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Ask Arthur

Ask Arthur: Is cheap
VR good value? 

A reader wants to know if a R400 virtual reality headset is too good to be true. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK has bad news.

Q: I saw a virtual reality headset advertised for R400 at a reputable online store. Is it too good to be true?

A: The sad news is that, yes, it is too good to be true. A R400 Rand virtual reality headset will give you little more than the ability to view images in stereo. That means, if you have a VR app on your phone, and it displays a double image, you will be able to see it in 3D through the VR headset. But that is 3D, not VR.

Typically, you have to download a generic VR app that allows you to open VR and 3D images from specific sites that host such content. Most of these apps are, to put it mildly, awful. New apps emerge all the time and old ones are updated, so you would have to experiment to see which works best with your headset.

However, cheap VR devices are not only cheap in the way they display images and video, but also in the clarity of the display. One sub-R500 headset we tested provided such poor resolution, it was impossible to read the text in menus viewed through the device. That meant the device was unusable.

A further problem is that the cheap devices lack almost any form of control aside from activating a menu option when you focus your line of sight on that option. If you can read the option in the first place. They also offer limited focusing ability.

Doubling the price, to around R1000, brings a range of additional functionality into play. Readable text is the single biggest benefit, but additional focus options, volume control and activation buttons tend to become available too.

You won’t regret doubling your budget.

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