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Buying a Virtual Reality Headset Gift for Christmas

There is so much exciting stuff going on in the world of virtual reality that we can’t write about it fast enough, but, we also have to do our Christmas shopping like everyone else. What’s one to do but kill two birds with one stone and turn our Christmas shopping task into an insightful article for our lovely readers on how to pick the perfect VR headset for your family.

Virtual Reality Headset Requirements

We’ve been reading about how cool virtual reality is in nearly every tech magazine out there and now we want to share that with our families. Our mandate is to find a virtual reality headset with accompanying content to give as a one-size-fits-all gift for a family profile as follows:

  • Dad – He’s in his late 50s no spring chicken and while he loves to travel, it’s just getting more and more difficult.
  • Mom – She’s a movie buff and VR would just knock her socks off.
  • Sibling(s) – Similar use cases to mom and dad. They are mild gamers but let’s not make owning a console a prerequisite to using a VR headset.
  • Inlaws – Will keep them busy so we don’t have to talk to them

In short, this is the sort of family bonding experience we’re after:

A young man and woman in casual clothes and virtual reality glasses is watching romantic movie

Per the above compelling photo, we may consider buying two virtual reality headsets if the price is right.

Other requirements we’re going to add. We don’t want this thing tied to a particular piece of hardware. For example, we don’t want it tied to a “mobile data plan” or a “game console” as we mentioned earlier. This requirement may not even be feasible but we’re going to give it a go.

After our previous article on 6 VR content companies, we’re probably most concerned about the hardware device being compatible with as much content as possible. Price points? We’d be keen to spend around $200 but we’ll go up to $600 tops. So, the first thing we need to do is establish price points.

Top 5 Virtual Reality Handsets

First place we’re going to check is Amazon for two reasons. One, they sell everything at very competitive prices and two, if you click this link and buy something we get a small cut of your purchase which helps us pay the bills (see what we did there?). Initially when we search for virtual reality headsets on Amazon under electronics, the choices are pretty ghetto. However running along top of the search is an advertisement by Oculus (a brand we’ve heard a lot about) so we click that and it shows us the handy table below:

vr-headsets-comparison

These days it’s all about helping the customer, not trying to give them a hard sell. By the way, Oculus is a Facebook company as they were acquired by Facebook back in 2014.

In looking at the above table, we’re immediately going to scratch Google Cardboard. Can you imagine giving someone a piece of cardboard for Christmas? They gave away one of these at the office holiday party a few nights back and the experience was underwhelming to say the least. You try having 5 or 6 drinks and seeing if you can make any sense of it because we sure couldn’t.

Moving from right to left, we’re going to say no to both the Samsung Gear and the PlayStation VR for reasons we gave earlier. We don’t want our virtual reality headset tied to a specific phone or console. This leaves us with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Right underneath that table, Oculus pounds home their value proposition with a simple tagline:

Step into Rift. Whether you’re stepping into your favorite game, watching an immersive VR movie, jumping to a destination on the other side of the world, or just spending time with friends in VR, you’ll feel like you’re really there.

Nice. Now before we go picking between the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, we want to make sure we didn’t overlook any other contenders. To that end, we searched for “top VR headsets” in Google and then clicked one of the first links as seen below:

vr-headset-rating

 

Two things to note here. Firstly, the exact same headsets are listed except it looks like Google has a new virtual reality headset. This means we’ve probably seen all of the top contenders and the price points seem right. Secondly, how useless is an editor rating in the above table that ascribes nearly the same rating to every headset and then chooses the most expensive one? Moving on.

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive

So while we could go and start poring through the many reviews out there for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, we want to keep our decision making process as objective as possible. We’re going to choose the Oculus for the following reasons:

  • It supports Xbox but does not require the console
  • It’s 33% cheaper (Oculus Rift is $200 less than the HTC Vive)
  • It’s 16.6% lighter (It’s 1.0lb versus the HTC Vive which is 1.2lbs. Older people like us pay attention to these things)
  • It fits all eyeglasses while the HTC Vive “most glasses”
  • Facebook owns them (you can see where this is going… playing with the grandkids in VR?)

Oculus Rift Bundles

We were just about ready to pick one up on Amazon.com for $599.99 when we had a stark realization. What if mom and dad’s computer isn’t up to snuff? In fact, we’re certain their machine is at least a few years old. Oculus has a test program you can use to see if your machine is compatible (click here to download it). We’re going to have someone sneakily download on Mom and Dad’s desktop PC but it’s a 95% likelihood that it won’t cut it. What to do?

Amazon anticipates this and offers computer/Oculus bundles.

amazon-oculus-bundles

The problem with this though is that every single one of those virtual reality headset “bundles” has at most a discount of just one cent if you bought the components separately. The Lenovo “bundle” actually charges you $1 more. WTF Amazon?

The Cheapest Oculus Rift Bundle Out There

What we did is went to the Oculus Rift website and looked at all the desktop computers that they certified to run their virtual reality hardware on. The company that offers the best selection of bundles is Best Buy, of which can be seen below:

oculus-best-buy-bundles

Those prices weren’t good enough so what we did is went back to Amazon and searched for the best value desktop computer that met the following recommended specification from Oculus:

oculus-reccomended-specYou really want the recommended specs because if it runs with lag, you’ll start to get carsick and that sounds like a huge turnoff for Dad who dislikes traveling lately because he tends to get more carsick as he gets older. The best value machine with these specs we could find is the Asus G11CD-WS51 Desktop for $799:

asus-virtual-reality-desktop

To that same order we added an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset which also gives us a free game called Eve: Valkyrie that looks pretty cool:

eve-valkyrie

Our final order was placed for a Asus g11CD-WS51 Oculus Ready Desktop and an Oculus Rift all for just $1399.98. For a family of 5 we’re spending $280 dollars per person this year so pretty expensive gifts all around. But if you take into account that this virtual reality headset will always be upgradable, all the grandkids can eventually use it when they come and visit grandma and grandpa, and then bundle it in with a few people’s birthdays, there could be some value there. If you want to sort our all your Christmas gifts and pick up this same virtual reality headset bundle up yourself, just click this link and add that product then the Oculus Rift to your cart. Buy it and Amazon will kick some Christmas cheer our way as well. Merry Christmas lovely readers!

oculus-rift

Want to get started with Virtual Reality? The HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift are the two best headsets right now. Right now HTC is offering $200 off their headset which comes with two controllers, a whole bunch of accessories, $50 gift card for Steam (content and games), and some free content to blow your mind right out of the box like Everest VR and Star Trek. Maybe the best part is watching how your friends and family react when they try it for the first time! Click here to pick one up.

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