Right now, precisely none of the big Virtual Reality headsets is available in South Africa. The PlayStation VR is set to launch in many territories on October 13 – but those of us here at the Southern tip of Africa will have to wait until next year. Worse is that the already available PC VR head-mounts aren’t available here either.
You can’t just head down to your favourite tech retailer and pick up an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive, which makes it tempting – for those with heavy wallets – to consider importing. But is it worth it? After spending quite a bit of time with a VIVE setup (thanks, very much to MSI, who sent it along with a VR-ready laptop), I’m left in two minds.
The VIVE itself houses some pretty impressive technology – as it should, considering the set retails for $799. The box is huge, and its perfectly packaged contents just scream high quality. You’ve got the head-mounted unit itself, of course – which has a nest of unfathomably long cables coming out of the back of it that all plug into a link box. That, in turn, gets plugged in to your computer, sucking up an HDMI or Display port, along with a single USB port. While the Vive doesn’t have a headset built in to it, it does ship with a standard set of ear buds, which you plug in to the headset. Because it’s a standard 3.5mm jack, you can use your own if you prefer. The box also comes packing two things that make the Vive special – a step beyond the Oculus Rift.
It comes, firstly, with two infra-red base stations which not only help it track the headset (which has its own camera, too), but also the controllers – which I’ll get to in a bit. The base stations both require their own power and also need line of site of each other. It sounds like it’s a lot of set up, but it’s really not very complicated. Within half an hour of opening the box, I was ready to go.
It is worth noting that if you do end up with a unit, you’ll probably want to fix the base stations somewhere, in opposite corners. The Vive comes with the necessary screws, bolts and brackets to do just that. The base stations allow the Vive to use something called Room-scale. It allows you to measure a set area of your play space, so you don’t end up walking in to walls and hurting yourself. It doesn’t even need the greatest area. My set up – in what I consider a tiny lounge (and what the system measure at 2m x 2.1m) worked perfectly for most games and experiences.