Standalone VR vs Tethered VR: What’s the Best Option?

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Written By Luca Booth

Luca Booth is a pioneering voice in the intersection of technology and spatial design, and the lead author at VPR Matrix. With a background in architectural design and a passion for the latest in virtual reality innovations, Luca brings a unique perspective to the world of VR architectural design.

Virtual reality (VR) has become increasingly popular as a way to engage users in immersive experiences. With the rise of standalone and tethered VR headsets, users now have the option to choose a headset based on their needs and preferences. This article will explore the differences and advantages of both options.

Understanding the Differences

When it comes to VR, there are two types of headsets available in the market: standalone and tethered. To choose the best option, let us explore the differences between the two:

  • Standalone VR: Standalone VR glasses have integrated hardware and software, which makes them easy to use and portable. These glasses come without any cable, so the user can move around freely. They are a popular choice for users who want a VR set up for gaming, media consumption, or basic training needs without needing expensive hardware.

  • Tethered VR: PC VR headsets require a computer to power the VR experience. They depend on powerful gaming PCs to deliver high-end graphics, processing power and immersive gaming experience. A tether cable is needed to connect the headset to the computer. The user is physically tied to the hardware and limited in both movement and the field of view. This option is popular for high-intensity VR gaming experience, development plans, and employee productivity training.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Standalone VR

Standalone VR offers the best of both worlds, allowing you to play without needing a powerful gaming PC or cables to get tangled in. Standalone Quest VR has several advantages over PC-driven virtual reality, including being more user-friendly and versatile, with better visuals and ease of use. This makes it perfect for those looking for hands-on training experiences or general media and gaming consumption.

However, it may have limited graphics capabilities and processing power, which can result in lag and shorter battery life. As a result, users engaged in graphically demanding applications or immersive training may not be satisfied with the limited VR content.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tethered VR

Tethered laptop VR provides higher quality graphics and processing power but requires additional hardware and limits mobility. Tethered VR also has the potential for more advanced tracking and interaction, with screen sharing capabilities, which can help employees stay connected during work-from-home situations. Users seeking a high-end virtual reality experience with advanced interaction, social features, and support for eye tracking, and full-body tracking may prefer tethered VR.

However, tethered VR headsets are often more expensive and require a high-end gaming PC, which is not always available to users. The hardware can be complex, which could cause compatibility challenges, and users can feel physically limited, leading to reduced mobility and interaction with the conventional desktop interface.

In the next section, we will delve deeper into each feature

Going Deeper: Standalone VR and Tethered VR Feature Comparisons

Let’s dive deeper into what is expected in each feature of both standalone and tethered VR systems.


Standalone VR headsets are designed to be self-contained. They have their own displays, built-in processors, memory, and batteries, among other things. It includes everything needed to experience VR, and the device doesn’t need a computer to use.

Meanwhile, tethered VR requires a gaming PC to deliver graphics and hold memory space, so extra hardware is required. You will need a high-end computer to run the games, and the cable connection required diminishes the mobility of the user. But, tethered VR headsets have external cameras which allow for improved tracking and the most immersive experience.

Graphics Capabilities

Standalone VR headsets are generally less powerful than a gaming PC, which means they have limited graphics capabilities. Some standalone VR headsets offer features like fixed foveated rendering, which focuses processing power on the center of your field of view. The absence of high-end graphics takes away from the realism of the VR experience.

In contrast, tethered VR is usually capable of delivering the highest-end graphics, even going so far as to introduce ray tracing. A powerful gaming PC can deliver graphics, performance, and smooth experience, though the gamer is confined to the length of the cable.


In standalone VR headsets, tracking is usually limited to the device itself. 3 degrees of freedom (3DoF) is available only for looking around, while 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) allows physical movement. Without external tracking support, users are restricted by the built-in sensors.

On the other hand, tethered VR headsets come with external cameras tracking motion. Users can enjoy 6DoF, bringing a more immersive and accurate experience for games high-end graphic interactions.


Standalone VR’s big advantage is mobility. Users can use the device without needing to be tethered to a computer, so the experience is comfortable and convenient, giving users the flexibility to move naturally. It can be used in various locations, even on a plane, train, or bus rides.

Tethered VR is more difficult to transport around. Users tend to be confined to a specific area with restrictions on movement and the need to position the external camera.

Conclusion: The Best of Both Worlds

Standalone VR offers greater mobility and ease of use compared to tethered laptop VR, while tethered laptop VR provides better graphics and processing power but can be more expensive. Choosing between standalone and tethered VR depends on the user’s priorities and needs.

If graphics and processing power is your priority, and you favor a more immersive experience with higher-end tracking and interaction possibilities or VR training collaboration, then tethered VR is the perfect choice. Those best suited for more general VR gaming, media consumption, and hands-on training experiences with ease of use and mobility, standalone VR is the obvious choice.

Regardless of the choice, VR is opening up new dimensions in technology, making it possible to move into a new era of interactive and immersive entertainment, with diversifying possibilities. As VR is continuously developing and evolving, it looks like there are exciting and limitless opportunities yet to come.