As researchers of and with VR hardware, we have been asked which head-mounted display (HMD) is actually “the best” by people interested in buying one for themselves or their office, lab, or school.
Well, that is not that simple to say.
At HumaniVR, we have relied on HTC’s Vive and Vive Pro for much of our work. It produces video and audio of the highest quality, and head- and controller-tracking work flawlessly. It supports Steam VR as the default platform to manage and use software. Also on the plus side: Pupil Labs offers mobile eye-tracking plug-ins for the Vive Pro, which help us monitor the pupils of our test subjects and find out what exactly they are paying attention to.
The new generation, HTC’s Vive Pro Eye, has eye-tracking capabilities already built-in, which is a great help for our upcoming research.
A minor caveat: the Vive Pro is only as powerful as the computer that it is connected to, particularly its GPU. We have relied on powerful gaming laptops (to stay mobile) from the Omen series of HP. These laptops, however, make the whole endeavor much more expensive than stand-alone VR solutions, obviously.
Also, the Vive Pro series continues to work with a cable, tethering the HMD (and thus the head of the user) to the computer. This leads to less than perfect mobility, occasionally. We believe that every Vive user has stumbled over the cable at least once.
For less inhibited mobility, we will work with Oculus Quest 2 HMDs in the near future. These are stand-alone VR sets, which offer the same level of resolution and immersion as the Vive Pro, while the Quest 2 is wireless, lighter, cheaper, and easier to transport.
The big downside of Oculus Quest 2: it is a disaster in terms of data privacy (see here). Among other things, Facebook/Oculus is in trouble with the German authorities over that exact issue, and consequently, the Quest 2 is currently not being sold in Germany.
Of course, we need to (and do) take this into account from a research ethics perspective.
That is to say: the question which HMD is “the best” (and potentially worth getting yourself) has the rather unsatifying answer: it depends…