Often this is a the question posed when people start to invest more heavily into sim racing, and its a fair one to ask because there are a few options and even the lowest value option for displays is an expense that you’d rather not pay twice. Therefore I thought it was a good idea to write this article, so that readers and prospectus buyers can think about the multiple considerations when reviewing their future purchase for the best display.
It’s worth noting, that prior to this initial thought process, most sim racers will likely be on a single screen which is a standard monitor for general gaming or a high definition TV connected to a console such as a PS5, and this is a great place to start, but now it’s time to improve the experience.
To start off with most people will have a budget, and this is what needs to be worked with. If they can’t afford three monitors, then it’s not worth considering. The expense of a virtual reality headset for sim racing can vary based on brand and purpose, for example the entry level VR headsets are the PSVR & Oculus Quest (around $400), but there is much more expensive and better quality such as the HTC Vive Pro ($1500+).
The Ultrawide option might be the cheapest if the aim is good quality and low cost. For a 34” ultrawide curved monitor, the cost can be under $500, but just like the VR headsets the cost can also go higher, for better quality and digital real estate. For example a 49” ultrawide curved monitor could cost around $2000, so it’s a lot more expensive.
Then there is the triple monitor setup. This is hugely favoured in sim racing and is what can be seen on a lot of images, when sim racing is googled. Lets assume that a 24” monitor multiplied by 3 would be the solution thats perfect and at first this seems great. It’s possible to pick them up for around $150 each and the total cost is $450, but the sim racings system needs to support this, so it’s likely not going to work on a playstation or xbox, and we’re now talking PC sim racing only, where the PC will need to have a good graphics card to power all three monitors in the way that’s needed, so the real cost is monitors +graphics card (+mounting brackets). Lets not also forget that if anyone is conscious about electricity consumption, well there will be more.
This is the one that caught me out if I’m honest, I started sim racing on a PS4, and I did it because I really was interested in virtual reality. I seen it as the quickest and cheapest way to get into VR, but in most situations the quality of the VR headset and support from the sim racing games is much lower than the quality provided from UHD (ultra high definition) monitors, so it’s likely that the quality of image is consistently going to be higher and better on a monitor. I find that there is a somewhat blurriness to VR headsets, which I am able to overlook but for some sim racers this is just not acceptable. The advice to anyone who wants to go VR is to go and try the headset you want first and watch a couple of reviews on YouTube,there are plenty. A good review will show you the quality difference between the VR headset and a normal HD monitor/TV.
I cant comment on how many people feel motion sickness when sim racing on ultrawides or even triple monitors, but it is inherently common with a lot of virtual reality (VR) systems. There’s something about visually moving whilst being physically stationary, and this is a big draw back for a lot of people. The best thing to do for anyone considering virtual reality (VR) when sim racing, is to go and test a headset but do it for more than one minute. Probably the best place to test is in a gaming centre such as a sim center, where it’s possible to get a few races in. If after you have spent 15-30 minutes in a VR headset, you’re ok, then you’ll possibly be fine with VR (but this can vary based on game). However if you’re feeling hot, sticky, sweaty, dizzy and/or sick then you’ve got motion sickness and there’s two options to get around this. The first is that you build up your tolerance to it, by taking breaks and then playing again. This takes time and if you’re willing to put the effort in, it can be rewarding. The other option, is to put the headset down and move on. From a personal perspective, I love the VR headsets and suffered hard when I started to use them. On my first occasion I couldn’t do more than ten minutes without wanting to throw up, but I can now withstand 30-60 minutes in Driveclub VR and Gran Turismo Sport (VR mode).
When reviewing the game support, a decision needs to be made between what game you want to play and what hardware you want to use. The reason I state this, is because some games will not support virtual reality or triple monitors. This is really important since most people will aim to play a specific game and then buy the hardware to fit, which is likely the correct way, but interest in games can change over time and your hardware may stay the same, so really put some thought into this. Therefore if you want to race in VR or with triple monitors, maybe it’s time to change the game you’re playing for something different that supports your desire to really experience the simulated drive/race in the way you want.
Lets touch on some configuration points now,firstly if triple monitors is the thing, there are a couple of things needed. More power sockets, so if your sim rig is close to power sockets in the wall, then do you have enough for more monitors, even with an extension cable, will you be overloading the power socket?The last thing anyone needs is to be blowing fuses all the time. Again with triple monitors, does your system have a powerful enough graphics card to support three screens. Check the ports, on the graphics card, and if you are only using the default motherboard ports, then it is likely you’ll need to invest in a dedicated graphics card. Even if you do have three physical ports, this doesn’t mean the graphics card is able to run three monitors at the same time, so check the manual/specifications. Make sure they can run three monitors at a high frame rate as well, because you’ll be driving and the FPS is only going to be nice at a higher rate. Assuming you have the monitors and you have a powerful graphics card, now is the time to think about how on earth are you going to mount three monitors? Well now you need to review the mounting options and there are some great mounting rigs for this, but they do come at a cost.
Ultrawide is the easiest to set up, it’s a single monitor which most modern graphics cards will be capable of supporting. There is nothing special to this configuration.
Virtual Reality headsets do require a bit of work, if a camera is required. For example with the PS4, there is a requirement for the camera to be mounted somewhere and this adds to the configuration required. However with the Quest 2 the camera(s) are built into the headset. In addition, depending on the headset chosen, there may also be cables involved (PSVR is cabled, Oculus Quest 2 is not). Please note, there are more than these two VR headsets available.
I’ll start with the obvious, the VR headset literally sits on your head, so if your head has space to be where it is, then so does the VR headset,but it will need a little storage when it’s not being used. Out of the three options, this one is going to take the least physical space. The ultrawide,well it really depends on the size thats desired, but one ultrawide monitor at 49” is obviously going to take less space than three monitors which are 24” wide (24*3=72),so keep this in mind. If you don’t have a full playseat and rig, can your desk fit three monitors?
Field of view
The largest field of vision (FOV) will be with the virtual reality headsets, which also give you that added bonus of being capable of looking around, so there’s not really a static view and your blindspots are not going to be so blind with the virtual reality headsets. The ultrawide and the triple monitor setups can be adjusted to provide different scales of FOV so it really comes down to what you feel is best, which may be a combination of settings and your physical distance from the screen. The Oculus and PSVR headsets provide a rough 100 degree FOV by default, the ultrawide can give you this as well but it may look rather odd so they’re generally lower, an average being between 50-70degrees FOV and with triple monitors, this can exceed the 100degrees depending on configuration.
I’d advise taking your recommended choice for screens and playing with an FOV calculator to see what might work best before making the purchase/s. Two calculators are listed below.
At the end of the day, what we’re all looking for is something that allows us to really immerse ourselves into the sim racing we enjoy and ultimately that’s what our sound and visual experience is aiming for. The best choice also comes down to how comfortable you feel in the environment you build. I personally find that the VR headsets almost instantly drop me into another world, where I feel like I’m a real racer, but this is likely because I’ve built up a tolerance to the motion sickness which can be experienced. Never the less I’ve never felt a dip in the road on a monitor, like I do in VR. The triple screens give you a great experience because you can create a great wide angle for viewing (maximising the FOV) and the ultrawide is a nice sleek option if you’re aiming to just enjoy yourself without that deep immersion. Maybe it can be summerized similar to, if you’re looking for that arcade racing experience then a monitor of some kind is the best thing, but if you’re looking to be dropped into a racing seat and almost feel like a real race driver, then the VR is the way to go, however the VR still has a lot to improve on, such as the quality of image, so you’re still held back a little from the complete feeling of being a real race driver.
This article will be updated in the future, as technology is developed or my understanding is improved but whilst it is within the current written state, I hope it has provided some thought provoking considerations that will assist you in finding the best solution for your sim racing experience.