Tech enthusiasts waited years for virtual reality (VR) to become a realistic addition to their at-home gaming arsenal. A lot of pieces needed to come together. For one, vendors had to improve the experience on head-mounted displays (HMDs) so that gaming in VR didn't mean feeling sick. We also needed these headsets to be somewhat affordable and accessible. Of course, games and apps that make the next-gen tech even worth considering are essential. Today, we can say VR gaming has all but arrived, and with the right VR headset, you can enjoy incredible, immersive VR gaming right in your living room. We're here to help you choose the best VR headset for you.
Believe it or not, VR is so big now that there are multiple paths to VR gaming. You have HMDs that connect to gaming desktops / laptops. There are headsets that plug into smartphones and others that connect to a gaming console. There are even standalone headsets that don’t need to connect to anything at all -- just strap it on, and you're in VR.
Here are the best VR headsets for PC and gaming that are actually worth escaping reality to enjoy.
Credit: Shutterstock / leungchopan
Quick Shopping Tips
When buying a VR headset for gaming, consider the following:
- PC-connected VR is the best, but you'll need 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 desktop. For more wallet-friendly VR, consider HMDs that connect to a smartphone or standalone headsets that don’t connect to any system.
- Is your PC / smartphone powerful enough for VR? Before buying a VR headset that's dependent on a PC or smartphone connection, make sure your system meets the headset's minimum requirements. Steam has a free test for determining if your PC is VR-ready, and we also test this when we review gaming laptops. If your PC or smartphone doesn’t meet the headset's standards, consider upping your budget or buying a standalone headset instead.
- When it comes to specs, bigger is better. Generally, the greater the refresh rate, field of view (FOV), resolution and pixel density (measured in pixels per inch or PPI), the smoother and sharper games will look.
- Make sure you have enough square footage. Depending on the HMD, 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 PlayStation VR (PSVR) recommends a 10 x 10-foot area.
- Mind your glasses. You can usually wear glasses in VR, but this is more comfortable with some HMDs than others. Check the headset’s IPD (interpupillary distance, the distance between the pupils in millimeters), which might be adjustable. Better yet, opt for an headset with a glasses spacer, like the Oculus Go or Rift S.
- Another headset is coming. The HTC Vive Cosmos is available for pre-order now but won't hit shelves until October 3. The headset is HTC Vive's first consumer headset that doesn't require external base stations for tracking.
Best Virtual Reality Headsets
1. Oculus Quest
Best Overall VR Headset
Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)
Connectivity: None | Display: 2x OLED | Per-eye Resolution: 1440x1600 | PPI: ? | Refresh Rate: 72Hz | FOV: ~100 degrees | Weight: 571g
Pros: Reasonable price • Easy to configure • No wires • No need for a computer • Good-looking design
Cons: A step back in VR graphics quality • Requires a smartphone for initial setup • Restricted to Oculus Store content
The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset for most gamers. Although there are more premium and powerful headsets available, the Quest has the best balance between price and performance.
Without the burden of requiring you to set up base stations around the room or connect it to a PC or smartphone, this standalone HMD is a quick and easy path into quality VR. In fact, we gamed with it and found it to be as immersive as a PC-connected, room-scale VR system, like the Oculus Rift S. Magically, games like Superhot VR looked just as good as their desktop versions.
Read Review: Oculus Quest
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HTC Vive Pro
2. HTC Vive Pro
Best Splurge VR Headset
Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)
Connectivity: PC | Display: 2x 3.5-inch AMOLED | Per-eye Resolution: 1440x1600 | PPI: 615 | Refresh Rate: 90Hz | FOV: 110 degrees | Weight: 769g
Pros: Extremely comfortable • Excellent build quality • Ready for next-generation tracking • Best-in-class image quality
Cons: Headphones lack bass response • Pricey • Foam cushions not moisture-proof
The HTC Vive Pro is the best VR headset for gamers demanding premium, professional-grade VR. Not only does it boast a high resolution, it's super comfortable with an adjustable head strap.
But the costs associated with using this HMD. It requires a PC running a higher-end graphics card -- an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 / Quadro P5000 or AMD Radeon Vega RX 56 or better. And in addition to the headset’s already-high $800 / £800 price tag, its required base stations and controllers are sold separately for $300 / £320. Even a pre-made starter kit is $1,100 / £1,120, and that's before counting the cost of your PC.
Read Review: HTC Vive Pro
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3. Oculus Go
Best Budget VR Headset
Rating: 5/5 (Editor's Choice)
Connectivity: Smartphone | Display: 1x 5.5-inch low-persistence LCD | Per-eye Resolution: 1280x1440 | PPI: 538 | Refresh Rate: 60-75Hz (depending on the app) | FOV: ~100 degrees | Weight: 485g
Pros: Great priceLightweight • Tons of content • High-quality build
Cons: No spatial tracking • Longer charge time than run time
For a quick, easy and affordable way to get into VR, the Oculus Go is the best budget VR headset. Like the Oculus Quest, the Go doesn't need to connect to a PC or smartphone to work. Bonus: it's great for glasses-wearers too.
On the other hand, the Go is the only headset here that has only 3-degrees of freedom (3-DoF) instead of 6-DoF. That means you’re not meant to walk around with it. In other words, don’t expect the same quality or level of immersion as you'd get from a PC-connected headset, like the Go’s more capable sibling the Rift S.
Read Review: Oculus Go
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4. HP Reverb
Best Windows Mixed Reality Headset
Connectivity: PC | Display: 2x 2.89-inch LCD | Per-eye resolution: 2160 X2160 | PPI: ? | Refresh Rate: 90Hz | FOV: ~114 degrees | Weight: 498g
Pros: Exceptional visual clarity • Lightweight • Simple setup process • Pre-paired controllers • Built-in Bluetooth
Cons: Poor controller ergonomics • Faulty controller tracking with limited FOV • No IPD adjustment
The HP Reverb is our favorite Windows MR headset. Its display resolution is a noticeably higher than the Valve Index, Rift S, HTC Vive and even the Vive Pro. As a result, menu text never looked more clear. Plus, the Reverb is shockingly comfortable and easy to set up.
But you may have noticed that the Reverb has the lowest rating on this page. That's because it's limited by Windows MR, which generally suffers from poor tracking of hand controllers. With the Reverb, our controllers floated all over the screen if we left the tracking’s narrow FOV. Only buy the Reverb over other headsets here if you have a reason to prioritize higher resolution over good controllers (or are committed to Windows MR).
Read Review: HP Reverb
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