3 Best VR Headsets to Play Half-Life: Alyx13 min read28/03/2020
The best virtual reality headset should provide a deep immersion into the computer-generated environment. Its displays, which form a stereoscopic three-dimensional image by overlaying pictures, should have the highest resolution on the market to generate realistic video content. The best VR headset also should ensure high-quality audio seamlessly adjusted to the visual content to create a clear perception of the virtual world. In addition, a top VR head-mounted display (HMD) should be comfortable to wear and come with a set of convenient controllers allowing you to interact with digital objects and surroundings while playing a VR game like Half-Life: Alyx.
Although, the highest characteristics typically result in the highest price. How can you find the best VR HMD that would be the perfect option capable of providing the most engaging experience and being affordable at the same time? Check out our best buy guide.
|Specification||Valve Index||HTC Vive Pro||Oculus Rift S|
|Frame Rate||90 Hz||90 Hz||80 Hz|
|Motion Tracking||base stations||base stations||6 cameras|
The first rumors about a new upcoming Half-Life game appeared in 2017 when Gabe Newell, a founder of Valve, confirmed that the team was developing three full VR games. Few gamers expected one of them to be Half-Life 3 while Valve, however, had been working on Half-Life: Alyx for a year by that moment. Once released on March 23, 2020, the game got positive feedback from gamers from all over the world.
“Half-Life: Alyx is a must-play game worthy of the series’ legacy. Despite some puzzles and encounters that feel like filler, the overall experience is strong. The stunning setpieces, beautiful world, and smart writing stand out no matter the medium, and mark a return to form for Valve. If you were waiting for a killer app before you made the investment into virtual reality, this is it”.Game Informer
Valve is a pioneer of fully-immersive virtual reality in gaming. She was the first to create a sophisticated Lighthouse system for tracking the user’s position in space, launched the SteamVR platform, and together with HTC, developed the Vive virtual reality headset. Valve Index is the most ambitious VR head-mounted display on the market since its characteristics can surprise even experienced virtual reality gamers. Due to its capabilities, this HMD is the best VR headset that will definitely satisfy your needs. Although, it requires a powerful computer with at least Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD RX 480 graphics processing unit (GPU). The recommended GPU is GTX 1070 or higher.
High-end VR headset
- Controllers have a unique technology of interaction with a virtual environment.
- The head-mounted display has the largest viewing angle and highest number of frames per second
- Comfortable headphones with high-quality audio
- Accurate motion tracking
- The built-in microphone records clear voice audio
- The VR system comes with Half-Life: Alyx
- To provide visual content, Valve Index has to be connected to a computer via a DisplayPort and USB.
- Issues with pressing a tilted joystick on controllers.
Valve Index has two LCD displays with a resolution of 2880 x 1600 px. You can set the preferable frame rate within the range of 90 Hz and 144 Hz which allows you to ensure smooth and seamless 3D video content, thus experiencing deep immersion. This will result in high power consumption that’s why you need a powerful computer. The motion tracking system relies on a set of base stations equipped with motion sensors so you first need to properly install these stations in your room to play Half-Life: Alyx.
The head-mounted display also has a couple of cameras that will help you navigate through a physical environment while wearing Valve Index. It has a soft strap that effectively distributes the weight of the HMD, thus ensuring comfort for a gamer. Placed on the rim, headphones have no contact with your ears when you wear the headset. They provide high-quality sound similar to the one generated by professional audio equipment. Computer-generated audio is perceived natural like coming from outside rather than sounding in your head.
Besides the high frame rate, Valve Index has the highest viewing angle among all available VR headsets on the market. It equals to 130 degrees which is 20 degrees higher than in the HTC Vive HMD. Furthermore, you can manually configure the distance between LCD lenses to adjust it to your eyes to avoid a headache after a long use.
When it comes to physical buttons, Valve decided to combine the advantages of controllers offered by HTC Touch and HTC Vive. Besides two active physical A and B buttons, single system button, and traditional trigger, Valve Index controllers have a sensor trackpad and joystick which, unfortunately, has the problem with pressing it when tilted. Their most outstanding feature is a unique approach to grabbing virtual objects. The controllers track each user’s finger separately which provides additional freedom and capabilities while playing Half-Life: Alyx. Moreover, special handlers make controllers falling impossible if you open your fingers.
Valve offers gamers to buy either a full virtual reality kit including a headset, controllers, two base stations with motion sensors, and even Half-Life: Alyx game for $999 or each component separately. For instance, you can pay $499 for the headset and $279 for controllers. You also can buy both the headset and controllers for $749.
HTC Vive Pro
HTC started its VR journey only in 2015. The company, however, tried to make its best to produce better products than competitors like Oculus and released its first virtual reality headset in a year. HTC is working on their VR hardware in partnership with a president of Valve Gabe Newell, also known as Gaben that’s why it’s compatible with SteamVR. In addition, HTC has its own virtual app launcher called VivePort where you can purchase a subscription and particular video games.
HTC initially developed its Vive-series VR headsets with the room-scale tracking paradigm by design to allow gamers to use limited room space for experiencing virtual reality without disturbing their roomies. The latest HTC Vive Pro headset appeared in 2018.
HTC Vive Pro relies on two base stations based on the SteamVr tracking to track user motions. To interact with a computer-generated environment, you have to place these stations in the corners of your gaming area. The motion sensors track your hand moves behind your back no matter whether you wear a headset. You can either install the base stations on lighthouse stands costing additional $50 or drill them to a wall. Make sure an electricity socket is close enough.
HTC Vive Pro Full Kit
- Wireless connection
- A wide range of accessories
- Accurate motion tracking
- High-quality image
- High cost for the full VR kit.
- Mediocre microphone
HTC Vive Pro has two AMOLED displays with a resolution of 2880 x 1600 px just like in Valve Index. They have a frame rate of 90 Hz and a viewing angle of 110 degrees. To transmit a video signal from a computer to a headset, HTC Vive Pro system relies on the DisplayPort instead of HDMI as in the earlier version. The image looks clear and highly detailed.
To track user motions, the VR headset uses two cameras placed at eye level. The HMD became more comfortable because of the configurable strap and hook-and-loop fastener that properly distribute the weight of the headset. The head-mounted display also has adjustable high-resolution headphones placed on the headband. Unfortunately, a built-in microphone records audio in a low quality that’s why you should rather use a separate buttonhole microphone for game streams. You can easily disable the built-in microphone by pressing the corresponding button on the right headphone.
Released in 2018, new HTC Vive controllers enable you to interact with virtual objects within a computer-generated environment. They have 24 sensors, dual-stage trigger, and multi-function trackpad. The controllers also provide HD haptic feedback and have a rechargeable battery with a total capacity of 960 mAh. Their design hardly differs from one used in the version of 2016. The good news is that both old and new controllers are compatible with HTC Vive Pro.
The main advantage of HTC Vive Pro is its compatibility with previous version accessories. In other words, you can buy only the newest headset for $599 and use first-generation base stations and controllers to save your money. The Pro Starter Kit including the latest VR headset version as well as first-generation controllers and two base stations will cost you $899. To buy the Pro Full Kit coming with the premium VR head-mounted display as well as the latest base stations and controllers, you will have to pay $1,199.
The other important benefit of HTC Vive Pro is accessories. For example, you can purchase the Vive Deluxe Audio strap similar to the Pro version for your VR headset of the previous generation. This upgrade will allow you to make your old HTC Vive more comfortable to wear. Moreover, you can make your VR gaming fully wireless with a special adapter looking like horns or outdated TV antenna. It’s worth mentioning that if you use this adapter costing about $350, it won’t affect the overall image quality.
Vive also offers additional motion trackers you can place on any physical object to digitize in and place it into a virtual world. In other words, you can place a tracker on a racket and use it instead of a controller while playing a video tennis game. Furthermore, you can place this tracker on your legs and kick virtual boxes with your legs while playing Half-Life: Alyx.
Oculus Rift S
Oculus is a pioneer of the modern virtual reality technology. The company created the first prototype in 2012 and released it on Kickstarter for VR developers. Acquired by Facebook in 2014, it still set trends on the market. Oculus offers a few different VR head-mounted including Go and Quest that are based on a mobile CPU from Snapdragon. They are stand-alone solutions focused on mobile virtual reality. Although, Oculus Quest can be connected to a computer to use its graphics processing power in order to support VR games like Half-Life: Alyx. Unfortunately, an image quality, in this case, will still be far from perfect.
When it comes to Oculus, the best VR headset to play the newest Valve’s game is Rift S that supports both Oculus and Steam games. You have to connect it to a computer via DisplayPort with USB 3.0.
Oculus Rift S
+ a pair of controllers
- Affordable price
- Lightweight and ergonomic controllers
- Mediocre audio quality
- Wire connection
- Fixed IPD
The Oculus Rift S design combines the characteristics of Playstation VR and Oculus Quest. Rift S tracks gamer’s motions using 5 built-in camera sensors. The viewing angle is only 90 degrees. Its LCD displays have a resolution of 2560 x 1440 px and frame rate of 80 Hz which is a bit lower than Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro. Nevertheless, an image looks clear and detailed.
Installed on the HMD headband, headphones have mediocre audio quality and enable users to hear sound from a physical world. The VR headset, however, has a 3.5 mini-jack plug that allows you to connect third-party headphones. To record high-quality audio for streaming, you should rather use a third-party microphone instead of the built-in one. The main disadvantage of Oculus Rift S is fixed inter-pupillary distance (IPD). In other words, you can’t configure the distance between LCD displays to adjust it to your eyes. As a result, it can affect your video content perception and make immersion less deep.
One of the main advantages of Oculus Rift S is its controllers which are also compatible with Oculus Quest. They are lightweight and ergonomic. In addition, buttons are easy to press which enables you to grab virtual objects and hold them for a long time without any discomfort in your hands. These controllers allow you to set the gaming area frames to avoid collisions with physical objects in your room. Oculus Touch has 2 active buttons, a menu button, and a joystick that enables convenient moving within a computer-generated environment. Instead of a Li-ion battery, controllers rely on a pair of finger batteries.
The most important benefit of Oculus Rift S is its price. For shocking $399 and additional $199 for a pair of controllers, you can enjoy Half-Life: Alyx as soon you get the VR headset. This cost is the same for both Quest and Rift S. Unlike HTC, Oculus offers only replacement parts, such as a headband, facial interface, optical cable, and controllers. No original additional accessories presented.
The comparison of Valve Index, HTC Vive Pro, and Oculus Rift S shows that it’s hard to name the best VR headset for sure since each of them has its benefits and drawbacks. While HTC offers wireless connection, which can greatly improve your gaming experience, Valve provides the highest image quality for a lower price. At the same time, Oculus enables users to enjoy high-end VR games for a small cost. Your decision should rely on your budget.
If your limit is $1200, then no need for spending more for what you can get with less money. With its Pro Full Kit for $1199, HTC hardly offers more advantages. In this case, you should look towards Valve Index that sells an ergonomic high-end VR headset for $999 with 2 base stations, controllers, and even the game. However, with the expanded budget of more than $1500, you can buy everything every VR gamer can dream of – wireless virtual reality. At the same time, you can enjoy Half-Life: Alyx with a virtual reality kit costing only $600. Furthermore, this gaming experience will meet your requirements if you’re a newbie in the VR gaming industry. Oculus Rift S is the best VR headset when it comes to a price. So count your money and enjoy VR!