Tech enthusiasts waited years for virtual reality (VR) to not only get worthwhile consumer apps and games, but to be offered in an accessible and relatively affordable fashion. By 2019, not only are their numerous VR headsets you can game with at home, there's a variety of choices. From head-mounted displays (HMDs) that connect to gaming desktops / laptops, smartphones, or consoles, to standalone headsets that don’t need to connect to anything at all, there are numerous paths to VR gaming.
To help you achieve your optimal VR experience, we broke down the best VR headsets for PC and gaming that are actually worth escaping reality to enjoy. We made our choice based our own rigorous testing.
Credit: Shutterstock / leungchopan
Quick Shopping Tips
When choosing a VR headset for gaming, consider the following:
- PC-connected VR is best but requires a pricey system. The best VR experiences come from PC-connected headsets. However, a sufficient gaming PC starts at around $900 for a laptop, or a couple hundred less if you build your own desktop. For a less costly VR, consider HMDs that run off a smartphone or standalone ones that don’t need to connect to a system.
- Is your PC / smartphone powerful enough for VR? If you want PC or smartphone-connected VR, make sure your system meets the headset's minimum requirements. Steam offers a free test for checking if your PC is VR-ready. If your PC or smartphone doesn’t meet the standards, consider upping your budget or opting for a standalone headset.
- 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 the gaming experience.
- Make sure you have sufficient square footage. Depending on the product, you could need a notable amount of physical space to properly use a VR headset. For example, the Oculus Rift recommends a 3x3-foot space minimum, while the PlayStation VR (PSVR) recommends a 10 x 10-foot area.
- Mind your glasses. You can typically wear glasses in VR, but some headsets makes 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 HMD with a glasses spacer, like the Oculus Go or Oculus Rift.
- New headsets are coming this year. We're still waiting on the HTC Vive Cosmos (price TBD) to debut in Q3, and the Valve Index will start shipping this month. The Vive Cosmos will be HTC Vive’s first foray into tether-free VR for gamers. The Index (starts at $499 / £459) is the first VR headset from the makers of Steam.
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 gamers right now based on its good balance of price and performance. Despite lacking the power of more expensive headsets, it has what most consumers need from a VR headset.
Without the burdensome requirements of base stations or connection to a PC or smartphone while gaming, this standalone headset is a quick and easy path into VR, and we found it to be as immersive as a PC-connected, room-scale VR system, such as the Rift. Don’t worry, games like Superhot VR looked just as good as their desktop counterparts.
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 premium VR headset available to consumers today. It offers top-level display resolution, plus an amazingly comfortable and adjustable head strap. But running this pro-level HMD gets pricey.
Second, in addition to the headset’s already hefty $800 / £800 price tag, its necessary base stations and controllers are sold separately for $300 / £320. That’s a total of $1,100 / £1,120 to start, not including 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
The Oculus Go is a quick, easy and affordable way to immediately immerse yourself in VR, since you don’t need to connect it to a PC or smartphone. All the computing power is built into the HMD itself, and it’s great for glasses wearers too.
However, the Go is the only headset on this page that offers 3-degrees of freedom (3-DoF) instead of 6-DoF, so you’re not meant to walk around while wearing it. In other words, don’t expect the same level experience as you would from a PC-connected headset, like the Go’s more capable sibling the Oculus Rift.
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 the best Windows MR headset you can get. Its display resolution is a noticeable jump from the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro and even the upcoming Valve Index. Menu text never looked more clear. It’s also surprisingly comfortable and easy to set up.
However, other headsets on this page are more highly rated. Windows MR is limited by its poor tracking of hand controllers. Ours were drifting all over the screen after exiting the tracking’s narrow FOV. This headset is best reserved for the few with reason to favor higher resolution over good controllers.
Read Review: HP Reverb
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