When we first saw the requirements that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive came with, it was clear that premium VR would be something that only PC users would enjoy for a long time to come. Heck, even the vast majority of PC gamers and general PC owners simply did not own hardware that could reach the lofty levels of horsepower demanded by next-generation VR.
No one really expected that this current generation of consoles would power any sort of VR device worth owning or using. Not even Microsoft, which makes the Xbox One and is pioneering mixed reality, showed any interest in trying to squeeze VR out of their console.
Then Sony basically said “Screw it, we’ll do it anyway” and today we have the PSVR. It’s a console peripheral that might yet fail, but already 1 in 60 PS4 owners has a PSVR, and the PS4 is the best-selling console of the generation. For a supposedly “niche” add-on, that’s quite an achievement. But should you buy a PSVR? Let’s look at what this device has to offer.
A New Design
Before paying any mind to the technical details about the PSVR we have to take a moment to appreciate the design that Sony has put into their product. I’ll admit to owning a mountain of Sony products over the years. I’ve owned every Sony console both at home and in handheld form. I’ve had Sony music players, TVs, and cameras. I don’t feel like a Sony fanboy, but often the combination of design and looks wins me over.
One place where Sony regularly commits a sin is when it comes to proprietary formats. MiniDisc, Memory Stick, and Vita memory cards are just a few egregious examples. In this case, Sony has once again made something that will only work with Sony stuff. However, here it makes perfect sense since there’s no way a console maker is going to produce peripherals that work on other machines.
Sony has also come up with a corking design here. I’ve always hated how fiddly the head straps are on PC VR units. It feels more like trying to strap on sports equipment than a slick piece of electronics. Sony has gotten around this by opting for a plastic headband that secures itself around your forehead and the base of the skull. This makes it quick and easy to put on or take off. Reducing the song and dance associated with getting prepped for VR is a stroke of genius on the part of Sony. Once you’re in the VR experience, it’s great. But often when I think about how much work using my Oculus is, I just boot up my console instead.
The headband is only one part of what makes the PSVR design good. The other aspect is the fact that you can flip the visor up without taking off the headband. This means you can quickly check what’s going on around you and then go back to the game. This is a design that’s so sensible, it’s no surprise that Microsoft basically copied it wholesale with their mixed reality headsets. I’m just surprised that there hasn’t been a case of patent infringement yet.
PSVR Under The Hood
The PSVR unit is actually pretty well specified, despite costing a bit less than an Oculus, Vive, or similar system. A lot of the cost saving comes from the fact that it piggybacks onto the PS4’s existing hardware for motion tracking. If you already have the PS4 camera and PS Move controls (from the PS3 era) then you only need to fork over the money for the headset itself.
The unit has a 5.7” OLED screen with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. That’s 30Hz more than any of the big names on the PC side. Both the Oculus and Vive have 90Hz panels. It’s a bit of a moot point, since none of the PS4 models have the sort of horsepower to drive anything but the simplest graphics at that frame rate, so perhaps Sony intends to make the PSVR forwards-compatible with newer, faster models of Playstation in the future.
Games for the Win
Just as with game consoles in general, it doesn’t matter if you have great hardware if there are no games to play on your machine. So it’s a good thing the PSVR has significant support from both Sony and third-party developers. I’ve listed the best PSVR games in a separate article, but it’s worth mentioning Triple A games such as Resident Evil 7 VR and EVE Valkyrie.
There is also a healthy number of new games on the horizon, and with more than one million PSVRs sold I think there’s already a solid install base for some great VR exclusives. On top of this, plenty of mainstream games are likely to have VR modes as well. Obviously the PSVR will have a hard time matching the PC platform when it comes to the diversity and number of VR titles, but then again you’ll have to spend a fortune to access them, so it all evens out.
The set in question here is the PSVR starter pack, so it includes the motion controllers, camera, and headset. If you got a camera with one of the early PS4 bundles then this isn’t really the set to go for. If you only have a PS4 console without any of the accessories then this is the best deal.
Playstation Pro or no Pro?
VR is resource intensive, so many people will be asking if they need the more powerful PS4 Pro to make the most of VR. It is a fact that PSVR games that have received a PS4 Pro update will look better and perform better, but is it worth the upgrade?
In general, the difference is very subtle; all PSVR games are designed to be playable on the base model. So I’d say that if you already own a regular PS4 then it’s not worth upgrading just for a little better performance. If, however, you are buying an entire setup with an eye on VR, it’s better to go for the Pro model.
A VR-certified PC and an Oculus, Vive, or similar system in undeniably superior to the PSVR. However, there is no denying that the PSVR is a true AAA VR system and that it is the most affordable, accessible, and slick solution on the market. This is AAA VR for the masses and the only viable option at this price point. Sony has done something amazing here and it’s a perfect entry into the real deal VR experience.
Buy On Amazon