High-End VR Headsets Comparison: Pimax, Varjo, Xtal, StarVR, HTC Focus 3, and HP Reverb G2 Omnicept
September 23 2021
When developing a virtual reality headset, engineers always face plenty of compromises: the price of elements, the hardware limitations, and budget constraints.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that the virtual reality market is still rapidly changing and assembling a high-quality VR headset for an optimal price at the moment can be tricky.
But high-end devices are not constrained. Utilized by enterprises and hardcore VR enthusiasts, these zero-compromize devices have to deliver the best virtual experience on the market.
That’s why some of these high-end headsets offer state-of-the-art visual, tracking, and ergonomics solutions that show us how far humanity ventured into the VR development realm.
In this article we compare in detail the most expensive, feature-packed and performance-driven flagship VR headsets from manufacturers such as Pimax, Xtal, Varjo, StarVR, HP, and HTC Vive.
These headsets are actively used by professionals in military-grade simulations, innovative collaborative design workflows, and enterprise-level training.
It’s time to study the current VR landscape and learn what is the best high-end VR headset right now.
Table of Contents
- Overview: An Introduction to Every High-End Headset
- Comparison Table and Hardware Requirements
- Visual and Display Comparison
- Audio Comparison: Pimax vs XTAL vs Varjo vs StarVR vs HTC vs HP
- Controllers and Tracking Comparison
- Design and Comfort
- Summary: Pros and Cons of Each Headset
- Case Studies: High-End VR Headsets Applications In Business, Training, and Research
- The Future of High-End VR Market
- Bottom Line: What’s The Best High-End Headset
Overview: An Introduction to Every High-End Headset
Pimax 8KX Overview
Pimax Vision 8KX is a flagship VR headset of Pimax Innovation Inc., a Chinese-based company founded in 2014. In 2017, the company ran a successful kickstarter campaign for the Pimax 8K headset, raising over $4.2M. Pimax 8K became the predecessor of Pimax 8KX, Pimax 5K+, its lower resolution variant, and Pimax 8K+, the upscaled version of 8KX. Released to the wide public in 2020, Pimax 8KX won Top Tech CES 2020 award for its impressive resolution and a real sense of peripheral vision. In 2019 the company announced Pimax Artisan, a budget-friendly VR headset for a wider market.
XTAL 8K Overview
XTAL 8K, released in January 2020, is the second and currently the latest generation of Xtal headsets developed by VRgineers Inc, a Czech-based company with a branch office in the U.S., Los Angeles. Since its inception in 2017, the company has been focused on delivering enterprise-level headsets for professional applications in business, research, and training in automotive, aerospace, architecture and manufacturing sectors. NASA, the US Navy, and the Department of Defense already use older versions of Xtal. The company attracted several rounds of investments and aims at creating high-resolution, high-fidelity devices with no compromises on costs.
Varjo VR-3/XR-3 Overview
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 are flagship devices of a Helsinki-based company Varjo that was founded by former Nokia and Microsoft executives. Over the last years the company attracted over $100M in venture capital from investors like Atomico, EQT Ventures and Lifeline Ventures. Varjo focuses on creating high-end VR and XR devices with the clearest image for enterprise environments.
The first generation of headsets, Varjo XR-1 and VarjoVR-1 were released in December, 2019. VR-3 and XR-3, released in December 2020, represent the third generation of Varjo headsets with human-eye-resolution image and built-in eye and hand tracking. Varjo XR-3 headset also features a built-in LiDAR sensor for pixel perfect depth awareness, inside-out tracking, and 3D world reconstruction.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Overview
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept, launched in May 2021, is an enterprise edition of a high-resolution HP Reverb G2 released in November 2020. The new headset features an array of built-in sensors that measure muscle movement, facial expressions, gaze, pupil size, and pulse that allow capturing user behavior data in real time during a VR simulation. The Omnicept version also features a revamped strap for improved comfort and an advanced personalized sound system.
StarVR One Overview
StarVR One is a high-end headset developed by StarVR Corporation, a Taiwan manufacturer and released on April 8, 2020. The headset features built-in eye-tracking and ultra-wide field of view. Originally planned for release in 2018, the headset production was delayed by more than 2 years which makes it extremely hard for StarVR One to compete in a modern high-end HMD landscape.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Overview
HTC Vive Focus 3 is a standalone tetherless headset developed by HTC Corporation and released on June 27th, 2021. Focus 3 features 5K resolution, inside-out tracking, and up to 120-degree field of view, and upcoming support for hand gestures. The headset is primarily aimed at business and training applications as its hefty $1300 price precludes Focus 3 from gaining a mass market appeal of a far cheaper tetherless Oculus Quest 2.
Let's compare these headsets based on visual performance, audio quality, tracking accuracy, and ergonomics.
Download the Full Comparison and Hardware Requirements Tables
Visual and Display Comparison
Pimax 8KX Visuals Overview
Featuring dual 3,840 × 2,160 LCD displays, up to 90 Hz refresh rate, and an impressive 200-degree diagonal (horizontal 170 degrees, vertical 115 degrees) field of view (FoV), Pimax "8K" X is the company's flagship headset capable of providing a highly immersive visual VR experience.
In terms of image resolution and clarity, the 8KX headset is a step up from its predecessors since it can handle a high-resolution input natively without upscaling. In comparison, Pimax 5K offered only 2560 x 1440 resolution per eye, and Pimax 8K (no X), due to the connection cable’s bandwidth limitations, had to use the same 2560 x 1440 resolution as input and only then upscale it to 8K.
It’s worth mentioning that “8K” in its name is more of a marketing catch: the Pimax 8KX total horizontal resolution is indeed 8K albeit split between each eye’s 4K display while Pimax’s vertical resolution is half the height of a true 8K monitor.
Due to the usage of native high-resolution input, customized CLPL panels with advanced RGB pixel matrix, and a 50% increase in sub-pixels, 8KX engineers were able to significantly reduce screen door effect and ghosting, or blurred double vision, that plagued previous models. The god rays in the Pimax 8KX headset are less noticeable, especially when you compare performance to other headsets with fresnel optics such as Valve Index and HTC Vive.
You can run Pimax 8KX in two modes: native mode with higher resolution and 75 Hz refresh rate or upscaled mode similar to that in Pimax 8K but at a higher 90 Hz refresh rate.
Although in native mode the picture is richer due to the increased pixel resolution, the upscaled mode offers a higher framerate, leading to a viable tradeoff. Human peripheral vision is sensitive to display flickering, which makes higher refresh rates crucial for a headset with such an extra large field of view as Pimax 8KX.
Note: in May 2021 Pimax announced a beta firmware that boosts native mode refresh rate up to 90 Hz. Currently, the firmware will work with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070, 3080, and 3090 series, but support can be extended for other GPUs in the future.
However, in terms of optimal image quality, Pimax 8KX is not without rough edges. For optics, the headset utilizes fresnel lenses that underperform in terms of clarity, distortion, and god rays when compared to aspheric non-fresnel lenses that Varjo VR-3 and XTal headsets incorporate. Another point of concern is the occasional mura effect (small color and brightness variations between pixels, especially on the edges) that some users report along with rotational blur and a relatively small sweet spot.
All in all, Pimax 8KX can be optimized for a better visual experience: the field of view can be set to 150 degrees horizontal or 120 degrees horizontal, so you can choose what setting works best for you, keeping the frame rate higher. Additionally, the out-of-box color profile may not be perfect and should be adjusted to personal preferences.
Summary: Pimax 8KX offers a rich-quality image with an ultrawide field of view, but there’s room for improvement.
XTAL 8K Visuals Overview
XTAL 8K headset comes with two 4K LCD displays, providing 7680 x 2160 total resolution or 4K per eye at a 75 Hz refresh rate. The headset can also be used in an upscaled mode with a QHD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels) and 120 Hz refresh rate. The headset provides a 180-degree diagonal field of view with custom-built non-fresnel optics. The XTal 8K headset display displays a full sRGB color spectrum and is colorimetrically calibrated to display accurate sRGB colors.
The hallmark of the latest XTal 8K are improved non-fresnel aspheric lenses that deliver a wider FoV, binocular overlap, bigger sweet spot with up to 50% larger focused picture area, and much less distortion compared to its predecessors. Unlike Fresnel lenses found in most VR headsets nowadays, these lenses do not have concentric rings around the lens that cause god rays.
According to the company officials, their patented lenses are a step closer to delivering the clearest true-to-life image with the larger part of a frame in focus, which is crucial in complex enterprise simulations, for example, automotive prototyping. Additionally, the proprietary lenses increased eye box size by 20 percent, which meant less required adjustment for different users.
To achieve photorealistic picture quality without compromising GPU performance, XTal utilizes fixed foveated rendering (FFR) that increases the picture quality of an area that is currently a user’s focus. Although Pimax headsets also offer FFR, due to their wider FoV of Pimax headsets and less developed eye-tracking technology, static foveated rendering on XTal feels much more organic and smooth.
Note: the static foveated rendering function is currently only available while using the XTAL Unity plugin or SDK for native C++ integration.
Summary: Ultra high resolution with custom patented optics for outstanding clarity and detail, albeit the advancement in visual quality is not that large for a $8K+ headset.
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 Visuals Overview
At the center of Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 visual experience is its full-frame bionic display that consists of two displays: one at the central focus area (27° x 27°) is an uOLED display with a 1920 x 1920 pixels per eye resolution and another at the peripheral area is an LCD 2880 x 2720 with pixels. Combining images from two displays using a semi-transparent mirror (“beam combiner”), Varjo was able to achieve an industry-leading pixel density of 64 pixels per degree (PPD), providing human eye-resolution in the focus area.
Human eye can resolve approximately 57 pixels per degree in the focus area, so in terms of pixel resolution Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 users will see no difference between the VR scene that the headset shows and the real world.
By comparison, Pimax 8KX offers PPD of about 20.3, which is three times less than that of VR-3’s PPD in the center, so even though Pimax 8KX boasts a larger pixel count on paper, its ultra-high resolution ends up being stretched over a larger field of view compared to VR-3.
A jewel in the crown of Varjo VR-3 visuals are aspheric non-fresnel lenses. Paired with an OLED display, Varjo VR-3 optics provide excellent sweet spot, unprecedented image clarity and textures, no glares, and no god rays whatsoever — even out of focus peripheral visuals are much clearer compared to Pimax and G2 Reverb headsets.
Varjo VR-3 operates at a 90Hz frame and thanks to the peripheral display offers a field of view of 115 degrees, which is a boost from 87 degrees seen in earlier generations. Varjo VR-3 has 99% sRGB and 93% DCI-P3 color calibration, making it suitable for even the most demanding applications, such as industrial design.
Summary: Currently Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 offer the best visual experience on the VR market in terms of picture clarity, detail, and immersion.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Visuals Overview
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept sports the same visual specs as the original Reverb G2 model released in 2020: two LCD panels offer 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye with 90 Hz refresh rate and 98-degree horizontal 90-degree vertical field of view.
Although both G2 and G2 Omnicept utilize improved single element fresnel lenses designed by Valve that are an overall improvement compared to the previous generation headsets such as Rift S and G1, the lense quality is not on par with more advanced non-fresnel optics that Vajro and XTal use in terms of clarity and distortion.
All in all, G2 Omnicept provides immense color depth and clarity in the sweet spot, especially if you consider its price compared to more expensive headsets. However, G2 Omnicept has a much smaller field of view with some users reporting slight artifacts such as visible pixel grid and ripples, especially on the edges.
Nonetheless the addition of eye-tracking sensors in the latest Omnicept model allows for dynamically changing resolution based on where users currently focus their eyes and thus enhances overall visual experience. Dynamic foveated rendering using Tobii Spotlight Technology and NVIDIA VRS foveation allow the headset to deliver the most detailed picture where the user is looking while reducing pixelation in the periphery.
Note: According to Tobii, the benchmark tests show an average of 66% saving on GPU shading load, with high frame rates, and improved graphics without harming user experience.
Summary: For its price, G2 Omnicept offers the same impressive visuals as G2 did.
StarVR One Visuals Overview
StarVR One features two full RGB AMOLED displays each with a 1830 x 1464 pixels resolution and offers an unparalleled 210 degree horizontal and 130 degree vertical field of view at 90 Hz refresh rate.
Unfortunately, the pixel count and overall visual performance are among the lowest in our high-end headset comparison. Even though the StarVR One headset came out in 2020, the original release was set for 2018 and then delayed for almost two years.
Such a delay explains why certain visual characteristics of the headset are no longer up-to-date, especially in comparison with newer competitors. The screen door effect is much stronger due to lower 2K pixel count stretched over ultra-wide FoV, there’s a blurring effect when you move the headset too fast, and some users report noticeable mura effect.
The biggest StarVR One advantage is a natural 210-degree field of view that facilitates excellent VR immersion. Yet bear in mind that not every VR app and game support it.
Nonetheless, the headset has great potential: full RGB OLED displays provide excellent black levels with custom-designed fresnel lenses to achieve clear visual experience. One can hope that Star VR Corporation will find a way to boost the headset’s resolution without compromising on other aspects to bring StarVR One visuals on par with the likes of Pimax, Varjo, and XTal.
Summary: Extra-large FoV is great, but a low pixel count leads to a noticeable screen door effect and slightly dated graphics for a high-end headset.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Visuals Overview
HTC Vive Focus sports dual 2.88” (73.15 mm) LCD panels with a 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye resolution, a 120-degree field of view and refresh rate of 90 Hz.
The visual specs are somewhat comparable to other high-end PC VR headsets, but given that Vive Focus 3 is a standalone device, it is currently one of the most visually advanced tetherless headsets on the market.
Although Vive Focus 3 features new dual-element fresnel lenses, these unfortunately produce noticeable godray refractions you won’t see in aspheric optics or even Quest 2, yet Vive Focus 3 compensates for that with crisp clear picture and amazingly immersive FoV.
Summary: Impressive visual experience for a standalone headset that doesn’t require a PC or a laptop to run.
Audio Comparison: Pimax vs XTal vs Varjo vs StarVR vs HTC vs HP
Pimax 8KX Audio
Pimax 8KX supports all three audio solutions that Pimax company presented over the last years: SMAS, DMAS, and KDMAS.
SMAS, the Standard Modular Audio Strap, is the most basic option -- it has the standard bottom firing speakers and provides a spatial indirect sound “next to your ears” in the same way as Oculus Quest does. The SMAS sound quality leaves you wanting more, so many users opt out in favor of other options.
DMAS, the Deluxe Modular Audio Strap, features off-ear speakers on chrome poles: the positioning and type of sound resembles Valve Index built-in audio system.
KDMAS, the Kickstarter’s Deluxe Modular Audio Strap, was originally developed for Pimax kickstarter backers as an on-ear audio design with standard bottom firing speakers. This audio solution resembles Vive DAS.
Here you see the compatibility of SMAS, KDMAS, and DMAS with different generations of Pimax headsets, such Pimax 8K+ and 5K:
The main difference between KDMAS and DMAS is in the drivers: the DMAS drivers have lower impedance which means they require a more powerful amplifier. KDMAS drivers are a bit bigger and the whole housing around the driver will look slightly different. Both audio solutions look the except that KDMAS has one audio cable, and DMAS has two.
Getting the right sound with KDMAS might take some extra work: out-of-box KDMAS might sound a bit hollow and low on bass. Given that KDMAS headphone-to-ear distance is not adjustable, experienced users recommend using cups and bass extenders to push headsets closer to the ears.
You can also plug in your own headphones as Pimax 8KX features two 3.5 mm headphone jacks: use the left jack that is compatible with third-party audio equipment, as the right jack is reserved for Pimax’s audio solutions.
On the top right side of the Pimax 8KX there are two buttons for controlling volume up and down.
XTAL 8K Audio Performance
XTAL headset provides a built-in soundcard that supports spatial 3D surround sound, but offers no headphones out-of-box. With a 3.5 mm audio jack you should connect your own audio speakers.
XTAL also features built-in microphone and voice recognition software that allows voice commands inside VR apps that support them.
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 Audio
Varjo VR-3 doesn’t offer a complete audio solution out of the box, but provides a 3.5mm audio jack with microphone support for plugging in a 3rd party device.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Audio
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept uses the same audio solution as Reverb G2: the industry-leading full-range, extra-aural Valve Index headphones that hover over your ears without touching them directly.
By using BMR drivers, Valve engineers were able to guarantee consistent sound quality even when speakers are positioned on the side of the head.
What G2 Omnicept adds through its sensors is the support for HP VR spatial audio through dynamic head-related-transfer-functions (HRTFs). The system creates a personalized sound by manipulating the sound source's frequency profile based on the user's unique characteristics such as ear shape, head position, shoulder positions and even the torso position. As a result, the sound in apps and games will be more immersive and life-like.
Worth mentioning that G2 Omnicept doesn’t provide a 3.5 mm audio jack so you won’t be able to use a 3rd party audio solution with it.
StarVR One Audio
StarVR doesn’t provide a complete audio solution out-of-box. To hear sound, you'll need to connect 3rd party 3.5mm jack headphones to HMD Audio Cable.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Audio
HTC Vive focus 3 uses direct speakers instead of headphones, so people around you will be able to hear your audio stream. The audio quality is decent, although incomparable to superior Index/G2 solution and there’s a minor bleeding effect that is common in directional audio.
With Focus 3 there’s an option to plug in a 3rd party audio device using 3.55mm jack or pair headphones through Bluetooth.
Controllers and Tracking Comparison
Pimax 8KX Tracking and Controllers
Pimax 8KX works with SteamVR 1.0 and SteamVR 2.0 tracking which means that in order to use Pimax 8KX you need to purchase at least two SteamVR base stations and a pair of SteamVR-supported controllers either separately or as part of the bundle.
Pimax 8KX works with Valve Index Knuckles, HTC Vive Controllers mad Vive Tracker
SteamVR 2.0 tracking is currently an industry-standard in terms of precision and accuracy, while supported Index Knuckles feature 87 sensors to track various hand and finger movements.
Pimax Sword controllers are scheduled for release in mid Fall, 2021. The price is set at $259 for the pair and they are compatible with SteamVR base stations.
Pimax Sword controllers offer finger tracking sensors in all 5 digits, battery how-swap capability, advanced tactile coating for enhanced grip and comfort, and 52 sensors to provide360-degree motion coverage and track position from every angle and at any distance from your body with no occlusion.
There’s an eye-tracking module and 200 FPS/s hand tracking module that can be purchased for Pimax 8KX separately.
XTal 8K Tracking and Controllers
XTAL 8K supports both SteamVR Lighthouse 1.0 or 2.0 tracking systems, AR Tracking system, Optitrack, Mo-Sys, Vicon, and Polhemus tracking system.
Most of the tracking systems are supported via a clip-on that comes with the headset package. For example, to enable Vive Controllers support the headset comes with two USB dongles. Optitrack tracking support is embedded within the XTAL 8K headset.
XTAL 8K comes with an embedded leap motion sensor that enables hands-only controller-less interaction in VR. The headset can track hand gestures in a frontal 180 × 180 degree area where the headset is facing.
XTAL 8K features a custom eye-tracking solution based on CUDA processing that can provide eye-tracking data on different abstraction levels. High-resolution images for each eye can be accessed at 210 frames per second. There is also eye center detection available, as well as 3D data about the focused area within the virtual 3D scene. Users can see an eye-tracking heat map directly over the VR content, in a separate desktop window, or export it along with the displayed VR content into a video file. The raw eye-tracking data can be accessed via the VRG SDK for custom integrations or through VRG Unity plugin. For use cases that require greater precision, the advanced 7-point eye tracking calibration is available on demand.
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 Tracking and Controllers
Varjo VR-3 supports both SteamVR 1.0 or 2.0 base stations and can be used with any SteamVR-compatible controllers such as HTC Vive Controllers or Index Knuckles.
Third-party tracking solutions can be integrated with Varjo headsets through Varjo Tracking Plugin SDK.
Both Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 feature integrated eye tracker at 200 Hz and built-in Ultraleap hand tracking to capture hand movements without controllers.
Worth mentioning that Varjo XR-3 offers inside-out tracking through its built-in LiDAR system. That means you can operate XR-3 without the SteamVR Lighthouse base stations that the VR-3 acquires. Currently XR-3 inside-out tracking is in beta.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Tracking and Controllers
HP Reverb G2 features a 6 degree of freedom (6 DoF) inside-out tracking system with a total of four cameras positioned at both sides of the headset. Inside-out tracking allows for using the headset without external base stations, thus adding extra mobility.
Unfortunately, the G2 Omnicept inside-tracking system is not as accurate as SteamVR Lighthouse tracking system: due to camera placement, G2 can lose track of controllers at extreme angles on top and bottom. However, combined with internal sensors for position direction, G2 Omnicept can track arm movements with better precision than its predecessors.
The HP Reverb G2 features motion controllers that are very similar in design to those of the Oculus Touch controllers. HP redesigned the original Windows Reality controllers from the ground up, removing unnecessary complexity and flawed ergonomics.
G2 Omnicept features built-in Tobii VR4 Eye Tracking Platform delivers accurate gaze and head movement, pupillometry, and other ocular data points for a wide range of users.
Sensor fusion and machine learning allows HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition to aggregate eye tracking data with other sensors (heart rate sensor, facial camera) for complete dataset on user behavior and experience in VR. For example, in theory a system can determine how much “brain power” a user is exerting on the task at hand or predict user behavior in the future.
StarVR One Tracking and Controllers
The StarVR One headset is compatible with all controllers and accessories that support Lighthouse tracking: it can be used with Steam VR base stations, HTC Vive Wands, Index Knuckles, and full-body Vive trackers.
StarVR One also features built-in Tobii eye-tracking technology. The headset works with the Vizard 7 VR platform that gives low-level access and control to researchers who need exact measurements of eye tracking data. Additionally, Vizard provides powerful analytics add-ons and Python language extensions.
It is easy to integrate Vizard 7 with many display types, motion trackers, biofeedback sensors, and input devices.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Tracking and Controllers
In the Vive Focus 3, there are four inside-out tracking cameras across the top, bottom, and front, making Focus a standalone headset that doesn't require external tracking stations. The tracking accuracy is at least as good as in Oculus Quest 2 yet not as accurate as Lighthouse tracking.
HTC also enabled hand tracking on the Vive Focus 3 as an experimental feature. For example, Unity developers can utilize Wave XR SDK that automatically imports hand tracking features into your project. The feature is currently experimental and occasionally some hand tracking issues are noticeable, especially when you are moving hands too fast.
Despite being slightly larger, the HTC Vive Focus 3 controllers are very similar to the Oculus Quest controllers. Yet Focus 3 controllers are not perfect: handles don’t contour palm well enough and could be better optimized for the human hand.
Design and Comfort
Pimax 8KX Design And Ergonomics
Pimax 8KX headset weights about 470 g or 1.04 pounds on its own, but with the added KDMAS audio strap its total weight is about 997 g or 2.2 pounds, which makes Pimax 8KX one of the heaviest headsets in the Pimax series and one of the heaviest in the market.
The headset on its own is a bit front heavy, but 8KX is shipped with a vision comfort kit that includes a face cowling, nose guard, and soft foam. The kit distributes the weight more evenly and makes extended VR sessions more comfortable, helping avoiding issues such as neck strain.
Pimax 8KX has a scroll wheel on the bottom right-hand of the headset that adjusts the distance between lenses to match your interpupillary distance (IPD) for visual comfort. Pimax 8KX supports an IPD range of 62 mm to 72 mm and provides the exact digital measurement feedback on the screen.
The build quality of Pimax 8KS is decent: the nose flaps block light from entering the bottom of the headset while the front face cushion material feels soft and comfy. The latest Pimax Vision headset has also been upgraded with a new material and a special damage resistant coating. However, a moisture-resistant leather cushion would be a welcome upgrade as the headset can quickly become sweaty, especially in physically demanding VR simulations.
All in all, when compared to Valve Index, the industry-leading heavy HMD in terms of comfort and design, Pimax 8KX feels like a great step-up from previous Pimax models such as Pimax 5K, but still leaves you wanting more.
XTAL 8K Design And Ergonomics
XTal 8K offers a completely redesigned easy-to-adjust head strap that is 12% lighter than its predecessors. The headset’s total weight with the head strap is 770 g or 1.69 pounds.
XTAL 8K is built for enterprise use in mind and features advanced hard head strap with artificial leather cushioning and replaceable face cushions made out of artificial leather to help sustain high hygiene levels even in multi-user environments.
The headset also supports usage with eye glasses with adjustable focus that compensates for dioptres.
XTAL 8K features automatic IPD adjustment -- the AutoEye system utilizes XTal’s built-in eye-tracking functionality and AutoIPD algorithm to automatically adjust lenses for every new headset user. The Xtal headset supports an IPD range of 56 - 72 mm.
In 2020, XTAL headset from VRgineers won Red Dot for outstanding design quality, outperforming over 6500 products from 60 countries.
“During the designing process, we decided to use the triangle grid as the main motif. The reason was simple – triangles are the core of computer graphics as well as virtual reality and for us represent crystal structure,”
— Jakub Stedina, a designer from Stedina Design Studio.
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 Design And Ergonomics
Varjo VR-3 headset weights 558g (1.23 lb) on its own and 944g (2.08 lb) with a headband. Compared to its previous versions it is 40% lighter and can be adjusted for optimal comfort with multiple dials and a 3-point precision fit headband. The headset is held up by a top strap, and its balance is maintained by a rear strap that swoops down low. There are dials near the temples that can be used to tilt the visor upward or downward without adding pressure to your face or brow.
The XR-3 model is 36g heavier due to the added sensors, but uses the same headband and boasts the same level of comfort.
The headsets are easy to clean with polyurethane face cushions for improved hygiene in multiuser environments. Varjo headsets sport biconvex lenses to reduce reflection issues and eye strain. The XR-3 model provides ultra-low latency, dual 12-megapixel video pass-through mode at 90 Hz.
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 detect IPD range and automatically adjust lenses to every user, supporting IPD ranges from 59 to 71 mm. Both headsets come with two USB-C 5m cables in-box.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Design And Ergonomics
HP Omnicept G2 weighs 727g which is 177g heavier than the original G2 (550g, 1.21 lb) due to the added sensors and revamped headstrap.
While we’ve covered design and comfort of the original G2 Reverb in our standalone guide and cae to the conclusion that the plastic headset feels cheaper than you would expect for the price. The fabric of the headband feels thin and fragile and some users experienced discomfort from the headphones positioning. However, the Omnicept G2 model offers a few welcomed changes.
Reverb G2 Omnicept provides a new way of adjusting the headset’s side straps. The original G2 headset came with finnikey velcro straps on the sides, but the new G2 Omnicept headset has a single adjustment dial on the back.
A 6 meter cable that connects the PC to the headset is thin, light and long, giving you space to move around. G2 Omnicept features hardware-adjustable IPD with a range of 60-68 mm.
In 2021 HP Reverb G2 won the Red Dot award in the “Best of The Best” category for high design quality in terms of both the aesthetic and the functionality.
StarVR One Design And Ergonomics
The StarVR One headset weighs 450g (0.9 lbs) on its own and approximately 700g (1.54 lbs) with a headstrap. The headset can be quickly adjusted to the head with a wheel using the three-point locking system. StarVR One is lined with specially coated materials and all cushions of the headset can be removed or replaced.
A built-in eye tracking device provides IPD measurement and allows the StarVR One to change the IPD automatically for every user and covers a range of 53-77mm. The headset ships with two 0.9m Type-C cables and two 5m Type-C extension cables with a total length of 5.9m.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Design And Ergonomics
Vive Focus 3 weighs 785g (1.73 lbs) with battery and feels remarkably well-balanced. Its face mask is padded with a soft, non-absorbent material that can be easily cleaned. The headset has a glossy section on the front, and the rest of the HMD is made of lightweight magnesium alloy, which keeps the overall weight down while the leather face pad feels smooth and comfortable.
Focus 3 sits more like a baseball cap on your head unlike previous Vive headsets, which cupped the low back of your skull.Because of the close connection with the face mask, you can securely fasten the Vive Focus 3 against the face and reduce the light bleed (the light leakage that the nose opening) to a minimum.
The headset features a swappable battery that enables up to 2 hours of continuous use. The battery is located in the back for optimal weight distribution. Focus 3 accounts for glasses users as well, allowing for 150mm wide glasses. 150mm-wide glasses, albeit some users report minor discomfort when the headset Focus 3 slightly pushes glasses down on the bridge of a nose.
You can see the heatsink inside the helmet through vent holes on the top and bottom. The heatsink is actively cooled by a small fan. You can hear the fan spinning when the headset is running, but the sound is not that loud.
Vive Focus 3 is a standalone headset — having no need for cables extends the level of comfort on its own.
Vive Focus 3 is a standalone headset and doesn’t require a PC to operate. There are, however, system requirements if you want to stream VR-compatible content from your computer to Vive Focus 3 headset via VIVE Business Streaming.
Pimax 8KX is priced at $1257 with KDMAS strap, $1399 with DMAS strap, and $1234 with SMAS strap. The compatible base stations and controllers are purchased separately and will cost approximately $600 more. The hand tracking module costs $149.95 and eye-tracking module $229 on top of it. To use a headset you will also need a high-end PC.
XTAL 8K is priced at $8330 USD for personal use, $9210 USD for an enterprise-use license (extended warranty, unlimited online technical support, and full simulator & software support including Autodesk, Dasault and other leading titles) and $8810 USD for R&D and universities. Tracking stations, controllers, audio solution, and VR-ready PC should be purchased separately.
Varjo VR-3 headset costs $3195 USD, and requires an active Varjo Subscription that costs $795 USD per year to use the headset. The subscription includes access to Varjo proprietary software, commercial licenses for Varjo integrated eye tracking and hand tracking features, and premium business support.
Varjo XR-3 costs $5495 USD with a $1495-year subscription. Compatible tracking stations, controllers, and VR-ready PC should be purchased separately.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept is priced at $1249 USD with controllers purchased separately at $179 USD for a pair. The access to Omnisept SDK that allows for interpreting and using sensoric data in developed external applications costs 2% revenue share for developers who use SDK in their commercial products or starts at $1499 USD for enterprise solutions.
StarVR One costs around $3200 and sells only to enterprises through a list of trusted resellers in every country. The VR-compatible PC, tracking solution, and headphones should be purchased separately.
HTC Vive Focus 3 costs $1300 for a headset with two controllers. The standalone headset doesn’t require a PC to operate and features a built-in audio solution which currently makes it the least expensive enterprise-grade headset on the market.
Summary: Pros and Cons of Each Headset
Pimax 8KX is a PC VR headset with ultra-high pixel count, lots of extra functionality modules, and confusing accessories.
Pimax 8KX Pros:
- Ultra high display resolution with an exceptional FoV
- A wide array of accessories and modules for eye-tracking, hand tracking, comfort
Pimax 8KX Cons:
- Confusing strap options that may require custom modifications for optimal comfort
- Eye-tracking and hand tracking modules need to be purchased separately
- No dedicated enterprise support
XTAL 8K is a military-grade headset with ultra-high resolution and built-in eye tracking. The headset is optimized for enterprise multi-user environments.
XTAL 8K Pros:
- Custom-built patented non-fresnel lenses for ultra clarity
- Dedicated enterprise support
- Impressive display quality
- Well-designed ergonomics with automatic IPD adjustment
- Wide range of supported tracking solutions
- Built-in eye tracking
XTAL 8K Cons:
- No built-in audio solution
- High price
Varjo VR-3 is an PC VR headset that represents state-of-the-art graphics, polished ergonomics, and excellent tracking. The XR-3 version features built-in LiDAR with a plethora of potential applications.
Varjo VR-3 Pros:
- Impeccable visuals and immersion
- Built-in eye tracking and hand-tracking
- Automatic IPD adjustment
- Extended enterprise support
Varjo VR-3 Cons:
- Required paid subscription
- No built-in audio solution
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept is a sensor-laced PC VR headset that takes the best of G2 and adapts it for enterprise and R&D virtual reality applications.
HP Reverb G2 Pros:
- Excellent cost-efficiency
- Laced with sensors
- Standalone platform for working with sensoric data
- Outstanding built-in audio
HP Reverb G2 Cons:
- Can’t plug-in your own headphones
StarVR One is a headset with ultra-large field of view, built-in eye tracking, and noticeable screen-door effect.
StarVR One Pros:
- Ultra-wide field of view
- Built-in eye-tracking
- OLED display
StarVR One Cons:
- Noticeable screen door effect
- Low pixel count
- No built-in audio solution
HTC Vive Focus 3 is a tetherless standalone headset with well-balanced comfort and optimal image quality for a price.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Pros:
- Great ergonomics
- Standalone (tetherless)
- Hand tracking support
HTC Vive Focus 3 Cons:
- Lack of advanced enterprise features such as eye tracking
- Inside-out tracking is OK, but not state-of-the-art
Case Studies: High-End VR Headsets Applications In Business, Training, and Research
Below, we’ll feature prominent case studies of how the reviewed headsets were used in a professional setting.
Pimax 8KX Gaming Applications
Pimax 8KX is not widely used as a business-oriented device as for the last several years the company was mainly focused on targeting the consumer market, expanding distribution into European and US markets, and supporting kickstarter backers. As of now the headset’s eye tracking and hand tracking modules are not on par with industry leading solutions from Varjo and XTAL.
However, due to its high resolution and visual performance, the headset can be successfully used in various racing, flight, and arcade VR simulations as depicted in this benchmark test for 20 different VR games:
XTAL 8K Military-Grade Simulations
From the beginning VRGineers focused on developing headsets for enterprise-grade R&D, automotive, and aerospace simulations. Due to its ultra high-resolution, true-to-life optics, picture clarity, and VR immersion, this military-grade headset is already being used in training simulations for NASA astronauts, US Navy and US Airforce for pilot training.
“The feeling that I got while flying the F18A in full VR mode in XTAL is really astonishing. It was so close to reality that I felt I was inside the F18A. As a pilot, that is exactly what I need to feel for training purposes.”
- Capt. Taimeir, CEO of Mirage Technologies and a former F18 pilot from the Swiss Airforce.
Other common XTal applications include surgeon training, virtual prototyping, and employee training.
Varjo In Training Simulations and Prototyping
Varjo VR-3 and XR-3, other enterprise-grade headsets, already found their many uses in professional VR simulations.
Boeing launched its Boeing Starliner program that allows astronauts to undergo a complete spacecraft training program from pre-launch to docking entirely in virtual reality using Varjo headsets.
The Boeing Starliner which was developed in partnership with NASA. Varjo headsets provide the crew with a clear, high resolution system that enables them to read instruments at a normal distance, which is vital for effective astronaut training.
Other notable partnerships of Varjo include Audi, Siemens, and Volvo Cars Tech Fund.
In June 2021 Varjo presented Reality Cloud Platform for capturing and sharing reality for a true-to-life metaverse, allowing people to scan their 3D environments and invite others into their virtual reality replicas.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Research Applications
Laced with various sensors, G2 Omnicept is a perfect headset for collecting rich real time human behavior data during virtual reality simulations.
The collected data can be used for research purposes or building adaptive human-centered virtual worlds that react or change based on current user neural feedback.
(Source: HP promotional video)
HP Product Manager Scott Rawlings described a scenario where trainers can monitor how stressed an individual might be when handling a difficult simulation such as flying a plane in 60mph winds or track how an engineer's or mental state improves after practicing and receiving further instruction.
Ovation, in collaboration with HP, developed a public speaking simulator that helps people overcome public speaking anxiety through real-life-like VR scenarios that automatically grade progress using rich Omnicept sensoric data.
StarVR One Professional Applications
StarVR collaborated with WorldViz, a VR development company, to add support for Vizard, a toolkit that allows researchers to conduct advanced VR research under near-natural conditions.
Utilizing the headset’s built-in eye-tracking with ultra wide FoV, StarVR and WorldViz provide researchers with ability to study human behavior for psychological and behavioral research, training and performance analysis, and marketing studies and analytics. The eye-tracking studies were already conducted by institutions like NM State Universities, National Institutes of Health, National University of Singapore, Oregon State University, and others.
HTC Vive Focus 3 Use Cases
HTC corporation has been collaborating with professionals and enterprises for years now, and enterprise-grade Focus 3 standalone headset is a natural extension in its line of business-proven products.
The headset can be used in various VR training scenarios, remote collaboration, entertainment, and marketing. For example, Bugatti, using Vive VR, saved 50% time on designing Divo supercar in virtual reality, while Rinnai, the largest gas appliance manufacturer in Japan, improved lead generation by 50% by showcasing in VR the installation process for energy-efficient tankless water heaters to potential customers.
Given that the majority of HTC VR products were PC-dependent in the past, the newest Vive Focus 3 is a welcoming addition as a tetherless standalone device that doesn’t require a standalone PC to operate and can be used more easily and freely.
The Future of High-End VR Market
The VR market is booming and every year we see virtual reality devices making huge leaps in quality, creativity, and immersiveness.
Here are some the upcoming VR devices that will likely find their use in both casual and business settings:
- Oculus Quest 3 — The upcoming release of the third edition of the extremely popular Quest 2 headset was only a matter of time. So far we know that the third generation Quest will remain standalone, will likely have upgrades across visuals, optics, and ergonomics and might support Sony’s SualSense controllers.
- Apple VR — Albeit unconfirmed, the abundance of hints make us think that Apple will present the new VR device sometime after 2022 given how serious the company is about venturing into AR/VR space with their upcoming AR glasses. So far the rumors are that Apple VR headset is lightweight, features dual 8K screens, and offers built-in eye-tracking and LiDAR scanners, making it a great gateway-device into enterprise VR.
- Playstation PSVR 2 — Coming sometime in 2021, the latest VR headset from Sony works exclusively with PS5 and boasts a high resolution OLED display (2000 X 2040) and futuristic sensor-laced VR controllers. PSVR 2 is not a standalone device and will likely remain a consumer-oriented rather than enterprise headset.
- Valve Index 2 — The first Valve Index did an amazing job by raising the baseline for VR headsets. Although it was pricy in the mid-tier market we can see that it holds its value in the upper tier even though it's already more than 2 years old (which is ancient in internet time). The Index 2 should improve its performance, include eye-tracking and become wireless. This would make it a very strong contender in this category especially if it keeps it's price tag.
So far there’s no information about the upcoming new enterprise-grade headsets from Pimax, Varjo, XTAL, HP, StarVR, and HTC.
Bottom Line: What’s The Best High-End Headset
For enterprise-grade and R&D applications that require the highest quality of visuals and attention to detail, Varjo VR-3 and XR-3 headsets are the way to go.
For optimal comfort, cost-efficiency and specs, HTC Vive Focus 3 offers a viable standalone solution that is easy to scale as Focus 3 is currently the best enterprise-grade tetherless VR device.
HP Reverb G2 Omnicept is a perfect solution for education, marketing, and R&D institutions that want to obtain as much behavioral data as possible while not spending a fortune on VR setup.
For multi-user, military-grade enterprise environments XTal 8K can be a great choice despite it’s high price due to the enormous experience of this company in space.
In terms of value for money, Valve Index is still one of the most optimal choices for complex business VR simulations that require precision and immersion albeit without stunning life-like visuals. Valve Index utilizes the same most accurate tracking solution as Varjo and XTAL, features excellent built-in audio, and offers decent visuals for a fraction of price. But we wouldn't recommend the purchase just yet since Valve Index 2 might be waiting for you just around the corner. Also, Index doesn't give you 4K image.
We’re still yet to see an eye-tracking solution for Valve Index, so if that’s something your application requires you might look into other high-end devices on the list.
All-in-all, the high-end enterprise market advances exponentially as we see more and more ultra-performance devices that push the boundaries of what we can do in VR.
The current generation of high-end headsets shows that there’s no limit to what we can and will be able to do in VR, and that is excellent news for both enterprises and VR enthusiasts alike.
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