VRidge Review: Play VR Games without Expensive VR Headset

This is a sponsored article and was made possible by Riftcat. The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author who maintains editorial independence, even when a post is sponsored.

Last year we compared the HTC Vive to the Oculus Rift and determined that the Vive is the obvious champion between the two! However, if you want to experience the Vive for yourself but cannot afford the expensive price tag, we have a more affordable solution for you: VRidge.

This advanced technology will turn your phone into an HTC Vive headset by streaming games to your mobile device and sending the sensor data back to your PC via WiFi or a USB cable. What’s even better is that it also supports Oculus-exclusive games (thanks to Revive) and some SteamVR games. (Games without native VR support won’t work.) If you’re a fan of GearVR By Samsung, you can also set it up on VRidge using SideloadVR.

To use VRidge, you’ll need the following:

  • A desktop computer or laptop running Windows 7, 8/8.1 or 10. Minimum and recommended specs are listed on the VRidge website.
  • An Android 5.0+ device. Note: The following chipsets are incompatible – Kirin 620, Intel, and MediaTek Helio X10.
  • A VR headset – Google Cardboard works fine, though other compatible cardboard headset will work too!

Unlike similar apps that only stream the active window and translate head rotation into mouse movements, VRidge is a “complete runtime replacement with low-level hooks that fully emulates SteamVR HMD so all SteamVR games should work without any extra configuration.” You can also use third-party software/hardware to expand its capabilities.

While not shown in real-time, VRidge’s video stream is only about one to two frames behind input, so lag really isn’t an issue unless you’re a stickler for precision.

First and foremost, you’ll need to install the RiftCat client (used to run VRidge) on your computer. You can download the install from Riftcat’s home page. The download is free, but you are only limited to ten minutes of playtime per session. You can upgrade to the full version for 14.99 euro, which will then allow you to play without time restriction.

After the installation and during the first run, it will prompt you to pair it with your phone. The center of the screen shows a phone image with a “Seeking Connection” message, which means that it is searching for a phone to pair.

riftcat-first-run

For the connection used by your PC to connect to your mobile phone, your options are WiFi and USB.

On your phone you will have to install the VRidge 2 app from Google Play. The desktop software will start looking for the mobile app, and you can’t move forward until it’s installed. Once installed on your mobile device, open it up, and you’ll see the connection screen.

riftcat-pair-with-phone

Do note that your computer and mobile device will need to be connected to the same local network in order to connect via WiFi. While this is the easiest method, it’s also the most unstable. If you have connections issues, switching to a USB connection will help.

Once connected, you are ready to play VR games.

riftcat-dashboard

The desktop software supports Steam VR, Oculus Rift and GearVR. In this case we tested it with Steam VR since we don’t have a Oculus Rift and Gear VR available. To start SteamVR, first make sure that Steam is installed on your computer.

Next, on the Riftcat software click on the Big Play button and select “Play SteamVR.”

riftcat-play-button

If you are running it for the first time, this will install and set up the SteamVR Home app for you. Once it is installed, it will then stream it to your phone.

vridge-now-running

This is what you see on your phone.

vridge-running-on-phone

You can of course move your phone around and see how the surrounding moves. Of course, this is meant to be played with a VR headset, so make sure you have one around. (The cheap Google Cardboard will do.)

You can adjust the quality of the stream by dragging the slider from right to left. There is also a button for you to switch the audio on/off.

Once you are done with the stream, click the “End Stream” button on the desktop software, and it will terminate the stream.

In the VRidge Settings, there are extensive options for you to configure the quality of the game. The default screen resolution is 1920×1080, though you can change it to a higher/lower resolution.

vridge-settings

When you flick on the “Advanced Settings,” you can see tons more defined configurations, like frame rate, bit rate, renderer scale, streaming option, tracking options, SteamVR options, etc. You probably won’t need to touch these settings (as the default is good enough), but it is good to know that such configuration exists for you to customize the game play.

vridge-advanced-settings

On the pane on the left of the desktop software, in the “Configuration” section, you can integrate Moonlight and NOLO Wireless, both are advanced tools for better VR streaming. Moonlight is an open-source NVidia Gamestream client that lets you stream games from your PC to the phone with ultra-high performance, while NOLO is a 6-DOF position tracking system that you can use to achieve full PC VR capability.

riftcat-configurations

After testing out VRidge, I am quite impressed with how it works. There is little lag, and the quality is good, not to mention that the total cost is only about $27 (VRidge app + Google cardboard), as compared to an expensive VR headset like Vive. Even the cheaper Oculus Go costs $199, which makes VRidge one of the best alternatives.

VRidge

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