One of the best ways to experience maximum immersion in sim racing is to use a VR headset. The technology of modern VR headsets allows for a wide FOV that can make you feel like you really are in the car, but there are some things to do that will make sure you get the best experience possible.
Our top 5 tips for VR sim racing are:
- Go For Quality, Not Low Prices
- Don’t Just Go For The Widest FOV
- Pay Attention To Compatibility
- Refresh Rate Is Often More Important Than Resolution
- Choose The Right Tracking System
If you apply these tips then you will have no problems improving your sim racing experience with VR. It takes a bit of tweaking to set everything up the right way for your particular playstyle, but when you do it is definitely worth the effort.
5 Tips For VR Sim Racing
1. Go For Quality, Not Low Prices
The Price Is Not The Deciding Factor
As with every discussion we have about any sim racing product, you should never let the price be the driving force behind your purchases. This is especially true for VR headsets, for a variety of reasons. Essentially, it is because there are several key specs that need to make the cut for the headset to even be usable for any length of time.
We will discuss each of these important specs in more detail below, but let’s briefly consider the absolute minimums and why they are important. VR headsets are very good at providing a highly immersive sim racing experience, but often they are not able to be worn for extended periods of time due to the potential VR sickness that is associated with these devices.
Not Intended For Long-Term Use
It can be quite disorientating to wear a VR headset for a long time, and most will only recommend a certain amount of time to use them in one go. However, key specs, such as the refresh rate and the resolution, will have a large impact on how long they can be worn without the worry of experiencing VR sickness or even sore heads.
Cheaper options tend to have lower refresh rates and lower resolutions. These are two extremely important components of a VR headset, and compromising on either one for the sake of some cash savings is simply not worth it. If you have never tried a VR headset before, the cheaper options may be worth trying first to see how you feel with one on.
However, if you are at all serious about sim racing, you will definitely want to opt for one of the more expensive options. This is purely because they tend to be designed for more immersive gaming, and that is the overall goal with sim racing after all. So, don’t cut corners with VR headsets, as the cheaper options on the market are generally not worth it.
2. Don’t Just Go For The Widest FOV
Bigger Is Not Always Better
Our next tip involves the FOV, and why you don’t always need to go for the largest one you can get. Obviously, a large FOV is generally better than a smaller one. Most options on the market come in at around 100-110°, and these are ideal for sim racing. There are some that go wider, up to around 115° or more, but you need to make sure they are not compromising resolution.
We will talk more about this below, but essentially you want to make sure that whatever option you choose has a decent FOV and a high resolution. Some brands will push for an extra 5° of FOV but sacrifice their resolution. This is not a fair trade off, as you often won’t even be able to make use of the far edges of your peripheral vision.
You want to make sure that what you will be seeing the most, i.e. the middle of the screen, is at a high enough resolution for our own particular wants and needs. This is what to consider first, and then you can choose the right field of view to go for.
3. Pay Attention To Compatibility
Obvious, But Often Overlooked
This next tip might seem fairly obvious, but it is nonetheless very important to remember. You always need to make sure, before you buy a VR headset, that you can actually use it for what you want to use it for. This involves both the platform compatibility of the headset and the game compatibility as well, otherwise you may be wasting your money.
Console Players Are Limited
The platform issue is the most important to consider, as if you are on Xbox there is no native support for VR as of yet, although there do seem to be some options that offer a little bit of functionality. If you are on PS4, you will only be able to use the PlayStation VR headset, and so when it comes to buying choices you won’t have a difficult decision to make, as it is either yes or no.
If you are on PC however, you can follow the rest of our tips here to make sure that you can make the most of your VR headset. That is because PCs are compatible with almost every VR headset on the market, so you have much more choice. However, you should also make sure that the games you want to play support VR, as a lot of the older racing games do not support it.
Make Sure It Is Compatible
Dirt 4 is an example of a game that doesn’t support VR, and although it is a discipline-specific game, it is still a popular one among sim racers. There are a lot of older titles as well, such as the original rFactor and a few more niche titles that don’t support it, so it is best to double-check before you buy that you can play your favourite games using the headset.
4. Refresh Rate Is Often More Important Than Resolution
This is a very important tip, and it could save you a lot of wasted money. The resolution and the refresh rate are two of the most important aspects of a VR headset for sim racing. Obviously, things like comfort and compatibility are important as well, but the screen is what makes it virtual reality, so you need to make sure that it is up to the task.
The Higher The Better
The resolution is the first thing a lot of people consider, and this is with good reason. The higher the resolution, the better. However, once you get up into the range of around 1700×1440 per eye, such as that of the HTC Vive Cosmos, smaller changes can often become very difficult to notice, and this is where it becomes vital to pay attention to the refresh rate.
The Refresh Rate Is Key
The refresh rate of the headset is like the frame rate in a game, and so obviously again, the higher the better. However, the same thing applies to this as with the resolution, as once you reach around 150Hz, the differences once again become too small to notice. But there is definitely a minimum here, and that is around 60Hz, as anything below that and you will really notice a drop-in quality.
Very low refresh rates can cause the images to appear jumpy, and this obviously takes a lot away from the VR experience. Thus, if you go for at least 60Hz, you should notice less jumping. However, you ideally want around 90Hz or more, and this could become more important than the resolution for larger screens, so bear that in mind when choosing a VR headset.
5. Choose The Right Tracking System
Finally, the last aspect of the VR headset that you might want to consider is the tracking system within it. These come in various different forms, with optical tracking and even magnetic tracking options out there on the market. Some of these offer 3 degrees of freedom, and some up to 6. This essentially determines how many directions of movement the device will pick up.
What Do You Actually Need?
For sim racing, you definitely do not need 6 degrees of freedom. When racing, you will be sitting in your chair, and so you won’t be moving anything besides your head from side to side and your arms and legs to work the pedals, wheel, and shifter and/or handbrake. Thus, you don’t need your headset to be able to measure how you move around in space.
The devices with 6 degrees of freedom are often much more expensive than those with 3, and so it is worthwhile checking this spec before you buy. Unless you have other games to play that might make more use of the positional tracking, you could end up wasting a lot of money on something of which you will never yield the full potential.
When choosing a VR headset, it is important to consider a lot of different factors. However, there are also some factors that you don’t need to consider too much, and knowing what is and is not important can definitely save you a lot of money. Making sure that you choose one with a high resolution and a high refresh rate is key, but only to a certain point.
You should also consider the compatibility of the device, and make sure that you don’t pick one that you won’t be able to make the most of. Our most important tip then for picking a VR headset for sim racing is to do some research before you buy. As although you don’t want to go for the cheaper options, some of the most expensive ones aren’t worth it either.