While far from the runaway craze VR was predicted to be when it first entered the market, it still manages to enchant most people who try it. Besides, quality headsets are becoming more affordable than ever. Whether you have your eye on a high-tech gift for the gamer or nerd in your life, or just want to treat yourself, here's a guide to the best VR headsets you can buy.
PC-connected VR headsets
Console-connected VR headsets
Affordable, portable entry-level headset for multimedia and simple games
VR on a budget used to be a nightmare of cheap headsets that needed to be strapped to smartphones of specific sizes. While Google's Cardboard VR is still nice for dipping your toes into the VR pool, the true portable VR solution really arrived this year with Oculus Go - a $200 lightweight headset that doesn't require connection to any other device.
The Oculus Go is great for consuming 360-degree video, VR movies and purely visual experiences. However, because it lacks any tracking capability, its gaming experience is quite limited. It can only track your gaze and your controller pointer, but not actually 'know' where your body is in the virtual space.
To get an idea of the kind of experiences possible check out our list of the best apps and games for Oculus Go.
- Price: $200 (32GB storage) / $250 (64GB storage)
Standalone Daydream VR headset with tracking; uses Android apps and needs more love
This is another headset that doesn’t need a smartphone or a PC. Its main advantage over the Oculus Go is that the Mirage Solo uses the Worldsense tracking system to actually detect your position with 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF), which means that more interactive apps and games are possible.
For mobile VR gaming, it's definitely better than the Oculus Go - you can play Rez Infinite, Hunter's Gate, Virtual Virtual Reality and so on without problems. The major VR video platforms can also be accessed. You can even, if you want to, use it with your PC for simpler PC VR based software.
The Mirage Solo is a headset with a comfortable design that supports a deeper level of immersion than its standalone Oculus competitor. However, the downside is that not only does it cost twice as much, but there is a relative lack of support from Google for its Daydream VR platform. The Oculus Quest has just launched offering a much better package for the same price, and the Mirage Solo would have to drop in price considerable to have any chance of competing.
The Oculus Quest is the best bet for those who want to actually do stuff and play energetic games in VR, but don't already have a high-spec gaming PC. A complete all-in-one VR system with 6 degrees of freedom tracking, excellent controllers, and no need to cable up to a computer, strap a flagship smartphone to your face, or set up external sensors in your house. Currently, the Quest is the only consumer-focused standalone VR set that lets you play a variety of games with tracked hand controllers.
You can play with the Oculus Quest virtually anywhere, and there's an impressive line-up of titles including hits like Beat Saber and Superhot VR already confirmed. Sure, the mobile hardware means that you can't reach the fantastic graphical quality of the more expensive PC-connected headsets available, but the Quest is convenient, lightweight and affordable, making it a great entry point into VR for newbies.
Price: $399 (64GB) or $499 (128GB)
VR headsets for PC
The fact remains that the absolute best VR experiences available today still require a connection to a home computer. If you've already got a powerful PC, then the two main players in this game are still the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Comfortable, great controllers and an extensive library of content
Oculus is an established name in VR and the Rift was a pioneering device, and but now Oculus has replaced the original Rift with the Rift S, an upgraded version. The Rift S can immediately access the same library as the original Rift, but the new headset boasts a higher resolution display, as well as inside-out tracking technology called Oculus Insight built right into the headset (the original Rift requires external sensors for room-scale tracking).
One of the best features of the Oculus VR sets are the ergonomically designed Touch controllers you can engage with the things that you see in virtual reality, and the headset offers integrated audio with over-ear headphones.
The original Oculus Rift is showing its age in places, including when it comes to screen resolution, which is currently lower than that of the Oculus Go. However, since prices will go down after the release of its successor, it can still be worth getting for the VR gamer on a budget. access to the apps, games, and experiences in the well-stocked Oculus Store, as well as gaming platforms such as Steam, still make it a strong contender. Compared to the Vive, the Rift is less powerful, but the controllers and headset are more ergonomic and comfortable for most people.
To make sure that your PC will be sufficiently powerful to use the Rift, check the official site.
Room-scale immersive VR experience for gaming and everything else, but you'll need some space
This device by the Taiwanese company will allow you to live the VR experience with total immersion (and we’re not just talking about games). The HTC Vive remote control can act as all kinds of virtual objects: a gaming weapon, a pencil for drawing, a hammer and, of course, virtual hands. Unlike the Oculus Rift, with the Vive (and thanks to HTC's collaboration with Valve) you can receive phone calls, display and reply to your messages, consult your calendar, etc. without exiting the 3D viewer.
A standout feature of the Vive is its room-scale tracking that allows the user to roam around a 4.5×4.5 meter area, with your whole body detected within the virtual environment. However, that requires you to place sensors around the parameter, which doesn't fit into everyone's interior decor sensibilities.
Money is not a problem? Then get the Vive Pro
The original Vive has come way down from its original $799 asking price, but HTC has since introduced the ultimate high-end, high-price VR system for virtual reality fans with money to burn. The newer Vive Pro boasts improved visuals at 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye (2880 x 1600 pixels combined), integrated high-quality audio and larger scale room tracking for the ultimate in VR immersion available today. Of course, it'll cost you.
Is your PC compatible with HTC Vive / Vive Pro? Check here.
Price: $470 for HTC Vive system, $1,193 for Vive Pro. Both devices come with a free trial of HTC's Viveport service to get you started with games and apps.
HTC Vive and Oculus Rift ruled the roost in VR for a few years, but now other manufacturers are starting to catch up. While many of the alternative VR headsets using Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality platform are difficult to recommend over the Rift, Samsung's revamped Odyssey headset is a great option.
Samsung’s new Odyssey+ device has the same screen resolution of the Vive Pro and can run high-end VR games and experiences, including Steam games, but without the need for external sensors as those used with the Vive. This is because tracking is integrated directly into the headset. It's not quite as wide-ranging as the Vive, but it has a great price (and is also frequently on sale) and it's more convenient to set up.
The headset also boasts the new "anti screen door effect", which effectively doubles the pixels per inch on the OLED displays for a clearer image. With integrated AKG headphones and good controllers, the Odyssey+ offers a strong package for the price, but doesn't come with a starter kit of games like the Rift or Vive.
Price: $500 direct from Samsung.
Another strong contender on the Windows Mixed Reality platform is the HP Reverb. The key selling point here is visual fidelity: the Reverb boasts an impressive 2160 x 2160 per eye resolution, i.e. 4K resolution at 4320 x 2160. It’s got a 114-degree field of view and, like other Windows Mixed Reality headsets, integrates display-mounted cameras for inside-out tracking and two WMR controllers. Additional features include removable headphones and built-in mic.
This new offering from HP beats the above Samsung Odyssey+ and even the HTC Vive Pro when it comes to screen resolution, clarity and sharpness. Furthermore, it benefits from a lightweight and streamlined design, with a total weight of just over one pound (not including cable).
Brought to you by one of the biggest names in PC gaming, the Valve Index aims for a premium experience in the high-end segment, and you'll need a good gaming PC with a recent graphics card to use it.
The Index has twin LCD panels with a high combined pixel resolution of 2880x1600; a wide field-of-view of up to 130 degrees and a default refresh rate of 120Hz (potentially up to 144Hz), which should make it a real treat for the eyes. The Index a.k.a. 'knuckles' controllers offer detailed finger tracking. Headphones are built-in and there's even some space in the front for future hardware add-ons, though we have no idea what they could be.
It's impressive but still reliant on setting up external "lighthouse" tracking boxes in your home and a wired connection to an expensive computer, which, like the Vive, doesn't suit many people's living spaces.
For $999 you get the complete package of Valve Index headset, two controllers and base stations, but you can get the headset by itself for $499, and the controllers will cost $279.
You can pre-order the Valve Index on Steam
Affordable, comfortable, only for use with the PS4 (Pro), natch
The PlayStation 4 VR solution isn't the most powerful or hi-res of this bunch, but it's by far the most comfortable to wear and convenient to use. This makes it a top VR option for the price. To use the headset, you’ll need a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro, and a PlayStation Camera, which is useful for position tracking. So, for anyone who already has a PS4 or is planning to get one, this is a no-brainer.
To interact with games, you can use the PS Dualshock controller or specialized PlayStation Move VR controllers that let you move your hands in the virtual world. Equipped with one OLED 1080p screen, the viewer’s visual field is about 100°.
Another advantage to the PSVR over PC headsets is similar to PC vs PS gaming generally. You might find that you prefer the exclusive games for PSVR, such as Astro Bot Rescue Mission, one of our favorite newer VR games. Here, you’ll find all the games that are compatible with the PlayStation VR. The best way to get a PSVR is usually as some kind of bundle with a console, Move controllers or games.
Have you already tried virtual reality? What headset is best for you? Let us know in the comments!