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 tips to bear in mind to improve your VR sim racing experience.
Our 5 essential 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. Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips.
5 Tips For VR Sim Racing
1. Go For Quality, Not Low Prices
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 spec requirements that need to be met 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, but there are still some reasonable, relatively budget friendly VR setups for sim racing.
The Best VR Headsets For Sim Racing
2. Don’t Just Go For The Widest FOV
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 in the process. 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 your 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
This 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.
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. If you are on PlayStation, 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! You’ll be further limited in terms of the games you can play as well.
If you are on PC, 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 many games simply do not support it.
There are some great VR sim racing games out there, but there just isn’t enough of a market at the moment to motivate game developers to dedicate more resources towards it.
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. Resolution and 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 pixels per eye, 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 again it’s a case of the higher the better. However, the same thing applies to this as with the resolution, as once you reach around 150 Hz, the differences once again become too small to notice. But there is definitely a minimum here, and that is 60 Hz, 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. So, if you go for at least 60 Hz, you should notice less jumping, and you’re less likely to experience motion sickness. However, you ideally want around 90 Hz 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 want to consider is its tracking system. 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 possibly a shifter and/or handbrake. You don’t need to be tracked going forward, backward, or side to side (unless you have a motion rig).
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.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.