Sony PSVR PlayStation VR Headset Review

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Virtual reality for the masses

by Steve Withers May 17, 2017 at 7:02 AM

  • Tech review

    62

    Best Buy
    Sony PSVR PlayStation VR Headset Review
    SRP: £349.00

    What is the Sony PSVR?

    The PlayStation VR or PSVR as it's more commonly known, is Sony's answer to the growing popularity of virtual reality headsets. The PSVR has been released as an accessory to Sony's hugely popular PlayStation 4 games console and you can use it with either the standard or Pro versions of the PS4. The headset has a price of £349 which makes it cheaper than its main competition – the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive – although it isn't as sophisticated as either of those VR systems. You will need to buy a PS Camera for an additional £39 in order to actually use the PSVR, which means that the total cost is £388 but, assuming you already own a PlayStation4, the PSVR is still considerably cheaper and easier to use than the Rift or Vive. Those VR headsets require a well specified PC rather than an existing games console and Sony have cleverly repurposed other PS accessories like their Move controllers to deliver an effective VR experience. The PSVR might not have the resolution of the Rift and Vive but it does offer the option of virtual reality at a more acceptable price point and there are some great games available. So is the PSVR just another PlayStation accessory or the best way to experience VR by utilising something you might already own?

    Design

    Sony PSVR Design
    The PSVR certainly has a rather space-age design but that seems entirely appropriate for a virtual reality headset. The black and white colour scheme is actually very attractive and the PSVR has been designed to fit easily over your head, regardless of how big it is. In fact getting the PSVR on and off is certainly easier than with the Oculus Rift and the visor will also fit comfortably over glasses which is worth considering. You get the feeling that the PSVR has been designed and built by a hardware manufacturer who knows exactly what they're doing and the result is a headset that is well made but light weight and practical in use. It's important that a VR headset fits comfortably, which the PSVR does thanks to strategically placed padding, and that it's light and well balanced, so that the visor isn't pulling the front of your head down. The headset roughly measures 187 x 185 x 277mm (WxHxL) and weighs approximately 610g (excluding the cable).
    Sony PSVR Design
    There is a button at the back that you press to extend the rear of the PSVR in order to get it on your head, once you release the button the headset will tighten so that it stays in place. There is also a dial at the back that you use to tighten the fit so that the headset is as comfortable as possible. There is a button on the bottom right of the visor that allows you to move the entire visor away from or towards your face. This not only makes it easier to fit the visor over glasses but allows you to focus on the lenses easily. Once again all these touches demonstrate Sony's decades of experience in designing user-friendly consumer products. The only downside to this approach is that the visor doesn't fit as tightly against your face, so light from the outside world can get in from below your eyes. The easy solution to this is to make the room darker before you start your VR session.

    The headset looks very sci-fi but it's designed to fit easily and you can wear it over glasses

    What's in the box?

    Sony PSVR What
    In the box you'll find almost everything you'll need to set up the PSVR and the various accessories are carefully numbered and identified to make the setup process as easy as possible. Aside from the headset itself you also get a set of earbuds that you can use with the PSVR, although since they require a standard 3.5mm jack you can swap these for your own headphones if you prefer. There is a cable attached to the left side of the headset on which there is a small controller. It's here that you connect the ear buds or your own headphones and you'll also find the on/off, mute and volume up and down buttons, along with a built-in microphone. This cable has twin connectors that are identified using the PlayStation symbols and are attached to the corresponding connectors on the separate processor unit, although there is also an extension cable for those who are sat further away. The only things that aren't included with the PSVR are a PS4 (obviously) and a PS Camera, which you'll need to buy separately.
    Sony PSVR What
    The processor unit, shown above, measures roughly 143 x 36 x 143mm (WxHxL) and weighs approximately 365g. It has a right hand section that slides back to reveal the two connectors for the cable that runs from the headset, or the extension cable if you're using that, these connectors use the same identifying symbols as the cables and once both are connected you slide the side section forward again. There is an indicator light on the front that shows when the processor is powered up and in use, whilst at the rear there is a cooling fan, a connector for the AC power adapter, a mini-USB port, an HDMI input and an HDMI output. There is also an HDMI cable and a USB cable included for connecting the processor to your PS4, whilst the second HDMI port is for connecting the processor to your TV. The processor unit includes functionality for 3D audio processing, social screen (mirroring mode and separate mode) and cinematic mode. One limitation to point out is that the processor doesn't pass 4K and HDR, so you'll need to bypass it when playing normal 4K and HDR games.

    Everything is in the box apart from the PS Camera, which you'll need to buy separately

    Accessories

    Sony PSVR Accessories
    As we mentioned in the previous section, there is one accessory (aside from a PS4) that you have to buy if you plan on using a PSVR and that's the PS Camera. This particular accessory retails for £39 and is simply plugged into the USB port at the rear of the PS4. The camera comes with a stand that you fit to the top of your TV and then angle towards your sitting position. There are nine lights on the PSVR headset, seven along the front and sides of the visor and two at the rear of the headband, that the camera picks up and thus enables the system to track your head movements within the virtual world. The camera also tracks the light on the DualShock 4 controller or the lights on the PS Move controllers to allow for hand movements in the VR world.
    Sony PSVR Accessories
    The PS Move controllers are the second main PSVR accessory and whilst not essential, you can control your PSVR experience and game in the virtual world using your DualShock 4 controller, it does make the VR experience more immersive. You can buy the Move controllers separately or as a pair for about £60 and we'd recommend getting two because games such as Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and VR Worlds have been designed with these controllers in mind, allowing you to hold guns in both hands or hold a gun in one hand and reload with the other. On each Move controller there's a trigger, a PS button, the four PS symbols, a start button and a select button. The PS Move controllers and the PS Camera have been around for a long time but Sony has cleverly repurposed both to facilitate and enhance the virtual experience of the PSVR.

    The PS Move controllers have been repurposed very effectively, adding to your VR experience

    Specifications & Set Up

    Sony PSVR Specifications & Set Up
    The PSVR is a very clever piece of kit and the fact that Sony are able to run a VR system using their PS4 games console is impressive in itself. The headset uses a 5.7 inch OLED display with a resolution of 1920 x RGB x 1080 (960 x RGB x 1080 per eye) and a refresh rate of 90 and 120Hz. There is a field of view that is approximately 100 degrees and the sensors use an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The PSVR isn't as sophisticated as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, nor does it have as high a resolution as those two systems but it's still quite an achievement at the price point.
    Sony PSVR Specifications & Set Up
    Setting up the PSVR is very simple and thanks to clear instructions and numbered cables, you'll be up and running in about ten minutes. All you need to do is connect the PS Camera to your PS4 and make sure it is working properly and then connect the processor unit to the PS4 using the provided HDMI and USB cables. You connect the HDMI output on the back of the processor to your TV and you connect the PSVR to the outputs on the front of the processor. Then you simply plug the processor in and you're ready to go, although there's no on/off switch on the processor so remember to unplug it when you're finished. Assuming the PS4 firmware is up to date, that's all you need to do in terms of setup. Then you just turn the PSVR on using the small controller attached to the connection cable and put the headset on.

    As already mentioned you can control the PSVR using your DualShock 4 controller but if you have bought some PS Move controllers then you'll need to pair them with your PS4 and you're ready to start having fun in a virtual world. The only problem with having two Move controllers, along with the DualShock 4 controller, is that there's only two USB ports on the front of the PS4 for recharging but that's hardly the end of the world. We initially used the provided ear buds but quickly moved on to a large pair of over-ear headphones that we were able to wear along with the headset, thus increasing our sense of immersion. Whilst the setup and use of the PSVR is easy, it's reliance on a mass of cables does make things a bit messy, so you'll probably find yourself disconnecting and reconnecting everything on a regular basis in the interests of a tidy front room.

    Performance

    We had always been rather sceptical of virtual reality, our previous experiences had largely been with very low resolution demos at trade shows. Sony's PSVR was our first chance to really appreciate a proper VR experience from one of the big three headsets, although we have since reviewed the Oculus Rift as well but have yet to try the HTC Vive. Our first session with the PSVR was an experience called Ocean Descent on the VR Worlds game and it was a revelation. As someone who is an experienced diver, the sensation of actually being in a dive cage that is slowly lowered down to the ocean depths was incredibly realistic. The sights and sounds were utterly believable and we found ourselves looking around in complete amazement. Whilst there were times when the lower resolution became obvious, for the most part the virtual world was incredibly tangible. We could almost reach out our hand and touch the controls of the dive cage and we were so immersed in the experience that we completely forgot we were actually in our lounge.

    There's a game on VR Worlds called The London Heist and at one point you're being driven in a van by a foul mouthed East End gangster as you're chased by Russian mafia on motorcycles, in SUVs and at one point in an armoured car. As your mate in the van does a passable impression of Jason Statham you fire a machine gun at your pursuers, using the Move controllers to hold the gun in one hand and reload with the other. It was easily the most immersive and enjoyable gaming experience we've ever had, we totally believed we were in a van racing through London. We could look around, look up, look in the side mirrors, look out the window or even look behind us, it's a complete virtual world. In fact it was so convincing that at one point we reached into a bag to grab another ammo clip and our hand hit a cushion on the sofa. For a moment we freaked out because we had completely forgotten that we were in the lounge. The PSVR delivered smooth motion and it did a great job of tracking our head using the PS camera. The lights at the rear of the headset mean you can look behind you easily, something that the Oculus Rift struggles with when using only one sensor.

    The Move controllers really help sell the illusion of being somewhere else and the game Until Dawn: Rush of Blood has been specifically designed for the PSVR. As you travel through a nightmarish funfair in a rollercoaster carriage you shoot at approaching zombies and other monsters using guns held in each hand. The game offers a selection of pistols and shotguns that are easy to reload, allowing you to shoot away with abandon. It's a scary game because you are completely immersed in a beautifully realised world where you must duck to avoid beams or saws, creatures rush out of the dark towards you and if you look away and look back, there's a ghost just standing there. It's a safe bet that at some point during the game you'll uncontrollably scream.

    Although if you want to really scare yourself try playing Resident Evil: Biohazard because the VR version of the game is simply terrifying at times. It's hard to explain unless you've actually experienced VR but because you are totally immersed in the virtual world, the effect of the game is amplified, making it all the more frightening. The revolting house is so beautifully realised, think Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with zombies, that you completely believe you are there, with zombies hiding around the corner or waiting in the shadows. It's a shame you can't use the Move controllers with Resident Evil: Biohazard but the game remains the most effective VR experience to date.

    The PSVR comes with a demo disc that gives you a brief taste of various games and there are quite a few now available that support the PSVR. One of these is EVE: Valkyrie, a game specifically developed for VR and who hasn't wanted to pilot a spaceship, flying past giant starships and dogfight over planets. We were actually able to play EVE: Valkyrie on both the PSVR and the Oculus Rift, providing an opportunity to compare the two systems. The reality is that although the Rift is technically superior, in actual gaming terms we experienced no real difference. The PSVR did an excellent job of delivering a seamless VR experience from a games console, the resolution certainly held up, the OLED screen delivered great backs and colours, the frame rate kept pace with the action and the tracking matched our head movements effectively.

    Although our favourite game is actually a free modification available for Star Wars: Battlefront that allows you to play a VR X-Wing mission associated with the film Rogue One. It's quite simply a dream come true to pilot an X-Wing although, before the game even starts, an AT-AT walks past you and the sheer size and scale makes you realise the full potential of a Star Wars VR game. Throughout our gaming we had very little to complain about in terms of the PSVR's performance, occasionally the tracking would drift to the left or right but pressing the option button on the DualShock 4 controller re-centred it. Although we have never suffered from nausea whilst playing VR games, it's worth pointing out that this is a possibility but it will also depend on the individual. VR isn't for everyone but to truly understand it you need to actually experience it, so we would strongly recommend getting a demo if you're thinking of buying a PSVR. We suspect that after a few minutes you'll be reaching for your credit card.

    One other area where the PSVR impressed was in terms of its 3D audio, delivering a believable 360 degree sound field from a pair of headphones that helped to immerse you in the virtual world. The PSVR has a few other tricks up its sleeve, so you can of course play normal games using the headset and the effect is similar to being sat in front of a huge screen, albeit with a drop in resolution. It's a similar experience when watching films, you almost feel that you're sat in front of a giant IMAX screen, although again the drop in resolution is noticeable. One feature that has recently been added is the ability to watch 3D films using the PSVR and given the OLED screen and the complete separation of each eye, the results are quite impressive. Watching Moana, the images appear large, bright, colourful and free of any crosstalk but as with normal films there is a drop in resolution, so it isn't a perfect way of watching 3D films. However, overall the PSVR delivers a great performance, especially in terms of games, when compared to the competition and it does so for considerably less money.

    Not as sophisticated as some other headsets but the PSVR offers the best bang for your buck

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    The Good

    • Good performance
    • Cost effective soution
    • Well designed and comfortable headset
    • Easy to set up and use
    • Extensive selection of games

    The Bad

    • Need to buy camera separately
    • Possible nausea with some games
    • No Move controllers included
    You own this Total 7
    You want this Total 3
    You had this Total 0

    Sony PSVR PlayStation VR Headset Review

    Should I buy one?

    The Sony PSVR is a great virtual reality headset that delivers on the promise of VR for the masses. You don't need a gaming PC with a highly specified graphics card, all you need is a PS4 and the £349 needed to buy a PSVR. Yes you need to get a PS Camera at a cost of £39 but even then the PSVR still costs a lot less than competition like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. The PSVR is attractively designed and well made, the headset is comfortable to wear and the entire system is easy to set up. There are quite a few cables involved but it's an effective way of adding VR to a PS4 and Sony have cleverly repurposed existing accessories to implement and enhance the PSVR. In particular the PS Move controllers are definitely worth buying as they add an extra layer of immersion to your VR experience.

    There's a good selection of games, many of which have been developed specifically for the PSVR and in terms of performance it really delivers an immersive VR experience. It might not be as highly specified or as sophisticated as the Rift or Vive but in terms of enjoyment its just as good with some of the current games providing amongst the best VR experiences we've had. Ultimately to truly appreciate VR you need to actually try it and although it certainly isn't for everyone, if you enjoy being completely immersed in the world of a game then VR is the best way to do that. The Sony PSVR isn't perfect but there really is very little to complain about and at its price it simply offers the best VR bang for your buck.

    What are my alternatives?

    Although there are a number of different VR options available these days the big three are the Sony PSVR, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Of the three the PSVR is the cheapest and the least sophisticated but offers the chance of experiencing VR to the largest audience. If you're a PS4 owner it's the obvious choice but if you're gaming on a PC and have a good enough graphics card then you're probably be looking at the Rift or the Vive. These two options are more expensive than the PSVR but do offer a higher resolution and some excellent games that have been developed especially for them. The Vive is best of the two options, with two sensors and hand controllers included in the box but it's also the most expensive. The Oculus Rift is cheaper but for the best experience you need to buy the Touch hand controllers, which also adds a second sensor along with increasing the cost. However both offer a great VR experience, even if the PSVR offers the most cost effective solution for the majority of gamers.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £349.00

    The Rundown

    Design

    9

    Build Quality

    8

    Features

    8

    Performance

    8

    Ease of Use

    9

    Value for Money

    10

    Verdict

    9

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