This VR company thinks high specs and low price can beat Oculus and HTC

Patrick O'Rourke

January 7, 2016 5:05pm

In the burgeoning virtual reality industry, there are currently four major players: upcoming VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, as well as standalone, already released devices like Gear VR, which requires one of Samsung’s latest smartphones to act as a display.

As the technology vies for the mindshare of popular culture, an increasing number of manufacturers are looking to enter into the virtual reality fray. One of the lesser known new entrants into the VR industry is Chinese company 3Glasses, which makes the D2 Vanguard Edition, a device the company claims is the world’s first commercially available “2K” VR headset.

The most appealing thing about the D2 Vanguard is its relatively affordable $399 USD price tag, which amounts to approximately $562 Canadian (this price will fluctuate with the Canadian dollar value), a number well under the $914 CAD the Oculus Rift is currently pegged at. This cost means that the 3Glasses latest VR headset is poised to be a more affordable tethered headset option, although it’s important to keep in mind that it still requires an expensive high-end PC to run apps and games.

3Glasses Vanguard D2-2-3
But with that in mind, you also get what you pay for. Unlike HTC and Valve’s Vive, or even the Oculus Rift, 3Glasses D2 Vanguard has more in common with Samsung’s relatively flimsy $130 Gear VR headset. The D2 Vanguard doesn’t feel like a high-end VR headset, but given its price tag, some concessions should be expected.

On the plus side, its design is sleek, complete with a 3Glasses glowing logo plastered across its front. The headset also comes in two colours, white and silver, and has interchangeable liners, a welcome feature, especially for those that don’t enjoy having the sweat of a VR headset’s previous wearer on their face.

One of the Gear VR’s major issues is screen resolution relative to performance, since its 2K display is powered by a mobile chip. This is an area the D2 Vanguard shines, resulting in one of the best screen viewing experiences I’ve encountered with VR, especially when its price tag is considered. The D2’s screen measures in at an impressive 2,560 x 1,400 display, which needs to be powered by a sufficiently beefy desktop GPU. In comparison, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive share the same 2160 x 1200 resolution, a 42 percent deficit when compared to the D2.

3Glasses Vanguard D2-2
While the D2’s screen isn’t as vibrant as the Rift or Vive’s, its clarity and colour surpasses the Gear VR significantly. With 3Glasses’ latest headset, like all current VR devices, individual pixels aren’t noticeable when games or videos are in motion, but when the action slows down and the user stares at a given location for any length of time, they are apparent. The additional screen resolution featured in 3Glasses’ Vanguard D2 makes this immersion  ruining effect less obvious.

Similar to the Gear VR, 3Glasses features a touch panel on its side, which seems like it could be used as navigation in both games and apps, although during my brief hands-on time with an early developer build of the headset, the navigation panel wasn’t operational. Head-tracking also wasn’t active during my time with 3Glasses headset, although I was told a future firmware update will bring the now-standard VR feature to the device. For some reason, 3Glasses only supports Windows 7/8 and not Windows 10.

The most significant drawback I see with 3Glasses right now is its software. During my time with the headest only a few select demos were available, although I was told a library of games and videos will be available at launch.

Given the current rush to support the Oculus Store, which is available both on the Oculus Rift and Gear VR, as well as HTC’s efforts to build its own digital storefront for the Vive, headsets from smaller, lesser-known manufacturers will only be worth purchasing if developers create content for the device. Right now, it’s still unclear if that will happen. Manufacturers with their own operating systems will have a much more difficult time in this field, since unlike the Android ecosystem, a single open source of content hasn’t yet emerged.

With that said, 3Glasses Vanguard D2 shows promise, especially now that we know the Oculus Rift will cost over $900 in Canada, with the HTC Vive expected to follow suite at a similar price point. At the very least, the Vanguard D2 is a VR headset worth keeping an eye on.

3Glasses says the Vanguard D2 is expected to ship later this year.

  • As brash as Ballmer was.. he nailed it with his “Developers, developers, developers” speech. I think the OR has the momentum advantage + they are known as being the ones who got this whole VR thing going. If I was developing VR apps/games for any platform right now, it’s pretty clear cut where I would be spending my time.

    • Viperswhip

      It’s all exciting, I will wait a couple years for the bugs to be worked out, much like I did for CD burners way, way back, the price also tends to drop significantly.

    • Victor Creed

      PS4+PS VR is where the devs will most likely go IMO

    • avow

      Doubt it. Most indies don’t like the control of the closed market and loss of profits.

    • Since Oculus has become synonymous with the concept of VR, I think the Rift will likely be the premiere headset. Although the Vive has Valve backing it.

    • BillDjango

      There are 34 million PS4 units sold worldwide that will be capable of using the PS VR. Kaz Hirai announced at CES that 200 developers that are making PS4 VR games. The barrier to entry for PC VR is too high and when it comes to gaming, the money is in the console side. More console gamers = more money. The future of VR is PS VR and you’re ignoring it at your peril.

    • blzd

      I’m not sure, console gamers have proven they are not willing to spend money on their hardware. They’d actually prefer to pay more over time for software so they can pay less upfront, indicating that large purchases are out of their budget.

      If $500 is all they’re willing to spend on their entire machine, I doubt they’ll be willing to drop another couple hundred on a headset for said under powered machine.

      Now PC gamers who buy $500 graphics card without batting an eye, they will actually spend money on new tech and push the industry forward.

  • Marc P

    The real world price is actually lower. In China the retail price is 2980rmb but you can buy a pair for about 1950rmb($420 CAD). It’s very tempting but I would have to drop another $400 into my gaming PC as well. So I guess I’ll wait till next year.

    • I was told by 3Glasses that all prices are in U.S. dollars and then converted to Canadian (so the price will likely fluctuate).

    • When you order from china and include duties and shipping, it about equals the same price quoting in the article, wouldn’t it?

  • Jamie

    I’ll be watching this very closely. 4k gaming is not hard to achieve today so a 4k (2k per screen/eye) is what I’ve been waiting for. Maybe I won’t have to wait as long as I thought.

    • blzd

      Native 4k gaming isn’t hard to achieve? Even the fastest single graphics card struggles with modern games at 4k resolution. You’d need 2 of the fastest cards to achieve a stable frame rate (above 30 FPS at all times).

      4k gaming is still not practical yet. Maybe next graphics generation but I doubt it will be that soon.

    • Jamie

      That’s just not true. I have a R9 290, getting old and I still play all my games at 4k. I average 50 fps on most high end games and thats the settings on high-ultra. AA, SMAA, FXAA, all that stuff is off or at 2x but at 4k you don’t need it since the resolution is so high (much more detail on textures).

      R9 290 is nothing new, and with a $1000 price tag for other VR, many PC gamers are not concerned with upgrading the GPU as they do every 2-3 years anyways.

      Practical for everyone? no.. Is the first year or two designed/priced for everyone? not really…

      4k is here and on single GPU just fine unless your threshold is minimum of 100 fps.

    • blzd

      What is wrong with you? 290 can’t even get 50 FPS at 4k resolution in much older games like Metro Last Light (20 FPS average), Batman Arkham Origins (25 FPS average), BioShock Ininfite (28 FPS average), Battlefield 4 (30 FPS average).

      With slightly newer games like Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age Inquisition, Far Cry 4, and Total War Atila (can’t even get 15 FPS in this game) even the Radeon 290X which is faster than your 290 can barely scrape 30 frames together at 4k resolution with ultra settings. It often averages in the 20-25 range, which is unplayable because the minimum frame rate would be in the single digits at that point.

      ALL of these numbers quoted are with zero AA usage, but then you say you even enable 2x sometimes huh? which would destroy your frame rates even further well below the 20 FPS average mark.

      Anyone can find these numbers with a 10 second Google search. Just search Anandtech 980 ti review, and look at the 3840×2160 Ultra settings 0x AA and look at the 290X at the bottom of the list each time.

      So I’m not sure why you want to spread misinformation about your performance. Maybe you genuinely think you’re getting 50 FPS when you’re getting 20? That is certainly a possibility.

      I don’t mean to ridicule you but my original point still stands, 4k gaming with high settings is not viable for 99% of PC users today.