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How Much Does VR Really Cost? [UPDATE: 21st August 2017]

How Much Does VR Really Cost? [UPDATE: 21st August 2017]

It's been nearly a year since we first published our article exploring the true cost to consumers of buying a VR set-up across mobile, console or PC last September, so we thought it was high time to power up our calculators and crunch some numbers to see what's changed...

 

The HMD Discount Disco

Overall, we’re pleased to report that the cost of getting into VR is generally lower now than it was when we first wrote this article last September - in one instance, up to nearly £700 cheaper. That’s a significant chunk of change and will go a long way to tempting curious consumers to invest in VR hardware. It's great news for consumers and the industry alike.

 

Movers In The Middle Ground

While the actual order of affordability for VR hardware is largely unchanged since our original article, there is one significant move; the ‘best’ mobile solution is now more expensive than the ‘least best’ high end system – Gear VR now costs more than PS VR. 

The cost in real terms of both Samsung Gear VR and Sony PlayStation VR have actually increased in the last 11 months. Notably, both players have established positions as sales leaders in their respective segments of mobile and tethered VR.

Oculus’ Touch bundle now makes it easier for consumers to compare oranges with oranges versus HTC’s Vive and wands (we’ll leave the Apples out of it until iOS 11 drops with ARKit later this year). However, Sony still expects its customers to pile up the packaging by buying peripherals separately, thus enabling the brand to continue to market its PS VR at a significantly lower price point.

 

Mind The Gap At The Top

When you take into account the additional hardware expense for PlayStation Move controllers and camera, PS VR is just £60 less than Rift for the HMD, tracking and controllers. Factor in the processing from a PS4 console or PC and Oculus Rift is now barely £140 more expensive overall for an entire set-up than the perceived ‘budget’ tethered VR option, Sony’s PS VR. That’s just the cost of three or four AAA games...

A price gap has opened at the highest end of the scale, where last year we found that despite distinctly different approaches to hardware releases and bundles, Vive and Rift could not have been closer on price if they had tried. All told, a Vive system was originally a mere £12 more expensive last September; now that gap has widened to £324. 

 

This list gives an overview of how the contenders have played the game since our original article, in order of affordability...

 

Total VR System Retail Costs

This list also includes:


Click here to view the list »
  • Google Cardboard

    Google Cardboard: £404 (Was £530)

    Despite its lack of marketing with the release of Google’s own Daydream View, Cardboard is still the bargain basement introduction to VR for most new users. Handset manufacturers such as Huawei even include a pair of lenses so customers can turn the packaging into a functional Cardboard.

    While the price of the ‘headset’ itself hasn’t really changed, the cost of smartphones capable of powering the experience has dropped by about £100. Much as before, Cardboard’s only real cost is what you’re willing to spend on a handset.

    Google Cardboard

    Contributing Costs

    • Cardboard headset: £5
    • Smartphone (eg: Samsung Galaxy S6): £399

    *Cost can be offset by a monthly contract; used handsets readily available.

     

    Overall saving: £126

     

  • Google Daydream View (New entry)

    Google Daydream View: £567.99 (New entry)

    A new entry since the original article and surely the spiritual successor to Cardboard. Since new customers may receive the soft-form View HMD free, the additional expense is down to more powerful handset requirements. With a far superior headset and a bespoke controller, Daydream should be the entry point for the VR consumer over Cardboard.

    Google Daydream View

    Contributing Costs

    • Daydream View headset: £68.99
    • Daydream compatible smartphone (eg: Google Pixel): £499

    *Cost can be offset by a monthly contract.

    Overall saving: NA

  • Sony PlayStation VR

    Sony PlayStation VR: £799.96 (Was £724.96)

    Confident in its position as market leader for tethered VR – reporting unit sales of nearly one million by February - Sony hasn’t joined in the HMD discount disco. We’ve actually factored in a price increase since the original article as the SRP difference between the base model and the more powerful Pro means that anyone buying the console for VR should look at the more recent model, with its performance upgrades.

    Sony PlayStation VR

    Contributing Costs

    • PS4 Pro: £349.99
    • PS VR: £339.99
    • Move Controllers: £69.99
    • Camera V2: £39.99

    *Minor savings to be had buying the base 500GB PS4; readily available used.

    Overall saving: Add £75

     

  • Samsung Gear VR

    Samsung Gear VR: £808.95 (Was £655)

    Arguably the best mobile VR experience, with its dedicated hardware connectivity and controller, users will need the pricy Galaxy S8 to make the most of the ecosystem – and that puts its cost above the far more accomplished PS VR.

    It’s great kit if you want to pay monthly for the handset anyway – and especially if Samsung entices you with a free Gear VR – but at more money than a console experience and only £130 shy of an entire Rift system (including a PC), this is not a cost-effective option for someone looking purely for a VR set-up.

    Samsung Gear VR

    Contributing Costs

    • Gear VR3: £119
    • Gear VR compatible smartphone (eg: Samsung Galaxy S8): £689.95

    *Save £205.95 by opting for the older S7 at £484, bringing the total down to £603.

    *The original Gear VR headset is also available used for peanuts, but doesn’t offer the same experience.

    Overall saving: Add £154

  • Oculus Rift

    Oculus Rift: £940.07 (Was £1,637.99)

    Thanks to Oculus’ Summer of Rift promotion, you can now buy a Rift and Touch controller bundle for £399 – that’s £200 less than the original cost of the hardware. Through software updates, PC min spec is now also lower – and hence, cheaper – than at launch.

    Oculus Rift and Touch bundle.

    Contributing Costs

    • Rift inc Touch and two lighthouses: £399
    • PC: £541.07

    *Based on min spec. Recommended spec is, well... recommended. Total using same spec PC as Vive is £1,064.19.

    *Price to custom build, not including monitor, keyboard, mouse etc.

    Overall saving: £697.92

     

  • HTC Vive

    HTC Vive: £1,264.19 (Was £1,701.07)

    HTC ‘responded’ to the Oculus price drop with a similar $200 discount on the Vive the following month – which has always come with bundled controllers – making the price now £599. The savings may be less than Rift, but still respectable progress with nearly a third of the cost to consumer cut.

    HTC Vive

    Contributing Costs

    • Vive inc two base stations and two controllers: £599
    • PC: £665.19

    *Based on recommended spec.

    *Price to custom build, not including monitor, keyboard, mouse etc.

    Overall saving: £436.88

     

  • [ORIGINAL ARTICLE, 21st September 2016]

    Virtual Reality is now available at a variety of prices to suit almost every pocket, ranging from pennies for Google Cardboard to £759 for the HTC Vive. But working out the total cost of a VR set-up isn’t as easy as just comparing the headline prices.

     

    Apples And Oranges

    The Oculus Rift may be £210 less than the Vive for instance, but the only controller it ships with is an Xbox One wireless controller. That’s a great pad, but it doesn’t even come close to the experience on offer from the Vive’s wands – for that, you’ll have to spend another £190 on the Touch controllers when they’re released later this year. So the Rift ends up being only £20 cheaper than the Vive.

    Obviously, if you already have a smartphone, then the cheapest way to get VR is to spend less than a fiver on a cardboard viewer, but for parity, we’ll make the assumption that each set-up is starting from scratch, requiring everything from processing power to controllers and VR displays.

     

    Minimum Spec

    When pricing the PC based systems, we used a configurator to ‘build’ systems to meet the minimum specs for Rift and Vive; there’s nothing between them. We’d recommend spending a little more in some areas for a smoother experience. We have NOT included the cost of external monitors as they contribute nothing to the VR experience, so add around £100 if you need one.

    All prices are as listed on the manufacturers’ own websites at the time of writing. You could save money by looking for deals, discounts and special offers or buying used components, but we wanted to establish the full retail cost of VR.

     

    Total VR System Retail Costs

    • Google Cardboard: £530
    • Samsung Gear VR: £655
    • Sony PlayStation VR: £724.96
    • Oculus Rift: £1,637.99
    • HTC Vive: £1,701.07

     

    VR Actually Starts At Around £500, Not £5

    It surprised us how close the real cost of a Samsung Gear VR set-up is to PS VR when you factor in the handset. There’s only £69.96 between a mobile system and the much more powerful home system.

     

    The Middle Ground

    Just like we expected however, consumer giant Sony is camping out in the middle ground by offering a complete VR ecosystem for less than the price of the headset and controllers for Vive.

     

    Couldn’t Be Closer At The Top

    At the other end of the price range, the gap between Oculus Rift and HTC Vive was even smaller than it was between Gear VR and PS VR; just £63.08 in the Rift’s favour! If you buy your Vive from a retail outlet and save the £51.07 postage, the gap narrows to just £12.01. Despite the two companies’ totally different approach to included hardware and staggered release dates, they couldn’t have ended up closer on price if they tried.

     

    Show Your Workings

    If you want to check our homework for yourself and run teacher’s red pen through our sums, read on...


    Google Cardboard

    Google Cardboard

    Headset price: £15

    Comes with:

    Nothing
    Also needed:

    Any smartphone (eg: iPhone 6S): £499
    Any bluetooth controller (eg: SteelSeries Stratus): £26
    TOTAL PRICE: £530

    Samsung Gear VR

    Samsung Gear VR

    Headset price: £60

    Comes with:

    Nada
    Also needed:

    Samsung smartphone (eg: Samsung Galaxy S7): £569
    Any bluetooth controller (eg: SteelSeries Stratus): £26
    TOTAL PRICE: £655

    Sony PlayStation VR

    Sony PlayStation VR

    Headset price: £349.99

    Comes with:

    Headset
    Processor unit
    Stereo earbuds
    HDMI cable
    USB cable
    AC adaptor and power cord
    PS VR headset connection adaptor
    Software: PlayRoom VR demo disc
    Also needed:

    PlayStation 4: £259.99
    PlayStation Camera: £44.99
    2 x Move Controllers: £69.99
    TOTAL PRICE: £724.96

    Oculus Rift

    Oculus Rift

    Headset price: £549

    Comes with:

    Headset
    Integrated headphones and mic
    Sensor
    Remote
    Xbox One Wireless Controller
    2 AA batteries, adapter and extender
    Connection cords
    Tool to remove/add headphones
    Software: Lucky’s Tale
    Also Needed:

    Oculus Touch: £189.99
    PC: £899
    TOTAL PRICE: £1,637.99

    HTC Vive

    HTC Vive

    Headset price: £759

    Comes with:

    Headset
    2 wireless controllers
    2 base stations
    Stereo earbuds
    Software: The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed
    Software: Tilt Brush
    Software: Zombie Training Simulator
    Also Needed:

    PC: £891
    Shipping: £51.07
    TOTAL PRICE: £1,701.07

     

    Recommended PC Specs

     

    Oculus Rift

    • Video Card NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
    • CPU Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
    • Memory 8GB+ RAM
    • Video Output Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
    • USB Ports 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
    • OS Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

     

    HTC Vive

    • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon™ RX 480 equivalent or greater
    • CPU: Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater
    • RAM: 4GB+
    • Video Output: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
    • USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or greater port
    • Operating System: Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Editor

Steve has been a games journalist on and off since the first PlayStation made games ‘cool’, but he’s never forgotten the thrill of finding a Space Invaders machine in the wild. Neuromancer is one of his favourite books and The Matrix is one of his favourite movies, so he’s been ready for VR all his life.

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