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How to dive into that New Year’s Resolution to get started with VR


Virtual reality effectively ‘arrived’ in 2016, with the launch of Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, the first two consumer VR headsets that truly delivered an experience that most would find not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable.

But consumer VR’s splashy debut in 2016 did not result in something that was immediately affordable, available, or indeed appealing to many, so it’s no surprise if you’ve been standing back and waiting for a time to jump in.

Now might just be the time; a confluence of factors, including a lot of great software that eschews mistakes made by early movers, as well as dramatic decreases in the cost of entry for VR-capable computers, have made it a good time to get onboard the virtual train. Here’s a guide to one way to get started that should give you the most mileage for your dollar, while also making sure you’re not missing out on the best VR experiences currently on offer.

The Rig

Your PC is potentially the most frustrating thing to get right, because there are a lot of options out there for Windows machines that can power VR headsets, along with the option to roll your own. I’d suggest that novices go for something that can get you gaming right away, with a minimum of fuss, but with room to grow if you find you want to invest the time and money later on.

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That’s why I recommend one of CyberPower PC’s pre-built rigs. The one that hits the sweet spot in terms of value for money right now is the CyberPower Gamer Ultra Desktop series with AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU. It’s a minimalist approach that strips out all the unnecessary frills and focuses on the components that are most important to a smooth VR experience, centering on that AMD graphics card.

It’s expandable if you still want to beef it up later, and it retails for just $699.99, which makes it about half the price of what a decent VR-capable PC would cost you when Rift and Vive launched. Plus, in my experience it doesn’t choke on any VR games, and I’ve played a wide range.

The Headset

I’ve gone back and forth on this, and it’ll depend on your personal preferences, too, but now that Oculus Touch has arrived, I’d recommend getting the Oculus Rift to start. The Rift provides better visuals in my opinion, setup and game space requirements are simpler, and it has a better library of titles currently available, between Oculus exclusives and the wide variety of SteamVR content that supports both Rift and Vive.

Oculus Rift Consumer Edition

The Rift is also more comfortable to wear, and its built-in headphones, while not the best available, are incredibly easy to use and avoid additional cord complications. Setting up sensors is also easier, and you can choose to start with just the basic Rift if you need to budget the Touch controllers for later. It’s true that you only get room scale-VR experimentally with a third sensor with Rift, but in practice, you won’t notice much of a difference between Oculus with two sensors and Vive’s true room-scale experience.

The Accessories

As mentioned, the Oculus Touch controllers really add a lot to the overall VR experience, and prove more fun and more immersive in practice than the Vive Controllers. They’re more lightweight, and also just seem to better represent the act of actually using your hands in a virtual environment, perhaps because of the focus on simulating grip on objects.

1 Oculus Touch



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