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PlayStation VR provides a lot of bang for your virtual reality buck
Headset specs Headset weight 610 grams (1.34 lbs, excluding cable) Display 1920x1080 (960x1080 per eye) full RGB panel Refresh rate Up to 120Hz (90Hz on many games) Field of view ~100 degrees Controllers DualShock 4; PlayStation Move controllers (required for some games) Head Tracking Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis
gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer). Requires PlayStation Camera.
Audio 3.5 mm audio jack on cord, built-in microphone PS4 connection 143x36x143mm Processor Unit integrating HDMI, USB and power connections. Included games Demo disc with 18 titles Price $400/£349, ($500 in US-only bundle with required Camera, two PlayStation Move controllers, and PlayStation VR Worlds game) As consumer-level virtual reality has quickly become a real thing in the last few years, I've used plenty of headsets on both ends of the price and quality continuum. I've slapped a phone into a makeshift Google Cardboard kit, and the slightly fancierSamsung Gear VR, for a passable, portable virtual world. I've twiddled an Xbox controller at my desk while wearing a beautifully designed headset with a multi-billion-dollar social network behind it . I've dedicated an entire room and a $1,200 PC to the closest thing we have to a real holodeck .
After years sampling these VR extremes, it's hard to see Sony's PlayStation VR as anything but straight down the middle. The new offering quite simply splits the difference on those stratified headset hardware extremes. For about $800/£500 as an "all-in" price (and much less if you already own the $350/£250 PlayStation 4 and/or the $50/£39 PlayStation Camera), you get a much fuller VR experience than what you can muster with just a cell phone and a cheap holster. Compared to a top-of-the-line PC, though, virtual reality powered by a three-year-old living room console comes with some compromises—though not as many as you might think.
This is how a headset should feel
A first look at the unboxed PlayStation VR.
Right out of the box, my initial impression of the PlayStation VR was that it's exceedingly comfortable. That impression has now endured through many, many hours in the headset. The key is the unique headstrap design, which rests the bulk of the headset's weight on a heavily cushioned semi-sphere sitting on the front of your forehead. A solid, cushioned headband circles over the ears and down around the back of your head in a ring that can be stretched to easily fit anyone. That ring snaps back to attach snugly in place once it's tucked comfortably under the back of your skull.
With all that in place, the actual virtual reality display slides in and out in front of your eyes on a groove mounted to the forehead assembly, allowing for easy and precise focus. Only the thin, flexible light guards actually make contact with the front of your face, putting minimal pressure on the sensitive areas around your eyes and nose. As a fringe benefit, this sliding display makes it quite easy to put the headset on over glasses. It also means the display is easy to slide away temporarily for a quick glance down at a cell phone (or the room around you) without the need to take the entire headset off.
Let's set this PSVR thing up.
Edited by Jennifer Hahn
After making some fine fit adjustments with a dial in the rear, you'll feel some pressure on your forehead and the back of your skull. Still, it's nothing like the sweat-inducing, somewhat suffocating pressure on the sinuses that characterizes most other VR headsets. If wearing the HTC Vive is like putting on an extremely front-heavy and cumbersome pair of ski goggles, putting on the PlayStation VR is like wearing a snug cross between a sweatband, a baseball cap, and a batting helmet. And though the PlayStation VR is actually a bit heavier than both the Vive and the Rift, the weight distribution makes it feel much lighter in practice.
While I've been able to endure multi-hour sessions in other VR hardware, the PlayStation VR is the first headset I've been able to actually enjoy spending time in for hours on end without needing any significant breaks to let my face get air and decompress (though eye strain can still be a problem after prolonged use). It's a design that I strongly encourage other VR companies to shamelessly steal if they want VR to really be something people can enjoy for long time periods.
Get in focus
After I plugged the PlayStation VR into its included processor box (and plugged in the dizzying array of wires required to connect that box to the PS4, the TV, and a power source), the first thing I noticed was how sharp the picture on the display was. There was none of the fuzziness or warping that can characterize the 3D optics on every other VR headset I've tried (especially around the edges of the viewing area). There's also none of that crepuscular "god ray" effect out in every direction from areas of high contrast.
- The box.
- POWERED BY PS4.
- Everything included inside, in case you need a checklist.
- The box inside the box, with a thin plastic strip holding it closed.
- Pop open the box within the box to find... another box (with a quick start guide up top).
- Inside the box inside the box inside the box are three smaller boxes with various cables and such.
- Remove those boxes and we get the first glimpse of the headset itself.
- Everything inside the multi-level set of PSVR boxes.
- The headset itself and the wires that will connect to the junction box.
- Rear view. Note how the cable slides down under the left ear.
- Some nice, subtle PlayStation branding on the underside. Depress the button to slide the screen forward and backward in front of your face.
- The headphone connection hub on the wire connecting to the headset, with convenient volume and headset power buttons.
- The included earbuds, with the left earbud wire much shorter than the right one.
- The "processor unit" that sits between the headset and the console, shown with the headset for size.
- The processor unit apes the style of the PS4 a little bit.
- The right side of the processor unit slides back to give access to the front HDMI cables, then slides back to provide access to those on the rear. We have no idea why...
- The processor unit uses its own AC adapter and even has a fan for cooling.
Instead, the virtual 2D screen you first see when loading up the PlayStation VR is incredibly crisp and sharply defined no matter where you look. That might be in part because of the system's more limited field of view (100 degrees vs. 110 for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive). That means the black "letterbox" edges are a little more noticeable in your peripheral vision when using PSVR. All in all, the tradeoff between sharp focus and a little peripheral vision is one I'd happily make.
Sharpness shouldn't be confused here with definition, though. Once you load up a 3D virtual reality scene, the PSVR's relative lack of screen resolution becomes apparent. At only 1920 x 1080, the display on the PSVR is a bit less pixel-packed than the 2160 x 1200 screens on its PC-based competition (even many VR-ready smartphone screens have better resolutions these days). That small difference in pixel count would be nearly unnoticeable in a large TV set propped up a few feet away. When it comes to a VR display sitting mere inches from your eyes, though, the effect is immediately apparent.
The relatively low resolution doesn't mean the full-blown return of the dreaded "screen door effect" that was so noticeable on the 1280 x 800 screen of the Oculus Rift DK2 . But it does mean the individual pixels are much easier to pick out when looking at a VR scene. Playing Job Simulator on the PSVR, you're much more likely to notice distracting jagged edges on the sides of in-game objects and characters than if you were playing on the HTC Vive, for instance. And in a game like Batman: Arkham VR , trying to read small type on an in-game clipboard just resulted in a blurry mess up close. These kinds of problems also exist on higher-resolution headsets, but they're more noticeable on the lower-resolution PlayStation VR.
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