Codify Infotech

Sim racing with a triple monitor setup, ultra wide monitor or VR?

While sim racing has truly exploded over the last few years, only 12% and 13% of sim racers respectively, are using triple screens or virtual reality headsets. And when it comes to future purchases, the two camps are evenly split. Ultrawide monitors are getting more popular but they also only account for a small percentage. So why is that?

 

Immersion vs Results

Ask any simmer and they will tell you, racing online can consume you and allow you to drive different cars and experience the thrill of racing for a fraction of the cost of the real thing. But how close do you want to get to that? Personally I am a VR envangelist and being immersed in the race, looking around the car as if I was sitting in it, being able to spot my opponents left and right of me without having to rely on the on-screen radar is priceless. Or is it?

Well there is a price and that is you will at first not be able to bring the same lap times and consistency to the track. Racing in VR requires a lot of practice as it really changes the point of view and how your brain reacts to feeling that immersed in the race. Whats more, if you go even further with realism, you will likley be looking at adding a full motion system to your rig, at which point it is near certain that your laptimes will suffer. That is not to say you cannot be as fast, it just takes practice and a different approach when eg. looking for your optimal brake marker. But I will be the first to admit, if you want knife edge precision, turn off or dial down all motion, reduce force feedback on your wheel to absolute minimum and you will be faster, if not more consistent.

Triples are better?

You might think then triples are the ideal compromise: You get the necessary peripheral vision for seeing your oponents, added immersion and effectively you are still using regular screens. Right? Not so fast my young Schumacher! Triples come with their own issues which might make you look at VR again. 3 monitors plus the mount and space for those come at a considerable cost. You most likely will be adding another 300 to 400 per monitor plus the mounts to your bill, quickly adding up to well over 1200 or more GBP. Where as a Meta Quest 3 can now be had for 479GBP and you are ready to go without any additional hardware or space needed. Also if you are on consoles you have no triple options (no console supports triples or ultra wides) so you can only go for the PSVR2. That however is worth trying out. The amount of detail that Polyphony has put into that game shines in VR like nothing else. I would go as far to say that GT7 is a system seller for the PS5 as well as the PSVR2.

Beefy GPU

Yes there is that pesky little detail people keep forgetting: More screens (and in VR thats true too since you have to work with 2 screens, one per eye) means more pixel pushing power needed. Not an issue for console racers of course as the PSVR2 is made for the PS5 but for most of the PC masterrace, get ready to either dial down a lot of details or shell out for that 40 series RTX or a newer AMD. If your PC already sounds like its going to catch fire at 4K, you should stick to flat screens and then it might make even sense to look into a curved ultrawide instead, assuming your current GPU is capable enough for that. For VR you generally will need a bit more power but your milage may vary as this also comes down to the resolution you want to use your triples at. In both cases you can always steer away from the native resolution but with that you will of course lose crispness when looking at distant brake markers or oponents on track.

FOV Police

You will have to work to get the field of view right in both cases, triples as well as VR. For triples using tools such as Nvidia Surround or AMD Affinity make that easier although you can also manually adjust XML files. In VR it varies but will also require some work to get it right for each game. However, no VR headset at the time of writing this, can offer the 160-180 degrees that you would be required to see from within a helmet (180 degrees for FIA compliance). You also wont get that with a ultra wide but with triples you can get 160 degrees comfortably. The issue here is the angling of the screens and the bezels. There are bezel elimination kits (and DIY solutions using LCD diffusion lenses from old monitors) but to get those aligned to just the right angle and to fit your monitors is an art to itself. Do not be fooled by Youtubers who have a Gopro strapped to their head, filming their POV and making it look seamless. Here the reality is that VR beats anything you can achieve with triples because its immersion you want, not the actual advantage of a tru to life FOV.

 Comfort and ease of use

There is no denying that wearing something on your head for extended periods of time requires you to be comfortable with it. But if you are used to wearing a race helmet, a VR headset in comparison is a featherweight and providing that you use a well balanced and adjustable headmount (yes we happen to offer those as well) you can do hour long stints without an issue. I often argue that my focus is much higher as I am completely immersed, with no distractions in my peripheral vision. Its not for nothing you will see sim racers with triples even add a "roof" over their monitors, just to close that interior off and make you feel even more "inside" of the race car.

But if you just want to fire up iracing and go - a monitor setup will always be a bit quicker to get going and I do find myself switching back and forth, depending on the game or situation.

Awesome rig but I cant see it in VR

Well that used to be true - there you are, you spent hundreds on that button box, open wheel with 30 buttons and RGB lighting and you cant even find the buttons as soon as you wear the VR headset. The Meta Quest 3 has full passthrough and with some configuring, you can have the perfect mixed reality setup where the cameras on the headset let the cockpit pass through while the rest is in game. Below you can see flight simmers using this to be able to use their cockpit mixed into the VR scenery.

TLDR - Triples or VR or?

There is no definitive answer but it comes down to 3 main points that you have to decide for yourself: Immerson vs Space vs Cost. If you want immersion, VR all day long. If you dont have space or need a sim rig setup that will pass the "wife-compatibility-test" then again, VR wins. If you have a man cave of your own, a fast PC and GPU plus 3 high resolution monitors and the fitting stand for them, triples will be the better choice. And finally cost - this is probably the deciding factor for most and I will argue that you will get more bang for your buck in VR. This comes down to the fact that VR has become very affordable and can run on even average GPUs. If you are on Gran Turismo and the Playstation - 499GBP might sound like a lot when compared to your PS5 but then you wont only be able to play racing games with that either - VR games are quite fun and addictive so you might end up in VR more than just for racing anyway.

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