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"Playstation VR Hardware Review"

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Mon 17/10/16 at 10:45
Moderator
"possibly impossible"
Posts: 24,985
It was the early 90s. After the success of Lawnmower Man movie in the cinema I really wanted VR, albeit not with some sort of killer gardener. Ibiza gave me the first taste of real VR, via those short-lived VR arcade machines that made you feel like your stomach was a washing machine thanks to low res, low refresh crude gaming. To put it in to perspective, their systems were fairly basic and the last upgrade they got for the 3000 version was with a Pentium processor.

Fast forward to the current generation. At the beginning of the millenium, playable home VR still looked like a pipe dream, but a few years ago things started to change. Expensive PC headset hardware was announced for those with a powerful enough PC and a large wallet.

Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR changed that and made VR accessible to all budgets, but not before the early adopters in the PC world got their hands on Vive and Rift, those rather expensive headsets that require equally expensive PC hardware to run them at their full potential. Sonyís PSVR aims to provide a middle ground to this market with a fuller VR experience than the mobile headsets but with a budget and hardware that isnít as high end as the PC.

Itís important to state this before going any further because it puts the PSVR into perspective, itís around half the price of the PC VR sets but promises the same sort of experience, albeit with a little less detail. It might the price of a new console, but thatís still far more affordable than the price of a high end PC. But nobody was really sure it could live up to even these expectations, can a device like this really run from a console built in 2013? It seems it can, with some caveats.

Youíll also need to ensure you either own or buy the PS4 camera. It came with early PS4 packs but can be bought separately, with a new version out to match the PSVR. Move controllers are optional, but improve the experience in some games. They can be found second hand or in the new dual packs designed for VR.

First things first, though. For a fairly small headset, the box is absolutely massive. Itís actually designed really well, with a little piece of material that opens the triangular lid half way and reveals the neatly packed wealth of small boxes that could easily go to form a real life game of Sonyís VR title Tumble. The reason for all these boxes? Wires, tons of them.

The box contains the headset itself, a breakout box, a full power supply in 2 pieces, a USB lead, 3 HDMI leads (1 to the Playstation and 2 for each eye of the VR headset). Thereís a lead that then comes out of the headset and into the smaller box that takes the 2 HDMI cables and transfers the signal to the eyes. This contains an in-line remote to turn the headset on and off and also allows you to plug in headphones (a set of matching earphones is included, though I can never get in-ear earphones to stay in my ears, but that might just be me.

The headset feels very comfortable in use, thanks in part to the high quality materials used. The headband is stretchable to fit any size head and is easy to adjust, while the actual lenses move in and out to fit your face, even if you wear glasses.

Once connected, turning the headset on immediately takes you to the PS4ís menu inside the headset, with a picture on the TV mimicking what you see but in 2D. This is great for others who may be watching you make a fool of yourself while wearing the headset or for sharing your PSVR experiences.

psvr-trying-on
and this is how you look with the PSVR on. Very fetching.
The actual experience differs based on the game or application youíre playing. Many games require just the Dualshock to control but have the option of using 2 Move controllers. These might be throwbacks to the previous generation, but they still work fairly well. There were a few instances, though, when the camera refused to pick them up as they were outside of the space, but most games will take advantage of the space and will compensate for this.

The camera itself is used for face tracking. Itís possible to look 360 degrees around and see things behind you, the headset can cope with this, but tracking movement of things like the move controllers or targets wonít work. This is similar to the situation with Oculus Rift which is actually getting more cameras to support the forthcoming touch controllers, so this may be an option for Sony in the future. For now, though,it just requires games to realise the limitations and work around them. Thankfully, as Rift is similar, many titles have been ported over easily enough and will continue to share the larger catalogue of games as developers get a grip on the new tech.

Sony have managed to get full HD (1920◊1080) for the headset via screens that show 960◊1080 per eye and up to 120Hz refresh. The Vive and Rift are both 90Hz as well, though they both have better resolutions of 2160◊1200 overall. In practice, there is a little difference in picture quality, but in most games this isnít really noticable when youíre in the thick of things.

Motion Sickness is another big issue for VR. Gear VR, Rift and Vive owners have experienced some sort of VR Sickness in games that require fast paced movement without a centre point to keep them focused. Itís the same for PSVR. The 90Hz to 120Hz (depending on game) refresh rate does help to keep this to a minimum, as it does on Vive and Rift, but some games will affect people more than others. I found RIGS in particular to be a bit of a stomach churning experience, whereas games like Thumper and Battlezone were fine.

Overall, though, itís a hefty investment, though nowhere near that of its PC rivals and although there are plenty of launch games to keep you busy, if youíre worried about the outlay then it may well be worth waiting to see what else developers can do with the format. For those that can afford it, the Playstation VR hardware is impressive for the price point as an accessible console Virtual Reality solution that can run happily on a standard PS4.

Post edited by pb on 18/10/2016 at 11:18.
Mon 17/10/16 at 11:08
Staff Moderator
"Meh..."
Posts: 1,474
Ah, VR... "Virtually redundant"...

Tell me I'm wrong, and we'll discuss it in two years' time.
Mon 17/10/16 at 10:45
Moderator
"possibly impossible"
Posts: 24,985
It was the early 90s. After the success of Lawnmower Man movie in the cinema I really wanted VR, albeit not with some sort of killer gardener. Ibiza gave me the first taste of real VR, via those short-lived VR arcade machines that made you feel like your stomach was a washing machine thanks to low res, low refresh crude gaming. To put it in to perspective, their systems were fairly basic and the last upgrade they got for the 3000 version was with a Pentium processor.

Fast forward to the current generation. At the beginning of the millenium, playable home VR still looked like a pipe dream, but a few years ago things started to change. Expensive PC headset hardware was announced for those with a powerful enough PC and a large wallet.

Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR changed that and made VR accessible to all budgets, but not before the early adopters in the PC world got their hands on Vive and Rift, those rather expensive headsets that require equally expensive PC hardware to run them at their full potential. Sonyís PSVR aims to provide a middle ground to this market with a fuller VR experience than the mobile headsets but with a budget and hardware that isnít as high end as the PC.

Itís important to state this before going any further because it puts the PSVR into perspective, itís around half the price of the PC VR sets but promises the same sort of experience, albeit with a little less detail. It might the price of a new console, but thatís still far more affordable than the price of a high end PC. But nobody was really sure it could live up to even these expectations, can a device like this really run from a console built in 2013? It seems it can, with some caveats.

Youíll also need to ensure you either own or buy the PS4 camera. It came with early PS4 packs but can be bought separately, with a new version out to match the PSVR. Move controllers are optional, but improve the experience in some games. They can be found second hand or in the new dual packs designed for VR.

First things first, though. For a fairly small headset, the box is absolutely massive. Itís actually designed really well, with a little piece of material that opens the triangular lid half way and reveals the neatly packed wealth of small boxes that could easily go to form a real life game of Sonyís VR title Tumble. The reason for all these boxes? Wires, tons of them.

The box contains the headset itself, a breakout box, a full power supply in 2 pieces, a USB lead, 3 HDMI leads (1 to the Playstation and 2 for each eye of the VR headset). Thereís a lead that then comes out of the headset and into the smaller box that takes the 2 HDMI cables and transfers the signal to the eyes. This contains an in-line remote to turn the headset on and off and also allows you to plug in headphones (a set of matching earphones is included, though I can never get in-ear earphones to stay in my ears, but that might just be me.

The headset feels very comfortable in use, thanks in part to the high quality materials used. The headband is stretchable to fit any size head and is easy to adjust, while the actual lenses move in and out to fit your face, even if you wear glasses.

Once connected, turning the headset on immediately takes you to the PS4ís menu inside the headset, with a picture on the TV mimicking what you see but in 2D. This is great for others who may be watching you make a fool of yourself while wearing the headset or for sharing your PSVR experiences.

psvr-trying-on
and this is how you look with the PSVR on. Very fetching.
The actual experience differs based on the game or application youíre playing. Many games require just the Dualshock to control but have the option of using 2 Move controllers. These might be throwbacks to the previous generation, but they still work fairly well. There were a few instances, though, when the camera refused to pick them up as they were outside of the space, but most games will take advantage of the space and will compensate for this.

The camera itself is used for face tracking. Itís possible to look 360 degrees around and see things behind you, the headset can cope with this, but tracking movement of things like the move controllers or targets wonít work. This is similar to the situation with Oculus Rift which is actually getting more cameras to support the forthcoming touch controllers, so this may be an option for Sony in the future. For now, though,it just requires games to realise the limitations and work around them. Thankfully, as Rift is similar, many titles have been ported over easily enough and will continue to share the larger catalogue of games as developers get a grip on the new tech.

Sony have managed to get full HD (1920◊1080) for the headset via screens that show 960◊1080 per eye and up to 120Hz refresh. The Vive and Rift are both 90Hz as well, though they both have better resolutions of 2160◊1200 overall. In practice, there is a little difference in picture quality, but in most games this isnít really noticable when youíre in the thick of things.

Motion Sickness is another big issue for VR. Gear VR, Rift and Vive owners have experienced some sort of VR Sickness in games that require fast paced movement without a centre point to keep them focused. Itís the same for PSVR. The 90Hz to 120Hz (depending on game) refresh rate does help to keep this to a minimum, as it does on Vive and Rift, but some games will affect people more than others. I found RIGS in particular to be a bit of a stomach churning experience, whereas games like Thumper and Battlezone were fine.

Overall, though, itís a hefty investment, though nowhere near that of its PC rivals and although there are plenty of launch games to keep you busy, if youíre worried about the outlay then it may well be worth waiting to see what else developers can do with the format. For those that can afford it, the Playstation VR hardware is impressive for the price point as an accessible console Virtual Reality solution that can run happily on a standard PS4.

Post edited by pb on 18/10/2016 at 11:18.

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