Virtual reality gaming is the hottest new thing, and the best VR headsets exemplify everything we love about VR gaming.
There are so many features you should keep in mind if you want to have a fully immersive experience. You’ll need a high resolution and refresh rate for beautiful visuals, but you’ll also need a headset that’s comfortable and lets you play your VR games with ease.
We suggest looking for a VR headset that uses an ergonomic design, paired with a minimum 90Hz refresh rate and a minimum 4k resolution (3,840 x 2,160). So long as your headset at least matches those performance levels, your VR experience will be immersive. You’ll still be able to see pixelation until you hit 8k resolution (7,680 x 4,320) per eye. But, for avoiding nausea and quality gameplay, 4k is good enough.
Some VR headsets are untethered, also known as standalone headsets. These headsets have no connection cable and therefore are easier to use. But, tethered headsets have some incredible benefits, like screen sharing and improved graphics. We can’t suggest one over the other, since it really comes down to personal preference.
You might also want to consider what the specs of your computer are if you want to play PC games in VR, which can be demanding with regards to the graphics card and processor.
VR’s growth has been rapid, and now there are hundreds of headsets available to you. It could easily be a long process of comparing headsets to find one that fits all of your needs––not to mention finding the right price for your budget.
So, we did it for you to help save your time and energy! After much research, our team has put together a list of the best VR headsets on the market today:
- Best overall: Meta Quest 2
- Best alternative to the Meta Quest 2: Odyssey+
- The best premium option: Valve Index
- Best visuals: HTC VIVE Pro 2
Virtual reality is an immersive, incredible experience, but the options can be dizzying.
Best Overall VR Headset: Meta Quest 2
- Buy Meta Quest 2. Get Beat Saber. For a limited time, get the hit VR rhythm game included when you buy Meta Quest 2.* Keep your experience smooth and seamless, even as high speed action unfolds around you with a super-fast processor and high-resolution display.
- Experience total immersion with 3D positional audio, hand tracking and haptic feedback, working together to make virtual worlds feel real.
- Explore an expanding universe of over 350 titles across gaming, fitness, social/multiplayer and entertainment, including exclusive blockbuster releases and totally unique VR experiences.
- Travel universes in blockbuster fantasies, scare yourself witless in horror adventures or collaborate with colleagues in innovative workspaces.
- Come together in incredible social spaces and multiplayer arenas as you take in live events with friends and family, find your new workout crew or join quests with fellow adventurers.
The Meta/Oculus Quest 2 is the undefeated winner when it comes to VR headsets because it’s the perfect balance of performance and cost-effectiveness.
At only $299, this headset is one of the most affordable options, with specs that are nothing to scoff at. The Meta Quest 2 is inviting to both hardcore gamers as well as beginners who want to dip their toes into the world of VR.
In the v28 update just last year, The Quest 2 was updated to support a 120Hz refresh rate. For virtual reality, most gamers and headset developers aim for a minimum of 90Hz in order to avoid issues with nausea, disorientation, and motion sickness. 120Hz is well above that minimum, making it a great refresh rate to have for an immersive experience.
One thing that buyers continuously comment on is how much smoother the Quest 2 runs compared to its predecessor. Meta made the Quest 2 a direct upgrade from the original Quest in most aspects. The Quest 2 has 6GB of memory as opposed to 4GB, an increase that helps physics-intensive games run and makes opening menus smoother.
The more memory a headset has, the more tasks it’s able to complete at once. This is important for games like Lone Echo and Unspoken which need to manage a lot of environmental details. The original Quest used a Snapdragon 835 CPU, which, in the Quest 2, was improved to a Snapdragon XR2 Platform. This processor upgrade means the Quest 2 can run games that are more demanding.
Low prices can sometimes come with drawbacks. Some users report that the comfort of the Quest 2 is subpar. Standalone VR headsets like the Quest 2 don’t use a cable connection, but there are other issues with the headset’s comfort.
Some users think that the headset is heavy. At 1.1 pounds (17.7 oz), it’s actually lighter than many other headsets. The problem is that the stock head strap that the Quest 2 comes with isn’t of the highest quality. Head straps are part of every VR headset as the pieces wrap around your head and hold everything in place. Since they play a crucial role in weight distribution and stability, low-quality head straps can mean discomfort. If you’re willing to spend a little more, then purchasing a separate head strap could solve the problem. These head straps are sold by a variety of companies and usually go for $20-$40.
The Quest 2’s resolution isn’t the greatest, either, at 1,832 x 1,920 pixels per eye. This is slightly underneath the 4k benchmark that makes VR truly immersive and staves off disorientation. As you might expect, buyers have reported experiencing more motion sickness with the Quest 2 than with other headsets (such as the Odyssey+) that have better visuals.
Another con to purchasing any Meta VR headset is that they require you to log in through Facebook, a company that many people find to be invasive.
All these downsides can be off-putting for experienced VR users who are looking for the best headset that money can buy. But for most people, the Meta Quest 2 deserves its place at the top of this list because of its ease of use and price. It’s just a great all-rounder, and it’s hard to beat that.
Best Alternative to the Meta Quest 2: Samsung Odyssey+
- 3K anti-sde AMOLED display (2880x1600) with wide 110O field of view
- Direct Full Array Backlight 4X: Concentrated Zones of Precision-Controlled LEDs Auto-Adjust Contrast Between Pure Whites and Ultra-Deep Blacks, Revealing Hidden Details in Even the Darkest Scenes
- Access to Windows mr store and steamer libraries for thousands of games & experiences
- Premium, built-in AKG headphones w/360O spatial Sound and Mic
- Adjustable headband, now 10% lighter with improved comfortable materials
The Odyssey+ actually has better visuals. With Samsung’s headset, you’ll be gaining a wide 110-degree field of vision (FOV) and a 2,880 x 1,600 pixels display.
These specs improve performance and ward off motion sickness that is common with VR headsets like the Quest 2. The 3k (2,880 x 1,600 pixels) resolution isn’t perfect, but it’s a step up from the 2k resolution you get with the Quest 2. This means that your virtual reality experience is going to feel more real and, on top of that, you’ll get to experience the gorgeous scenery in big-budget games like Half-Life: Alyx.
You might have guessed that a wider FOV is going to be better, and that’s very true in the case of VR headsets. Having a small FOV means you’ll have to move your entire head to look around, whereas a wider FOV (such as the 110 degrees that come with the Odyssey+) will let you simply move your eyes to see what’s around you. It means less physical strain and a VR experience that feels smooth and realistic.
Additionally, the Odyssey has a better weight balance than the Quest 2. Compared to user reports of the Quest 2, the Odyssey+’s comfort is considered to be better. You won’t need to invest in a separate head strap to be comfortable while gaming with the Odyssey+.
The Odyssey isn’t the perfect alternative to the Quest 2, though. You’ll be paying a higher price with the Odyssey+ at $589.87 compared to the Quest 2’s price tag of $299.
According to people who have used both the Odyssey and the Quest 2, the biggest difference is in the controller. The Meta Quest 2 has great ergonomic controllers and quality finger tracking that the Odyssey+ just doesn’t have.
Overall, Samsung Odyssey+ is the best choice for users who value comfort and slightly better visuals over price.
Best Premium Option: Valve Index
There’s no doubt that the Valve Index is the most powerful and immersive VR headset on the market today.
The main reason it couldn’t prove as the winner on our list is that its price of $999 places it outside of most budgets.
This headset doesn’t use OLED (the standard display technology used in most VR headsets), but rather uses RGB LCDs. Basically, this means sharper images, a higher frame rate, and a reduced “screen door” effect. When using VR, you might notice that it looks like everything is being filtered through a mesh or very fine black grid. That annoying effect is known as the screen door effect.
With a resolution of 1,440 x 1,600 pixels per eye, the Valve Index actually has a slightly lower resolution than the Quest 2. But, this resolution difference isn’t going to make your VR experience any worse, since it isn’t a monumental change.
The Valve Index’s headset does very well with FOV and frame rate. You’ll have full access to 120Hz by default and you have the option of jumping to 144Hz. If you need to play games that don’t support refresh rates that high, then you can choose to use 90Hz with the Index for backward compatibility with those older games. The Valve Index has the highest FOV in the market, at 120 degrees.
Many VR headsets struggle to offer quality audio and instead work better with an outside pair of headphones. This is where he Valve Index really stands out as a premium option when compared to other headsets.
It uses off-ear, spatial sound to keep VR experiences immersive, without any discomfort or the need to wear headphones. Even the Index’s controllers easily trump most of their competitors. They allow for finger tracking and comfort but are compatible with every headset that supports SteamVR tracking.
SteamVR tracking is proprietary software that lets devices know, in real time, how they’re positioned in a room. Valve allows other companies to use SteamVR at no cost to them, so headsets like the HTC Vive utilize SteamVR and thus can make use of the Valve Index’s controllers.
Aside from its rather hefty price, the Valve Index suffers from one real flaw: a complicated setup. This headset uses a minimum of 2 base stations, included in the Valve Index VR Kit. You’ll need to place the stations around the room so they can track your real-world position. Accordingly, the Index requires at least 6.5 ft x 5 ft of space to function. Large space requirements are out of reach for many people.
Another setup complication is that the Valve Index is a PC headset. If you don’t have a PC or your computer doesn’t have strong enough specs, then this headset will be off-limits.
For people who want a premium, high-quality VR experience and don’t care too much about the price or setup, then the Valve Index is the perfect headset.
Best For Visuals: HTC VIVE Pro 2
- Visualize in 5K clarity-Bring out the finer details with combined 4896 x 2448 resolution. 5K resolution may be subject to processing compatibility
- See more of your environment-A wide 120 Degree field of view (FOV) expands the VR viewing experience. The increased angle better aligns with the human eyes, letting you see more naturally
- Experience seamless visuals-Increase your visual comfort in graphics-intensive games and apps with a 120Hz refresh rate
- Enjoy VR with hours on end comfort-Industry-defining balanced construction and adjustability provide a comfortable fit for VR sessions of any length and purpose. The headset fits a wide range of head sizes and vision types, even glasses
- Find your sweet spot-Minimize eye fatigue with the IPD adjustment dial. Interpupillary distance (IPD)-the distance measured in mm between the centers of eye pupils
Visuals are a crucial part of the VR experience, and the best headset for stunning visuals is the HTC VIVE Pro 2.
As another premium VR headset, the VIVE 2 is sold for a whopping $1,388. But, if you can swing it, the Vive’s 5k resolution of 4,856 x 2,448 pixels and 120-degree FOV is worth it. High-quality, AAA PC games like Half-Life: Alyx can be enjoyed in its fullest experience with the VIVE 2.
Its features also include sub-millimeter tracking accuracy and high visual fidelity. The former means the VIVE 2 is incredibly accurate in its tracking, down to the sub-millimeter, while the latter means you’ll be getting as close to a realistic VR experience as you can get. The full package comes with two base stations to place around a room, similar to the Valve Index. As an added bonus, the VIVE Pro 2 is advertised as glasses-friendly because of how much room it has in the headset. According to reviews on the VIVE 2, it really does work well even if you wear glasses.
There’s no contest with the HTC VIVE Pro 2’s visuals, but its features aren’t too advanced compared to the other models. In comparison to the Valve Index, it’s true that the VIVE Pro has better visuals. But, for almost $400 more, those incredible visuals might not be all that worth it. The Valve Index’s visuals are already quite good, and other contenders are at the same level or aren’t far behind.
Still, the HTC VIVE Pro 2 is the best there is for visuals. Although the price tag is high, VR feels the best with quality graphics.
How To Pick The Best VR Headset: Step-by-Step
Finding the best VR headset can be a complicated process because of the many different variables to consider. The four most fundamental aspects of a headset to consider are:
So, how do you know what you need to look out for?
To some, audio and visual quality are the most important features. However, comfort and price are necessary considerations, too.
No matter how you want to play, price is often a major deciding factor.
VR headsets can range from $15 for small brands to over a thousand dollars for the highest quality headsets. The best headset for gamers on a budget will usually fall in the $200-$800 range.
It’s really up to you how much you’re willing to spend, but we suggest you set a general budget before you start looking, as the allure of the different options can become overwhelming.
Some people use VR headsets purely so that they can experience enchanting visuals and explore beautiful new, digital worlds. If that’s you, then visuals should be at the top of your list of priorities when comparing VR headsets.
The two main aspects to look at when evaluating visuals are resolution and refresh rate. As a general rule of thumb, the higher these are, the better things are going to look when you’re in a game. Another key aspect of VR headset visuals is the FOV, or field of vision. A wider FOV will create a greater immersion and can make everything feel more coherent.
A quality auditory experience is a must-have for immersive VR gameplay. You’ll want to consider how each headset will handle audio and what kind of VR environment you want to play in.
The HTC VIVE Pro and Valve Index are two headsets with high-quality built-in audio, including surround sound and audio that feels like it’s tied perfectly to the visual locations. Other VR headsets will rely on headphones or outside speakers to deliver quality audio.
Even though most headsets have their own speakers, it’s not uncommon for headsets to leak audio or to lack top-notch spatial audio. If you want your gameplay to feel ‘real’, then you should choose headsets with quality audio. Alternatively, you can purchase quality headphones to use alongside the VR headset.
While maybe not as fun as audio or visuals to think about, comfort is one of the most important metrics to consider when purchasing a VR headset. If the headset is uncomfortable to wear, it will ruin your immersion and gaming experience.
Exactly what will work best for you is a personal decision, but some things to think about include how ergonomic the headset is, the ease of use (cable vs. no cable, setup time), and the weight of the headset.
Make the decision that lines up best with your experiences and body. The audio and visuals of a headset also tie into the overall comfort of your setup. For example, the better the built-in speakers are, the less you’ll have to rely on headphones, which can become uncomfortable after a while. Similarly, quality visuals can stop any motion sickness and can save you from nausea.
What To Know Before Buying a VR Headset
There’s a lot to know when you’re buying a VR headset for the first time.
You’ll need to make sure that it is compatible with your computer if you want to play PC games. At minimum, your computer will need a graphics card better than the GTX 1060 and Windows 10. It’s best if it also has 8GB+ of memory and a good processor, like the RX 5600 RT.
You also need to understand what other purchases you might need to make in addition to the headset. Some VR headsets don’t come with great built-in audio, so you might want to add quality headphones like the SteelSeries 60153. Extension cables are another add-on you might need, depending on your headset.
Before you buy the VR headset you’ve been eyeing, you’ll want to think about what games you’re planning on playing. Not only should you ensure you have enough space to play, but you should also make sure the games you want to play will work with the headset you’ve chosen. You can only enjoy beautiful visual effects or auditory cues to their fullest if your equipment is up to par.
Using a VR Headset: What It’s Like
The biggest thing to get used to is that a headset feels like a weight on the front of your head. It may feel heavier to you than to others, so be mindful. This can cause possible discomfort, such as neck pain, chafing, soreness on your face, and back pain, especially if playing for long periods of time.
Depending on the face pads and the weight of each individual headset, how uncomfortable the headset is will vary. For example, the Meta Quest 2 is widely reported to be an uncomfortable VR headset to use despite its many benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, the Odyssey+ is considered to be much easier to wear for long periods of time without pain or discomfort.
Virtual reality can be an incredibly immersive experience, but it relies heavily on high-quality visuals and audio to make the digital worlds come to life. We suggest at least a 90Hz refresh rate (particularly for PC games) and a resolution at or above 1,832 x 1,920 pixels. Headsets like the Valve Index and the HTC VIVE Pro 2 are championed by users as able to deliver beautiful, seamless VR gameplay. Many VR gamers also experience less motion sickness when using headsets that have high-quality visuals, so we think this is one of the most important features to look for if you want a comfortable VR experience.
All in all, VR gameplay is a very personal experience. There are so many factors to look out for, and each of them will impact how it feels to play in VR. That being said, this list will hopefully help you sift through all the noise and find the headset that will work for you.
Last update on 2022-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API