Best VR and AR headsets to buy in the UK 2017

2017 is set to be the year of virtual reality, with a myriad of VR headsets available to buy in the UK. Here, we list a few of the best virtual reality and augmented reality headsets on the market at the moment, along with those coming soon.

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Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Google Cardboard

2016 is set to be the year of virtual reality with many manufacturers releasing VR headsets this year, including the likes of Oculus, HTC and Sony. Although with this being said, there are many other VR headsets available to buy in the UK. Here, we list a few of the best virtual reality headsets on the market at the moment, along with those coming this year.

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is, essentially, a virtual reality starter kit for those that are unsure of VR and want to experience it without having to fork out a lot of money. In fact, you don’t really have to part with any money to get a Google Cardboard as, as the name suggests, it’s made from Cardboard and Google has provided instructions on how to build it yourself, at home. It uses your existing smartphone as the display and brains of the VR system, allowing the company to cut the cost and enable users to use existing VR apps available for iOS and Android.

If building the Google Cardboard seems like an effort to you, then you can buy one for around £10-15. It should fit any smartphone up to 6in, so if you’re interested in VR on a budget, it’s an ideal option.

See also: 12 best Google Cardboard apps

Price: Free - £15

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Next Prev google cardboard

2016 is set to be the year of virtual reality with many manufacturers releasing VR headsets this year, including the likes of Oculus, HTC and Sony. Although with this being said, there are many other VR headsets available to buy in the UK. Here, we list a few of the best virtual reality headsets on the market at the moment, along with those coming this year.

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is, essentially, a virtual reality starter kit for those that are unsure of VR and want to experience it without having to fork out a lot of money. In fact, you don’t really have to part with any money to get a Google Cardboard as, as the name suggests, it’s made from Cardboard and Google has provided instructions on how to build it yourself, at home. It uses your existing smartphone as the display and brains of the VR system, allowing the company to cut the cost and enable users to use existing VR apps available for iOS and Android.

If building the Google Cardboard seems like an effort to you, then you can buy one for around £10-15. It should fit any smartphone up to 6in, so if you’re interested in VR on a budget, it’s an ideal option.

See also: 12 best Google Cardboard apps

Price: Free - £15

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: ZapBox

If Google Cardboard is a little basic for you, maybe ZapBox is more up your street. Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, ZapBox aims to be the Google Cardboard for augmented reality, offering a full AR kit for as little as $30 right now. In a similar way to Cardboard, ZapBox utilises your smartphone's camera, processors, display and gyroscope to provide users with mixed reality experiences.

As ZapBox uses paper sensors around the room to track the position of the camera, you're free to walk around and inspect the virtual object in front of you without fear of loss of tracking. ZapBox ships with a number of short experiences that'll let you play mini-golf or examine the surface of Mars from the comfort of your living room. Even if the camera loses sight of all sensors, it uses the built-in gyroscope as a backup. It's not perfect, but it's a great intro to augmented reality and an impressive bit of kit for only $30. 

Price: $30 on Kickstarter

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Oculus Rift

Of course, the most popular virtual reality headset at the moment is the Oculus Rift, a headset that has spent years in development and even got bought by Facebook for $2bn (which shows that VR is for more than just gaming). Oculus worked directly with Microsoft during development and offers plug-and-play support for Windows 10 users, something no other headset can offer. It connects to your computer via DVI and USB ports, and features built-in headphones, although these can be removed if you’d prefer to use your own.

Oculus is developing controllers for its Rift headset, although these won’t be available until the end of 2016. To combat this issue, Oculus provides everyone that buys a headset with an Xbox One controller to use with it, providing you with a (rather mundane) way to interact with the virtual world around you in-game. It’s not as intuitive as we’d like, but we imagine the experience will be improved once the official controllers are released.

Price: £549, available now

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Best VR and AR headsets 2017: HTC Vive

Valve, arguably one of the biggest names in PC gaming (creators of Half-Life, Portal & DOTA 2 and operators of Steam, the online marketplace) paired up with HTC to create two products; console-esque boxes that run PC games, along with the HTC Vive, a fully fledged virtual reality headset that lets you do more than any other headset in this roundup. The Vive separates itself because it comes with two trackers that monitor your position within your physical space, and recreates this movement in-game. Simply put, it allows you to walk around and interact with the virtual world, in the same way you would in real life.

The headset features two 1080x1200 screens, the highest quality of any VR display at the moment, along with two touch-and-button enabled controllers that can simulate anything from a gun to a paintbrush. Unfortunately, all this comes at a price, and the HTC Vive is also the most expensive VR headset in our roundup at £689. Read about our experience with the HTC Vive here: HTC Vive review: The most immersive VR headset of 2016

Price: £759 + P&P, available now

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: PlayStation VR

Interestingly, the PlayStation VR headset is the only VR headset for console gamers – Microsoft offers a way for gamers to play Xbox One games through the Oculus Rift, but it isn’t VR-enabled (for now anyway). Sony’s virtual reality offering launched in October 2016, and features a 5.7in OLED display that’ll provide gamers with low persistence and, consequently, less motion blur when being used. It also boasts ultra-low latency (18ms) and a 120Hz refresh rate, which is better than the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive's 90Hz offering. It means that, theoretically, beautiful 120fps gameplay is possible, although we’re not sure the PS4 could handle it.

It seems that Sony had the same thought, and will provide an additional box (smaller than the PS4) that’ll handle the brunt of the graphics processing. It’ll track the position of your head, and can also be used with Sony’s (failed) Move controllers, giving the old controllers a new lease of life.

Price: £349, available now

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Microsoft VR

First announced alongside the Creators Update due to be released in Spring 2017, Microsoft announced a fleet of $300 VR headsets to be used with Windows 10. This is much cheaper than many VR headsets on the market, although it's unclear at this stage whether they'll be basic VR headsets for creators to visualise 3D models and use virtual desktops, or high-powered VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Microsoft is tipped to unveil more about the VR headset soon, so stay up to date with the latest news here: Microsoft VR headset UK release date, price and specs

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Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Xbox One VR

This isn't technically one of the best VR headsets of 2016 just yet, as the Xbox One VR headset hasn't technically been announced by Microsoft. Rumours suggest that we'll be seeing it sooner rather than later though, with many reports suggesting that it'd get an announcement during Microsoft's E3 2016 conference. The flames of the rumour fire were fuelled by four E3 2016 exhibitor pages showcasing the "Virtual Reality > Xbox One" category alongside the "Virtual Reality > PC/Windows" and "Virtual Reality > Sony PlayStation" categories, but the headset never appeared.

There's not much else to report, but for all the latest on Microsoft's Xbox One VR headset, take a look at our rumour hub: Xbox One VR UK release date, design and game rumours

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Google Daydream

Daydream is a platform rather than a specific headset: you'll need to buy a Daydream Ready Android phone, headset and controller. Daydream has only just been released alongside the Google Pixel and Daydream Viewer, so there aren't many Daydream enabled phones available right now. The good news is that it's not just a fancy update to the Google Cardboard: this is a high-quality VR experience that's affordable to most people, rather than the expensive Oculus and HTC options.

Find out more about Daydream.

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Sulon Q

While Max Cohen, VP of Oculus, claims that wireless VR headsets that match the quality of the Oculus Rift are a long way away, new guys on the block Sulon aim to prove him wrong. Announced at GDC 2016, the Sulon Q claims to be "tether-free" and unlike its mobile VR-powered counterparts, the company claims that it's powerful enough to run "console-quality" graphics as well as powerful applications. 

This is down to the Sulon Q featuring the PC and processing hardware inside the headset, enabling it to be completely wireless with no need to be near a PC to be used. It features an AMD FX-8800P processor combined with Radeon R7 Graphics which utilise AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture. It's capable of running DirectX 12 and Vulkan graphics APIs, meaning it is more than capable of delivering high-performance graphics. Coupled with a 2560 x 1440 OLED display, a built-in mic, earbuds with 3D spatial audio processing and lenses for AR applications, the Sulon Q looks to be an "all in one" VR headset.

Price: TBA, available from late Spring 2017

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Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Samsung Gear VR

Samsung’s Gear VR is another smartphone-powered VR headset, although this one is slightly different. For one, it features Oculus Rift technology for a great overall VR experience, although this comes at a cost – it can only be used with specific Samsung Galaxy handsets (namely the Note 4, S6 and S6 Edge). Simply slot the Galaxy smartphone into the slot in the side of the headset, and plug in the supplied MicroUSB cable. Then you’ll be using a 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display as your VR screen – not too bad for the price (although this relies on you already having an AMOLED display-powered smartphone).

Samsung also boasts a marketplace of VR-ready content named Milk VR including apps and 360-degree videos, ready for users once they take the plunge and buy the Gear VR.

Price: £80

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Homido VR

The Homido virtual reality headset aims to bring Virtual Reality to your smartphone while offering something a little more premium than Google’s Cardboard VR headset.

The Homido VR headset boasts some pretty interesting features including custom-made VR lenses that offer a 100-degree Field of View and an adjustable IPD (distance between the lenses) as the gap between the eyes isn’t the same for everyone and can affect the overall experience. You also have the option of buying a Bluetooth controller along with the headset to bring true VR gaming to your iPhone, as touch-based games won’t work in Homido as you can’t tap the display while it's being used in the headset.

Price: £48.95

Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Carl Zeiss VR One

The Carl Zeiss VR One headset is another VR headset that utilises the technology in your smartphone to provide you with a virtual experience. The headset comes with a tray that you slot your phone into, and that slots into the headset itself – you can choose from either the iPhone 6, Galaxy S5 or S6 phone tray when ordering, with the company providing CAD files for you to design and 3D print your own for use with other phones. The headset includes vents that stop the lenses from fogging up and provides an FOV of around 100 degrees.

The VR One also features a see-through front shield, allowing the use of smartphone cameras in augmented reality (AR) apps available for iOS and Android. The performance and graphics vary depending on the power and resolution of your smartphone, so take that into consideration before handing over your money.

Read our review of the Carl Zeiss VR One headset here.

Price: £129

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Best VR and AR headsets 2017: Samsung VR

This isn't a repeat of a previous slide. Although we like the Gear VR, Samsung is working on something far more exciting - we've used an image of the VR since there's nothing on the new headset just yet.

At its developer conference, Samsung confirmed that it will launch standalone dedicated VR headsets (plural) which won't require a certain mobile phone and will even be wireless.

"We are working on wireless and dedicated VR devices, not necessarily working with our mobile phone," said Injong Rhee, Samsung's head of software and services R&D.

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