So you want to try out some of the new virtual reality apps coming out, or you want to watch movies in 3D, but aren’t quite ready to shell out real money for a real headset. I don’t blame you. The technology is evolving quickly — by the time the headset arrives, it might already be out of date. And until you try it, you don’t know whether you’ll like it or not, or if you’ll check it out once and then never touch it again. Plus, the first time you order one, you probably won’t know what features are important to you.
So before you waste your money buying something that you won’t like, will never use, or that won’t fit, try out one of these low-cost options and find out if virtual reality is for you.
Google Cardboard v2 for 6-inch phones: $8.87
This is the latest, 2015 version of the Google Cardboard headset. Buy it from AliExpress for $8.87 including shipping and have it delivered within two weeks. The headset replaces the magnetic button on the side that was the hallmark of the first version of Google Cardboard with a touch button on top that works with more phones. The headset is also designed to hold larger phones. It works with both Androids and iPhones, but there are more virtual reality apps available on the Android side. Discounts available for bulk purchases.
Also available from other sellers on AliExpress for $6.37 for delivery within 25 days and for $5.15 for delivery within 40 days. Or order it from TinyDeal for $5.86 or from DHgate for $6.08 with free shipping and two week delivery.
Yes, it’s made of cardboard. No, it won’t last long. Yes, you will sweat on it and it will get stained. But you’ll have fun with it, and your friends will have fun with it. And if you step on it accidentally and squish it, you won’t mourn its loss.
Google Cardboard v1 for 5-inch phones: $6.46
This is last year’s version of the Google Cardboard headset. Designed for smaller phones, it has a magnet on the side that can be used to interact with apps. The magnet does not work with all models of phones, however. Discounts available for bulk purchases. Buy it from AliExpress for $6.46 including shipping and have it delivered within seven days.
Also available from other sellers on AliExpress for $1.99 for delivery within 26 days and from Amazon starting at $4.21. Or order it from TinyDeal: a black version for $4.83 or a Christmas version for $4.81, or a camouflage version for $4.95, all with free shipping and 30-day delivery. There’s also a shiny metallic pink one for $6.88 with free shipping and two-week delivery from Airyear, which also has the same set with metallic blue, metallic green, and metallic silver paper over the cardboard.
I bought my Google Cardboard in regular plain cardboard color from Amazon for around $5 and have no regrets. I also have a higher-priced, plastic one, but I still grab the cardboard one first because it’s quick and easy to use and actually has a wider field of view because the phone is closer to your face. On the other hand, the lenses can’t be adjusted, so I try not to use it for more than a few minutes at a time because everything is slightly out of focus.
Leegoal for $9.89
The most basic budget plastic smartphone case. Fits smartphones from 4 to 5.7 inches. Focal distance and pupil distance are both are adjustable. Order it for $9.89, with free shipping, on Amazon.
Ritech 3D Glasses for 5.6 inch phones for $9.56
This is a hard plastic case with foam padding and a headstrap designed to hold phones of 3.5 to 5.6 inches. It is available from AliExpress for $9.46, with free shipping, and estimated delivery within 15 days. It does not have a control button, so interacting with apps requires either an external Bluetooth controller — or opening the case and tapping on the screen. The distance between the lenses is adjustable, but not the distance between the lenses and your eyes.
VR Polarized 3D Glasses II for 6 inch phones for $9.75
This headset fits slightly larger phones, but it’s unclear from the description whether you can adjust the lenses. Buy it from AliExpress for $9.75, with free shipping, and delivery within two months.
Sali EVA 3D Glasses for 6 inch phones for $7.87
The cutest headset for under $10, this is the same as Google Cardboard V1, complete with magnet on the side — except its made from soft EVA foam instead of cardboard. Buy it from AliExpress for $7.87, with free shipping, and delivery scheduled for 25 days. Don’t expect to be able to adjust anything.
Purple EVA 3D Glasses for 6 inch phones for $9.99
This headset is very similar to the one above, except the construction is slightly different, and it uses different colors. The headstrap is not pictured but is listed in the product description. Buy it from AliExpress for $9.99, with free shipping, and delivery scheduled for 15 days.
Hasbro My3D Viewer for $6.65
Not quite a Google Cardboard, but a virtual reality headset nonetheless, Hasbro’s My3D Viewer works only with iPhone and iPod touch devices up to 4G. There’s a small number of free and paid apps to download. Buy for $6.65 from Amazon with free shipping on orders over $35, or check out the other sellers on Amazon in black and also in white at variety of low prices.
The product has been discontinued and its associated website shut down, so this is a collector’s item, folks.
PU Leather and Microfiber 3D Glasses for $8.70
If you’re looking for something a little more stylish and grownup in a virtual reality headset, check out this unit made from PU leather and microfiber. PU leather, in case you’re unfamiliar with the material, is a combination of leather and polyurethane. So, not real leather, but leather-adjacent. This is the standard Google Cardboard configuration, with a magnet on the side, and non-adjustable lenses. Get it from TinyDeal for $8.70, with free shipping, and delivery estimated in 30 days.
Woody 3D Glasses for $9.77
This headset is similar to the one above, except instead of being made from a leather-like material, it’s made from a wood-like material. Order it from TinyDeal for $9.77, with free shipping, and estimated 30 day delivery.