to configure correctly. The camera, in particular, doesn’t seem quite as sturdy as it should be, and it’s easy to move it accidentally. The Move controllers sometimes get lost, which left us helplessly flailing to get the camera to recognise them.
Although this seems counterintuitive after the point we just made, the movement tracking is excellent when it works. The PS Camera is capable of tracking the headset movements up to 1000 times a second (or so Sony claim). It also has sensors on the rear of the headset, meaning if you turn around it will still track you. This is something the Oculus Rift struggles with, and we found it to be a definite plus point for the PSVR.
In the Box
Aside from the controller and cameras, there is a lot that comes with the headset. This includes the processor unit, VR headset connection cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, Stereo headphones, and power cables.
Key Features: 8/10
PlayStation VR Design
The PSVR is one of the better-looking headsets currently available. Although it follows the established trend, it still looks like it’s something from the future. Sony has absolutely nailed the design, meaning it looks great on display next to a PS4; the smooth white finish perfectly complements the black front panel and lights.
At 610g it’s one of the heavier devices on the market, but the straps mean that the weight is very well distributed. It’s fully adjustable, and once you figure out how to put it on, it’s easy to make it fit snugly to your head and face. Overall we were very impressed with how great this headset looks and feels. The only minor disappointment is that Move controllers are nowhere near as sleek looking.
PlayStation VR Software and Content
We mentioned this above, but Sony knows gamers. This is entirely evident when you look at the range of VR games for the PSVR. There are so many fantastic titles to choose from, covering a variety of genres and price ranges. Depending on the title, you may get slightly more bang for your buck in terms of quality with the PS4 Pro, but the standard PS4 performs very well still.
Exclusive games such as Farpoint utilise a specially designed controller, the PlayStation Aim, and the experience is entirely fun and immersive. It’s a fun, fast-paced shooter that will appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Perhaps the most visually stunning experience is Robinson: The Journey. It’s a game that really drew us into the detailed and beautiful environments. There’s a lot to explore, and it’s well worth taking your time to enjoy it. Overall, we experienced no motion sickness and very few immersion-breaking moments. The PlayStation console does a good job of powering every game we tried, for what was one of the best VR experiences we’ve had so far.
PlayStation VR Review: Final Thoughts
Although the PSVR is not the pinnacle of virtual reality in terms of raw power or range of motion tracking, it’s perhaps the most appealing option for the avid gamer. If you already own a PS4, the expense is significantly cheaper than the Oculus Rift of HTC Vive. Similarly, the range of games and interactivity is better than mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, or standalone ones like the Oculus Go. Sony has created a headset that has the most universal appeal, so it’s little wonder it’s selling so well. Hopefully, Microsoft will follow suit and VR gaming will become more of a focus.