Playstation VR2 headset teardown image

Teardown: Sony VR2 headset

Image credit: Sony

The PlayStation’s second virtual-reality headset has been designed for high performance at lower cost and repairability.

Teardowns are usually about a five-minute read. For this one, we’d like to take up about half an hour of your time.

If you just want the words, that’s fine, but for our subject this time, Sony’s second VR headset and its first since 2016, the company has done something that does pay back that extra investment.

On the official PlayStation blog and YouTube, the company has posted two extremely comprehensive teardowns of its own – one for the PS VR2 headset and another for its controllers. These go into many of the key design decisions taken to reduce weight and maintenance and use eye-movement tracking to improve game play and reduce the video load via the two 2000x2040pi OLED eyepiece displays.

Your guides are two senior designers, Takamasa Araki from the Mechanical Design team and Takeshi Igarashi from the Peripheral Design team.

The teardowns feel like a response to growing demands for repairability. The VR2 has clearly been designed with this in mind, and the videos show how pieces pop out, where aesthetically concealed switches and screws release them, and how Sony’s engineers have striven to avoid the use of glue and other obstacles to disassembly and reassembly.

At the same time, they also highlight what has been done from the perspectives of ergonomics and general comfort, areas that have arguably been obstacles as great to virtual-reality’s adoption as criticisms around the technical quality of the immersive experience.

But, as noted, why not see for yourself by spending some time watching Sony’s official teardowns of the headset and sense controller?

So, a few observations.

As step-by-step teardowns, those videos are all we have so far, though they remain groundbreaking for a major consumer electronics retailer (though Nokia has just launched the G22, an easily repairable smartphone with iFixit support).

Nevertheless, we are still to see a Sony repair manual showing what the two designers demonstrate (and the videos carry a ‘don’t do this at home’ warning). Nor has the company yet said anything about making replacement parts available (nor the special support cradles used by its engineers) either through a partnership with a repair specialist or an internally managed scheme like those launched by Apple. Nevertheless, the design is so modular, it would be surprising if none of this happens in the current climate.

IFixit has undertaken its own independent teardown and while it found that the VR2 is “fantastically accessible”, it has raised a couple of questions over the controller. One concerned the IR tracking ring that follows hand movements.

“Sony’s teardown made removing the tracking ring look a little too easy – it’s pretty difficult but definitely possible,” says IFixit’s Shahram Mokhtari, also noting that part of the handgrip’s plastic housing was broken when its team sought to get inside to replace the battery.

In its own right though, the iFixit teardown is interesting in how it highlights the design compromises Sony has made on the VR2. Many of these have been driven by cost.

The VR2 has launched in the UK at a standalone price of £530 against £400 for the Meta Quest 2 and £480 for a standard disc-based PS5. At the same time, prices for the highest-end VR headsets can stretch towards thousands of pounds.

Sony’s pitch is that it can offer a premium experience on an established platform but to do so, it has decided not to offer wireless connection (the Meta does) and has opted for a combination of heavier Fresnel lenses (the Meta uses lighter pancake ones).

Then, as with the DualSense Edge PS5 controller, Sony has specified thumbsticks that use less durable potentiometer rather than Hall effect-based sensing (a choice looked at in detail in our April 2023 issue Teardown.

Yet, after an afternoon going through a friend’s VR collection, the slightly off-putting experience of being tethered was the only major criticism I’d make. The comfort is excellent with small but significant Sony choices such as segmenting the headband and using silicon rubber rather than sponge on the headrest do make a difference. Image quality is very strong with eye-tracking working well on the use of foveated rendering, a technique that reduces the graphics load in areas where your view is not concentrated.

At the current price though, it is hard to see the new headset making VR holdouts finally buy in – though subjected to some decent cost-down and in a retail bundle, it may eventually make inroads. For more heavy-duty gamers, though, it is a strong entry as well as being a laudable set of innovations, both in terms of technology and – as long as the manual and parts are soon made available – repair.

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