The virtual reality headsets on offer have grown over the years, but not all head-mounted displays are created equal. If you plan to invest in the VR market, then getting one of the best VR headsets is important. To do that, though, you’ll need to take a number of things into account.
First, you’ll want to think about why you’re getting it and what kind of experiences you want to enjoy. If you want a ton of games, then look for headsets that offer easy access to those kinds of experiences. If you plan to do art or anything that requires precise control, then going with a VR headset that offers accurate controller tracking is key.
Next, you’re going to want to take a look at the hardware you already have on hand. Many of these headsets require a fairly high-powered PC with a top-tier CPU and GPU to deliver great performance. If you don’t already have a top-end PC, then it’s worth taking headsets that deliver standalone experiences into account. Different headsets will also utilize different types of displays, like AMOLED or LCD displays. Finally, some headsets out there require you to have specific types of accounts.
Apple’s VR headset might not be here yet, but there are still plenty of great options out there. Now that you’ve got a basic idea of what to look for, let’s go over some of the best VR headsets available right now.
Best VR headset overall: Meta Quest 2
Pros: Wireless, can also be wired to PC, easy to set up and use,
Cons: Requires Facebook account for now, lower refresh rate compared to some
It might not be the most premium offering out there, but the Meta Quest 2 (previously known as the Oculus Quest 2) is easily the best VR headset available right now. Not only is the Meta Quest 2 one of the cheapest VR options, it also acts as a completely standalone device. That means you won’t need to connect it to any expensive PCs or hardware to get it working. You also won’t have to worry about a bunch of heavy cables holding you down.
Of course, that kind of freedom does come with some downsides, and the standalone games don’t offer the same fidelity as PC-run VR experiences. You can remove a little of that headache by connecting the Quest 2 to your PC using a special cable. When connected, that cable lets you use the processing power of your PC to run games. The Quest 2 already offers a ton of great content developed just for it. But being able to tether to your PC opens the door for even more.
The biggest hindrance to the Quest 2, though, is its Facebook account requirement. Back in 2020, Facebook (which is now known as Meta) made having a Facebook account a requirement to get your Quest 2 to work. It’s annoying, but most people already have a Facebook account anyway, so it shouldn’t be too big of an issue for most. In the future, Meta headsets like the Quest 2 could work more easily with VR peripherals that can let you feel.
Best premium VR headset: Valve Index
Pros: Wide field of view, great motion tracking controls
Cons: Requires high-end GPU, cables can be restricting
Valve might have collaborated with HTC to create the original Vive, but the Valve Index was a true reckoning for VR headsets. Valve took everything it learned from the Vive’s development and tacked on even more. An improved field of view, of 130-degrees, higher-resolution displays, and improved tracking controls were all key parts of the upgrades Valve wanted to hit with the Index. And hit them it did.
The Index also includes no noticeable screen-door effect, something that has plagued many VR headsets on the market. The headset also offers a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. And, there’s currently an experimental mode testing support for 140Hz. That makes it one of the smoothest VR headsets out there right now.
Another impressive feat the Index has managed to offer is per-finger tracking. This basically lets the controllers track where each of your fingers is, providing more immersive controls. There’s not a lot of usage cases for this tech just yet, but it is a fancy thing to have access to, should you ever need it at some point.
Of course, all of those premium features come at a premium price. While you can find deals for the headset, you should expect to spend a pretty penny picking this one up.
Best VR headset display: HTC Vive Pro 2
Pros: Wide field of view, high-resolution, easy-access to tons of VR experiences
Cons: Price, heavy cables, can get uncomfortable after extended use
Since the release of the original Vive, HTC has been working hard to hold onto its little corner of the VR market. The Vive Pro 2 is yet another outstanding offer from the company, and it carries one of the best displays you can find on a headset right now.
The Vive Pro 2 builds off of all the improvements that HTC has made in its past headsets, and it easily keeps up with the likes of the Valve Index. It’s another expensive option, which requires a heavy-duty PC to run, but it’s worth it for the thousands of VR experiences HTC’s Viveport service offers.
Like most of these high-end VR headsets, the Vive Pro 2 comes with a ton of heavy cables, which can feel a bit restrictive depending on your VR setup. You’ll also find that it can get very warm after extended use, but this is a problem most VR headsets face in one capacity or another.
If you’re looking for a VR headset with the best display, look no further. The included LCD panels offer an impressive resolution of up to 4896 x 2448. The Vive Pro 2 also has one of the widest field-of-view options, clocking in at 120-degrees. It’s not quite as wide as the Valve Index, but HTC’s premium offering shouldn’t be ignored by prospective VR buyers.
Best VR headset for accurate tracking: HTC Vive Cosmos Elite
Pros: Accurate tracking, high-resolution displays, many deals include Half-Life: Alyx
Cons: Expensive, ships with first-gen base stations and controllers
This version of HTC’s Vive Cosmos headset is essentially just an updated version of the original Cosmos. It includes a new faceplate and returns to the base stations and controllers from the first generation of HTC’s headsets. This is a bit of a downgrade since you lose access to the inside-out tracking the Vive Cosmos offers. However, that downgrade is well worth it as the base stations provide more responsive and accurate tracking. This is actually one of the best things about the Vive Cosmos Elite, as it features some of the most accurate controller tracking in any VR headset.
This HMD offers dual 4.3-inch 1440 x 1700 displays running at 90Hz, which delivers exceptional quality. Like most of HTC’s headsets, though, the Vive Cosmos Elite requires a lot of room because of the base station setup. You’ll want a play area with at least six by six meters of space, otherwise, you might end up slamming your hand or face into a wall.
While the first-gen controllers used with the Cosmos Elite aren’t the best, they still offer a lot of o functionality for VR users. A lot of deals for the Vive Cosmos Elite also include two free months to HTC’s Viveport service. That’s open access to thousands of VR experiences without having to spend another dollar. Of course, the Vive Cosmos Elite is already going to cost you a pretty penny, but that’s expected for a more premium VR headset like this.
Best budget VR headset: PlayStation VR
Pros: Price, easy to use, works on PS5
Cons: Lower quality VR experiences compared to PC headsets, requires PlayStation console
Sony’s PlayStation VR headset has gotten a lot of flak over the years for being underpowered. That doesn’t change that it is one of the best budget options out there. Especially if you already have a PlayStation console.
Part of the appeal for this VR headset comes from not needing a high-end gaming PC to run games. Sony has also partnered with a lot of developers to bring several VR exclusives to its platform. That helped make it a hit among gamers. Setup for PlayStation VR is extremely simple, and it connects directly into the PS4. Sony has also shared that the system works with the PS5 using a special camera. Furthermore, some of the experiences have been updated to provide better performance on newer consoles.
PlayStation VR makes us of the PlayStation Move controllers, as well as the default PS4 and PS5 controllers. It’s fairly comfortable, though the wires are a bit short. If you want to experience virtual reality, but you aren’t sold on a more expensive headset, then PlayStation VR could be a really solid option. Sony is also working on an updated model. The company says it will address a lot of the problems that users had with the original.