Tethered vs Standalone VR Gaming Headsets

VR gaming headsets are great devices for you to have fun with as a gamer. However, there are different gaming headsets available in the market today. You can choose from either a standalone or tethered headset.

A tethered headset is a wired system powered from a pc that’ll have to have a high spec to run games whereas a standalone system has everything built in the headset however the drawback is the performance and graphics compared to a tethered system.

Which is best at a glance?


Standalone VR Gaming Headset Pros

  • No wires so perfect for you to just have some fun and not worry about wires.
  • Typically cheaper than a tethered system.
  • No powerful gaming pc required to run the headset.

Standalone VR Gaming Headset Cons

  • Graphics are quite a way off a tethered system. Due to the spec is in a small headset as opposed to a full gaming pc.
  • Some standalone systems where they’re a lower spec they have issues with freezing and jolty gameplay.
  • There just seems to be a wider game library available for the tethered systems.

Tethered VR Gaming Headset Pros

  • The best performing machines out on todays current market in terms of gameplay and graphics.
  • Most expensive kit results in a better feel for the build quality of the headset, controllers and other accessories.
  • More tethered systems available on the market compared to standalone systems.

Tethered VR Gaming Headset Cons

  • Wires can be annoying and if not safely laid out in a correct space then the gamer could trip or fall over the wires.
  • One of these machines costs more so it’s a bigger layout for just better graphics.
  • You’ll need a high spec pc to run certain games.

Comfort

When picking any VR headset, the first point of consideration is the wearer’s comfort.

Every headset should feel comfortable to wear. They should sit on your head correctly without feeling too hot or heavy. You don’t want any uncomfort on the eyes and ears as over time this will just become more of an issue.

This section shows how the head strap, controllers, and headset affect the wearer’s comfort. Here’s more detail:

Head Strap

Standalone headsets usually have a stable and extended strap that spans through the back of the head.

Some designs also include a strap that spans the length of the top of the head.

In most cases we found that the wearers prefer the ones with two straps over ones with just one as it just feels a bit more sturdy and comfortable on the head.

Tethered gaming headsets usually have two to three straps.

Several brands produce them and include a strap in front of the head, one at the back, and one on top.

Some tethered headset straps we found are a bit more premium and are elastic to ensure a better fit.

Is a tethered or standalone VR head strap more comfortable?

Both the standalone and tethered headsets are excellent choices for you.

Regardless of the type of gaming headsets, brands are allowed to get creative with the head strap.

Hence, both options have equal comfort levels.

Controllers

Standalone headset controllers are typically sleek and lightweight hand controllers.

Depending on the model, they usually don’t have lots of complicated controls.

Most standalone headset controllers are intuitive, easy to hold, and can track you as you move around a space.

Tethered headset controllers are usually very compact.

We did however found that some tethered headset controllers may drift for no reason. However, that factor depends on the brand you purchase and the quality of the machine.

If they experience a quick drift, you will notice a speedy recovery so it’s not ideal but it’s not massively noticeable for the user.

Are standalone VR controllers better than tethered?

Both tethered headset controllers and the standalone headset controllers are suitable for comfortable use.

There are rare scenarios where you may experience slight drifts and recovery in controllers for some brands, but it doesn’t hugely disturb your gameplay. We did however find this issue more reported in tethered systems as opposed to the standalone systems.

Headset

Standalone VR headsets have an in-built screen processor and a battery with viewfinders that ensure stable spatial recognition relative to the world coordinates.

They also provide position recognition relative to peripheral devices. Most standalone headsets work with one or two controllers.

Tethered VR gaming headsets require a gaming pc to run off.

They always act as a display platform to another device like a video game console or your PC to provide a great VR experience.

Usually, these gaming headsets have great hardware capacities, but the assistive devices and wires can be messy.

HP Reverb G2 VR Headset

What’s more comfortable a tethered or standalone VR headset?

Undoubtedly, the standalone VR gaming headsets may be a more suitable pick based on the presence of assistive devices, which can influence comfort.

No wires which allows a more free flowing user experience.

As the headset isn’t being weighed down by wires the headset on a standalone system feels lighter and more free to move around in.

Mobility

Standalone VR gaming headsets are compact and usually come out as lightweight VR headsets.

You shouldn’t have any complaints to make regarding the compactness or mobility of these headsets. Also, they typically have a standard 6 degrees of freedom for the user.

Tethered VR gaming headsets are portable and easy to use. However, you may encounter issues transporting the assistive devices, wires, and the PC or gaming console you’re using.

Since it’s one of the gaming headsets PC uses, you may want to reconsider a purchase due to transportation.

What’s more mobile a tethered or standalone VR system?

Evidently, standalone VR gaming headsets are better than the tethered VR gaming headsets in terms of mobility.

There’s nothing else to move other than the entire headset, unlike the tethered headsets, where you must move other additional attachments in order for the headset to function.

Gameplay

Here’s what you should consider when picking between the standalone and the tethered VR gaming headsets in terms of gameplay:

Graphics

Based on modern standards, standalone headsets have quality graphics. Ultimately, your experience depends on the brand and model you pick. Overall the graphics however won’t be as such as if you were to choose a tethered system.

Tethered headsets have unique and high-quality graphics. While playing, there’s a low probability that you experience frame drag, thanks to its smooth graphics from its more powerful system.

Graphics comparison between a standalone VR system (left) and a tethered VR system (right)

Does a tethered VR system have better graphics than a standalone?

The simple answer is typically yes!

Since the tethered headsets are powered alongside PCs or gaming consoles, graphics are always top-notch.

On the other hand, standalone headsets may not always meet those standards.

However if you’re to buy a very low cost unbranded tethered system this does not mean that it’ll have better graphics than a top of the range stand alone system.

Again it all comes down to brand and spec of the machine.

Motion tracking

The majority of standalone headsets are excellent when talking about motion tracking.

They feature systems that help in tracking your position and orientation through your entire experience whilst gaming.

Tethered headsets have assistive devices that deal with the entire motion tracking system.

Most brands provide full-body tracking for better gameplay.

Has tethered VR headsets for better motion tracking than standalone headsets?

In terms of motion tracking, both the standalone and the tethered headsets are great options.

It seemed to be more down to each individual brand and model to determine how good the motion tracking is on the system as opposed to tethered vs standalone models.

Resolution

Standalone headsets do have great resolutions however it won’t reach the heights of a tethered system typically.

A higher resolution usually results in better gameplay. So, you may want to choose a brand carefully.

Tethered VR gaming headsets have magnificent gaming resolutions. The best on the current market. For example, the HTC Vive has a resolution of 2160 x 1200 with 1080 x 1200 per eye which definitely up there on todays market.

Does a tethered VR system have a higher resolution than a standalone system?

With a close look at both types of VRs, you will typically experience a higher resolution when using the tethered VR gaming headsets.

Mostly due to their use with PCs and the supreme specifications when compared to a standalone system.

Refresh rate

In most cases, the average refresh rate for standalone VR gaming headsets is 75Hz.

In other words, the display refreshes with a new image at a frequency of 75Hz.

Tethered VR gaming headsets have an average refresh rate of 90Hz.

Depending on the brand, there are some with a refresh rate as high as 120Hz, which is highly impressive.

Tethered vs standalone VR headset refresh rate

Tethered VR gaming headsets are a better option than standalone headsets due to a higher average refresh rate across the board.

Field of View

Standalone headsets usually have an impressive field of view.

Based on a table in Wikipedia, it’s evident that their field of view ranges from 90° to 120° Horizontal.

Tethered VR gaming headsets have different field of view angles which more depended on the different brand and models available.

Yours ultimately depends on the kind of headsets you purchase.

However, based on the Wikipedia table, the tethered headsets range from 87 ° to 210 ° Horizontal.

Does a tethered VR system have a better field of view than a standalone VR system?

Tethered headsets usually have a better field of view compared to standalone VR’s.

In other words, you cover a much larger view using a tethered headset, which is closely similar to that of the natural human eye (210° Horizontal).

Cost

Standalone VR headsets are usually cheaper compared to the tethered VR gaming headsets.

Depending on the technical specifications and features, a good tethered VR headset can typically cost around the $1,000 mark.

However, there are cheaper models available in the market. An average standalone VR headset costs around $500, depending on the model.

Is a standalone VR headset cheaper than a tethered VR headset?

The short answer is typically yes!

Price is however very relative depending on brand, spec and model of each headset.

Top gaming headsets may come at a high price. However, if you’re going for the cheaper VR headset on average, the standalone VR headsets will be be fine for a bit of fun for gaming.

It all depends on what you want to get from the experience.

Compatibility with other devices

Standalone VR headsets are compatible with watching movies, and they mostly work with google home.

Google has been involved with VR headsets, and the Google Daydream View headset sets a significant mark.

Tethered VR headsets are great for movies, and in most cases, they are suitable software like StreamVR.

Unfortunately, there are rarely any headsets that work with the PlayStation.

Are tethered VR headsets compatible with more devices than a standalone VR headset?

The tethered VR headsets may be better due to their compatibility with devices than the standalone VR gaming headsets.

Typically speaking the tethered systems seemed to be compatible with a wider variety of other hardware and software.

Conclusion

Both standalone VR gaming headsets and the tethered gaming headsets are fantastic technologies.

However, the one you choose depends on your usage.

If you’re a gamer that loves to explore and loves a handy device, stick to the standalone VR gaming headset.

Standalone VR devices are the best gaming headsets for their price level. Besides, you don’t need to use them alongside a PC.

The major downside of using this headset is the gameplay.

On the flip side if you’re a heavy gamer and want the best user experience possible with the best graphics and gameplay then you may be better off splashing that bit of extra cash to grab one of the top spec tethered systems.