It’s probably a bit early to be telling you that I have your Christmas gift problems solved, but it would be mean of me to keep this new virtual reality headset from Facebook’s Oculus under my hat – especially as I think it could be in short supply before long.
The Oculus Go is without a doubt one of the best products I have ever tested. The experiences it delivers are breathtakingly vivid and immersive with a minimum of cumbersome equipment. Up to this point VR headsets have needed setting up, care and attention. Those who queued at my FT Weekend Festival stall two years ago to try the HTC Vive may recall it was pretty marvellous, but tethered you like an early astronaut on a spacewalk with a heavy bunch of cables dragging behind you. It also needed to be connected to a gaming-grade PC, while the space in which you used it had to be overlooked by a set of sensors, each with attendant wires.
Oculus Go is the first completely standalone headset. Yes, I know there are several around that you use by slotting in a mobile phone, and very good some of these are as an introduction to VR. But the Go is the first real-deal VR unit – untethered, powerful, instantly slip-on-able, and utterly captivating. It is also remarkably well-priced at just £249 for the top-of-the-range version with 64GB to store downloaded content (much of which, from over 1,000 games and “experiences”, you do need to pay for)
I should say that in some ways the Go is, perhaps, 20 per cent less sophisticated than an Oculus Rift, a Vive or Sony’s PlayStation VR. Principally, it offers a sitting down (ideally in a swivel chair) experience rather than a walking-around one. But the modestly lower specification is dwarfed by the standalone design, which for me makes it infinitely preferable to the more expensive tethered alternatives. Special plaudits to Oculus for making a glasses-friendly headpiece (there’s also an option to have prescription lenses fitted) and a magnificent audio system, meaning you can enjoy Go without headphones.