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7 Top VR Wearable Headsets & Their Power Systems

These devices are breaking down barriers to user experience for VR wearables; their power systems make a real-world difference.

Jake Hertz

June 12, 2024

7 Slides

The recent advancement of virtual reality (VR) technology has led to a market proliferation of VR wearable headsets. One of the major design challenges for any of these devices is balancing the power source and lifetime within the constraints of a lightweight, head-mounted solution. The current market has found three primary power architectures out of this challenge: headsets with integrated batteries, headsets with tethered batteries, and fully tethered devices with no onboard power source.

Integrated batteries vs tethers

VR headsets with integrated batteries offer the advantage of complete wireless freedom. These headsets house rechargeable batteries within the device, enabling users to move unrestricted by cables. The convenience and mobility of such designs have made them popular for consumer applications, especially in gaming and media consumption. However, the trade-offs include weight distribution, battery life limitations, and thermal management challenges. The added weight of the battery can cause discomfort during prolonged use, and the finite battery life necessitates periodic recharging, potentially interrupting extended VR sessions. Additionally, the heat generated by both the battery and the high-performance components requires effective thermal management to prevent overheating and ensure user safety and comfort.

In contrast, some VR headsets use external, tethered batteries to mitigate weight and heat issues. This approach reduces the headset’s weight, enhancing comfort and reducing the strain on the user's neck. Moreover, tethered batteries can often be larger and provide longer operational times compared to integrated solutions. This configuration also improves heat dissipation since the heat-producing battery is separated from the sensitive electronic components in the headset. However, the presence of a tether, even if minimal, can somewhat restrict movement and may be less appealing to users seeking a completely wireless experience.

Fully tethered VR headsets rely on an external device, typically a powerful PC, for both power and processing. These headsets have no onboard battery, making them lighter and more comfortable to wear. The tethered connection to a PC allows for higher performance, leveraging the PC’s processing power and graphics capabilities. The primary drawback is the limitation on mobility due to the physical tether, which can hinder user movement and require careful management to avoid tangling or tripping hazards.

Recently, PCMag put together their list of the 7 best VR headsets on the market today. We went through the list to look at the underlying power architecture of each to see where the market stands and just how important batteries are in modern VR wearables.

About the Author(s)

Jake Hertz

Jake Hertz is an Electrical Engineer, Technical Writer, and Public Relations Specialist. After he received his M.S. and B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Rochester, he spent three years working as an Electrical Engineer at MakerBot Industries. 

As a writer, Jake is well known for his frequent contributions to various engineering websites, where he has garnered readership in the tens of thousands. Through his business, NanoHertz Solutions, Jake works with cutting-edge companies in the hardware and semiconductor space to build industry buzz and awareness through Public Relations and Technical Writing services.

As an engineer, Jake now works with numerous startups to help develop their hardware products. He is also a Co-Founder of Origin Labs, a NYC-based design firm for tech startups in the hardware space.

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