When Oculus Rift, the first VR headset was launched back in March 2016, the pricing turned away all but the extreme enthusiasts and VR was considered a luxury experience.
Two and a half years down the line and prices of VR headsets have now reduced to half of what they were. Furthermore, the headsets have actually become better in performance and experience, with more content available than ever before.
Best VR Headsets Reviewed
Virtual reality is still fairly new and has a long way to go before it becomes a common part of our digital lives. However, there are still some great VR headsets available right now that offer wonderful experiences for those who own them. Additionally, VR headsets for smartphones and standalone headsets have also made virtual reality technology more accessible to more individuals.
We’ve reviewed the 5 best VR headsets on the market right now across multiple platforms. There’s also a buyer’s guide after the reviews to help you with your purchase.
The VR Headset That Started it All
The Oculus Rift was expensive when it came out, but price drops and vastly improved functionality over the course of the past 2.5 years has made it top dog in overall performance and reliability among VR headsets.
You might want to purchase an additional sensor for the best room-scaling with the Oculus Rift, but that doesn’t prevent it from being the best VR experience out there.
HTC Vive Pro
VR at Higher Resolutions
The HTC Vive Pro offers the ultimate visual VR experience with its high-resolution display and incredible performance. It’ll cost you plenty, but it’s the best VR headset in-terms of pure quality out there.
If you have around 1.5 grands burning a hole in your pocket, you should consider the HTC Vive Pro over any other VR headset for the ultimate virtual reality experience.
It’s the VR headset (and the company) that essentially started the VR movement that retains our top spot. Oculus Rift was an expensive product when initially launched in 2016, but after over two years the device has witnessed its price cut to less than half and the number of compatible VR games grown multifold.
For quite a while, the Oculus Rift wasn’t the best VR headset simply because it didn’t come with included controllers and was lacking in room-scaling. Much has changed since the launch. Oculus has made the Rift top dog by including two motion controllers in the box. The room-scaling is still a problem in larger rooms with two sensors, but compatibility with a third sensor grants the user room-scaling that can match that of the HTC Vive.
Perhaps crucially, the Oculus doesn’t demand a super-machine to run. Even an affordable graphics card like the Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti is capable of running it, though we do recommend a more powerful rig (with an Nvidia GTX 1060 or above) for it for the best experience.
Since its launch, Oculus has expanded the VR games library to over 500 titles. Facebook ownership means the company is also constantly working to make VR interactions more social through multiplayer experience.
- Good value
- Integrated headphones
- Can run on a medium-end PC
- Comfortable design
- Extensive library of VR games
- Requires purchase of an additional sensor for better room tracking
While the Oculus Rift needs an additional sensor to get the ideal room-scaling, the HTC Vive offered that by default. Until recently, the Vive was streets ahead of the Oculus Rift due to its superior room-scaling and excellent motion controls. The gap however is no longer there, and because the Oculus Rift is priced less than the HTC Vive, we preferred it to the HTC Vive as our favorite “mainstream” VR headset.
The HTC Vive Pro, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. This is VR experience at a premium price, offering perhaps the best immersion out there among VR headsets. One of the biggest reasons is its insane resolution of 2880 x 1600, offering an increase in dots per inch by a staggering 78% over the regular HTC VIve.
The high resolution results in extremely detailed images on the screen. Integrated headphones on the HTC Vive Pro add to the immersive experience further, and the nose guard ensures there is no light leaked into the view. Like its mainstream brother, you have access to Steam VR games, since the VR headset was built in collaboration with Valve.
However, the HTC Vive Pro is a premium experience, and it makes sure the users know. You have to buy the sensors and controllers separately. This will cost you well over $1000 for this VR experience; opt for a Vive Pro Kit and you’ll still have to pay $1,400.
- Incredible image quality
- Integrated headphones
- Very comfortable to wear
- Fantastic room-scale
- Premium price point even with kit
- Difficult to set up
The PlayStation VR headset is the ideal virtual reality solution for gamers who want the experience without spending several grands on a powerful PC. Heck, you can get both a PS4 and a PS VR in a single bundle for less than what the HTC Vive costs at the moment! However, do note that the PlayStation VR does require additional accessories that need to be bought separately or in costlier bundles for the best experience.
When it comes to design, Sony shows it knows exactly what it’s doing. The PlayStation VR headset has a unique design among its competitors with great adjustability to suit all head sizes. It’s a stylish and cozy headset.
But perhaps more importantly, it’s the large array of available VR games that make the PS VR such an attractive offer. Publisher support ensures a continuous influx of new VR titles to keep the experience going.
The PlayStation VR is also unique in the sense that it has a comparatively higher refresh rate, reaching up to 120Hz. This results in smoother images. However, the display resolution on the PlayStation VR is inferior to the PC-based VR headsets.
VR gaming beyond mobiles isn’t cheap, but the PlayStation VR offers it at a price that won’t require a monster PC or as big an investment as the other VR headsets. It’s also easy to set up thanks to its seamless integration with the PlayStation 4.
- Good value
- Superior refresh rate
- Plenty of available VR games
- Fairly easy setup
- Not as effective at tracking as Oculus and HTC headsets
- Doesn’t come with all the required accessories
Perhaps the most affordable way to enjoy the VR experience is through smartphones. Mobile VR is a thing, and while it existed before Samsung released its set of Gear VR headsets, they can claim credit to bringing it to a respectable standard.
It may not deliver the kind of experience you’d get from the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headsets, but it does deliver enough immersion to be worth it. Plus, with mobile VR games like Minecraft and Land’s End available, there is extra incentive to purchase the Gear VR if you enjoy the handheld platform for gaming.
The 2017 version of the Gear VR comes with a dedicated controller, which is an added welcome. Additionally, mobile VR is unique in the sense that the VR headset is powered by the smartphone, resulting in a completely untethered experience. Not requiring a supremely expensive PC is also a plus.
The Gear VR is the best among mobile VR headsets because of the design, performance, and the motion controller. The quality of the image and overall performance however is entirely dependent on the smartphone you slot into the VR headset.
One major downside with the Gear VR is its exclusivity – it is only compatible with a handful of smartphones, mainly comprising of all Samsung flagships from S6 onwards.
- VR experience at an affordable price
- No cables required
- Very lightweight and comfortable
- Comes with a useful controller
- Mobile VR immersion and application is limited
- Only supports Samsung flagship smartphones
The Oculus Go is a potential game-changer in the VR world as it ushers a dawn of a new era for virtual reality. Confused? You should be. Oculus Go is the first VR headset that offers a completely standalone experience.
This means you don’t need to connect it with any primary machine like contemporary VR headsets. No PC or smartphone is required to power what you see on the Oculus Go.
When it comes to performance, the Oculus Go is comparable to the Oculus Rift. It doesn’t have built-in headphones like its older brother, but it offers similar impressive visuals and limits the screen-door effect notorious among most VR headsets.
Even though it’s a new iteration and offers something unique, you still have access to over 1,000 apps, games, and movies to experience thanks to a launch assisted by tons of content. Moreover, the Oculus Go is also compatible with the Samsung Gear VR content, only making it that more appealing. The VR headset features integrated storage, so you can opt to get it in either 32GB or 64GB.
Functionally, the Oculus Go is quite front heavy because its processing units are placed within the visor. While it’s great to have a truly untethered experience, the charging time and battery life also aren’t ideal. The Oculus Go, however, may have a short overall life; its successor, the Oculus Quest, is expected to release in early 2019 and offer even better standalone performance.
- No PC or smartphone required
- Reasonable price
- Great experience for a standalone VR headset
- Lots of content
- Heavy at the front
- Will be succeeded by the Oculus Quest soon
The platform you want the virtual reality experience on is the number one consideration before you buy. PC offers overall the best VR experience, but it also requires a powerful rig comprising of high-end GPUs to work properly. If you have a powerful PC, you’re all set for the best VR experience with the likes of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
PlayStation 4 owners will naturally gravitate towards the more accessible and affordable solution, the PlayStation VR. While it doesn’t quite offer the same experience as the PC based VR content due to limited room-scaling, it is still an excellent mid-range option for many.
Finally, those looking for a more casual VR experience without any tethers should consider the Samsung Gear VR or the Oculus Go.
Comfort is an essential part of the VR experience because, well, you’ll likely be wearing the VR headset or a good while. On average, a VR headset is considered comfortable if it can be worn without any fatigue on the nose, eyes, and head (and ears if it features integrated earphones) for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.
Air vents embedded in the VR are also essential to keep things cool and prevent sweating, particularly on the nose. When it does get sweaty, the face guard should have the ability to wick away the moisture and ensure comfort. Weight and weight balance are also important in comfort to prevent fatigue on the head and particularly the nose.
The content you’re wishing to access should also dictate your purchase decision. If you’re looking to explore lots of VR content with the most immersive and luxurious experience, you should consider the HTC Vive Pro.
If you’re looking for proven experience with noticeable hit VR games such as Eve: Valkyrie and Job Simulator, the PlayStation VR is a great choice as Sony continues to promote the development of VR titles.
Oculus Rift tends to offer the overall best balance between lots of quantity of high-quality content. Their store continues to grow, and the software is constantly optimized to meet public demands.
Yes, you can. VR headsets work with glasses as they are fully adjustable. However, the experience isn’t as comfortable as it would be without glasses. It is generally recommended that you use VR with glasses on.
Currently, which VR headset offers the most content?
This is a difficult question to answer. When it comes to pure numbers, perhaps Steam (HTC Vive and Vive Pro) offers the most content. However, in terms of quality, Oculus has the best VR content out there in its store.
What is room-scale and how does it affect my experience?
Room-scale is the use of clear space to allow movement of the individual using the VR headset. Room-scaling is essential the tracking of the individual within that space. This is done through various sensors. Currently, HTC offers the best overall room-scaling with accurate tracking in larger rooms. However, Oculus is not far behind with the Rift if you add an additional sensor.