VR virgin? Here’s an introduction to some of the virtual reality headsets you can buy this holiday season

Delegates try a roller coaster ride using Gear VR (virtual reality) headsets, manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co., at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.
Pau Barrena | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Virtual reality (VR) has been a buzzword in 2016 with the technology entering the mainstream and a number of companies flooding the market with headsets.

If you are new to VR, the phrase refers to immersive, 360 degree content that is viewed through a special headset.

Analysts are predicting the VR market to take off in the next few years with VR headsets set to explode from just under 20 million this year to 81 million in 2020, according to IHS. Consumer spending on VR headsets will be $1.6 billion in 2016, and rise to $7.9 billion in 2020.

If you're thinking of buying a VR headset, CNBC has spoken to a number of analysts who have given their view on some of the best products on offer.


Google Cardboard

An attendee inspects Google Cardboard during the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco.
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Price: $15

The headset is literally a piece of cardboard that users can slot their smartphone into and watch VR content.

"You can't help but be impressed by the humble Google Cardboard which is entry level and for the first timer snacking on VR," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone.

The drawback however is that you need to hold the headset to your face rather than strapping it on, and the quality is lower than other alternatives on the market. But if you've never tried VR before, it's a good place to start.


Samsung GearVR

A volunteer experiences the Samsung Gear VR
Charley Gallay | Samsung | Getty Images

Price: $99.99

Samsung's headset is a relatively cheap but good step up from Google's Cardboard. It runs Oculus software – a company owned by Facebook – which has been developing VR for several years.

As a result of Facebook's investment into content, the Gear VR has a lot of games and videos to watch as well as different apps. Wood calls this a "very compelling and affordable" proposition.

The headset has a touch button on the side to select items you see in VR and a strap to make it more comfortable. But it is only compatible with Samsung's Galaxy range of smartphones from the Note5 through to the S7 and S7 Edge.


Google Daydream View

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Price: $79

The Daydream View is a more advanced headset from Google made of a soft fabric and a flap to place an Android smartphone.

It has a strap unlike the Cardboard and is priced competitively.

But as well as being a headset that Google is selling, it also acts as a reference design for other manufacturers to create their own headsets as well as Google Daydream-compatible smartphones. Currently only Google's Pixel devices and the Moto Z range work with the headset. Analysts expect a number of other manufacturers to make Daydream-compatible phones.

Google is investing in content for VR so this is an advantage of the headset.


LG 360 VR

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Price: $200

South Korean electronics maker released its VR headset earlier this year with a slightly different design to the majority of devices. Instead of a strap, it sits on your face thanks to frames similar to those on glasses.

However, the headset requires an LG G5 smartphone to work and offers a lower quality resolution than a Samsung GearVR using an S7.


PlayStation VR

Noam Galai | Getty Images

Price: $399

Sony's PlayStation VR is a gaming-dedicated headset and while it may cost more than the others so far, it's of a much-higher quality.

It requires a PlayStation 4 console to work and has around 50 games available such as "Batman: Arkham VR" with more on the way. If you don't have a PS4, this could become quite an expensive purchase.

"This probably is the most accessible high-end VR experience for consumers today," Wood said.

When CNBC tried the headset out, we found the experiences to be immersive and exciting, perhaps too exciting, given it made the writer feel sick. This is one you should probably try out in-store before buying. And there are lots of wires.


Oculus Rift

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., demonstrates an Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset and Oculus Touch controllers as the gives a demonstration during the Oculus Connect 3 event in San Jose, California.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Price: $600

The Oculus Rift is a high-end headset made by Oculus – a company owned by Facebook.

It's not cheap but it's a high-powered headset that provides a high-quality VR experience. It may not be one that shifts high volumes to begin with because of the price and the fact it requires an expensive and top spec personal computer to work.

"It's aimed at gamers because you need a high end gaming PC," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC.

But Wood said that if he was to buy one headset tomorrow it'd be the Oculus Rift because of the heavy investment Facebook is putting into the platform and content. Oculus also now produces hand controllers which will help the VR experience.


HTC Vive

HTC Vive
Karol Serewis | Gallo Images Poland | Getty Images

Price: $799

Even more expensive than the Oculus Rift is the HTC Vive, but the experience is impressive.

Like the Oculus, the Vive requires a pricey high-end personal computer to work as well as placing sensors around the room.

But the software has the ability to recognize the surroundings so you don't end up hitting walls. It also comes with hand controllers that are quite important for some of the experiences on the HTC Vive.

This is likely going to appeal to gamers with a good number of games and experiences to try in VR.


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