The launch of the next game from the Half-life game series is approaching. After a wait of thirteen long years, Valve is finally releasing a new, full-length virtual reality entry in the Half-Life series, Half-Life: Alyx.
Set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, the game revolves around the protagonist Alyx. The game plot is about how Alyx Vance and her father Eli secretly form the resistance to defend the earth from the mysterious alien race, Combine that has occupied the planet. As Alyx, gamers fight the Combine to save the future of humanity. Isn’t this really amazing? But, Half-Life: Alyx is playable exclusively with a PC based VR headset.
Many of you Half-Life fans would have immediately thought of buying a VR headset to enter the Combine. Some of you might consider buying the pricey Valve’s own Index VR headset. However, there are also other options that wouldn’t burn a hole in the pocket.
Take a look at the top 5 VR headsets that will help you conquer the aliens of the Combine.
Our Top 3 Picks:
Best VR Headsets – Comparison Table
|Dual RCB LCD||1400×1600|
|LCD||1280 x 1440|
1 . Valve Index
Valve Index is the gold standard for playing Half-Life: Alyx because the game was built hand-in-hand with this high fidelity device. After testing the Valve Index we have come to believe that, although it is cumbersome to set it up, it is best in terms of quality. It features high fidelity displays and the audio tech is just worth the investment.
Fitted with twin displays made of RGB LCD screen, Valve promises 50% more subpixels than AMOLED alternatives, increasing the sharpness of the video. The resolution is set at 1440 x 1600 per eye boosting image clarity.
While the display is top-notch, the optics is also a major factor that contributes to the overall fidelity of the final image. The updated optics of the headset allows for a greater field of view around 130°. The lenses have been designed with high geometric stability so that the image is not distorted at the edges.
What makes the video quality impressive is the high refresh rates. With the 120Hz mode, it offers a level of motion that is more fluid than the standard 90Hz.
Once you fire up the headset and listen to the audio you will be even happier with your buy. Valve says that it has been designed so the audio comes from around you. True to its word, the headset does produce sound like it is coming from around you, plus drowns out a huge amount of the ambient noise of the room you are in.
If you want a little more out of this purchase then have a look at the complete Valve Index kit. The kit features a headset, controllers, two base stations, and Half-Life: Alyx. The Index controllers are equipped with multiple sensors allowing them to track individual fingers and copy those motions digitally.
|Superb image clarity|
2. HTC Vive Pro
HTC Vive Pro is a close competitor of Valve Index primarily due to its price factor. Even though the Vive Pro fails to match specs of the Index, the comparatively lower price attracts consumers. However, Vive Pro is considered to be expensive in the broader market.
Vive Pro is one of the highest-ranked VR headsets in the market. If you have the necessary financial and hardware resources for it, the headset is a worthwhile investment. The Vive Pro is an upgrade to HTC’s Vive in terms of hardware. If you use the Vive Pro with a high-end PC hardware it can give you a visually rich virtual reality gaming experience. Turn on supersampling on your PC and you will immediately fall in love with the device.
The first notable feature of the headset is its upgraded visual fidelity. With a resolution of 2800×1600, the dual AMOLED screen produces crisp images. More pixels on the screen help high-resolution objects and texture packs look more real and lifelike. Coupled with a refresh rate of 90Hz, the images load faster eliminating visual flickering.
One major gripe we found with the Vive Pro is the audio. The audio on the built-in headphones of the headset is clear and precise, however, the sound distorts at higher levels. This can ruin your immersive game experience especially if you are an audiophile. Plus, you will have to replace the headphones after a while.
|Comfortable to wear|
High resolution visuals
Vast game library
|Very high PC requirements|
Audio distorts at higher levels
3. Oculus Quest
The Quest is Oculus’ fourth commercial VR headset. The Quest is Facebook’s first headset that offers six degrees of freedom (6DoF) tracking. This helps the headset function with the same full tracking capabilities typically reserved for high-end PC driven VR headsets.
Oculus made Quest with a focus on gaming. Studded with four wide-angle tracking cameras and dual hand controllers this headset lets users walk around a fairly large space. Unlike other headsets, the Oculus Quest is wireless so you don’t have to worry about tripping and falling on wires while you are gaming.
The primary feature of this headset is the movement tracking. Movement tracking is aided by the Oculus Insight technology, which uses ultra-wide-angle sensors on the side of the headset and computer vision algorithms, to translate your movements into VR.
Coming to other features of the device, the Quest features an OLED display panel with 1440 x 1600 per eye resolution. The images on the screen look clear, colorful and more realistic.
For a further immersive experience, the device is made compatible with 3.5mm headphones. Also, Oculus Quest has positional audio built-in with speakers embedded in the headband to not touch your ears. This adds to the comfort of using the headset.
Doesn’t require additional hardware
Six degrees of freedom
Perfect for all sized rooms
|Less powerful than wired headsets|
Slight light leakage
Battery lasts for only 2 to 3 hours
Low refresh rate
The Oculus Rift S was born after a partnership between the Oculus and Lenovo. Lenovo licensed the industrial design of Sony’s Playstation VR to give birth to this high-resolution headset. Though the Rift S is not a carbon copy of the PSVR there are several features that carry over from Sony’s headset.
Similar to the PSVR, the Rift S has a button located on the lower left that can adjust the distance of the visor from your face to make room for eyeglasses. The headset also sports a rigid strap with a dial for adjustment situated on the rear. The shape of each component has noticeable differences, but the design of the headset looks like it was derived from the PSVR.
The Rift S shares the single-display specification of the PSVR. Despite only having one display it offers improved visuals. The Rift S offers a combined resolution of 2560 x 1440. Equipped with a fast-switching LCD screen, the RGB stripe sub-pixel array of the Rift S improves image clarity and reduces screen door effect.
Coming to the audio, Oculus has fitted the Rift S with directional speakers in the headband. While it does offer a reasonable sense of directional audio in relation to what’s happening on your VR screen, they leak an incredible amount of sound. Plus, the audio lacks bass which can kill the mood of your audio centric games.
Space for eyeglasses
|Needs to be tethered to a gaming PC|
Reduced refresh rate
Windows Mixed Reality Headsets were made by the tech giant Microsoft to make VR affordable for common people. Its unique combination of VR and AR is specifically made to immerse more users in the digital experience with budget-priced and easier to use headsets.
To make this possible, Microsoft teamed up with tech giants including Dell, HP, Asus, Samsung and Lenovo to create a more accessible head-mounted display (HMD) standard with fewer ground rules. These headsets have had a decent spurt of growth since its release.
After testing different Windows mixed reality headsets we found the best among them is Lenovo’s Mixed Reality headset. Weighing only 380 gms, it is extremely comfortable to wear compared to its counterparts and it is also good looking in terms of design.
Hardware-wise the Lenovo Explorer employs two inside-out motion-tracking cameras, a gyroscope and an accelerometer for tracking movement. The motion controllers for the headset have an assortment of white LEDs at the top, aiding the sensors on the front of the headset to track them. Thanks to Microsoft, the tracking is impressive and accurate.
Fitted with LCD visual display, the Explorer sports two 2.89-inch lenses with a combined resolution of 2880 x 1440. Even though the resolution matches other high end VR headsets we had a problem with focus. Getting the image perfect in both eyes at the same time is almost impossible and this ruins your immersive experience.
The lenses have a field of view of 110 degrees and a refresh rate of 90Hz, matching the Vive Pro. Besides, the field of view on the Explorer is more than the field of view on other Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
A major shortcoming of this headset is that it lacks audio playback pushing gamers to use headphones of their choice. But, this means more wires and clutter hampering your VR experience.
|Comfortable to wear|
High resolution displays
|Slight screen door effect|
Lacks audio playback
1. Powering your VR headset
You cannot just go online and purchase a VR headset and expect it to work with your existing smartphone or computer. You have to check the minimum requirements the headset demands and find out whether your PC/ phone is compatible. For example, the PlayStation VR headset needs a PS4 Console and a PlayStation Camera to work while the HTC Vive Pro requires a PC with high end specs. If your existing computer cannot meet the specified requirements then you better choose another headset.
2. Equipment to compliment your headset
Currently, there are 3 kinds of VR headsets available in the market; standalone, PC-powered and smartphone-powered.
PC-powered VR headsets are suitable for high-end gaming. Priced comparatively higher, they offer rich VR experience with advanced controllers for full immersion and accurate location-based tracking. However, these headsets can burn a hole in your pocket because not only will you be purchasing a really pricey headset but also a high-end laptop to meet the requirements.
Mobile VR headsets are the most popular ones in the market. They can be called as beginner’s VR headsets as they give access to a range of basic games and 360-degrees videos. These require a smartphone for tracking, internals and display. These headsets are second only to PC-powered VR headsets in terms of actual interaction with virtual environments.
The third type is a standalone headset. These headsets don’t require a PC or a smartphone to power them, but they provide an experience similar to mobile VR headsets. A dedicated controller accompanies the headset for improved VR interaction. They cost a little more than mobile VR headsets but they are easy to use and have upgraded visuals.
Controllers are your gateway into the VR arena. The controllers let you immerse yourself in the VR experience. Therefore, it’s important that they are as comfortable and accurate as possible.
Positional tracking is another important aspect to consider before choosing a VR headset. The more precise the tracking, the better the VR immersion. Any lag between your position in real-life and in-game can spoil your experience. High-end VR headsets accompany accurate controllers that offer true 1:1 positional tracking.
High-end VR headsets offer 6 DoF [Degrees of Freedom – number of movement types] while standalone and mobile VR headsets only offers 3 DoF. These include standing in one location, looking around, and looking up and down. No other movements can be tracked. While 6 DoF can track your location and movements in the physical space giving you more freedom of movement furthering immersion.
High end VR headsets have built-in speakers making the headsets comfortable to wear. The audio quality is also premium with great bass pickup contributing to a more realistic VR experience. Though entry level headsets also feature built-in speakers they cannot match the audio quality of high-end VR headsets.
Make sure that the headset you buy is as light as possible. Since the headset rests on your head and VR needs you to run around a room to play games, comfort and weight of the headset matters. If you choose a headset that has considerable weight you will feel the discomfort while playing the game. Also, it would leave a red mark on your forehead when you remove it.
A VR headset’s resolution along with its refresh rate and field of view are fundamental to a decent VR experience. The higher the resolution, the better is your VR experience. This contributes to higher quality videos, easy-to-read text, and sharp images.
8. Refresh Rate
Resolution and refresh rate go hand in hand. If the headset features a good resolution but a terrible refresh rate you will not be pleased with the video quality. 90Hz is the minimum requirement for a fast-paced VR. If the game you’re playing is not particularly graphic intense, a refresh rate of 70Hz would be enough. If your VR headset takes too long to refresh, you will begin to notice motion sickness.
9. Field of View [FOV]
It is always better to choose a VR headset with a FOV of between 100-110 degrees. FOV is a measure of how immersive your headset is. A small FOV can make a user feel like they’re looking through a diving mask.
1. Which VR headset has the highest resolution?
From the VR headsets that are currently available in the market, the HTC Vive Pro stands first in terms of resolution. However, HP released the Reverb which offers 2160 x 2160 pixels for each eye, compared to the 2,880 x 1,600 pixels total resolution of the Vive Pro.
The Reverb headset is based on Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform, which integrates with the Steam store for access to the most popular VR apps and games.
2. What is best VR headset for 2020?
According to us the best VR headset in the market is HTC Vive Pro. With a resolution of 2800×1600, the dual AMOLED screen the headset is capable of producing visually rich images. The refresh rate of 90 Hz helps the images load faster and help high-resolution objects and texture packs look more real and lifelike.
3. What are the PC requirements needed to support VR?
If you are eager to try VR gaming, then you should make sure that your PC passes the criteria test. Upgrading your PC to virtual reality standards and getting the hardware requirements of your VR system are essential to achieving the ultimate VR experience.
You need not spend a lot on your PC to play VR games with reasonable detail and high frame rates. With case, motherboard, power supply, and solid state drive updates, you can achieve better performance. Here is what you can term as a reliable build for PC to help support VR gaming.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600
- GPU: GeForce GTX 1070
- Motherboard: MSI B350M Gaming Pro
- Storage 1: Crucial MX500 250GB SSD
- Storage 2: Seagate Barracuda 2TB HDD
- Power Supply: EVGA GQ 650W
- RAM: 16GB DDR4
- Case: Corsair Carbide 270R
- CPU Cooler: Stock
- Operating System: Windows 10
4. What are the system requirements for Half-Life: Alyx?
Half-Life: Alyx runs on the Source game engine. Here are the minimum system requirements as specified by Steam.
OS: Windows 10
Processor: Core i5-7500 / Ryzen 5 1600
Memory: 12 GB RAM
Graphics: GTX 1060 / RX 580 – 6GB VRAM
Our choice for the best VR headset for Half-Life Alyx would be the HTC Vive Pro. HTC and its partner Valve decided to include two handheld motion controllers and two motion tracking base stations along with the headset. You can mount these components in your room and create a 15 x 15-foot virtual world you can walk around in using your own two legs. Plus, the upgraded visual display with a faster refresh rate gives you a visually rich virtual reality gaming experience.
The gamer community is eagerly awaiting the release of the game Half-Life: Alyx. If you are a fan of the Valve’s Half-Life series you sure wouldn’t want to be late to the party.
Beef up your PC specs and choose the right VR headset to don on Alyx’s gravity gloves and conquer the Combine.
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