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What’s the difference between PCVR, standalone, wireless, and tethered headsets?

PCVR / Tethered VR Headset

A tethered VR headset needs to be physically connected to a computer (typically a fairly powerful PC) to function properly. While this means mobility is limited, it also has some key benefits.

  • A tethered device does not require a separate battery, so a considerable amount of weight is freed up for other purposes.
  • This way, devices can be made lighter, or they can house better optics or other more advanced but heavier components.
  • As the processing of visual elements is offloaded to a more powerful computer, tethered VR headsets can have better visual quality than any other kind of VR headset.
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Wireless VR Headset

Wireless VR headsets work without being tethered to a computer, but they still require a computer and some form of companion software to run properly. There is a very wide range of executions in this device category.  

  • For example, there are separate wireless kits or modules sold for some tethered VR headsets, which allow them to be used without cables. However, this typically comes at the cost of graphics quality, and you need to be connected to a PC with a cable if the user wants the full visual quality offered by the device.  
  • As these devices are still connected to an associated computer, it also means that they typically support a larger number of software than standalone devices.

Standalone VR Headset

As the name implies, standalone VR headsets are wireless and do not require an accompanying computer to work.  

  • The full operating system is contained inside the headset. You might be able to connect them to a computer for charging or other functionality, but this is fully optional. 
  • As all of the computation has to be handled inside the headset, it places restrictions on the visual quality that can be achieved. 
  • It also means the device needs to have a battery to function. 
  • Different standalone VR headsets also have very different operating systems, which means that they might not support all VR applications available on headsets that require an associated PC. 

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