Hopeful enthusiasts waited years for virtual reality (VR) to become accessible enough for the home. And with many of us suddenly stuck at home more, the idea of ‘leaving’ and entering a world of VR has become much more appealing.
But it’s not just boredom that’s made VR more enticing; it’s the tech too. Many things had to come together before at-home VR was plausible. Vendors needed to improve head-mounted displays (HMDs) so that VR gaming didn’t lead to nausea. We also needed headsets that were somewhat affordable. Of course, games and apps that make the next-gen tech worthwhile, like Half-Life: Alyx, are crucial. Today, it’s fair to say that VR gaming has all but arrived. We’re here to help you find the best VR headset for you so you can enjoy incredible, immersive games and experiences right at home.
VR has grown so much that there are various ways you to get into VR gaming. There are HMDs that connect to gaming desktops / gaming laptops, smartphones, as well as the PlayStation VR (PSVR), which connects to a gaming console. There are even standalone headsets, or HMDs that don’t need to connect to anything at all. Just strap it on, and you’re in VR. Plus, with distance learning growing, adding VR into the mix can help keep lessons immersive and engaging (Microsoft Flight Simulator counts, right?).
Below are the best VR headsets for PC and gaming that are actually worth escaping reality to enjoy. And if the VR headset you’re after doesn’t include a great set of headphones, be sure to check out our Best Gaming Headsetspage so that sound quality and isolation isn’t the weakest link in your VR immersion.
Quick Shopping Tips
When looking for the best VR headset for gaming, consider the following:
- PC-connected VR has the best experience but requires an expensive system. The best VR gaming comes from headsets that you tether to a PC. But a VR-ready gaming PC starts at around $900 for a laptop, or a couple hundred less if you build your own PC. For more wallet-friendly VR, consider standalone HMDs that don’t connect to any system or alternatives that connect to your smartphone.
- Is your PC / smartphone powerful enough for VR? Before buying a VR headset that relies on a PC or smartphone connection, you should ensure your device meets the headset’s minimum requirements. Steam has a free test for checking if your PC can handle VR, and we also test this in our gaming laptop reviews. If your PC or smartphone doesn’t meet the headset’s requirements, you might want to increase your budget or buy a standalone HMD instead.
- When it comes to specs, bigger is better. In general, the greater the headset’s refresh rate, field of view (FOV), total resolution and pixel density (measured in pixels per inch or PPI), the smoother and sharper games will look.
- Make sure your home has enough square footage. Depending on the headset, you may need a notable amount of physical space to properly game. For example, the Oculus Rift S recommends a 3 x 3-foot space minimum, and the PSVR recommends a 10 x 10-foot area.
- Mind your glasses. You can usually wear glasses in VR, but some HMDs make this more comfortable than others. Check the headset’s IPD (interpupillary distance, the distance between the pupils in millimeters), which may be adjustable. Better yet, opt for an headset with a glasses spacer, like the Oculus Go or Rift S.
- More options are coming. The HP reverb G2and XRSpace Mova are coming out this year. We’re still waiting for the HTC Vive Cosmos Play, a cheaper version of the HMD, to arrive this spring. And at CES 2020 in January, we saw upcoming HMDs hardcore enthusiasts may want to consider. The $450 Pimax Artisan is finally available, and we’re waiting for the 8K resolution Pimax Vision 8K X to exit pre-order and more news on the enterprise-focused, but incredibly interesting, Pico VR Glasses. The XRSpace Mova is also supposed to debut this year. And if you’re eagerly anticipating the PlayStation 5, note that the PSVRwill work on the console, as road to VRreported.
Best VR Headsets You Can Buy Today
The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset for the average shopper.
The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset for most shoppers. There are more premium and powerful headsets available; however, the Quest strikes the best balance between price and performance. It’s also easier to setup than some other headsets, which is great for people new to VR.
The Quest is a standalone headset, so you don’t have to connect it to a powerful PC or smartphone. Plus, you don’t have to set up base stations around your room, like some other, more premium headsets require. Ultimately, this HMD is a quick and easy path into quality VR. In fact, when we gamed on it, we found it to be as immersive as a pricier PC-connected, room-scale VR system, like the Oculus Rift S. Magically, games like Superhot VR looked just as good as their desktop versions.
(Image credit: Valve)
2. Valve Index
Best VR Headset for PC
Connectivity: PC | Display: 2x LCD, canted | Per-eye Resolution: 1440×1600 | PPI: ? | Refresh Rate: 80, 90, 120 or 144 Hz (experimental) | FOV: Up to 130 degrees | Weight: 1.78 pounds (807.4g)
- RGB subpixel array eliminates screen-door effect
- Wider FOV than comparable headsets
- Excellent audio quality
- Very heavy
- Less comfortable than the HTC Vive Pro
- Cushions are glued on
If you’re looking for the best possible VR experience at home, you should get a HMD that tethers to a PC. Today, the best VR headset for PC is the Valve Index. It comes from Valve, the company behind Steam and the Lighthouse tracking system used by the HTC Vive Pro and HTC Vive. The Index also uses Lighthouse base stations (including those Vive owners would already have), but is a step up for consumers from the Vive Pro.
The Index experience is quite customizable with canted lenses that allow for FOV adjustments of up to 10 degrees. There’s also mechanical IPD control. But the Index is less comfortable than the Vive Pro due to a less balanced distribution of its slightly heavier weight (1.8 pounds versus 1.7 pounds) and a bulky data cable.
Gaming on the Index offers your choice of refresh rate, allowing for up to 144 Hz as an experimental feature. This means you can pick your refresh rate based on your system’s capabilities, but you’ll need a pretty powerful graphics card to surpass 90 Hz. The most exciting part of the kit is the long-anticipated Index controllers, which secure to your hand with various adjustments and allow open-hand movements for in-game actions like picking something up. Additionally, the Index controllers have capacitive touch sensors for finger movements and pressure sensors that can tell a game how firm or light your grip is.
3. Oculus Go
Best Budget VR Headset
Connectivity: Smartphone | Display: 1x 5.5-inch low-persistence LCD | Per-eye Resolution: 1280×1440 | PPI: 538 | Refresh Rate: 60-75Hz (depending on the app) | FOV: ~100 degrees | Weight: 485g