Is it now the right moment to buy a VR headset? Or is it better to wait?

The one of the title is one of the questions that I read the most often on Quora and on Reddit. A lot of people are interested in VR, are seeing that the technology is becoming always better, that there is always more content and that the prices are lowering and wonder if it is now the moment to buy a VR device or if it is better to wait to buy the next generation of devices, that may feature a great leap in resolution and user experience, maybe with the addition of amazing features as eye tracking. So, what is the answer? Should people buy now a VR headset?

Of course, the answer is “it depends”, as always. It depends on your particular condition, on things like:

  • Why you want to buy a VR device (to work, to play games, etc…);
  • How much money you do have;
  • What expectations you have on VR devices;
  • What kind of headset you want to buy (tethered, standalone, etc…).

In this article, I’ll try to express my opinion on some points regarding this question, hoping to help you in taking the decision. Of course, other people may have a different opinion than me, so I recommend you to listen to different people and then decide. Because in the end, it’s always you that have to take the final decision, depending on your particular case.

Is VR amazing enough?

The first part of the question usually regards if current-state VR is good enough to be used.

RoboRecall review of VR game
With Robo Recall, VR is surely awesome (Image by Oculus)

Well, if you expect a realistic virtual reality like Sword Art Online, The Matrix or Total Recall… I have some bad news for you. We’re not at that point and maybe we’ll get there in 30-50 years when brain computer interfaces will be ready. So, you’ll have to wait a lot to get there.

In current state VR, you have a rather comfortable VR headset, with an annoying cable that tethers you to a PC. Resolution is good, but you still see the pixels of the display (the “screen door effect” is there). You have a decent field of view, but it still as seeing the world through binoculars. You can move in the space and interact in a good way using your hand controllers but is not as using your real hands. So, we are at a good-experience stage: we have a good emulation of visuals and audio, a decent emulation of hands interactions and no taste or smell. You can feel immersed in the virtual world, but you don’t feel really teleported there as the experience were real. For me, it is more than enough to live VR in an enjoyable way, but maybe you want more, and in this case, you have to wait some years before things will change in a remarkable way (it won’t be just in next gen).

Regarding the applications, the stores are not flooded with apps as with mobile and PC, but at this point, there is surely a good number of experiences you can try and some of them are really awesome ones. For instance, Robo Recall is an awesome action game; Echo Arena is maybe the first VR e-sports multiplayer game and is so fun; Dear Angelica is an artistic experience that almost made me cry; and then there are a bazillion titles like Pavlov, Onward, RecRoom, SuperHot, VRChat. We have some big brands like Fallout 4 and Doom VFR now. And amazing titles like Brass Tactics are coming. And there are not only games: for instance, you can model stuff with Google Blocks or Google Tilt Brush; or you can watch VR movies. So, there is enough to have fun for lots of hours.

I had tons of fun playing VR and a lot of other people are having fun too. Ok, it’s not a perfect emulation, you see that you are in a simulated reality, but you can feel the presence, you can feel immersed in the game and live amazing emotions. So, in my opinion, yes, it is worth it.

Of course, I’m talking about tethered headsets. If you’re talking about Cardboards, things are pretty different!

Is it worth waiting for the next generation?

Well, waiting for the next generation, you always get something more. This happens even for smartphones: every year there is a new model, with a better resolution of the screen, a better camera, etc… But if you keep waiting and waiting, in the end, you never buy anything!

wait next generation vr headset
This happens when you continuously wait for next gen (Image taken from Reddit)

If you want to wait for the next generation of VR headsets, you have to know that most probably it will come out next year, in 2019. This year we’ve seen Vive announcing the Vive Pro, that is an evolution of current Vive headset and then a lot of announcements of standalone devices (like Vive Focus, Lenovo Mirage Solo, Oculus Go and Oculus Santa Cruz). So, for next-gen tethered device, you have to wait one year. If you want to wait that amount of time is up to you. For sure, in 2019 you’ll get a device with increased revolution, FOV, wireless and maybe some eye tracking functionalities. It won’t be the VR device of your dream, but it will be a step forward.

This year, if you want to wait a bit, you can choose to:

  • go for a standalone headset: standalone will free you from the cable, but at the expense of a worse computational power, so you won’t be able to play the most awesome games. The advantage is that most of the hardware companies are pushing towards the standalone form factor, so buying it you would start with a next-gen form factor;

    HTC Vive Focus price release date specifications
    The Vive Focus: one of the most interesting standalone headsets that are coming out in 2018 (Image by HTC Vive)
  • buy a device that is an evolution of current headsets, like the Vive Pro, the Varjo headset (that will be tailored to professionals) or Pimax 8K (that is having a lot of delays, though). Prices of these devices won’t be cheap (the Vive Pro will have a price tag targeting at professionals) and you will get a device that is better than current ones, but that won’t have game-changing features. I mean, the Pimax 8K has an impressive 200° FOV, but it has not something like eye tracking, so it is a great incremental evolution over current technology, but not a disruptive one.

    htc vive pro virtual reality ces
    Side view of the Vive Pro (image by Vive, taken on The Verge)

If one of these choices interests you, then wait a bit and then buy it. Otherwise, buy the VR headset you wish now.

Is VR affordable?
windows 10 virtual reality headsets controllers
Acer Mixed Reality headset is pretty cheap and does its job in a decent way (Image by Microsoft)

I bought my Rift + my Touch controllers at an overall price of around 1000€. Now the whole set costs $349. Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets have pros and cons, but they’re surely good devices and some of them cost $399, controllers included. And in these days they are discounted on Amazon US at half of the price, so it is possible to buy a complete VR set for only $200! PSVR has been discounted at $149 for a limited time.

The prices of VR headsets are going really down. As soon as you find a discount, you can really enter VR for little money. Again, if you wait for next gen, you have surely to spend a lot more.

What kind of device do you want to buy?

Everything depends also on what kind of devices you want to buy.

If you’re interested in mobile headsets, new models won’t add almost any feature with regard to the previous ones, so buy them now.

If you’re interested in standalones, wait until the model you wish will come out. You can go for a 3 DOF cheap Oculus Go, wait for the full-fledged Santa Cruz or for the hybrid Lenovo Mirage Solo and Vive Focus.

If you’re interested in tethered devices, well, read all the considerations I’ve written above. The only thing I want to add is regarding the type of headset you want to buy. If you’re interested in Oculus, grab it now, because most probably we won’t have a new Rift in 2018 and I don’t think the price can go down that much. If you’re interested in a Microsoft Mixed Reality headset, wait for a discount (like the one on Amazon) and then grab it. If you’re interested in the Vive… well, in this case maybe I’d try waiting a bit more. In my opinion, when the Vive Pro will come out, the original Vive will get a discount to make it competitive with the Rift. So, if you want a Vive and can wait a bit, I’d wait for HTC to release some pricing information about the Pro (notice: this may require weeks or months and in the end, there could be no discount on the original Vive, so it is pure gambling).

Why do you want to buy a VR device?

I’ve left this as the last point, but actually, it should be the first one. The reason why you want a VR headset is the most important point in deciding if you can wait.

As you’ve read above, I spent a lot of money on my Rift headset and I spent even more to buy a VR-ready PC. But I work with VR and thanks to my headset I’ve been able to showcase my products, to experiment with UX, to review games for my blog and so on. So I couldn’t wait. And my advice is that if you have to use VR for work, the sooner you buy your device, the better. This way you can start experimenting with VR and enter this market before your competitors. Remember that VR will be a disruptive market and the sooner you enter it, the better it is to have a dominant position in the future. For instance, because I’ve entered the VR blogging market before many others, I’ve been put in various “Top 50 VR websites” classifications. So having bought an expensive Rift has been a great advantage to me.

Oculus Rift CV1 box
The first time I opened the Oculus Rift CV1 box: I was so excited!

Furthermore, as I’ve highlighted before, the devices shouldn’t have great evolutions during this year, so the basic paradigms will stay the same: if you learn how to develop a proper VR UX with the Rift, you could use what you’ve learnt very easily for all the other VR headset, even the most performant ones.

If you want to buy a VR device just for leisure, you have no real urgency, so you can wait a bit more for some discounts. But my advice is not waiting too much, or the risk is never buying a device. As I’ve said, playing with VR is cool enough, so buy a VR device.

Do you want some further advice about what headset to buy? Then read this other post of mine….

So, in the end, what is your advice?

It depends on you, but my general advice is to buy your headset now. Life is too short to wait for the next gen!


I hope to have helped you in your decision with this post. If this has been the case, please share this post with your friends and subscribe to my newsletter to help me sustain my VR magazine!

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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I'm not giving up: I've started an AR/VR agency called New Technology Walkers with which help you in realizing your XR dreams with our consultancies (Contact us if you need a project done!)

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