2016 is set to be the year of virtual reality. Sure, you’ve been able to strap a smartphone to your head to watch 360 degree videos and explore interactive content for a few years. But this year some of the most ambitious consumer-oriented VR devices are launching, starting with the Oculus Rift, which is shipping this week to the first folks who shelled out $599 to pre-order one.

Early review suggest it offers an impressive, immersive environment for playing games, and potentially for doing other things in the future (imagine the video conferencing, auto or home showroom, or other commercial and industrial applications).

But this is still very much a first-generation product that may not be for everyone. It’s expensive, requires a powerful PC to use, doesn’t support a ton of content at launch, and you may have to wait until later this year to get the best physical controllers for actually interacting with virtual reality content using an Oculus Rift rather than just looking at it.

oculus rift

Here are some of the key takeaways from some of the first reviews:

  • Ars Technica
    Wearing this small display feels like looking at the biggest monitor you’ve ever seen, and since each eye sees something slightly different, it’s a true 3D experience… but it can take a while to get used to the experience of moving your head to follow the action, and some things near the edges of your distance or very close can look blurry.
  • Engadget
    It’s lighter and more comfortable than a Gear VR (which uses a Samsung phone as a display), but can be tough to fit comfortably if you wear glasses.
  • Gizmodo
    Oculus delivers on the promise of “a truly immersive virtual reality experience,” but for now it seems to work best with games that have simple controls. Even with a high-resolution display, there’s a bit of a “screen door effect” because the display is so close to your eyes that you can see the spaces between pixels sometimes.
  • Gizmodo
    Oculus delivers on the promise of “a truly immersive virtual reality experience,” but for now it seems to work best with games that have simple controls. Even with a high-resolution display, there’s a bit of a “screen door effect” because the display is so close to your eyes that you can see the spaces between pixels sometimes.
  • Kotaku
    Strong head tracking, a high refresh rate, and good 3D graphics lead to a strong sense of “presence,” making it feel like you’re really in the virtual environment. But nausea can be a problem, and you may find yourself taking breaks more often than you would when gaming with a traditional display. 
  • Polygon
    Want a run-down of some of the first VR games available for the Rift? This review has it… along with a note that most of these games seem like the same sort of titles you’d expect from a traditional gaming system… VR is an add-on rather than a necessary feature. But that add-on can sometimes make the games more fun or immservice.
  • The Verge
    It’s easy to spend several hours lost in a game, but it seems like the upcoming touch motion controllers will truly flesh out the ecosystem. Until then, the HTC Vive will likely offer a more immersive experience.
  • Wall Street Journal
    “After the novelty wears off, using the 1.5 pound headset is about as awkward as sleeping on an airplane,” can make you feel queasy when the virtual motion doesn’t match what your body is experiencing, and requires a 13 foot cable connecting you to a PC that costs $1000 or more.

Overall, the consensus seems to be unsurprising: the Oculus Rift offers the best VR experience of any device available today. But it’ll face stiff competition when the HTC Vive begins shipping in a few days, and later this year Sony’s PlayStation VR system will enter the fray with a much more affordable option (with a headset + game console selling for about the price of an HTC Vive without the PC).

Should you buy one? Maybe. They’re back-ordered and if you haven’t already shelled out some money you won’t be able to get your hands on one for a few months. And at this point if you’re not a gamer, there’s probably not much point. But if VR really does take off, it’s not hard to imagine a future where you can do much more than play games with the Rift (and a future where there are more and better games too).

It’s still the early days of VR, and all of these devices are very much aimed at early adopters. But that’s a necessary step if this technology is going to evolve. And for the most part it sounds like the Oculus Rift offers a pretty good experience for a first-gen device.

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