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VR Wars: Oculus Rift alternatives from Asia under $200

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The battle for the mid-range VR market

You've probably never heard of 3Glasses, Bee VR, Dee Poon, or Laputa Hero, but you might want to buy one in the next ten seconds. Well-funded Asian companies (Jingdong and Taobao) are already shipping the value-priced virtual reality headsets that Western companies have failed to deliver. Depending on which one you want, you can get ~$130 HMVs (or as low as 899 yuan) with claims of 2K resolution delivered at under 19ms. They're not coming soon, they're here. You can import one today from a number of online retailers. 

The products aren't necessarily new. Some have been around since 2014, but now we're seeing second generation models lowering first generation prices further, and the marketing for these newcomers is quickly getting better. There are also weird low-powered ones like PlayGlass that ship with a bizarro white chocolate controller. Do not want. This Chinese VR network website has a buffet of oddities.

Quality? You'll probably get a quality of life experience similar to a Oculus Rift DK2, which is fine for grown-ass PC gamers who don't need hand-holding at Best Buy. I've read a few reviews like this one (last year's 368ppi model) using Google Translate and the consensus is decent, with criticisms mostly falling on craftsmanship and field of view. The fact that these are apparently fully compatible with DK2 (at least for now) is insane.

The Missing Link:

Many gamers are reluctant to buy an $800 virtual reality headset for the fidelity they currently supply, and the Ocu-clone is the missing link toward mainstream VR. Even the guys at Tested were miffed that they could see the pixels, as the current generation relies on custom/gutted smartphone screens. We've been beaten into submission by the electronics industry to desire 4K, so the value proposition of western offerings is bankrupt. VR is off to a wobbly start with the currently low adoption rate, and it is a stretch to call this a viable platform right now.

 

Design and feature wise, they're decidedly a few steps behind from the Western offerings. The most obvious omission is the lack of UV LED's, which work in tandem with UV cameras to improve or in the Vive's case facilitate room-scale tracking. If you're not running around your room with a VR headset and just want something to use at your desk, it's viable.

You don't need to understand Chinese to see how they stack up. The first row is obviously resolution, next is is field of view, then latency, then refresh rate. The rest basically says that it's wired in and works older Oculus runtimes.

A race to the bottom or a race to the missing link

The most common feedback we hear is that because it hasn't been blessed by Facebook these are terrible products, or that VR isn't enjoyable below 90Hz, or some nonsense like this. That's not far from saying that the only enjoyable gaming PCs have Titan-class video cards or PC games are janky and unplayable. That's obviously not true, so I reject the notion that these products are a race to the bottom. They're trying to fill the middle, if anything.

Meanwhile, it's likely going to take an American company two to five years to ship a product like this, without good reason. Off-the-shelf components for cheap VR headsets can be found just about anywhere. You can build your own headset with a modern smartphone as I detailed in the longest thing I've ever written on Destructoid. It takes patience, but it's not rocket surgery. Some don't mind enduring a second-or-so delay for a $39 SteamVR compatible viewer.

Iron Man much?

In Japan, you can't find these around Akihabara yet, but I'm hopeful that it's only a matter of months before quality clones flood the industry. Life here is often lived in very small rooms, so the promise of a high definition second screen that gives a theater-like experience is a no-brainer. Hopefully, they'll run some of these names by a translator before attempting to enter our market, because Laputa (literally "The Bitch" in Spanish) and Poon are golden dick joke fuel.

The clock is now ticking for HTC, who bet big on the Vive and doesn't have Facebook's infinite cash pool. The cash grab window is quickly closing on Oculus, too. I sort of want to strangle the market research person who figured out that early adopters would shell out a grand for this hardware right now. Research and development is a factor and they have every right to recoup that, but it's going to junk the brand long-term if it's soon discovered the margins on this equipment was opportunistic. The fact that pre-orders are not being filled and being sold at a premium on Amazon supports a portrait of some ugly capitalism at hand.

Please don't get me wrong: I want the pioneering companies to succeed, but it's unsettling that VR game developers are not making money right now and that's very bad for all of us. Where is America's middle-tier VR product?

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Niero Gonzalez
Niero GonzalezMeat Vessel   gamer profile

I keep Destructoid weird. Also I'm a playable character in Retro City Rampage, look: (along with the whole 2009 Dtoid Editorial team) Sometimes I have a villainous mustache My dog CoCo chec... more + disclosures


 


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Filed under... #china #HTC #Oculus Rift #Top Stories #Virtual Reality #Vive

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