This year, iFixit performed teardowns on a lot of virtual reality headsets (and accessories). So, how’d the Oculus Rift CV1, the PSVR, and the HTC Vive stack up against each other? Check out our VR year-end review—and decide for yourself who made the best VR headset in 2016.

Oculus Rift CV1

Oculus was the first of the VR giants to roll out a finished consumer project this year (sans controllers—we tore those down later). We’d taken apart developer models of the Oculus headset before, but the final product was packed with plenty of new features.  

Oculus Rift IR tracking

How does it keep track of you? Tiny infrared (IR) LEDs embedded in the front and back of the headset. You won’t see them during normal use, but our infrared camera sees all—just like the Rift’s tracker. You can spin in circles and never break immersion … until you trip over the cord.

The Rift also has two adjustable OLED displays, one for each eye! These OLED displays measure in at 90 mm apiece, for a resulting pixel density of ~456 ppi. In contrast, the display on an iPhone 6s Plus comes in at 401 ppi, while the Galaxy S7 is a cut above at 576 ppi. Between the displays and your eyeballs are a pair of interesting hybrid fresnel lenses that allow you to adjust focus by simply raising or lowering the headset on your face. We awarded the Oculus Rift a 7/10 score for repairability.

HTC Vive

HTC came hot on the heels of Oculus and proved to be a major contender in the growing VR market. Interestingly, the Vive actually tracks in the opposite way that the Rift does. Pulling back the outer shell on the Vive reveals a number of sensors—32 in total. These sensors capture the IR light projected from the Vive’s “Lighthouses”.

HTC Vive sensors

The Vive also splits its AMOLED display into two screens. Each display measures ~91.8 mm diagonally, which translates to ~447 ppi. For comparison, the Rift CV1 has ~456 ppi due to slightly smaller displays (90 mm) but still packs the same resolution as the Vive. The displays are capped with two traditional fresnel lenses. We awarded the HTC Vive an 8/10 for repairability.

PSVR

PlayStation is one of the world’s largest gaming brands, so their much-more-affordable console VR headset is a major player in the market—especially as Christmas rolls around.

PSVR sensors

Unlike the Rift and Vive, which rely on invisible IR light for position tracking, the PSVR uses visible light LEDs—just like the Move Sticks of yore. Using visible light means the PSVR will have a harder time competing with ambient light in the room. Maybe that’s why Sony doubled up most of the LEDs, increasing the size and brightness of each light on the headset.

While the Rift and Vive offer two separate displays and some complex, mechanical interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment, Sony chose a single 5.7-inch AMOLED display and digital IPD. The display in the PSVR is accompanied by two 14-mm-thick conventional lenses of the non-fresnel variety. Like the Vive, the PSVR also landed an 8/10 on our repairability scale.

Bonus: Razer OSVR HDK2

We tore down one more VR headset this year: The Razer OSVR HDK2, also known as Open Source Virtual Reality Hacker Development Kit … 2 (say that ten times fast).

OSVR teardown

Though it wasn’t meant for the plug-and-play gamer, we had plenty of fun taking this device apart. The HDK 2’s stand-mounted sensor tracks a constellation of IR LEDs from one instant to the next, similar to the Oculus Rift. The two 1080p OLED displays look similar to the displays on the HTC Vive, and boast the same 2160 x 1200 combined resolution and 90 Hz refresh rate. The headset also has traditional non-fresnel lenses like the PSVR. As developer units often do, the OSVR scored very high on our repairability scale: an impressive 9/10.

Outreach Strategist at iFixit. You can bother me on Twitter: @Taylor_iFixit

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