Best VR Headsets for Gaming and PC 2019

It’s hard to imagine a more challenging buying decision than one in a relatively new product category like virtual reality (VR). You can be hesitant to commit to a VR headset, especially when major innovations seem imminent. We’ll witness many changes in VR platforms in the coming years, including significant enhancements, like eye tracking inside head-mounted displays (see the impressive demo we got from Tobii at CES 2018), peripherals and controllers that add more realism to games, hand and gesture tracking (like the Mudra Inspire wristband controller) various forms of precision body tracking (such as the full-body VR HoloSuit) and standalone VR headsets. Of course, if you’re always waiting for what’s next, you’ll never get to experience what VR has to offer now. For those ready to get real about virtual reality, here are the best VR headsets for PC. 

Best VR Headsets

News and Product Updates

During CES 2019, a massive tech show in Las Vegas last week, HTC Vive announced new VR headsets arriving this year. The HTC Vive Cosmos is a more lightweight and portable HMD that can be powered by a gaming PC or, potentially, a smartphone in the future. The company also announced a new headset with built-in Tobii eye tracking. In our hands-on with the HTC Vive Pro Eye, we appreciated how powerful the feature made us feel.

Speaking of HTC Vive, we got a close look at FinchShift’s camera-free, 6DoF VR controllers at CES. HTC Vive and Qualcomm recently announced support for the controllers.

We also got to try out XTAL, a $6,000 headset with integrated hand tracking you’ve got to see in action. And we couldn’t resist getting our hands on Pimax 8K, a headset with resolution to match its name.

In other VR news, Oculus Rift just got Facebook live streaming and Public Homes, which lets users invite people into their own virtual home.

PC VR Headsets Today and Tomorrow

Among the many questions, we get about how to run PC VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) optimally is how to choose the best CPU for VR. Game developers and studios always list minimum specs, and as of this writing, they can vary wildly. We took some time to benchmark 11 VR games across a variety of CPUs to get a sense of how processing power affects performance. But that was before Microsoft pushed out its own VR platform.

We’ve been waiting for new approaches to PC-based VR for a while. Until recently, there essentially were two major players: HTC’s Vive (and the newer, higher-end Vive Pro), buoyed by Valve and its dominant PC gaming platform Steam, and Oculus’ Rift, backed by social media colossus Facebook.

But now, there’s another industry juggernaut solidly in the VR headset game: In October 2017, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Mixed Reality platform, which includes HMDs from several hardware partners, like Dell, Acer, Samsung and others. Oculus and HTC cater primarily to the gaming crowd (although both companies are after the commercial market, too), but Microsoft wants to corner the immersive productivity market. If you want to spend your workday in a virtual environment, a Windows Mixed Reality headset would be your best bet. Here’s everything you need to know about Windows Mixed Reality.

We are also on the cusp of a few new initiatives, including headsets with higher resolutions and wider fields of view (FOV). HTC’s Vive Pro (which hit the market in April 2018) features a combined resolution of 2880 x 1600, and Pimax finally began preparing shipments for its 8K headset at the end of September (despite some delays), which features dual 4K displays and a wide 200-degree FOV.

All that said, despite new and exciting hardware always seemingly just over the horizon, the hardware that’s available today is still viable and compelling.

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MORE: Oculus Touch Motion Controller Review

Best Budget

Best Windows MR Headset

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  • cryoburner
    Per-Eye Resolution
    2560x1400 WQHD

    The Oculus Go should actually be 2560x1440, and that's combined, not per-eye, meaning the actual listed number should be 1280x1440. It might also be worth noting whether the pixels are arranged in a pentile or RGB format for each headset, since pentile displays share some subpixels between pixels, resulting in a lower subpixel count for certain colors at a given resolution.
  • Jeff Fx
    If you want a wide field of view, wait and see how the Pimax 5K+ turns out over the next month or so. Reviewers say they can't go back to the Vive Pro after using it.
  • hanslheintz
    Second that comments on the Pimax. I have a Rift for 2 years and if I hear Pimax experiences all go: if you have a wide FOV you never want to go back I immedeately understand what it means: all the headsets tested above are now history.
  • webprosmo
    This article would have some credibility if the title ended with 2018. Here we are in the first month of the year and they're looking at last year's last gen headsets. What a joke
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    This article would have some credibility if the title ended with 2018. Here we are in the first month of the year and they're looking at last year's last gen headsets. What a joke

    Well, I think the last major update to this roundup was in September, and now they just added a quick section about news from CES at the beginning. In any case, not much has really changed since then, that I can think of, in terms of major headset releases. Tom's Hardware's last VR headset review was from a few months ago for the pre-production Pimax 5K+, and that's still not available for general purchase yet. So, I guess their suggestions from then should still stand, at least until newer headsets start releasing.