In this article, we are going to take a look at FPV headsets. By “FPV headset”, we are referring to any device that you can use to view the FPV video feed from your quadcopter.
- 1 FPV Headset Types
- 2 Things to look for when purchasing a FPV headset
- 3 5 great FPV headsets to consider
- 4 Related Posts
FPV Headset Types
The first thing you’ll need to figure out when looking into purchasing an FPV headset is what type will work best for you. There are three main types of FPV viewing devices on the market: goggles, head-mounted displays, and monitors.
In the following sections, we’ll go over these three types of displays, but we can only do so much. More than any other piece of gear, an FPV headset is extremely personal. We’ve met folks who have eye conditions which makes it uncomfortable to focus on the screen through the fresnel lens found in head-mounted displays. Similarly, some headsets simply will not fit properly over your face. To really be sure what will work best for you, you need to try these headset types on.
We highly recommend you find a local hobby shop or attend a local FPV race (check out the schedules found at MultiGP). Folks in the hobby are generally extremely friendly and willing to let you try out their goggles.
FPV goggles are probably the most popular type of headset. No doubt every pilot you’ve seen on YouTube flying FPV quadcopters was wearing FatShark goggles.
Goggles are compact viewing devices that are worn like glasses and generally include two independent displays, one for each eye. Since they require two displays and very specialized electronics, goggles are the most expensive type of FPV headset – FatShark goggles retail between $300 and $500.
- Goggles are generally the most compact form of FPV headsets. They can be stowed in hard-case containers not much bigger than a case for sunglasses. Thus they are easy to travel with.
- 3D viewing is easy to support due to one display for each eye.
- Most goggles have optics that you can insert which will adjust the display focal length for vision deficiencies – allowing you to use the goggles without glasses or contact lenses.
- By far the “coolest” looking type of FPV headset to use.
- Miniature displays often have relatively poor video quality.
- Narrow field-of-view makes FPV experience less immersive, but can improve reaction times.
Those who want to travel with their quadcopter or fit all their gear into a small backpack, those who care about their aesthetic while flying, those with neck problems.
Headstrap-mounted displays are simply LCD monitors that are enclosed inside of a foam or plastic box which is then mounted directly on your head. In most cases, a lens is added between the eyes and the monitor to improve your ability to focus on the monitor. Wearing one of these headsets is basically like putting a private TV screen over your eyes.
Since these displays use mostly consumer-grade equipment, they are both cheap and have surprisingly high-quality video displays. We also like that many over-the-head displays include built-in batteries. This means you won’t have to remember yet another piece of equipment to bring to the field, but also allows you to get an on-screen notification when your goggles are about to shut off due to a low battery.
The lens you can insert into these goggles can be tuned to provide an incredibly immersive viewing experience. Some goggles, like the Headplay HDs, offer a truly cinematic view that stretches into both sides of your peripheral vision. When combined with a wider-angle FPV camera, it feels like you are inside of the cockpit of your quadcopter.
- Large, consumer LCD displays offer fantastic video quality.
- Swappable lenses allows you to adjust the field-of-view of the video feed, which can greatly increase immersion.
- Many of these headsets can be worn with glasses.
- These headsets weigh a lot more than goggles and can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- Large size means they will take up a large part of your backpack or drone case.
Those on a budget, those want to wear glasses while piloting, those who value a more immersive experience.
Regular LCD monitors with FPV receiver electronics built into them are the last major type of FPV viewing devices. These aren’t normal desktop PC monitors, they are modified in such a way that they can accept analog video feeds from our wireless transmitters and so that they do not squelch noisy video feeds – something that has been a “feature” on LCD monitors and TVs for decades, but is extremely harmful for FPV flying.
Monitors are rarely used for FPV quadcopter racing, but do see a lot of use with the professional drone market as well as with flying FPV on other aircraft types. The reason is that FPV quadcopters like to fly fast, low and in between tight spaces. This type of flying requires that you see tiny details like branches or other obstacles which can be difficult to see on tiny LCD screens, especially with a bright sun muting out some of the colors.
An FPV monitor is a great asset to have in your field kit in case you meet some curious people who want to see what FPV is all about – you can simply turn the monitor on and hand it to the curious party. They are also great for spectating FPV events. As a result, we recommend that most experienced pilots grab a monitor at some point in their career, but stick with the other two types for their first viewing device.
- Can be viewed by multiple people at once.
- Easy to switch from FPV to 3rd person flying.
- Works very well with elaborate, long-range ground stations.
- Can be viewed naturally – as long as you can see your quadcopter you’ll be able to see your FPV video feed.
- All but the brightest monitors will be washed out by the mid-day sun.
- Least immersive type of FPV experience.
- If tripod is used, is the most cumbersome of all FPV headset types to travel with.
Flying long range, Your second FPV viewing device, so you can show your friends and family what you’ve been up to, and have a backup in a pinch.
Can I just use a VR headset?
Unfortunately – not really. There is potential to use VR headsets with the Connex ProSight digital HD FPV system, but most conventional quadcopters output analog video which cannot be effectively used by a VR headset. I am hoping that someday this changes, though – as it would be pretty neat to buy one really nice headset that is capable of being used both for VR and FPV flying. VR headsets also have some pretty incredible technology built into them, while FPV headsets are generally built pretty cheap.
Things to look for when purchasing a FPV headset
So you’ve got a better idea of what type of headset you’d like to purchase, now lets discuss some other factors you should consider when making a purchasing decision.
5.8GHz Video Receiver
The type of video receiver included in a FPV headset should be a primary concern. Luckily, the industry has standardized around 5.8GHz video transmission on a fixed set of bands over the last couple of years so you really don’t need to worry about picking a headset that receives the right frequencies. Still, some video receivers are better than others. We like any FPV headset that incorporates the RX5808 5.8GHz receiver chip in it. This chip is well proven to have excellent range, clear video, and the ability to be extended with many custom features like band scanners and spectator modes.
Some FPV headsets do not ship with receivers. The FatShark Dominator series of goggles is a notable example of this. When purchasing these goggles, you need to buy a video receiver separately. This is a blessing and a curse – it means the headset will cost you even more money to be properly functional. On the flip side – it means you can upgrade your video receiver at any time – and also swap between frequencies if you so desire.
A diversity headset is one that utilizes two antennas and two video receivers to vastly improve reception range and resistance to video noise. Diversity headsets also allow you to combine directional and non-directional antennas to unlock further boosts to flying range. You can read more on the details of how diversity works and its theory of operation in our Antenna Theory page. If you have any desire to fly beyond visual line of site, we recommend you look at buying an FPV headset with diversity receivers.
DVR is an recording feature which allows you to save the video feed you are seeing in your goggles to an SD card. Having an FPV headset with this feature is similar to equipping your quadcopter with an HD action camera, except without the weight / aerodynamic penalty associated with that camera. You also don’t have to worry about breaking the action cam when flying in high-contact environments, like when racing. It is worth noting that DVR footage is not suitable for posting to YouTube to show off – it is generally of very low quality. Still, this is a really cool feature to have that has many practical uses. Generally, it is only found on higher-end headsets.
There are several things to look for with respect to FPV headset batteries:
- Location: Is it integrated into the headset or mounted on a strap. Integrated batteries look considerably better and are easier to manage. They also allow the headset to internally track charge state and warn you on-screen before failure. External batteries can be replaced at the field and can be charged with standard charging gear.
- Capacity: What is the expected battery life? Will it last for a whole flying session or race that you plan to fly in? We suggest looking for headsets that offer at least 2 hours of battery life.
- Charging: How is the battery charged? Some batteries can be charged from car cigarette lighters or USB ports, others need a LiPo charger, still others require you to use proprietary wall worts.
Video Input Jacks
Many inexpensive FPV headsets that have come to market recently omit video input jacks altogether and simply provide a 5.8GHz receiver as the only means to feed video to the headset. While this is perfectly fine for beginners, it can limit you somewhat. Having a way to feed video from an alternative source into your headset will be important if you want to use a groundstation someday – which many professional racers do. HDMI ports are pretty rare on FPV headsets but are necessary if you want to fly with the Connex Pro Sight HD FPV system. Presumably, they will be required for other HD video systems that may come out in the future.
Headset Seal / Light Leakage
Good quality headsets will have foam padding or something similar that seals the headset around your eyes so that sunlight cannot wash out the display inside of it. We prefer foam seals to the rubberized ones.
Comfort / Fit
This is probably the most important factor when choosing a headset but unfortunately is also the one factor you really cannot simply read about. We all have different facial structures and a headset that is very comfortable to one person can be unwearable to another. For example, I’ve encountered several headsets which stab sharply into my nose but which fit the nose of a friend of Asian descent like a glove. This seems to be a factor with headstrap-mounted displays more than for goggles – mostly because goggles only deal with the eyes and have IPD-adjustments. Our only advice is that if you are considering a headstrap-mounted display, you should attend a few FPV racing events and see what others are using and ask to try them on.
Display resolution is the “numbers” game of the FPV headset world. It pays to keep in mind that the best FPV camera and transmission system cannot achieve better than 720p resolution, and I highly doubt any do even that. We believe that 800x480px of resolution is sufficient for almost any FPV pilot, and less is not particularly worse. When we tested the FuriBee VR01 which has only 480x272px resolution, we didn’t notice it all in flight.
If you plan on doing HD digital FPV with the Connex ProSight or want to use your FPV headset for watching videos, resolution may become more important to you. In this case, we recommend at least 720p resolution. Just make sure the headset has an HDMI cable so you can make use of all that detail!
5 great FPV headsets to consider
There are a lot of great headsets on the market. Here is our “top 5” list for 2017, from most expensive to least:
Fat Shark Dominator HD3
Fat Shark is by far the oldest player in the FPV market on the list. Their goggles are the de facto standard that everyone else competes against. Pretty much every pro we know of wears Fat Sharks, including all of the YouTube sensations as well as James. If for no other reason than this, we are obligated to include these goggles on this list.
The Fat Shark Dominators are, in fact, very good products. We really like their modular bays where you can add all sorts of video receivers and other components, like head trackers. We like the included de-fogging fan and DVR features, and the ability to slide in lenses which can fix any vision deficiencies while looking through the goggles.
We don’t like their batteries. Almost every pilot we know has had some sort of problem with their Fat Shark batteries in short order, requiring replacement. This is unacceptable for a premium product. We also think the SD card slot position is poorly engineered – who signed off on that crap? Finally, we don’t understand why Fat Shark went with two different aspect ratios for their Dominator v3 and Dominator HD3 headsets. It’s confusing and unnecessary.
The bottom line is that Fat Sharks are the industry standard, but we think they are pretty over-priced for what they are. If you are willing to spend, the money, though, look seriously at the Dominator HD3, which has the superior 4:3 aspect ratio displays.
Purchase the Fat Shark Dominator HD3 at Gearbest – $499.99 (Does not include 5.8GHz receiver module)
Purchase a Fat Shark 5.8GHz Diversity Receiver Module at Gearbest – $16.00
The Aomway Commander is the first goggle-style FPV headset on the market that we think gives Fat Shark a run for it’s money. They are not cheap goggles, but they come ready to use at their list price (unlike Fat Sharks) and seem better designed in general. In particular, we like that they have diversity by default without having to install janky oversized receiver modules like the Fat Sharks and we like the built in control buttons offered by having an integrated receiver chip. A de-fogging fan button is another nice touch. If you want a goggle-style headset but cannot afford the Fat Shark Dominator HD, the Aomway Commander is our recommendation for you.
Head Play HD
The Head Play HD headset saw a ton of hype when it was released in late 2015, but hasn’t seen a whole lot of coverage since. We still think it’s a very relevant, competitive headset and it remains vesps favorite. The reason is that there is nothing else on the market that we have experienced that can compete with the Head Plays incredibly immersive, wide field-of-view. Going up for a flight while wearing this headset for the first time will take your breath away – gauranteed.
That being said, there’s a lot of things wrong with the Head Play. It is the most expensive headstrap-mounted display headset on this list. It’s primarily constructed from foam, which feels cheap and dents easily. It does not include DVR or diversity, and it is the largest headset on this list as well as the heaviest. Still, we think everyone should give the Head Play HD a shot in their FPV career.
Eachine EV800D – Propwashed Best Value Pick
We were smitten by the Eachine EV800D that was recently sent to us for review. It has a lot going for it by combining pretty much every feature you could want in an FPV headset with a fantastic price. The “transformer” concept that lets it be either a monitor or a head-mounted display is also very clever and useful. Our only gripes with the headset was the ineffective band scanner and some light leakage problems. For this reason, we are picking the EV800D as our current best value pick. If you’re a newcomer to the hobby and can’t justify the spending required to get yourself a pair of goggles, this is the headset to get.
The FuriBee VR01 is a thoroughly average headset that stands out from the pack due to it’s price. For a headset that offers dual antennas with an effective band scanner, it is a pretty incredible deal at $50. Note that this headset does not have diversity, but our experience with the dual antennas was great. If you are not sure FPV is for you and want to get a headset to attend races or pair with your microquad you got for your birthday for as little money as possible, this is the headset to go with.