VR On the Cheap

Not everyone wants to spend the premium attached to cutting-edge tech. I’m speaking of the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift of course, this being 360techph. The Vive is the better deal in my opinion, ringing in at a resounding $800 but including in its capacious box 2 controllers, 2 detectors and a link box in addition to the headset itself. The Oculus Rift seems more affordable at $599, but doesn’t include any controllers (they’re arriving later this year). But what if you don’t want to spend 3 figures (or 5 figures in pesos!) on your VR headset? Thankfully, there are options.

Our proximity to the world leader in mass production of affordable “stuff” ensures the availability of affordable devices through “tiangges”, flea markets, and inevitably, CDR-King. The item of interest today is a well-made VR headset designed to hold most phones with screen sizes of 4 to 6 inches. It can be paired with a Bluetooth-enabled controller, also featured here, with the most common controls usable on a variety of different games that can be found in Android’s Play Store.

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A quick glance at the device reveals most things you need to know – it’s a head-mounted device that looks somewhat like a plastic phone holder has been attached to the front, with straps, shaped to fit on most noggins, and containing 2 lenses. The quality of the plastic is more than adequate, and is finished in a slippery, soft-touch paint job that doesn’t feel like it will flake off after a while. The straps are also adequately designed, easy to adjust and holds the device tightly against one’s head.

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The fit takes some getting used to – there’s no padding, so it’s hard plastic against the bridge of your nose, forehead, and cheeks. Check out the fit and comfort before buying, if at all possible.

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Thin phones are nice – they fit better in this VR headset

The phone holder is a point of concern – it’s designed to be compatible with as many phones as possible, and it’s up to the buyer to make sure that their phone fits – in thickness primarily, but also in screen size. Too thick and the plastic holder is liable to break off, too big a screen and the lenses won’t be able to see all of it. Too small a screen, and we might just turn cross-eyed while using it. Regardless, with a bit of research, this won’t be a problem.

P9012416.JPGThe controller is the standard bluetooth control device with the familiar internal hardware that can also be found in bluetooth keyboards and 3rd party controllers, in a new shape and repurposed to this new VR application. This is not at all a bad thing, with its design fitting perfectly into its new role as a VR controller. Depending on the application being used, the controller can act as a mouse using its directional toggle, or a smallish controller used with both hands. Control schemes can be chosen through the use of a “shift” key that changes what the buttons do on-the-fly. Simply click and hold the “at” (@) key and press one of the control keys to change the control scheme.

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The controller has a total of 8 buttons, plus a directional toggle. Bluetooth pairing was straightforward, it was easily set-up with my Xperia Z3 and a Note 3. There’s not much material online about which games will use what kind of control scheme, so users can have fun testing out the many titles available – as long as they’re not afflicted with motion sickness.

P9012394.JPGAnd here is the crux of the matter – so far in this review the CDR King VR headset and controller has been exceeding expectations especially with a list price of P280 each – barely $24 compared to the HTC Vive’s $800. BUT! There’s a reason why you need fast hardware and quality optics in VR, and that’s because not everyone is immune to nausea due to motion sickness. If you’re one of the people who is unaffected, well and good. But if you get violently sick when your eyes tell you you’re moving, but your ears tell you you’re stationary, then this VR headset, and many similar to it, is not for you.

The distance between the lenses, how well-synced the two video outputs are, how smoothly movement is rendered, and how much input lag there is – all of this contribute to how immersive the game can be, and how playable it is. Anything off-kilter can quickly lead to dizziness and a headache, at least for me. This VR headset’s lenses seem a bit too far apart for me, though it worked fine for other test subjects. The HTC Vive on the other hand was so smooth and immersive I had no problem “testing” games for an hour or more – this is not so with this VR headset.

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So where does that leave us? The CDR-King VR headset and controller is affordable enough to count as an impulse buy, especially since it can be used by everyone – at least the first time. After that the users will discover who is and who isn’t affected by motion sickness. There’s enough games available, both free and paid, to keep those unaffected by motion sickness playing until the wee hours, and also for the motion-sickness prone to find one or two titles that doesn’t induce motion sickness, so for $24, this CDR-King combo is a must buy. It will be a good introduction to VR and 360 tech, with more and more applications being made for it everyday.

P9012383.JPGTo check out our review of the HTC Vive, follow this link.

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