Hopeful enthusiasts waited years for virtual reality (VR) to become a realistic consideration for their at-home gaming arsenal. And now that so many of us are stuck at home, leaving and entering a world of VR has only become more appealing.
A lot of things needed to come together before at-home VR was plausible for enthusiasts. Vendors had to improve the experience of head-mounted displays (HMDs) so that VR gaming 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 worth investing in, likely the newly released Half-Life: Alyx,are also essential. Today, we can say VR gaming has all but arrived. With the right VR headset, you can enjoy incredible, immersive games right at home. We're here to help you find the best VR headset for you.
Believe it or not, VR has grown so much that there are various ways you to get into VR gaming. There are HMDs that connect to gaming desktops / laptops. You have headsets that plug into smartphones and the PlayStation VR (PSVR), which connects to a gaming console. There are even standalone headsets, which are HMDs that don’t need to connect to anything at all -- just strap it on, and you're in VR.
Below are the best VR headsets for PC and gaming that are actually worth escaping reality to enjoy.
Quick Shopping Tips
When looking for the best 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 PC. For more wallet-friendly VR, consider standalone headsets that don’t connect to any system or ones that can 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, 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 increasing 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 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 Go or Rift S.
- More options are coming. There's now an HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, a version of the HTC Vive Cosmos with external tracking, and the HTC VIve Cosmos Play, a cheaper version of the HMD, is also expected this spring. Additionally, Half-Life: Alyx, the next big shot at a flagship VR game, will be here soon. And at CES 2020 in January, we saw upcoming HMDs enthusiasts may want to consider. We're anticipating the 8K resolution Pimax Vision 8K X to exit pre-order, the $450 Pimax Artisan to come out and the enterprise-focused, but incredibly interesting, Pico VR Glasses.
Best VR headsets at a glance:
1. Oculus Quest
2. Valve Index
3. Oculus Go
4. HP Reverb
Best VR Headsets 2020
1. Oculus Quest
Best VR Headset
Connectivity: None | Display: 2x OLED | Per-eye Resolution: 1440x1600 | PPI: ? | Refresh Rate: 72Hz | FOV: ~100 degrees | Weight: 571g
The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset for most shoppers. There are more premium and powerful headsets available; however, the Quest strikes the best balance between price and performance. It's also easier to setup than some other headsets, which is great for people new to VR.
The Quest is a standalone headset, so you don't have to connect it to a powerful PC or smartphone. Plus, you don't have to set up base stations around your room, like some other, more premium headsets require. Ultimately, this HMD is a quick and easy path into quality VR. In fact, when we gamed on it, we found it to be as immersive as a pricier PC-connected, room-scale VR system, like the Oculus Rift S. Magically, games like Superhot VR looked just as good as their desktop versions.
If you're interested in potentially using this with a PC, check out our hands-on with the Oculus Link software beta.
2. Valve Index
Best VR Headset for PC
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)
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.
3. Oculus Go
Best Budget VR Headset
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
A quick, easy and affordable way to get into VR, the Oculus Go is the best VR headset for maintaining your budget. 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.
This HMD is currently on sale from $199 to it's lowest price ever, $149 on Amazon.
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
The HP Reverb is the best VR headset for enjoying Windows Mixed Reality. 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).
Keep in mind that HP is working on a new HMD with the help of Valve, maker of the HTC Vive line of VR headsets as well as Steam, and Microsoft. There isn't a lot of information, including release date or specs, on the next Reverb.