Buying an inexpensive VR headset can be great entry point into virtual reality. There are dozens of different VR headsets that you purchase for less than $20. Not only are these headsets cheaper than a high end VR headset, they have a number of other benefits as well. High-end VR requires a lot of processing power, sensors and wiring. With cheaper VR headsets have none of these problems.
What is a budget VR headset?
The design of the under $20 VR headsets included may differ, but fundamentally they work in the same way. The headset acts as a mount for your smartphone fixing your eyes at the correct length away from the lenses. Using VR apps your smartphone is turned into a VR device. When you move your head your view moves with it. Some of these budget VR headsets also include controls or buttons which allow you to interact with your virtual reality experience.
There are plenty of positives to cheaper VR headsets but you also need to be aware of the downsides. The biggest of which is that you can’t really compare the experience of using a smartphone enabled VR headset with something like HTC Vive or Playstation VR. The type of immersion with a high-end VR headset is at a whole other level.
If you do decide to buy one of these less expensive VR headsets remember that this even close to the best that VR has to offer. Use it as a taster. If you like virtual reality then you can move onto something more high-end.
What To Look For When Buying A VR Headset For Under $20
A budget VR headset is never going to deliver you the same type of VR experience you are going to get with your $700 HTC Vive. But you can still get VR headset which will provide you a quality virtual reality experience and get you thinking about investing in one of the higher price headsets.
Comfort is key when choosing a VR headset. For VR to be properly immersive you need to be able to wear the headset for relatively long periods of time. The headset should be a comfortable but tight fit. Minimal amount of light should enter from where the headset is fitted to your face. Lighter headsets, like the original Google Cardboard, are often better because they aren’t as heavy as plastic models.
The last thing you want is to damage an iPhone that cost you several hundred dollars because of a flimsy ten dollar VR headset. Choose a VR headset that will keep your smartphone secure, even if you are moving your head around vigorously.
Field of View
A wide field of view is going to allow you to see more of the action on screen. It will also create a more immersive experience because it mirrors how we normally view the world. Anything above one hundred degrees should considered be a good field of view for these type of VR headsets.
The Magic Coo is one of your best option if you’re looking for a VR headset priced under $20. This comfortable, well made headset uses a suction and hinge system that makes inserting even larger smartphones easy.
One of the first things that users notice about Magic Coo is that it is very comfortable to wear especially compared to cheaper cardboard VR headsets. The headset features plenty of padding so the plastic of the headset is never in direct contact with your face. Combined with this are straps which have a lot of give them making the comfortable to wear. This is important when using a VR headset for long periods of time.
The magic coo feature optical resin lenses with nano coating which helps to reduce glare. This improves the quality of your visuals while preventing visual fatigue. The headsets allows for a nice wide view of the VR experience.
The headset includes suction cups and a top down hinge. The setup works with a wide range of smartphones including some of the larger phones such as the iPhone 6 plus, Samsung Note 5 and Moto X Pure. It also works well with smaller sized phones as well.
These headsets are good at achieving comfortable and close fit but they are not perfect. Some users may find that there is a slight gap at the bottom of the headset which lets light in. This can reduce how fully immersive the VR experience feels.
Google Cardboard Topmaxions
Topmaxions one of the best VR headsets that are based on the original Google cardboard design. If you are looking for an extremely low-cost entry into virtual reality that this is an excellent option at under $10 for the headset. There are also one of the best selling budget VR headsets category having sold more than half a million units.
As the name suggests Tomaxions are made from cardboard. Despite this they are surprisingly sturdy. The headsets are constructed from AAA grade corrugated cardboard. For a cardboard headsets they are also extremely comfortable. According to the company they have iterated eighty times on the design. New additions include adding forehead padding and a long head straps to make a more secure and comfortable fit.
Lightness is another big benefit of the coupled design. Because the seats it is constructed from cardboard significantly lighter than many other plastic headset. Places less stress on the back of your neck and makes it easier to wear a longer at the time.
There are adhesive foam strips to cushion the headset against your nose. This allows you to choose the part of your nose that requires the most cushioning and can be adapted to the shape of your nose.
One of the major issues that users have encountered is that if you move your head rapidly it is possible that your smartphone can slide out of the holder. This is more likely if you have a smaller smartphone.
The TopMaxions do not come with a remote. This means that they aren’t suitable for virtual reality games.
These are similar to the cardboard headset dogmatic sense. Made from more robust plastic but at only a slightly higher price point than the cardboard version.
TopMaxions do not require any assembly. You only need to attach the straps which takes a few seconds.
The TopMaxions are a slightly larger headset than other popular models under $20. Despite this they are still relatively light. The viewing area around the eyes has padding to make them comfortable for wearing for longer VR experiences.
The ventilation window on the front of the goggles allows air to flow through the headset preventing the smartphone from overheating. There is also an outlet on the side which enables you to recharge your phone while they are being used.
The TopMaxions goggles don’t produce a perfect fit for all users. Some users have reported gaps on the side just below the nose. These gaps can reduce the immersiveness of your experience.
There is only a single button with the headset. This does limit the amount of functions that you can use the headset for. If you want to play VR games then you will require a headset that has a separate remote.
The NeuTab headset features are cross ventilation will insist. This has a number of advantages including helping to prevent your smartphone from overheating and screen from fogging. This makes it more comfortable when you are using a for a long time that helps to prevent perspiration. The outlet allows you to plug in your smartphone and have recharged while it is being used by the headset.
NeuTab works with a large range of smartphones. It works with Smartphones between 2.3 and 3.1 inches wide and phones 3.5 to 6.3 inches in height. There is also enough room in headset to wear glasses.
You can adjust each of the lens separately. This means that you can adjust the lens distance individually for each of your eyes. This is good if you have different focal lengths for your eyes.
Some users report that the NeuTab can be uncomfortable if you have a prominent nasal bridge as there is only limited space for your nose.
The viewing experience with the NeuTab been described as boxlike or looking through a peep hole. Other headset provide a wider immersive VR experience.
The NeuTab goggles do block out most of the light, but depending on your facial shape light may still enter, reducing your experience.
View-Master Virtual Reality Headset
View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack takes a favorite childhood toy and gives it a 21st century VR upgrade. The View-Master is designed specifically to be child friendly, making it perfect if you are looking to introduce someone younger to the world of virtual reality. The View-Master works with it’s own View-Master apps. The apps themselves work just like you might remember from the traditional View-Master. You are presented with a preview reel of different VR experiences. When you see something that you want to explore in more detail simply click on the lever and you will enter that specific VR world.
As already mentioned the View-Master is very child friendly. More specifically it has been developed an explorational and education tool. Using the View-Master children can explore environments that would otherwise never be possible to visit including travelling underneath the sea and into space. As they explore these different environments children can click through to lean more information or delve deeper. If you are looking for a fun way to inspire young minds about the wonders of the natural world then the View-Master is an excellent way of doing just that.
Compared to many other VR headsets in this price, the View-Master is much more sturdy. It has obviously been designed with the hardware children put their devices through.
The View-Master comes with a starter pack which enables you to try out different View-Master VR apps. These include National Geographic: Wildlife and Destinations VR experiences. Further VR experience packs can be purchased separately.
The ability to upgrade to other experience apps sounds good in practice but the reality is less so. Keep in mind that the re thousands of free VR apps now available in the App Store and on Google Play. The Experience Apps that come with the View-Master might be worth paying for if they provided a higher quality VR experience. Unfortunately they do not. There are plenty of free VR experiences which are superior to the paid versions offered by View-Master. The View-Master is still worth buying as a high quality, but low priced headset, but you probably shouldn’t bother investing in upgrading to the other VR experiences. The View-Master can still be used with all of the other free VR apps that are now available.
The downside to the solid construction of the View-Master is that it can be a little heavy. If you are used to the lightweight feel of the original cardboard then this may be off putting.
TaoTronics VR Headset
TaoTronics offers a low cost VR headset with sturdy construction and the ability to correct up to 700 degrees of nearsightedness. The headset comes with a unique side mounted magnetic trigger to enable you to interact with your experience. The headset has also been designed to reduce the incidence of nausea with TaoTronics claiming that you can enjoy VR experiences for 30% longer using the headset.
The TaoTronics VR headset lets you retain complete control over the focal settings. In total you can adjust the settings to allows for up to 700 degrees of nearsightedness. This compares to 500 degrees from most other smartphones in this price category. If you are nearsighted then TaoTronics is well worth considering.
If you want to make adjustments or use your phone, you don’t need to completely remove it from the holding clips. The visor itself can be removed from the headset while keeping your smartphone in place. The clips can be adjusted to fit phone that measuring between 4.0 and 5.5 inches in size.
Nausea is one of the most common complaints with virtual reality. TaoTronics have sought to address this with their anti-distortion aspheric lenses. These help to reduce distortion, which in turn helps you to enjoy a longer virtual reality experience.
The TaoTronics has a magnetic button on the side of the headset. This can be used to interact with your VR experience with the need for a remote controller.
Some users have reported that the magnetic button doesn’t always work consistently with all types of smartphones.
The ability to adjust for near sightedness is a nice feature, but one that is hardly unique. Most other good quality VR headsets in this price range allow you to adjust the focus.
Another common complaint about the headset is the lack of padding around the nose. Users have complained that prolonged use with the headset can lead to nose pain.