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Best VR Headsets for 2021

best vr headset
A better reality awaits through the best VR headset. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hopeful enthusiasts waited years for virtual reality (VR) to be fit for home use. Today, with many of us suddenly stuck at home more, the idea of 'leaving' it behind and entering a virtual world is even more appealing.

But it's not just boredom making VR more enticing; it's also the tech. Many things had to come together before VR and VR gaming at home was realistic. Vendors had to improve head-mounted displays (HMDs) so that gaming wasn't nauseating. We also needed headsets that were at least somewhat affordable. Of course, games, like Half-Life: Alyx, and apps that make VR worthwhile are crucial. It's now fair to say that VR gaming has all but arrived.

VR has grown so much that there are various ways you to get into VR gaming. There are HMDs that connect to gaming PCs / gaming laptops, smartphones, as well as the PlayStation VR (PSVR), which connects to a gaming console. There are even standalone headsets, aka HMDs that don’t need to connect to anything at all. Just strap it on, and you're in VR. 

So to help you pick, below are the best VR headsets that are actually worth escaping realityfor. And if the VR headset you're after doesn't include a great set of headphones, be sure to check out our Best Gaming Headsets page, 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 Rift S.

Best VR Headsets You Can Buy Today

Easy to use and well-priced, the Oculus Quest 2 is the best VR headset.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

1. Oculus Quest 2

Best VR Headset

Specifications
Connectivity: None required
Display: 1x Fast-switch LCD
Per-eye Resolution: 1832 x 1920
PPI: Not disclosed
Refresh Rate: 90 or 120 Hz (experimental)
FOV: Not disclosed
Weight: 1.1 pounds (503g)
Reasons to buy
+Amazing resolution+Much more powerful than original Quest
Reasons to avoid
-White picks up dirt and grime-Poor controller ergonomics

The Oculus Quest 2 is the best VR headset for most, offering a great upgrade over the original Oculus Quest. Qualcomm’s modern Snapdragon XR2 (Snapdragon 865) SoC proved to be a powerful chip bringing a fantastic VR experience even without any tethering to a powerful PC or even a smartphone. If you want, however, you can buy an Oculus Link cable for a PC connection 

Oculus bumped the Quest 2’s resolution up to 1832 x 1920 per eye compared to the Quest’s 1440 x 1600 per eye. There’s also a unified panel here instead of one for each eye, as well as the ability to hit up to a 90 Hz refresh rate or 120Hz via an experimental feature, once supporting apps are available. 

But while the HMD is an upgrade over the last generation, the new Touch controllers accompanying the Quest 2 are not. Due to their bulky shape, these Touch controllers are hard to grip and lack balance. Additionally, the Quest 2 is sporting a brand new color, but unfortunately that white gets dirty easily. 

Oculus is so sold on standalone VR that it’s discontinuing the Rift lineup of PC-only HMDs, including the Oculus RIft S. So if you want to get into VR, the Quest 2 is the easiest and best way to do it -- and for a good price too.

Note that Quest 2 sales on currently on hold for "several weeks," according to CNN, as the vendor announced a voluntary recall of the HMD's removable foam face covers last week. 

Read: Oculus Quest 2 review

For PC-powered VR, opt for the advanced Valve Index.  (Image credit: Valve)

2. Valve Index

Best VR Headset for PC

Specifications
Connectivity: PC
Display: 2x LCD, canted
Per-eye Resolution: 1440x1600
PPI: ?
Refresh Rate: 80, 90, 120 or 144 Hz (experimental)
FOV: Up to 130 degrees
Weight: 1.78 pounds (807.4g)
Reasons to buy
+RGB subpixel array eliminates screen-door effect+Wider FOV than comparable headsets+Excellent audio quality
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Read: Valve Index review

Pimax's Vision 8K X is an elite option for powerful GPUs.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Pimax Vision 8K X

Best VR Headset Splurge

Specifications
Connectivity: PC
Display: 2x customized low persistence liquid (CLPL)
Per-eye resolution: 3840 x 2160 (native), 2560 x 1440 (upscaled)
PPI: ?
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz, 75 Hz (Native), 90 Hz (Native with RTX 3000 GPU) or 114 Hz (Upscaled)
FOV: ?
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Excellent clarity at full resolution+Wide FOV
Reasons to avoid
-Poor clarity at reduced resolutions-Requires RTX 3000 or better for 90 Hz

If you want the ultimate HMD and have one of the best graphics cards to push it, the Piimax Vision 8K X is the best VR headset for you. It has a horizontal FOV of up to 170 degrees and can hit a resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 per eye, which is the highest resolution of any headset we’ve ever tested. That led to fantastic image quality without any screen door effect. 

While you don’t get OLED-level blacks, we enjoyed colors that looked bright alongside sharp, detailed edges. When dropping down to 2560 x 1440 resolution, the image looked more washed out and less sharp, but image clarity was still high compared to other HMDs we’ve tested. 

The Vision 8K X is a complex HMD with multiple settings available and a high price, making it best reserved for VR enthusiasts. Plus, if you want to hit the headset’s max refresh rate of 90 Hz, you’ll need an RTX 3000-series GPU, which are all hard to find and expensive.

More: Pimax Vision 8K X review 

The Reverb G2 is the best Windows Mixed Reality headset available.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. HP Reverb G2

Best VR Headset Image Clarity

Specifications
Connectivity: PC
Display: 2x 2.89-inch LCD with RGB sub-pixels
Per-eye resolution: 2160 x 2160
PPI: ?
Refresh Rate: 90Hz
FOV: ?
Weight: 1.2 pounds (544.3g)
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Incredible display resolution
Reasons to avoid
-Tracking is a huge letdown-Narrow field of view

The HP Reverb G2 is the best VR headset is you're seeking optimal image clarity. But as Windows Mixed Reality (MR) headset, it struggles to compete with the other headsets on this page.

HP’s Reverb G2 does boast some nice improvements over the original HP Reverb, such as the move to antimicrobial materials and a boost in audio quality, thanks to HP using the same speakers found in the Valve Index. However, Windows MR tracking is still lacking. HP upgraded the HMD with two more cameras, but it still can’t match the tracking on other PC-connected HMDs, such as the Oculus Rift S. During testing, the headset would lose sight of our controllers if they were close to our chest or moving rapidly. 

The plus side is that the Reverb G2 has fantastic image quality with very high per-eye resolution that makes things from games to text easy to enjoy. If image quality is top of mind, the Reverb G2 tops the list. But for gaming and other apps where the ability to track controllers is imperative, you’ll want to look at other headsets on this list.

For enterprises, there's also the HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition, which offers advanced biometrics, like face tracking. 

Read: HP Reverb G2 review 

This HMD takes standalone VR to the next level.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. HTC Vive Focus 3

Best Standalone VR Headset

Specifications
Connectivity: None
Display: 2x 2.879-inch LCD
Per-eye resolution: 2448 x 2448
PPI: ?
Refresh Rate: 90 Hz
FOV: ?
Weight: 1.7 pounds (785g)
Reasons to buy
+Widest FOV in a standalone headset+Well-balanced weight
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Mediocre controller ergonomics

While the Oculus Quest 2 is more attainable for the masses, the HTC Vive Focus 3 is the best VR headset we’ve tested that doesn’t need a connection to any PC or system. Sadly, it’s geared toward businesses, and it’s price confirms the niche. But it’s still an impressive HMD, delivering the greatest FOV we’ve ever seen in a standalone headset, plus high resolution. It’s an example of the direction we’d like to see consumer-facing VR headsets go. 

Quality of life features include a Micro SD slot for cards up to 2TB, a replaceable battery and even moisture-proof fabrics. The 1.7 pound weight is well-balanced, meaning wearing it for long training sessions isn’t a pain. 

The Vive Focus 3 uses a Snapdragon XR2 (Snapdragon 865) SoC with 8GB of RAM and a 90 Hz refresh rate. While it’s not meant for gaming, we played a mobile game on it, and it looked just as good as when playing on the Quest 2, but easier to see enemies, thanks to the greater FOV. If you need a headset that makes it easy to navigate business and training apps and the like, the Vive Focus 3 will deliver comfortable, feature-rich performance. 

More: HTC Vive Focus 3 review 

MORE: The History Of Virtual Reality

MORE: Virtual Reality Basics 

MORE: All Virtual Reality Content

Discounts on the Best VR Headsets

If you're looking for a headset that's among our best VR headsets or one that didn't quite make the cut, you may find savings by checking out the latest Newegg promo codes, Amazon promo codes or Best Buy promo codes.

Scharon Harding

Scharon Harding is a Senior Editor at Tom's Hardware. She has a special affinity for gaming peripherals (especially monitors), laptops and virtual reality. Previously, Scharon covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK.

  • abryant
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-3793668/virtual-reality-headsets.html
    Reply
  • sebastian.schnur
    Don't agree. Every serious review of the Vive Pro foiund it lacking and way too expensive (1'500 including all you need to play). The Odyssey+ (!) also has a better picture quality w/o screendoor effect. Only the inside out tracking is inferior to the Vive Pro, but that at a third of the price. The Rift also needs the base stations to use, so the price comparison is wrong.
    Odyssey should be both the Value Winner and the Overall Winner.
    Reply
  • awarmfuzzy
    Samsung Odyssey + Vivo Pro = Same Resolution and Panel but only $399.
    Reply
  • awarmfuzzy
    The upgraded Samsung Odyssey + has Been out since Oct 2018 ($399) and the reviewer is too inept to review the current model that has the same image sensor and resolution as the Vivo Pro but 1/3 the price.
    Reply
  • awarmfuzzy
    Who's the moron that wrote a Feb 2019 article and reviewed the OLD Samsung Odyssey when the NEW upgraded version has been out since Oct 2018 and is only $399. https://www.samsung.com/us/computing/hmd/windows-mixed-reality/hmd-odyssey-windows-mixed-reality-headset-xe800zba-hc1us/
    Reply
  • gasaraki
    Odyssey+ is now only $299 as of 3-4-2019. So $299 vs. $1,100 for a headset that's not as good but close enough. Odyssey+ is a steal.
    Reply
  • gasaraki
    awarmfuzzy said:
    Who's the moron that wrote a Feb 2019 article and reviewed the OLD Samsung Odyssey when the NEW upgraded version has been out since Oct 2018 and is only $399. https://www.samsung.com/us/computing/hmd/windows-mixed-reality/hmd-odyssey-windows-mixed-reality-headset-xe800zba-hc1us/

    Cause they didn't rewrite it. They just copy and paste from their old article.
    Reply
  • DotNetMaster777
    May be I can try Oculus Go because of the low price
    Reply
  • dx_houle
    DotNetMaster777 said:
    May be I can try Oculus Go because of the low price

    Just get a foam or carboard "VR holder" for your phone. It would be much cheaper and the same idea.
    Reply
  • dx_houle
    sebastian.schnur said:
    Don't agree. Every serious review of the Vive Pro foiund it lacking and way too expensive (1'500 including all you need to play). The Odyssey+ (!) also has a better picture quality w/o screendoor effect. Only the inside out tracking is inferior to the Vive Pro, but that at a third of the price. The Rift also needs the base stations to use, so the price comparison is wrong.
    Odyssey should be both the Value Winner and the Overall Winner.

    I agree that the Odyssey+ could be the best Value and Overall winner. I can't say for sure, because I haven't tried it. But the rest of your comment doesn't make any sense at all. The Vive Pro won best Splurge headset. Every single site says it is the best VR headset, when you don't consider the price, hence "Splurge". Then you talk about the Oculus Rift which is not even on the list...
    Reply