Which is best? Wireless, Self-contained or Tethered VR?

May 30, 2019 at 10:00 am by Warlord720

It's only been a few weeks since I initially wrote about the Vive Wireless Adapter for their HMD (Head Mounted Display). That review on it at $299 US came from the "Is it still worth it" train of thought with newer tech-based HMD's about to hit the market.

Some of those HMD's are wireless or self-contained while others are still tethered to your system by an umbilical of some sort. Apparently, there is a hardware gap between the new self-contained systems and the next generation tethered systems.

At this point, I wouldn't know.

I haven't needed to try the new stand-alone HMD because the Vive Wireless Adapter has so changed my VR habits that I find myself spending more time in the holodeck leaving less time for real life.  

I have done significantly more gaming and general VR interaction since I installed the wireless adapter on my first gen Vive which up to that point had started collecting dust between usage.

Being untethered… with the full power of a decent i7 8700 system, is powerful VR and filling my needs right now.

Sure… new HMD's have a superior resolution, but the res isn't everything to everyone. Right now, wireless VR is trumping self-contained, higher res VR for my preferences.

The ability to play an immersive game without having to be conscious of tangling or tripping over a chord cannot be overstated.

It is much more immersive as there is little to break the "4th Wall" in VR to dilute or even ruin the VR experience. Let's face it… VR is all about immersion. Period. The more immersive the better.

VR can also be about forgetting the real world. Even fleeing it if one wants to look at it that way. If you feel a cord wrapping around your waist or legs, then it's hard to keep a high level of immersion.

If you are a lover of First-Person Shooters (FPS) then you really want as close to total immersion as you can get. I mean… if you are battling zombies (earthbound, space or hybrids… zombies are inevitable in VR) in the close quarters of a hallway or ship corridor you demand a high level of immersion.

It's what keeps you alive at times. Not having to deal with a tether can literally get you past some obstacles just because… as my intellectual hero, Forrest Gump, would ponder… that's just one less thing.

When you twirl around in a 360 you can take out demon hordes in all directions of the compass. Not so with a tether. Do a 360 in a tethered HMD and something will happen all right. It might not be pretty though.

In just the short time since the posting of my review, I have become so enamored with the concept of free movement in VR that I can't see going back to tethered unless it is for an extremely superior HMD in terms of visual fidelity.

As to the stand-alone versions… if there is a hardware trade-off for portability then I'm not all that interested until the hardware can deliver the same experience as a high-powered PC. If there is going to be a trade-off then I might as well save some money and extend the life of my current Vive HMD with lower res being the trade off.

For now, you'll have to bury me with my Vive Wireless Adapter and pry my cold dead hands off the controllers before I go back to tethered HMDs.

M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website

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