Category Archives for "Product Reviews"

We review the latest products in the Virtual Reality space. Our comparison studies will help you decide on the best gear and accessories out there. If you are in the market to buy a Virtual Reality Headset then these reviews will help you make up your mind.

January 31, 2018

3D Virtual Reality Headset with Remote Controller

3D Virtual Reality Headset with Remote Controller

This phone-housing headset comes with integrated headphones (cushioned with memory foam and position-adjustable), an over-the-head T-strap and magnetically attached front cover that can be detached easily. However, this snap-on/snap-off cover doesn’t really seem to have much use or purpose. For actually putting the phone in or taking it out, you have to actually open and close the hinged door. The magnetic cover is merely a removable part of the door - if that makes makes any sense.

On the subject of the headphones, we have to give the makers a big thumbs up for the audio quality.

Features

Features

The lenses can be moved further apart or closer together to accommodate different shaped faces and inter-pupillary distance (i.e. the space between your eyes). However, this is only between 60mm and 70mm. A 55mm minimum distance would have been better for smaller heads and 70mm is probably not enough for the largest.

The focus can be adjusted so that you don’t need to wear your glasses, while using it - up to 600 degree myopia, according to the makers. The field of view is 120 degrees and the lenses are HD resin aspherical.

On the inside

On the inside

While it claims that it can fit phones from 4.7 to 6 inches, in practice we found that this claim was stretching it a bit. That is, not that they are misleading, but rather that the sizes they are referring to are phone sizes not screen sizes. Thus an iPhone 6+ has a 5.5 inch screen, but a case size of 6.22 inches and will therefore not fit. The iPhone X, on the other hand fits perfectly.

Like all products, when it first comes out of the box, it takes some getting used to. You have to adjust and tighten the velcro-secured straps or else you’re going to find it slipping down your face. This may seem like an obvious point but, because the strap is elasticated, it might seem like an unnecessary step. Also, it something that is all too easy to forget when you’re looking forward to trying out the new toy! We also found that even when strapped on, the device still let in a certain amount of light at the top.

Inside out

Inside out

As many smartphone apps are activated by touching the center of the screen, the headset provides a button in the lower right of the headset to activate this mechanism. You might think that this could leaves marks on the phone screen, but we found that it didn’t.

The device comes bundled with a controller which can be paired with the phone via Bluetooth. The pairing process worked fine. However, because of the “basic” - i.e. limited - iOS support, it was virtually useless with an iPhone. This means that even the process of choosing and starting an iPhone game, requires taking the phone out and putting it back in again. With an Android phone, however, it worked fine.

It comes with a somewhat confusing manual and an always-useful cleaning cloth.

Controller

Controller

VERDICT: A reasonably good headset and controller, but only for Android phones.

January 26, 2018

Canbor VR Headset

Candor headset

This phone-housing type VR headset can accommodate smartphones from 4.7 inches to 6.2 inches. Using aspheric resin lens technology, the headset offers a 120 degree field of view.

It has some nice features, such as a dial to adjust the space between the lenses (for different sized heads with different distance between the eye pupils) and a powerful focus-setting feature. They provide a cleaning cloth for the lenses, although any suitable lens cleaning cloth can be used.

Candor headset-04

Impressive technology

It also has reasonably good sound from the earphones, although the volume is not great. There are buttons to control volume, play/pause and answering the phone, as well as a touch button for games. The phone housing has holes on both sides to help the phone stay cool.

The ergonomic design uses breathable padding for comfort and the whole thing weighs less than a pound. Further adding to comfort, there is an over the head to distribute the weight. The left, right and top straps are all adjustable, to ensure a snug fit and minimize pressure on the nose.

The package includes a user manual and  company also has very good customer service that responds quickly if there are any problems.

VERDICT: A good, low-cost, entry level, phone-housing VR headset

January 24, 2018

Royole Moon review – the lowdown

I had the opportunity to try out the Royole Moon briefly while on my travels in the USA. But now we have been loaned the latest version for a more detailed review. To get an overall perspective on the product, we recommend that you read both reviews. This will give you the full picture.

Navigation

Features

Viewing experience

Listening experience

Content availability

Battery life & charging

Physical comfort

Durability

Design & appearance

Value for money

Overall Rating

What is the royal Moon?

The Royole Moon is a personal cinema or movie theater. You can use it to watch movies, television, videos, internet content and even a monitor for computer games. It can receive content from any device with an HDMI, USB or WiFi output and it can store 32 GB of data on the smartphone-sized box that powers it. In other words, the box does double duty as the power source and the data source.

It can also receive data via WiFi - and in fact is WiFi-ready. Indeed, when we started using it, the first thing we did was go to settings and set it up for WiFi. It showed a list of WiFi accounts within range, we selected ours, entered the password and that was it. We were set up and ready to go.

From there we went to YouTube and proceeded to feast our eyes - and ears - on content to suit our eclectic taste. Music, comedy and live news from various sources. But let’s break it down into elements.

Moon_White_Angle

Pure elegance!

Navigation

The Royole Moon uses touch controls for navigation. After pressing the round button on the box to switch it on the headset, you control the unit almost entirely from the right headphone with swipes or slides of the fingers on the surface. The outer rim controls the volume and the inner circle controls the rest. Slide clockwise or anticlockwise round the outer rim to make it louder or quieter respectively. Swipe left, right up and down on the inner circle of the right headphone to move between icons on the screen. To start/stop the current content, you simply single tap on the inner circle. Double tap to go back to the previous screen or operation.

Also, slide (rather than swipe) your finger along the inner circle when you are in browser mode on the internet. This moves the cursor, in much the same way as you would on a trackpad. But When you have to enter data on the virtual keyboard for the browser (or the mini-keyboard for YouTube) you must use the more awkward swiping method to move one letter at a time, whether sideways, up or down.

All of this is pretty much intuitive, and I more or less figured it out without reading the instruction manual, or even the quick start guide.

Well I say intuitive, but it was not all plain sailing. Because the swiping method (as distinct from the sliding method with a cursor) is actually quite awkward and easy to get wrong. This made it rather hard to enter letters when it came to making a specific selection on YouTube.

When you have to move a cursor one step at a time and then tap once (and only once) to select a letter, it is very easy to make a mistake and enter the wrong letter. And then, having to go to the back button to delete the erroneous letter, adds to the frustration. Then if you want to select the same letter twice and tap twice without pausing, the system thinks you have selected the go-back option and takes you to the previous screen or menu level!

In fact, it is fair to say that the single most frustrating experience with the Royole Moon is trying to correct entry errors and selection choices. Now obviously, you couldn’t have an actual touch keypad because you are cocooned inside a headset. However, they could have used the cursor and the sliding method, to enable the user to home in quickly on the relevant letter on a virtual keyboard, followed by a tap to select that letter. Hopefully. Royole will change it to this method in the future.

Moon_White_Adjustments

For your eyes... NOT only - you can set it the way it works for you!

features

The Royole Moon is packed with features. Others are covered elsewhere in the review, so I'll focus on just one here: the eyepiece diopters.

Not everyone has the same sized head. Consequently, not everyone’s eyes are spaced equally apart. The Royole Moon makes allowance for this by enabling the eye pieces to be moved to the left or right, varying the distance between the pupils from 58 - 70 mm. You just press the button-dials gently in and slide them to the right positions for your eyes. I noticed that the one on the left was slightly stiffer to the touch than the one on the right. I don’t know if this is true of every model.

Ignoring the stiffness, however, I noticed a slight problem. If I had the eyepieces pushed close together, I could see the “screen” perfectly with no visible “division” between the two eye-views, but the corners of the screen (especially the lower corners) were truncated. This probably means I had the eyepieces too close together.

However, when I pushed the eyepieces further apart, while I could then see all four corners of the screen, I could also see two faint curved lines in the middle, separating the views, suggesting that the eyepieces were now too far apart. The best way to describe this is when you try to focus on something very close to your eyes and see the sides of your nose. A slightly better analogy might be when you are looking through binoculars, but do not press the eyepiece close to your eyes.

Royole Moon-Video+Audio in one-2

Video without your eyeglasses

This leads to another point, that the headset doesn’t feel like it is close enough to the face. This is partly because of the weight. At times it tends to feel like it is slipping and one has to tighten it around the head to keep it in place.

In addition to being movable, the eyepieces have diopter dials that can be rotated to change the focus of each eyepiece separately between -7.0 (near-sighted) and +2.0 (far-sighted). This means most people can wear the RM without glasses! (And this is very important for maintaining a tight seal to keep out the ambient environment and make sure that the experience is truly immersive.)

found that by shutting each eye and rotating the other, I could get the settings right. I have a slight problem related to my vision that made this a little harder. My left eye is slightly “lazy” in that it takes longer to change focus. So, when tried to set the focus right for left eye it was a little trickier as the eye took longer to settle down on what I was focusing on. Once I had it approximately right, I had to spend a few more seconds fine-tuning it to get it just right - and even then, I’m not entirely sure that I did.

But as I said, that’s a problem with my eyesight. I have exactly the same problem at the optometrist, when they narrow down the left-eye lens selection to a choice of two and then ask me which is sharper. I say, “can I try the other one again… okay, now the first… okay now the second one again…” You get the picture!

Compelling cinematic experiencect

Compelling cinematic experience

Viewing experience

Apart from the above problem of the truncated corners, the viewing experience was an absolute pleasure. The Royole Corporation describes the view as a virtual 800-inch screen. However, that is only meaningful in relation to your notional distance from that screen. And Royole doesn’t say what that notional distance is to justify the 800-inch screen size. I myself cannot put a figure on it either. But it felt a bit like sitting two-thirds of the way forward in the stalls of a large cinema with a wide, curved screen - plus the added “pleasure” of being in the middle of the row and, better still, of being the only customer!

In terms of numbers, we are talking about a 110° field of view - comparable to the best VR headsets currently on the market, but soon to be eclipsed (rumor has it) by a couple of VR headsets breaking the 200° FoV barrier. We’ll see if Royole rises to the challenge.

As mentioned, in order to be able to show 3D, the Moon has separate displays for each eye. Each display has a full 1080p resolution (i.e. 1920 x 1080). The contrast range is 10,000:1, the color is 24-bit RGB and the refresh rate is 60 Hz. This is easy on the eyes.

There is a button for switching the images between 2D and 3D button. However, the device can automatically detect whether the content is 2D or 3D. If you press the button to override the system’s choice you end up feeling like Clarence the cross-eyed lion. (Readers of a certain age will know what I'm talking about.)

Moon_White_Top

The Royole Moon takes "stylish" to a new level!

Listening experience

The unit includes noise-cancelling headphones that offer very good and faithful sound reproduction. While they did not completely cancel out ambient noise, they did such a good job that within a short time there was a feeling of being completely secluded in the world of whatever content we were watching and/or listening to. And of course, adjusting the volume was dead easy, with a simple slide of the finger clockwise or counterclockwise around the outer rim of the right headphone.

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mobile Theater-4

You can store up to 32GB of content in a smartphone sized box and take it on the road!

There is a big range of content available for the Royole Moon. Any device with an HDMI or USB output can supply content. You can upload videos from a computer to the device. And that means you can watch DVDs and Blu-ray disks via your computer. You can even upload them onto the box and take them with you. The box stores 32 GB, so you can load it with content and take it with you on an airline flight. (The promo video actually shows a passenger putting on the headset and secluding herself from the other passengers in this way.)

And you’ve also got the internet. For that you don’t have to connect via your computer, as the device has very good WiFi. Apart from a couple of occasions when the sound went a bit wobbly, we found it to have a very good connection and to run smoothly. And this was for YouTube, which sometimes has its own bandwidth problems. Also, there are many internet sources of content, including the many TV channels that also offer internet services, especially news channels. Plus of course, that vast world of content on YouTube.

As we reported on August 16, Royole Corporation has signed a deal with Sony to supply movies for the Royole Moon via an app called Royole Lounge. But in fact, any movie that is available on a disk or as a download can be relayed to the headset or transferred to the 32GB box, via HDMI, USB or Wifi. More generally, the Royole Moon has its own operating system (Moon OS).

I tried it out with news, music, sport and even some relaxation videos with quiet music, rivers and waterfalls. It was truly relaxing and the only thing I didn’t like was having to come out of it and back into the real world!

This leads to...

Woman using Royole Moon on a plan

2020: An airline odyssey with the Royole Moon

Physical comfort

This is a highly subjective issue. The headset is nicely padded and contoured to fit the round shape of a human head. But it feels a bit heavy and at times there is a sense that it is “pulling downwards”. In order to ensure that it doesn’t admit any ambient light, it is important to make sure that it is fitted tightly. Both the headband that covers the top of the head and the viewing part of the unit can be expanded and contracted (like better quality headphones) to accommodate different size heads.

The padding around the eyes (together with appropriate fitting adjustments) ensures that ambient light is kept out and the experience is truly immersive. However, the bulk of the padding can also create a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. I wouldn’t call it a feeling of suffocation, but my breathing was heavy in the first few minutes of putting it on. This may have been due to the after-effects of a winter cold.

At any rate, once I got used to it, I felt fine. In fact, as I mentioned above, taking it off and coming back into the real-world was also a bit of a psychological adjustment after that wonderful feeling of immersion that I got while wearing it and watching videos.

Some people have complained of feeling sweaty. I didn’t notice that, although the lenses did eventually steam up a bit. But Royole have thought of that and provided a cleaning cloth for those occasions. I only had to use the lens cloth a couple of times and it did the job fine.

battery life and charging time

The device charges in a couple of hours and can run for about five hours on a single charge. This is practical in most situations. Even if you were using it on a long-haul flight, you probably wouldn’t be using it continuously. And on long-haul flights, you might even be able to plug it in to recharge it.

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mobile Theater-1

We can't get enough of this beauty!

durability

This is not a heavy-duty appliance - and probably not designed to take the kind of knocks and bruises that a gaming headset might be subjected to. However, as the unit that we received for test purposes was on loan, we couldn’t really test its durability. It felt like it could get through normal, everyday usage unscathed.

But a device like this is not always subject to “normal” usage. It is intended to be used not only at home but also “on the road” and for airline trips. In those conditions, it’s bound to take a few knocks. And because it is not really a rugged item, that could be a problem. Royole thoughtfully provides a soft bag for carrying the headset and control box. But I would have preferred a harder case for transit and travel.

But even a hard case couldn’t protect it from the hard knocks that it might take within the home environment. Let’s face it, it will sometimes be used as a pacifier for children and teenagers. As such, one would expect it to get some rough treatment over its normal lifespan.

But it’s not clear if it even could be ruggedized. To so, it would inevitably lose one of its most compelling features...

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mob

"Without your space helmet, Dave, you're going to find that rather difficult."

Esthetics and design

The Royole Moon is one of the most beautifully designed products I have ever seen. When we first unboxed it, we noted that it had the kind of design features we might have expected form a product by Apple. I also noted that it looks like the kind of thing that could have been a prop in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There is little more we can - or need to - say on this subject, as the pictures speak for themselves.

A young woman wearing the Royole Moon on an airline flight

Relax and let the Royole Moon transport you...

value for money

This is a rather difficult question, because there is no getting away from one painful fact: the Royole Moon is expensive. At $799.00 in the USA and £718.60 in the UK, it is a high price to pay for what is admittedly a wonderful viewing experience. Unlike an expensive, widescreen, high definition television that can be viewed by the whole family at the same time, this headset can only be viewed by one person at a time.

Even the benefits of 3D are to a large extent outweighed by the fact that once again (as in the fifties and thirties) 3D hasn’t really caught on. This may be due to the dizzying effects of active viewing glasses or the fact that we only really perceive 3D up to a distance of about 50 feet anyway. Sweeping panoramic views and long shots are not really enhanced by stereoscopic vision. High resolution, contrast and a high refresh rate are far more important.

But that is perhaps a point in the Royole Moon’s favour. It has all these qualities and 3D. Indeed, maybe as more products like this arrive on the market, there will be yet another resurgence of 3D and maybe this time it will catch on. But at this stage, that is pure speculation.


So, I suppose the question should be: would you buy the Royole Moon if you had the money? I don’t mean scraping the money together and forgoing other pleasures. I mean if you were a man or woman of means, and could afford the best, would this be on your shopping list? As I am not a man of means, perhaps I am not the best man to answer this question. I appreciate the beauty of a Rolls Royce, but would I instead buy a Lamborghini? Or a Tesla?

In fact a Tesla is probably the closest analogy, because - like Tesla cars - the Royole Moon is on the cutting edge of technology and its appeal is based on advanced functionality, not snob-appeal. For this reason, my gut feeling is that if you’re the kind of person who can afford the latest “boy’s toys”, this would be on your list of must have items.


I know that I’d buy it!

VERDICT: A must-have product if you can afford it.

January 23, 2018

Pansonite VR Headset with Remote Controller

Pansonite VR with Remote Controller

This VR headset is a particularly good example of a smartphone-housing headset. It aims for comfort by using leather and an elastic sponge to give it just the right amount of “give” and prevent it from becoming too sweaty.

The leather allows your skin to breathe and reduces not only the sweating per se, but also the clouding up of the lenses caused by evaporating sweat. The sponge distributes the weight and ensures that the headset has just the right amount of grip to avoid slipping without feeling too tight and suffocating. The sponge also makes the headset more flexible and accommodating to different shapes of face. The nose area is also quite deep, thus increasing support in the nasal area by greater weight distribution.

Weight distribution is further enhanced by the T-shaped headband which greatly adds to support and plays a major role in distributing the weight evenly.

The optics are very good, although ultimately constrained by the resolution and visual qualities of the display on your phone. The Pansonite has a 120 degree field of view - somewhat more than the Oculus Rift or HTV Vive - and the lenses are PMMA HD aspheric.

Pansonite VR Remote Controller

Pansonite VR Remote Controller

To round it off, the headset comes bundled with a nine button, bluetooth remote controller.

The makers have packed a lot into this headset, including a button for video/music play, a volume control and a control for pausing the action and answering incoming calls.

It has controls for varying the distance between the pupils of your eyes and the focal length of each lens can be set independently, so you can adjust it for your eyes and not have to wear glasses. 

Other clever features include excellent ventilation to prevent the phone from overheating.

The makers have clearly put a lot of thought into this design, having spent two years on R & D to design, develop and fine-tune the product to customer needs.

The Pansonite fits most smartphones easily, including, Android phones and iPhones. Basically any smart phone with a screen size within 4.0 - 6.0 inches is compatible. Thus, the iPhone 5/SE/6/6s/7/7 plus, Samsung S5, S6, S6 edge, S7,S7 edge, Note 4, 5; LG G3, G4, G5, G6, V10, V20; Nexus 5, 6P etc are all compatible with the Pansonite.

The phone housing is also padded to protect the phone from moving around.

Now all you need to do is get some Android or iPhone games or content and start playing.

VERDICT: Great entry-level headset at a good price. 

December 6, 2017

Best VR Cameras for 2018

Samsung Gear 350

What is life without a 360-deg camera? In this multi-product review, we review & compare some of the best panoramic VR Cameras choices available in 2018.

Funbot 360 Degree Camera 


The Funbot is at the lower price range for 360 degree panoramic cameras. With a 210° fisheye lens, it’s quite impressive, considering that it shoots full HD (1080p) video at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps. It also shoots 4MP spherical images.

There are three video modes, in fact: panoramic, flat and VR. Video can be uploaded to VR headset for a true 3D effect. It also has the option of timer shooting.

Funbot VR Camera

Funbot VR Camera


Battery life is good. The makers say “up to” 1.5 hours. We found it in the region of 75 minutes. The battery is 1400 mAh. But the device doesn’t come with a memory card. You have to buy one as well obviously. The good news is that it supports up to 128 GB (Micro SD Type 6 or higher).

It is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems and has built-in WiFi and sharing using SNS. It also features a noise-cancelling microphone. On the front, in addition to the camera is a shutter button and light for the shutter, WiFi, photo and video - so you know the state of play at all times.

The camera can be mounted onto a selfie stick via a ¼ inch screw hole. Connectivity is achieved through a Mini HDMI or Wifi, while charging is done through a micro USB. It comes with a charger and carry case.

VERDICT: Good piece of kit and excellent value for money. 

Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 350

Samsung Gear 350

Although designed for use with the Samsung Gear, this 360 degree video camera is compatible with iOS. It shoots 4K 360° video. Content can be live-streamed with Gear 360  and can be converted to standard video or photo format (five different viewing modes).

The kit comes with a Type C USB cable, strap, pouch, quick start guide and of course the camera itself. Battery capacity is 1160 mAh. As mentioned above, it is compatible with Android 5 or higher and iOS 10.0 or later. It works with a variety of memory cards.

The video and audio quality are good, and it is easy to use, a very shallow and short learning curve. It can even be used for night-time photography, using the time-lapse feature.

VERDICT: Very versatile, a big brand name 

Richoh Theta V 360 Degree Spherical Camera

Ricoh Theta

Ricoh Theta

This 360° camera has similar specs to the Samsung Gear 360: e.g. 4K and live streaming. It also has both bluetooth and wireless LAN communication. Equipped with Three axis gyro sensors and three axis acceleration sensors, it can track its position on motion with ease. It also has "360°spatial audio" for greater audio realism.

Those familiar with the THETA S, will notice a marked improvement in the specs. Transfer speed is 2½ times faster for video and 3.2 times faster for still images.

Several things make this product stand out from the crowd somewhat. One is a remote playback function. Another is the 12-megapixel resolution. A third is its ability to record images in low lighting conditions. And yet another is the fact that the lenses are close together, ensuring that the “dead zone” is kept small. It’s ability to sense its own motion and orientation is another strength. And when using the time-lapse facility, it takes a picture every four seconds instead of the more usual seven. It comes with a carry case

The battery is charged by USB and can handle high-amp as well as low-amp connections without overheating. On the down side, it can only record for 25 minutes and you can’t add an SD card. Also, it has no image stabilization, despite having gyro and motion sensors. At this price it really ought to.

VERDICT: Left us wanting for more especially at the price it comes at. 

Insta360 Nano Compact Mini Panoramic Camera

Insta 360 panorama

Insta 360 panorama


This 360 VR camera has one-touch sharing and live-streaming. There’s no need for separate export or manual stitching of images. The whole process is automatic

It is compatible with iPhone 6 up and clips neatly onto your iPhone (connecting via the lightning connector) to turn it into a 360-degree VR camera. When it is running the Insta 360 App while attached to the iPhone it shows you a preview of the live image and gives you total control of settings and modes.

However, it doesn’t have to be connected to the iPhone. It can be used as a standalone camera. When used in standalone mode, everything is controlled by a single button. A single press of the button switches it on. Pressing again (after two seconds) takes a still photo. If you want to record a video you press twice in rapid succession. And to stop the video recording, you just press again. Finally, if you want to take a picture with a 10 second timer, you press the button three times without pausing in between.

The resolution is impressive: 3040 x 1520 both for still images and for video at 30 fps. It has a MicroSD expansion slot that can take up to a 64GB memory card.

VERDICT: Very versatile, very impressive. A good buy. 

December 6, 2017

Royole Moon 3D Virtual Mobile Theatre

A young woman wearing the Royole Moon on an airline flight

Although this product is a video viewing headset and not a VR headset (that is to say, it does not have any head-tracking), we have reviewed other such products before - notably the Avegant Glyph. The manufacturers themselves call this product a 3D Mobile Theatre. And that’s exactly what it is. But an extremely good one!

We have in fact given some advance information about the Royole Moon, on August 16 and August 31. Now, as Christmas approaches, we would like to give you our impressions of it. First of all, what we said in our multi-product review about the Sony PlayStationVR resembling something out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is even more true of the Royole Moon.

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mob

The stylish design is not only pleasing to the eye, but also highly functional. It folds up with the viewing section over the user’s head. This is similar to the Avegant Glyph, except that the Glyph doesn’t have a separate headband. When you wear the glyph as an audio headset, the viewer doubles as the headband. When you use the Glyph as a viewer, there is no overhead band.

With the Royole Moon, the headband and viewer are separate - and we prefer this. It means that you can easily push the viewer up over your head when you need to interact with the real world, or you can pull it down and it covers your eyes and cut yourself off from the world, when you want to immerse yourself in the content of the video. All in all, we just have to say, that when it comes to design aesthetics, the Royole Moon sets the bar extremely high. Competitors - both old and new - will have to put in a lot of effort to catch up.

It comes in a custom-made box, with a controller box, various custom-branded adapter cables and a carrying bag. The control box has inputs micro-HDMI, micro-USB, the headset itself and a power cable. The adapter cables enable you to connect full-size USB and HDMI to their micro siblings.

The headset itself is a highly sophisticated affair. In addition to a 2D/3D switch button above the eye display, it also has a volume control around the right ear. This is a capacitation touch control - meaning you just slide your finger round the ring in one direction or the other and it gets louder or quieter. You can also tap the middle part of the right ear to start, stop or pause what you are watching.

As the Royole Moon is designed to be work without glasses, it has to make provision for user vision issues. It does this with diopter adjusters for each eye which can be varied from -7 to +2. This is a good enough range to cover most users. If you press the eyepieces you can move them to accommodate different distances between the eyes (58mm - 70mm), but the scope of this feature was just slightly more limited than we felt it ought to be. Maybe that's just because this reviewer is a bit of a Big 'ead (in more ways than one), but we would have preferred a larger range.

Moon_White_Adjustments

When it comes to content, the device can be connected to any HDMI source. It also has its own basic operating system, with some neat features including its own browser. It also WiFi and Bluetooth connection. And it has 32GB of internal storage, so you can actually upload content. This is very useful if you are going on, say, an airplane journey and want to use it as a standalone system.

The fact that the device has no headset tracking does not mean it cannot be used for gaming. Like other video headsets, it can be used with game-controllers. You just don’t get that added dimension that head-tracking offers. But then again, this probably matters only to hardcore gamers.

Royole Moon_2

The video quality is excellent, although a very slight second to the Avegant Glyph, if not better. Each eye sees a 1920 x 1080 image. The refresh rate is 60Hz. That is less than the 90Hz that is par for the course in true VR game-oriented headsets. But it is perfectly fine for video,  matching US television and exceeding the 50Hz of British TV. Furthermore, while the video sharpness falls very slightly short of the Glyph, the overall immersive experience is much better, free of the light leakage that plagues the Glyph.

This immersive experience is further enhanced by the audio quality, which beats the competition any day of the week. The Royole Moon has built-in, over the ear headphones with active noise cancelling. The sound quality is superlative in all area of the audio spectrum: high, low and mid-range.

In the portability department it again comes second to the Glyph, both because of its larger size and the need to carry the additional control box (albeit a box that is about the size of a mobile phone). However, this is to some extent offset by the Royole Moon’s storage capacity (or that of its control box), which means you don’t have to carry a second device storing your movies or other content.

Another advantage of the Royale Moon is that it is extremely comfortable for a device of its size. This was quite surprising, considering that it probably looks somewhat suffocating. But looks and feel are two different things and this device is actually more comfortable than the Glyph.

Woman using Royole Moon on a plan

On the other hand, it is somewhat more expensive than the Glyph and this might count against it, depending on how price conscious you are. One thing you can be sure of is that notwithstanding the Glyph’s unique video technology, it is the Royole Moon that is the most advanced product in terms of its overall use of technology. It is excellent for discreet viewing and it gives you a wonderful feeling of privacy in a public place. 

VERDICT: The best video viewing headset in the market though it comes at a steep price. 

December 4, 2017

HTC about to offer TPCast wireless adapter for the Vive – available for pre-order

Vive with TPCast RX receiver

One of the problems with all the high-end VR headsets is that they don’t merely need the processing power of a high-spec computer, they have to be tethered to the computer. Whether it was concerns over latency or just plain bad forward planning, the purveyors of VR thought we’d be happy running around and flying our arms, while tethered to a machine.

Just try spinning round to shoot an enemy who’s creeping up behind you, to realize how awkward (and stupid) that is! Can you imagine if soldiers on the battlefield had a rope running off the back of their head tethering them to their field HQ? That wouldn’t make for a very mobile war would it? If anything, it would turn them into sitting ducks for the enemy to pick off at will. That’s assuming they managed to avoid tripping over the cables like they were booby-traps and landmines!

TPcast receiver

But in the case of the HTC Vive, that’s all about to change, thanks to the TPCast adapter. The adapter - or rather this iteration of it - has been specially designed for the HTC Vive will be available in the Unites States and Canada from 24 November. However, it is already available for pre-order.

Instead of using a so-called "cable management system" to suspend your cables and wires to the ceiling - which merely changes the risk from tripping to strangulation - you can now have the signals sent from the computer to the headset via a wireless system connected to the computer and a wireless receive attached to the headset.

It has been available in China since December 2016 and was available for pre-order in europe since September of this year. But now it is available in North America.

The kit consists of an HMD receiver that is mounted on top of the headset, where the cables plug in, a powerbox that user’s put in their pocket (this powers both the RX receiver and the Vive itself), and a PC Transmitter that plugs into the PCs HDMI port. (Note: the PC Transmitter must also be connected to an electrical outlet for power.)

However, while that deals with transmitting the audio and visual information, the player's movement and positional information also needs to be transmitted to the headset. This is done by a pre-configured wireless router that is also included in the kit. Simply connect an Ethernet cable from a LAN port on your current router to the WAN port on TPCast’s router, and then connect the parent PC via Ethernet to a LAN port on the TPCast router. The PC must then be configured to automatically obtain an IP address and DNS server address from the TPCast router. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Not for a serious games enthusiast anyway!

This delivers 2K resolution with a latency of 2 milliseconds. This ensures smooth image rendering and position tracking, without frame dropping.

And free of the constraints of the cables, the player will have additional freedom of movement without any cost in smoothness of the viewing experience!

The powerbox lasts 5-6 hours. The one downside is that it takes 9-12 hours to fully recharge!

October 12, 2017

The 5 Best Augmented Reality Glasses for Christmas 2018

Smart glasses

The big rush to release all sorts of products - and even mere announcements - in the field of Augmented Reality - can only mean one thing: Christmas is fast approaching. All the big companies, and many of the little ones, want to stake their claims to a share of this rich and fertile market. The trouble is, not many of them actually have a product.

A little backpedaling is necessary here. Many years ago - decades in fact - there was a headset that consisted of a small display that sat a couple of inches from one-eye and created a virtual image of a screen in front of one eye. The screen was monochrome (red specifically) and the image was produced by red LEDs that scanned up and down very rapidly. The product was never really a success, whether because of the price or because it was monochrome.

But now as augmented reality slowly but steadily hits the market, it looks like a case of plus ce change, plus la meme chose. Accordingly, in this review and comparison, we take a look at some of the new crop of augmented reality products and offer our recommendations.

Vufine+ AR Glasses

1_Vufine+ - 1

Vufine+ AR Glasses

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the Vufine+ is a wearable display that connects to your glasses, or the plain glass pair that comes with the display, if you don’t wear glasses. It creates a 720p virtual screen 4 inches across, about 12 inches from your eye, either in your principal line of sight or just below it. Okay, 4 inches might seem small, but it is no different to all but the biggest mobile phone displays and at about the same distance or less.

It can be connected via a micro-to full HDMI cable to a smartphone, computer, camera or drone. The unit is basically a Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) projector that projects the image onto your eye. It has three degrees of freedom: up-down, tilt, left-right.

The unit comes with a magnetic docking station, so that it can be attached to the glasses when needed and put in your pocket when you don’t, without having to remove the glasses or fiddle with them extensively. It also comes with a standard (non-magnetic) docking station and a carrying case. Best of all, it comes in both left-handed and right handed configurations (or rather left eye and right eye) and is available in the US and Britain. And because we are coming up to Christmas, it can be gift wrapped.

There are three viewing modes: Standard (for unaltered 16:9 viewing), Fit (for 33% increased landscape viewing in 4:3) and Zoom (for 77% increased portrait viewing in 4:3). The stated runtime from the internal battery is 90 minutes, which we found to be about right. We would have hoped for longer as it is a small device, but that of course also limits the room for batteries. However, while the makers claim that the resolution is clear enough for both video and text, we found that it fell considerably short in the text department. It is just too small and at this resolution can’t be read.

While it can in theory attach to any glasses, if the glasses frame is light (or loose fitting) it can pull down on one side, so you might have to use a counterweight. You can also purchase a separate hat or head mount, if you prefer this to mounting the unit on glasses.

In practical usage, this unit is extremely versatile. You can use it as an alternative smartphone screen to protect your privacy when viewing sensitive (or embarrassing) content. You can use it as an alternative screen for close-up or macro photography, when you need to get the camera into an awkward position but are unable - or unwilling - to squeeze your head and torso into that awkward position.

Perhaps the most obvious and enjoyable usage is when flying a drone. Instead of merely watching the drone, you can see where what the drone’s camera sees. If you try this through a mobile phone or laptop, you face the dilemma of whether to look up at the drone or down at the screen. It is very hard to do both simultaneously. But with the Vufine+ it’s a breeze! You just look up at the drone with both eyes and see what the drone’s camera sees on the virtual display through one eye, just below your main line of sight.

You can also use it as a virtual cinema. Although it may not be fully immersive, there are times and circumstances when you need to be aware of your surroundings, but still want to enjoy a private viewing of a movie. This is the ideal solution. And unlike viewing the movie on your smartphone, you do not have to worry about the issue of aching arms from holding the phone out in front of you.

Another obvious use, is for working on-the-go. It is lighter than a laptop or even a tablet. Now of course, you still need to input data, whether it be on a keyboard, screen keyboard or phone. But by using the Vufine as the screen, you can keep the phone or tablet on your lap and enter data, without having to stare at the phone or tablet screen. Of course, it would be nice if you could type your input on a virtual keyboard in mid-air - and also nice if the unit was cordless - but you can’t have everything. Not yet, anyway.

VERDICT: Promising AR glasses, at a credible price.

Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses

Smart glasses

Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses

Vuzix describes these Smart Glasses as “an Android-based wearable computer.” In addition to pre-installed apps, it features an integrated 5-megapixel camera (16:9 ratio) that can capture stills and 1080p video. It has Bluetooth 4.00 connectivity for pairing with other Android devices, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 1GB or RAM and 4GB of flash storage - expandable to 32GB.

The M100 does not have its own phone connection. To use it as a phone you would have to pair it with an Android phone or iPhone. However, it is packed with pretty much everything else you can think of: 

  • Integrated 3-degree of freedom head tracker (gyro, accelerometer, magnetometer),
  • 3 DOF gesture sensor (L/R, U/D, N/F)
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Proximity sensor
  • GPS
  • WQVGA 24-bit color display (also 16:9 and 2000 Nits brightness) This looks like a 21-inch screen at 4 meters with a 42 pixels per degree.
  • Noise cancelling microphone
  • Voice recognition
  • Ear speaker,
  • 550 mAh rechargeable internal battery (> 6 hours hands free w/o display or 2 hours hands free with display, 1-hour hands free + display + camera + high CPU loading)
  • External 3800 mAh rechargeable battery pack that attaches with an ultra-thin USB mini-B cable and increases battery life by up to 6.5 times.

These are impressive specs on paper. But how do they stack up in performance?

Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses

The answer is is that they work well once you figure them out, but getting everything to work just right can be tricky. Think of the first time you got a smart phone and had to learn how to use it. That’s how it is with this product. It’s a steep learning curve, unless you’re a natural techie. And it’s not cheap.

The real question then is how much added value you can get from a product like this? If the product was a complete standalone device, without the need for a phone, it would be great value for money. Instead it is merely a good product, for those who want to get the technology quickly, at a high price, before it goes from being the latest “must have” to a stale old “everyone has.”

VERDICT: Good features but you pay a high price for them.

Google Glasses XE V2

Google Glasses XE

Although already on its second life - and still far from all it promised to be - Google Glass is still the gorilla in the room of augmented reality. Or maybe that should be the elephant. The package contains Google Glass itself, RX Frames, mono earbuds, extra nose pads, a USB cable, charger, extra nose pads, a soft carrying case, a hard carrying case, a screwdriver and instructions.

The augmented reality display looks like a 25-inch television, eight feet away. It has a 5MP camera that can shoot stills and 720p videos. It also has an audio bone conduction transducer. This sounds ultra-modern but in fact is like the old-fashioned “bone fone” from four decades ago. It basically just produces vibrations in the bones (usually of the head) that are then conductive to the auditory nerves.

Various forms of connectivity are available, including 802.11 WiFi (2.4 GHz) 12 GB usable memory synced with Google Cloud. Battery life is about a day in normal usage, but with intensive use of battery-draining activities (like video) it can easily be a lot less. The kit includes a charger and micro-USB cable.

It is available for both Android and iOS. For Android it requires version 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher and for iOS, it requires iOS7 or higher. (iOS 7 was first used in the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.)

The problem is that it is not clear where Google Glass is going and there are not too many apps that use it.

VERDICT: Overpriced for what it can do and too much that it can't.

Optinvent ORA-2 AR Smart Glasses 

Optinvent ORA

This is a developer’s kit rather than a final product. That means, there are limited apps and the price is high - although in practice no higher than the Vuzix. That statement actually has to be qualified. Limited apps, means limited dedicated apps. The ORA-2 is perfectly capable of running existing Android apps, just like any Android smartphone or tablet.

In terms of hardware, it comes with a powerful spec: front-facing 1080p 5 MP camera, 9-axis motion sensor (gyro inertial sensors, accelerometer and magnetometer), Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS, a trackpad (mouse and swipe).

The 16.9 display has a resolution of 33 pixels per degree and the brightness level maxes out at 3000 Nits. Based on retinal projection, it has a feature called Flip-vu which offers two configurations: Augmented Reality and Glance. In the Augmented Reality configuration, the mini-projector is fully horizontal and in the path of the eye when focused on the distance through the upper part of the glasses lens. In Glance mode, the projector is 20° below the horizontal and you have to look down at it.

The overall system packs a punch in other respects too, with a dual-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex processor, built-in (noise-cancelling) microphone and ambient light sensor. The 1200 mAh battery lasts about five hours with the display of continuously. It is charged via a USB connection.

At present the product, comes with a disclaimer that it is not offered as a consumer product, but only as a development platform. This does not mean that you cannot buy it as a consumer, only that it is offered “as is” with no warranty express or implied and - perhaps more importantly - that it is not approved by the FCC or CE. Also, it can display the same content as the screen of the Android device to which it is attached, but it has no dedicated apps on the market just yet.

VERDICT: A rich man's toy, worth buying if you can afford it.

Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses (AR Developer Edition)

Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses

Like the Optinvent above, this is a developer edition, rather than a consumer product, and priced the same too. Using a transparent si-OLED display it features binocular projection providing views for both eyes. This means that unlike most Augmented Reality headsets (but like Virtual Reality headsets) these smart glasses offer the option of side-by-side 3D viewing - albeit at lower resolution. The result is a virtual 80-inch screen at “distance” of 5 meters to a 320-inch screen at a distance of 20 meters. This is only a 23° field of view. But for AR (as distinct from VR) that is perfectly reasonable.

But first, what’s in the box?

  • Moverio BT-300 (Headset and Controller)
  • AC Adapter (100 – 240 V AC, 50/60 Hz, 0.15 A)
  • USB Cable
  • Carrying Case (semi-hard type)
  • Inner-ear Earphone with Microphone
  • 1x Shade (40%)
  • Inner Frame for Optical Lenses
  • 2x Temple Grip
  • Quick Setup Guide
  • Nose Pad (OTG type)
  • User Manual

The glasses are unquestionably light. Indeed, according to the manufacturers, they are the world’s lightest Si-OLED-powered, binocular, transparent smart glasses, weighing in at only 2.5 ounces or 69 grams. They are powered by an Intel® Atom™ x5 1.44GHz Quad Core CPU.

In many respects, this product ticks all the right boxes, with a front facing 5MP camera, head-tracking, choice of wireless connectivity, six-hour battery life, etc. The display’s 720p falls short of the 1080p, but is par for the course with most AR glasses currently. With 24-bit color and a 30Hz refresh rate, the image is very clear, even in bright, sunny conditions - a key test for augmented reality glasses.

As it is a developer kit, it is again in the position of not having many dedicated apps. But it can be used out of the box for a multiplicity of functions, including pretty much anything you can do on your Android smartphone - and of course getting a bird's-eye view when you fly a drone!

Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses

You can wear these glasses over prescription glasses, so no problems there. They even have their own apps market from which you can download games, like Protocol Zero, and practical apps, like VR Architecture Walkthrough, a Virtual Reality Architectural Visualization app. These apps, and many others there, are free. There is even an app for drone control.

On minor drawback is the trackpad, which is rather tricky and fiddly to use. But once you get the hang of it, the inconvenience is minor.

VERDICT: Beats the Optinvent by a nose for Best AR glasses.

The Final Word


While people speculate on the future of AR and ask questions like “Will Apple enter the fray with its own headset?”, “Will the Microsoft HoloLens become an affordable consumer product?”, “Will Google Glass come down in price and hit the mainstream?” and even “Will Amazon bring out an AR Kindle?” we are missing the point. AR, in some form, is already here.

Yes, it is expensive - although the Vufine+ challenges even this assumption – yes, it is a bit rough around the edges, both figuratively and literally. But it is here! There is a market for it. For those who really want it, the technology is affordable. And there is an element of choice.

You can be the owner of an AR headset this Christmas - ditto for your loves ones - if you’re ready to dip your hands into your pocket. Of course, it’s not for everyone. Some people may prefer to hold out. But there are no breakthroughs around the corner. And all products eventually wear out and need replacing. So, unless you are hoping for some big announcement in a year’s time and are willing to hold out that long, now is the time to buy a cool-looking pair of AR glasses.

September 26, 2017

5 Best Accessories for the Oculus Rift

No matter how good computer and gaming hardware is, it can always be improved with the right accessories and peripherals. This is as true of Virtual Reality headsets as any other electronic gadgetry and as true of the Oculus Rift as any of its competitors.

So in this review, we take a look at the five best accessories for the Rift, including a spare sensor, a headset stand, foam implants for the facial area, a ceiling-based cable management system and a tension clamp for attaching the sensor to a shelf or door.

As with any cross-section of useful accessories and add-ons, we have tried to give you a fair assessment of the pros and cons. There is no one, single perfect solution for any of the problems that these accessories seek to address. But we have found them to be good overall and believe that in all the examples below, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Oculus Sensor

Oculus Sensor

Oculus Sensor

This is a third sensor for the Oculus Rift that offers 360 degree and room-scale tracking. It requires an additional USB 2.0 port or higher, however the makers note that these features are experimental and “not all experiences may work as expected.”

It comes with a 5 meter USB extension cable (although it appears that some customers have complained of not receiving the cable with it). It is identical to the sensors bundled with the Rift, but some customers have complained that it is screwed onto the base rather too tightly and not easy to unscrew.

As an additional sensor it works well, enhancing the gaming experience as you move around. It eliminates blind spots and facilitates a larger playing area, or “room scale tracking” as it is called (sometimes shortened to room scaling).

Buentek VR Stand, Universal VR Headset Holder & Cable Organizer

Buentek VR Stand

Buentek VR stand

When you have a car you want a guaranteed parking space. If you buy a guitar, you like to put it on a guitar stand when not in use. And when you have a VR headset you also also want to store it somewhere that it is safe, but easily accessible.

That’s what the product is for. It is stores the headset in a way that leaves it easily accessible to you. And it also provides space for organizing the cables. Made of ABS plastic - the same material that lego bricks are made from -  it is not exclusively for the Oculus Rift, but can - as the name implies - store any of the major VR headsets.

It arrives in pieces and must be assembled. However you will probably have to figure out how to assemble it yourself as the instructions are not clear. Once assembled, you will find that it is designed to sit on a suitable surface, like a shelf or a desktop. It cannot be wall-mounted.

The design is “cool” and stylish. But the plastic is not all that strong. It is not designed to handle rough treatment. It does however carry a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty.

As a headset stand it is quite good, but it has nowhere to put the controllers. Also, the cable management that it offers is not that great. You might find it more convenient to use it just as a headset stand and let the cables dangle at the back. This is good from another point of view because when you wrap the cables on it along with the headset, it has too much weight on the front and can even overbalance and fall.

Oculus Rift Facial Interface / Foam Replacement

Facial Interface / Foam Replacement

Facial Interface / Foam Replacement

These PU foam leather foam replacement masks are designed to offer the user a comfortable alternative to the material inside the headset and also to offer better hygiene. The hygiene comes from the fact that the masks can be easily wiped down with an antibacterial wipe - or indeed a damp,soapy cloth. It is also soft and reasonable comfortable, with air holes that allow the skin to “breathe” - a concept that James Bond creator Ian Flemming exaggerated somewhat in Goldfinger.

The package consists with a solid frame to hold the foam inserts, two PU leather foam inserts themselves and a machine washable cotton cover. The hygiene element can be enhanced by using different foam replacements for different users. The machine-washable cover has the advantage of absorbing sweat, which tends to increase when using the PU leather, as compared to the default Rift headset on its own. If you sweat a lot when wearing the headset, you will be grateful for the added option of the cotton cover. Unfortunately the cotton cover doesn’t wrap around properly except near the proximity sensor, which it then activates. (That’s why it’s called a proximity sensor.)

The inserts are of different thicknesses, with the thinner already attached. This is just as well as the thinner one is a bit more comfortable than the other, which feels just a bit too big.

Midwec 6 Packs Cable Management 

Midwec Cable Management

Better Cable Management Improves Experience

The dangling cable - with its feeling of constant tugging at the back of the head - has been the bane of VR headsets since the first hit the market. It will continue to be so until the manufacturers implement a wireless solution. This shouldn’t be too difficult in this age of Wifi and WiGig. But it seems like there may be a trade off with battery life. At any rate, VR headsets still use cables.

So what do you do when you want to move around and get the full VR gaming experience? The current solution is a cable management system, that holds the cables up by the ceiling. That’s because your feet move around on the floor. You’re more likely to trip over cables on the floor than get strangled by them on the ceiling, so hanging the cables from the ceiling is a logical solution - albeit a compromise.

This this system uses retractable cable holders that can be adjusted to the weight of the cable. The system comprises 6 hooks attached to peel-away stickers (that can be stuck to the ceiling), 6 retractable lanyards and 6 carabiners. The adhesive is strong.

The system works well, with the tension just about right to keep the cables from dangling without the feeling that it is still tugging at the back of your head. But you have to make sure that the hooks and lanyards are not placed too close together, otherwise the cable may get tangled up.

The supplier has excellent customer service and have shown themselves ready to give refunds if customers are dissatisfied. But very often it’s a case of exaggerated expectations. There is no ideal solution to the cable management problem. But this ceiling mounted system works well if used correctly.

Hyperkin VR Clamp Mount

Clamp mount

Hyperkin VR Clamp Mount for HTC Vive/ Oculus Rift

If you want to attach your Oculus Rift sensors to high shelves - instead of having them on stands - these clamps are for you. They have an adjustable ball joint, giving vertical and horizontal freedom. The sensor itself attaches via a one-inch mounting screw. The clamp can expand to a maximum of about 6.5 cm. That’s enough to fit on a door! And of course it’s very easy to release and move to a new location until you’re satisfied that you’ve positioned the sensor in the ideal location.

The tension is very strong and it can support its own weight combined with the weight of the sensor even when upside down.

One minor gripe is that the rubber has a strange smell. That might be due to the type of rubber and should not be a cause for concern. You only notice it when you are close to it - and if you mount the sensors high, then that would only be rarely.

There is also a screw handle for tightening the angle ball-bearing, but in some positions, your fingers are obstructed by the rest of the clamp handle to which it is attached.

The Final Word


None of these five accessories is perfect. But they all perform at least one useful function. Compared to the price of the Oculus Rift itself, their prices are low. You wouldn’t buy expensive cutlery and crockery only to eat cheap food, would you? We believe that these accessories enhance the value of your Oculus Rift and for this reason we give them our recommendation. As always, we welcome user feedback.

Happy gaming!

September 22, 2017

5 Best accessories for the HTC Vive in 2018

BestVR.Tech does a tour of the accessory shops to find the best accessories for our HTC Vive headset

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a hardcore gamer in possession of a good VR headset must be in want of a few accessories.

However little known the views or feelings of this gamer may be on his first purchasing a Virtual Reality headset, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the purveyors of VR hardware, that he is considered as the rightful customer of some one or other of their products.

To a large extent, the reason for this is that the makers of VR headsets vary in their generosity when it comes to accessories. The Virtual Reality market is still far from mature and most of its customers are hardcore, dedicated gamers. One thing the market knows about hardcore followers of anything is that they are ready to pay top dollar to indulge their desires. That’s why tickets to major sporting events or rock concerts command a premium price. And that’s why VR and AR hardware products are so expensive.

For that same reason, the makers of such products follow a policy - at least in some cases - of not bundling those little extras that make the experience of using their products a great experience but rather let it remain merely a good one. In some cases, they develop the accessories and peripherals in-house but sell them as optional extras, knowing full-well that there is nothing “optional” about it to a hardcore gamer! In other cases, they leave the development of the accessories and peripherals to others.

As HTC tends towards the less generous end of the spectrum when it comes to the policy of bundling accessories, we have decided, in this article, to take a look at some of the best accessories available for the HTC Vive.

Deluxe Audio Strap

 Deluxe Audio Strap

Deluxe Audio Strap

This audio strap, with its adjustable earphones, provides 360-degree surround sound. It has interior padding for comfort and an easy-to-use adjustment dial to ensure the right fit. This makes it very easy to switch between users. You can vary both the height and angle. The adjustment dial is also useful for taking off the headset when you’ve finished. In fact it is important to turn the dial and loosen the headset before removing it. Otherwise the act of pulling it off can loosen the screws at the back.

The cable management system with this audio strap is much better that the default version, so you no longer feel like you’ve got a pigtail that some irritating kid behind you keeps tugging. The cable path can also be altered to the side. An added benefit of the audio strap is that it facilitates better weight distribution. However, there’s still that little bugaboo of a Velcro top strap.

But the greatest strength of this accessory is of course the audio itself. Instead of the Vive’s ear buds that had a tendency to fall out - and that offered mediocre audio quality even when they stayed in - this set, with its on-ear phones, makes this deluxe audio strap the perfect accessory for a truly immersive experience.

Another good feature is that the audio strap can be used as a duplicate for the sound so that a second person can hear what the player is hearing. This is done under Settings, by selecting the “Mirror audio device” option and then selecting the device from the drop-down list.

This headset is not completely perfect. The rear section that covers the back of the head is not adjustable and may not suit every head shape. Thus, one can adjust the angle of the earphones but not the headset as a whole. Also, it is somewhat annoying to think that you still have to shell out an extra 100 for this accessory. Even after the latest price reduction, the Vive commands a high price and it’s like buying a luxury car for a goodly price only to be told that you have to pay extra if you want comfortable seats.

Protective Frame & Silicone Protective Case

2 Packs Protective Frame and Silicone Protective Case for HTC VIVE Controllers

2 Packs Protective Frame and Silicone Protective Case for HTC VIVE Controllers

Let’s face it. We all drop things from time to time - some of us more than others. (And yours truly more than most.) Furthermore, it is precisely in the heat of an action game you’re most likely to drop things. And given the nature of the activity, the thing you’re most likely to drop is of course the game controller. So a shock protector for your game controllers is really a no-brainer when you think about it - if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

This pair of shock-protectors feature all the attributes that you’d expect: shock absorption (obviously!), anti-scratch, anti-slip grip and shatterproof construction - at least in the course of normal usage. The flexible silicone protective cases slide on and off easily and the rigid protective frames screw on with a finger operated dial.

This protective arrangement reduces the risk of damage from dropping the controllers without significantly interfering with the interaction between the controllers and the sensors. I say “without significantly” because it does marginally interfere. For example, if the controllers are held very low, the sensors seem to struggle to locate them and may drift slightly. Adjusting the angle of the sensors can alleviate this problem. The problem becomes more noticeable if a controller with these protectors on moves into a spot covered by only one of the sensors. This can happen even when using the sync cable.

Another minor gripe is that the silicone protective case isn’t cut perfectly. The top part of the cutout should be just a tiny bit higher (2 mm at the most) to leave unobstructed access to the top button. It might be that one should just to push the silicone up to the top really hard, but the trouble is, even if you do, it tends to slip down slightly.

A further complaint, is that the “ears” of the trackers do extend outside the cage. This might be because the makers assume that because of the "bent" shape of the trackers, these “ears” are unlikely to come into contact with a hard surface, even if dropped. To which I say, if dropped onto a flat surface like the floor maybe. But if dropped onto, say, a desk with things on it, the shape of the frame may fail to protect them. This may seem like a petty complaint, but it is worth mentioning.

2 Packs Protective Frame and Silicone Protective Case for HTC VIVE Controllers

2 Packs Protective Frame and Silicone Protective Case for HTC VIVE Controllers

Focitec Studipro - 2 x 7'6" Light Stand 

Fovitec StudioPRO

Fovitec StudioPRO

These stands are basically photographers lighting stands that can also be used as stands for your HTC Vive sensors. They are 7’6” high, use a standard tripod-base support and mini-ball head mounts, giving them three degrees of freedom. The three section columns above the tripod can also be adjusted for height from 2’9” to the 7’6” maximum. And they come with a carry bag.

Whilst the Vive requires that the base stations be set at least 6” high - making the 2’9” minimum irrelevant - there is no reason why they should not be set higher. This kit allows you to set them 18 inches higher than the required minimum. And also, with this kit, you are not forced to mount the sensors on a wall. This gives you greater flexibility.

The stands are spring loaded for easy opening, however this is a liability with the Vive lighthouses as the lighthouses tend to vibrate and the vibration is then passed on to the spring where it is exacerbated and becomes noisy and disconcerting (though not in any way damaging).

Also, they are somewhat fragile. Although they can easily take the weight of the lighthouses, they can break if handled roughly. And some people can rough-handle parts like this without even realizing that they’re doing so.

Lastly the bag is not of top quality. It can early show signs of wear quite quickly. Also, it can only be hand carried. This lack of a shoulder strap can be a bit of an inconvenience.

Fovitec StudioPRO

Fovitec StudioPRO

Memory Foam Face-Foam Replacement

HTC Vive Memory

HTC Vive Memory

These foam face replacements offer a better field of view than the originals, but at the price - it has to be said - of comfort. Indeed, this is always the trade-off and one cannot shy away from acknowledging the fact.

However, aside from the FOV advantage, these replacements have other significant points in their favor. Coming, as they do, from virtual reality hygiene specialists, they are easy to clean and prevent the buildup of bacteria. The foam is made with polyurethane leather which is easy to clean with a wipe of an antibacterial cloth. This is important for users who share their headsets with others.

There are two pads, so you can swap them between users. However, you do not have to do even this. Just put in one pad and be sure to clean it between users and the problem is solved. However, it’s good to have the extra pad.

Aside from cleaning by wiping with an antibacterial cloth, you also have the option of washing it with dishwashing soap on a wet cloth. It is best to rinse it under running water after that, as wet cloths themselves sometimes harbor bacteria. Then let it air dry.

The problem is that these replacements are too wide for the headset and actually have to be bunched up somewhat to fit. This is even visible from the picture itself. This gives them a somewhat uncomfortable feel against one’s face, almost as if one is being pinched. It also undermines, somewhat, the advantage of them being thinner than the originals.

The synthetic polyurethane material also causes sweating, despite the pores on the surface. But as we said at the start of this review, it is a tradeoff between comfort and field of view - also between comfort and hygiene.

HTC Vive Memory

HTC Vive Memory

MDW VR Cable Management

MDW VR Cable Management

MDW VR Cable Management

This is essentially a hook-and-eye based, ceiling-mounted cable management solution. And boy was that a mouthful to say. And that pretty much sums up the nature of the solution. It is quite a "dramatic" solution for the cable management problem.

At one end, you have the hooks that fit to the ceiling by adhesive pads. (This of course means that no drilling is required - the adhesive pads just stick, after you peel off the outer backing and push them into place on the ceiling.)  You then attach, to these hooks, stretchable lanyards which can stretch to 90 cm. For the benefit of the physicists among you, these lanyards are essentially springs that obey Hooke’s law (excuse the pun) of elasticity and return to their original 12 cm when the tension is removed from them.

There are a total of ten lanyards and ten hooks. This doesn’t mean you should (or need to) attach all ten to the ceiling. What it does mean is that if you require greater length, you can attach two or more lanyards together. (You don’t need the hooks to string the lanyards together because they have carabiner hooks at one end and circular eyes at the other.)

You also don’t have to worry about the ceiling hooks coming off the ceiling. The adhesive is very strong. But that means that once you have stuck them in place, they are equally hard to remove.

Having said all of the above, the system is still far from perfect. It stops you from tripping over the cable but at the price of getting tangled up in it. It avoids the feel of the cable pulling against the back of your head, but it doesn’t give you the same true freedom of movement that a cordless headset would give you.

But then again, cordless headsets are what we’re all waiting for.

MDW VR Cable Management

MDW VR Cable Management

The Final Word


A good audio headset (or rather component of a headset) is pretty basic when it comes to virtual reality. It should not be subject to an extra charge. And when you’re talking about something like a VR headset - which is pretty expensive to begin with - a customer has the right to expect good earphones as part of the basic setup. Just like a car should have seats and a steering wheel as well as an engine!

That said, it could be argued that leaving the option open to attach alternative peripherals and accessories actually opens the market to third party partners who might actually make better accessories. Audio is, after, all a specialized area. And some of the major players in that area may have more experience than those in the VR field who tend to focus on the visual, for obvious reasons.

But in that case, it would be better if the VR companies were to form partnerships with the makers of audio equipment and then bundle the whole caboodle together. Even if that is reflected in the consumer price that would still be better than selling something second-rate and expecting the customer to leap through hoops trying to upgrade it. Worse still, they should certainly not make their own improved version and expect people to pay more for it. There is a case for selling different versions of a product. But at these prices, the choice should be between a good and a great version, not a mediocre and a good version.

With the other accessories, there is more of a case for leaving something on the field for others to supply the value-added products. Hence the controller protectors, the sensor stands and the face-foam replacements.

The cable management question is a bit more thorny. There is an obvious market for it. But in this age of Bluetooth, WiFi and WiGig, it ought to be unnecessary. If the headset needs a computer to feed it, the mobility requirement of gaming makes wireless a necessity. It’s something that should have been delivered already. In the meantime, as long as cables are used, we need a suitable management system for them.

All of these accessories are worth buying by HTC Vive owners. It’s just a question of how much you’re willing to pay.