Virtual Reality hardware such as VR controllers and headsets have been experiencing rising demands since Facebook announced its commitment to the Metaverse, with over 11.2 million VR headsets sold in the year 2021. Several tech companies are working on developing VR controllers to allow users to experience what the virtual world has to offer fully.
VR headset controllers give users access to an AI-generated environment where they can play, interact with their surroundings and explore different virtual worlds. The rise of the Metaverse has also sparked massive interest in VR/AR technology, with several large brands such as Prada, Nike, and Gucci working on leveraging VR to connect with their customers.
This article ranks the best VR controllers and also aims to elaborate on the different features that each offers. These controllers can play virtual games on PC, explore virtual environments, and much more!
What is a VR Controller and How does it work?
VR controllers work with VR headsets to allow users to interact with a virtual environment. By tracking finger and hand movements, VR Controllers allow users to ‘control’ avatars within virtual games and worlds by using thumbsticks and buttons. This enables users to play VR games by transforming the game into a realistic 3D first-person version. Users get a 360-degree view, allowing players to immerse themselves in the storyline fully.
The design of all modern VR Controllers is exceptionally similar, but a lot of research is being done into pairing controllers with haptics by companies such as Meta. While VR controllers provide haptic feedback, modern technology, such as gloves and full-body suits, enables users to fully immerse themselves into the virtual realm.
These handheld controllers are mostly sold with headsets but can also be purchased individually from the manufacturer or resellers from Amazon.
5 Best VR Controllers
With many options for VR controllers, it can be difficult for users to decide which one would fit their requirements completely.
Here are some of the top VR controllers in the market today:O
1. Oculus Touch VR Controller (Best VR feedback)
Oculus released a new version of its VR controllers in 2020, and the new ergonomic design has made it one of the best controllers on the market. Its success can be attributed to the controller’s excellent design, comfortable usability, and durability.
Many gamers make the mistake of hitting the controllers against different surfaces while playing games, which is why it is essential to have a durable controller. The Oculus Touch VR can withstand unforeseen accidents. As for the size, this VR controller is slightly more prominent than other controllers due to its large tracking ring.
The product designers have been able to make it durable without adding any additional weight to the system. The buttons on the controller are evenly spaced out, allowing each action taken by the user to be distinct.
The controller also provides haptic feedback, which helps make the entire experience much more immersive. This controller is operated by AA batteries and offers a long-powered life span compared to other options. The system performs accurate tracking, and many customers have praised its usability.
Oculus Touch VR controllers are compatible with Steam and other devices such as mobile phones, making them much more versatile than PlayStation VR Controllers. With the excellent price point that they’re at, the Meta Quest 2 Headset and controllers are leading the VR market. The Meta Quest 2 headset is available for $399 for 128GB, and for just another $100, you can purchase the 256GB version. If you’re looking to buy just the controllers, you will have to purchase them for $70/piece – i.e., $140 for the pair.
2. PlayStation Move VR Controller (Best tracking Accuracy)
PlayStation has already made huge waves within the VR gaming space, and their PlayStation Move is the perfect choice for gamers. While it may not have the most visually appealing design, the familiar feel of the standard PlayStation buttons, i.e., triangle, square, and circle, has most gamers opting for this VR controller over the rest.
The controllers are incredibly comfortable to use, even after gaming for long hours. This VR controller has one of the best tracking accuracies on the market and provides a stellar VR experience. The controller also provides haptic feedback, which makes the entire experience more immersive.
However, one important thing to note is that this VR controller is only compatible with a PlayStation console. This may not be a significant issue for PlayStation fans since they still access a large variety of VR games. But if you’re looking for a headset compatible with multiple devices, you may have to consider other options.
The PS5 console, PlayStation camera, VR Headset, and controller can add up to be a high cost, which might steer away individuals simply looking to test out Virtual Reality. These controllers are available on Amazon for as little as $99 for the pair.
3. Samsung Gear VR Controller (Best for mobile users)
This VR controller is primarily targeted toward mobile users. This Gear VR headset and controllers are offered at excellent price points, making this desirable to individuals looking to experience VR for the first time.
The user slides the phone into the headset and uses the Samsung Gear VR Controller to interact within the virtual realm. The controller does not offer any unique functionality; its simplicity makes it very easy to use and comes at a very affordable price.
It offers excellent tracking, primarily suited for Android devices. Users can play mobile VR games, watch videos and browse online using the controllers. While it may not offer the same level of responsiveness as other controllers, it is an excellent choice for individuals looking for a cost-effective way to experience VR.
The controller is a single device and does not exist as a pair, unlike other VR controllers on the market. The layout for the controller is also unique; it has two buttons to navigate between elements, a trigger button, buttons to adjust volume, and a large touchpad. It is pretty comfortable to hold due to its lightweight design.
However, one drawback to these VR controllers, i.e., is that they are not compatible with any other headset than the Samsung Gear VR. Users still have access to a wide variety of content and titles since they can connect to the Oculus store through the app. The Samsung gear VR controller comes with the headset and can be purchased for $110.
4. HTC Vive VR Controller (Best for beginners)
These controllers were launched a while back, and while they are not the most advanced controllers out there, their affordable price makes them an excellent option for VR enthusiasts. Its design is unique; it does not use a button or thumb stick combo. Instead, it uses an expansive trackpad that serves multiple functions. The controller also offers solid feedback that helps users fully experience virtual environments.
If you’re looking to play games on Steam, this controller is a good option as it provides users access to an extensive library of Steam VR games. It also has a grip button and a trigger, which are all you need to play VR games. The design itself is very comfortable to hold, and many user reviews have praised the in-hand comfort of this VR controller.
However, it is also important to note that this is a bulky controller compared to other controllers on the market. Many users prefer light weighted controllers, so this might be a crucial factor to consider before purchasing.
With over 20 sensors placed within the controller’s head, it provides high-level tracking and excellent responsiveness. Users can purchase the HTC Vive controller from Amazon for $130.
5. SteelSeries Stratus Duo (Best VR Controller for Xbox)
If you’re a conventional Xbox controller fan, you’ll love the SteelSeries Stratus Duo. These VR controllers aren’t the most immersive, but some individuals claim they play better with gamepad-themed alternatives.
This VR controller offers Bluetooth and wireless connectivity and is compatible with Steam games, thus giving users access to various VR games. It is also compatible with multiple headsets such as Samsung Gear, Oculus Go, Rift, etc. Users can expect over 20 hours of battery time on a single charge.
The layout is similar to the DualShock 4, i.e., a D-Pad, Triggers, two thumb sticks, and X, Y, A, and B buttons. The VR controller itself is very durable and provides haptic feedback to players. These controllers can be purchased for as little as $30 and are one of the most affordable controllers on the market today. It is also compatible with mobile games, making it incredibly versatile. Players can play games such as mobile Fortnite and more using the SteelSeries Stratus Duo controllers.
Features To Look For In a VR Controller
Here are some key characteristics that you should be on the lookout for when evaluating different controller options:
1. Precise Movement Tracking
While all VR controllers offer movement tracking, accuracy is crucial for things such as playing games. This is because latency in tracking or a missed tracked movement can lead to a lot of frustration and lost games. Each VR controller offers a varying accuracy threshold and utilizes different tracking systems.
Remember, not every controller is compatible with different headsets. For example, the Oculus Touch is only compatible with Meta Quest headsets. The Samsung Gear VR controllers are compatible with android phones etc.
3. Comfortable design
This is a significant variable because if a controller is bulky and does not adjust properly to fit your needs, you will not be able to use it for extended periods. Every detail, from weight distribution to placement of buttons, contributes immensely to the user experience.
4. Movement Freedom
Wired headsets often limit users’ movement while using the headset and VR controller. Before making a purchase, you must also consider a degree of freedom. Users can opt for controllers compatible with wireless headsets to allow them to move around freely while interacting within the virtual world.
5. Battery Life
Each VR controller has a prespecified battery capacity. A VR controller with a long-lasting battery would be the perfect choice for users looking to play VR games for numerous hours. If a user has to recharge the batteries repeatedly in the middle of gameplay, it will ruin the virtual experience.
The VR controllers and headset should be highly durable. This is because each headset costs hundreds of dollars and cannot be replaced repeatedly. While users are lost in the virtual realm, accidents can happen, and the controllers can bump against surfaces. The controllers should be strong enough to withstand impact.
Why Should You Buy a VR Controller?
While VR controllers are not necessary for some VR games, one can only fully immerse themselves into the virtual realm by using controllers to look around and interact with their surroundings. Most VR controllers come with triggers that individuals can use to play different types of games. While some headsets also have trigger buttons, using them is not as comfortable as holding up your hand to your headset every time you want to press a trigger.
Holding on to these strategically designed controllers gives a sense of control to the user. For applications such as exploring virtual worlds or playing VR games, the thumb stick helps users move around quickly. Other buttons allow users to pick up objects, throw them, and with the trigger, you can fire weapons and much more within VR games!
Why will VR Controllers be Important in the Future?
With the rise of the Metaverse, VR controllers are more important than ever. Users can utilize VR controllers to move around the Metaverse like the Oculus Metaverse and explore the virtual realm. Controller features such as haptic feedback will ensure the experiences are incredibly immersive.
Many companies, such as Meta, are working on optimizing their current controller designs, trying to increase accuracy and make them more lightweight. Other VR accessories might eventually replace controllers, such as haptic gloves and body suits equipped with sensors.
However, such innovations might take a decade to be available to the mass population. There is no doubt that gloves and bodysuits will be much more immersive than holding controllers, but in the meantime, we have interactive controllers such as the Oculus Touch to help kickstart the Metaverse.
Companies such as Ultraleap are also working on futuristic ultrasonic speakers. The frequency of these speakers imitates sensory feedback when individuals touch objects in the real world. These speakers can be paired with VR headsets to remove the need for controllers, as some headsets have hand-tracking functionalities.
Numerous features can be improved within the current version of the controllers. For example, as mentioned above, accuracy significantly makes the virtual space more interactive. If you’re playing a virtual game of tennis and you time the shot perfectly, but there’s a delay, you could lose a point.
Brain-controlled interfaces seem to be the most promising solution, but we’re still many years away from it becoming a reality. Imagine wiggling your fingers in real life and seeing your virtual avatar moving its fingers too. VR controllers do not offer this level of interactivity at the moment, but they’re helping users transition to this new era of borderless connectivity and exciting virtual gameplay.
In terms of cost-effectiveness and tracking accuracy, nothing comes close to the Oculus Touch VR controllers. Users can play for many hours without getting tired of the controllers due to their ergonomic design. Its affordable price has made VR accessible to many, and it provides everything one needs to start playing VR games and more. The headset and controller are also compatible with Steam, thus giving players access to a large library of interactive games.
- What Is the Best VR Controller?
The Oculus Touch is one of the best VR Controllers on the market today. With its affordable pricing, users can access a VR headset and controller for as little as $399.
- Why Do We Need VR Controllers?
VR controllers allow users to control their ‘avatars’ within digital environments. Users can use these controllers to interact with their virtual surroundings, pick objects, shoot weapons, and much more!
- What VR Controllers are Compatible With PC?
Although most VR controllers come with headsets, users can purchase replacement controllers separately. While buying new VR controllers, it is important to keep compatibility in mind. Oculus Touch, HTC Vive, and Steel Series VR Controllers are compatible with Steam and PC.