With Virtual Reality just around the corner, the battle between Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlaystationVR is raging on. Comparing specs and prices between the three headsets, it’s easy to assume that the Oculus and HTC Vive will offer the superior visual experience over the markedly cheaper PlayStation alternative.
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both sport 2160 x 1200 displays, ensuring that the overall VR experience goes beyond the limitations of a 1080p experience. In comparison, the PSVR offers a lower resolution 1080p experience across both eyes, meaning visuals will lack the crisp fine-details offered by both of the more expensive PC offerings.
None of this may matter however, according to Reddit user SSChicken on the Oculus Subreddit. In his experience when compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, especially concerning how much of a Screen-Door Effect could be seen across all three devices, the PSVR had “none”:
when I went to CES this year my goal was to try out all of the VR experiences I could get my hands on. And I did. [...] But what surprised me the most is how great the PSVR is. The optics were fantastic. There was far less SDE than either the Vive or the Rift.
Edit: When I say far less SDE, I’m talking about none. Both my friend and I were talking about it while we were wearing the headset and the screen door effect on the PSVR is just gone.
All of this news is highly impressive, but what exactly is the Screen-Door Effect, or SDE for anyone who isn’t well-versed on VR and the latest screen technology?
What IS the Screen-Door Effect (SDE)?
Put simply, the Screen-Door Effect describes how visible the gaps between individual pixels appear to be when viewing a display at a close proximity. At regular TV viewing distances, SDE isn’t a concern at all. Most of the discussion comes down to image resolution, or how many pixels can fit on the display in total. This is why 720p, 1080p, 1440p and 4k are prominent terms in our everyday vocabulary now.
However with the advent into Head Mounted Displays (HMD) and screens that are designed to sit directly in front of our eyes, the spaces between the pixels are just as important as the screen resolution, if not more so. A prominent SDE can break immersion. This early on in VR adoption, noticeable SDE could even affect consumer faith in VR for years to come.
Pictured above, you can see an example of what SDE looks like. At the best, it’s a transparent overlay that sits almost invisibly over your eyes, making the image appear a little bit darker. At its worst, it’s a highly noticeable mesh that keeps bugs out and you in, preventing you from reaching out into that VR world and really being able to touch things. That’s how a prominent SDE can really feel, especially when you’re trying to immerse yourself as deeply as you possibly can into the experience.
So... PSVR Is The Best VR Headset Then, Right?
No. Not necessarily.
Bear in mind that the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are high-end PC VR Headsets that require an expensive gaming PC to really utilise VR to its full potential. Requiring a GTX 970, a modern i5 processor and 4GB of RAM at the minimum, these are headsets who are built for people who are hungry for VR and don’t mind being at the forefront of a new technology, growing pains and all.
The PSVR however is being targeted towards PS4 owners at a significantly lower price. Sony aren’t looking to sell PS4's with PSVR headsets, instead focusing on pushing VR to its established install-base of ~35 Million.
The PSVR, compared to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift is indeed a budget option, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll feel like a budget device. We’re talking some serious pennies, even when you consider how much cheaper the PSVR is than the Oculus.
Equally, other people who have tried the PSVR also have their own opinions on the device. Whilst SSChicken’s opinion is that PSVR has no SDE, there are a few replies that state that they could notice some blurring. Some posters argue that the PSVR is lacking in clarity ever so slightly. Some are adamant that the SDE is worse on PSVR than it is on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The Important Thing to Remember Is - Your Mileage My Vary
Virtual Reality is very much an infant playing in an adult world. Televisions and Monitors have been around for what feels like forever, but still we have arguments over screen resolution, contrast ratios, latency, bezel sizes. People have had decades to figure out what specifications mean the most to them over others.
For something as illustrious and unknown as VR, the only way to know if it works out for you is to try it yourself. Whether or not PSVR has any SDE or blurring, is comfortable or gives you headaches, etc. will come down to your personal preferences, and to some degree how open-minded you’ll be about its successes.
Still though... I’m pretty darn glad that someone has found no SDE on PSVR. I was certainly wondering about it myself.