The early 2010s is when virtual reality really began to make its leap into the everyday gaming experience. Now that we’re about a decade into VR, things are getting real (pun intended). Virtual reality is getting insane with incredible and immersive gameplay that is inviting gamers to dive (sometimes literally) into expensive and detailed environments. Plus, you can finally find high-quality video games designed specifically to be played with the best VR headsets.
Gamers that want the absolute best performance from a VR headset should look into tethered options like the Oculus Rift S or Valve Index, but keep in mind, you’ll need a powerful gaming PC to power the headset. Gamers looking for a more immediate, less expensive and equally as fun experience should look at wireless VR headsets. We’ve rounded up our favorite options below so you can find the best VR headset for you.
1. Oculus Quest 2
BEST VR HEADSET OVERALL
Virtual reality has approached a point where it’s oh so close to having its true mainstream moment, and it’s the Oculus Quest line of headsets that keeps pushing things forward. The Oculus Quest 2 is unique from the competition in that it’s a standalone headset that doesn’t require a PC (although you can tether it to your PC for games requiring more CPU power), and doesn’t need your phone to function as the screen, giving you a truly untethered experience. The Quest 2 isn’t a staggering upgrade over the original Quest, but it’s upgrades are meaningful.
The visuals, which now offer an improved resolution of 1832 x 1920 per eye, and support for a native 90 Hz refresh rate, mean that this headset is on par with the best headsets when it comes to visual fidelity, although its field of vision isn’t quite as good. It also has some extra processing power in the form of the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset, which is optimized for position tracking and VR resolutions, as well as 6 GB of RAM (compared to 4 GB in the original Quest). Given that the amazingly low $299 base price includes the controllers, there is simply no better way to get into VR in 2020 and it’s our pick as the best VR headset.
2. PlayStation VR
BEST GAMING CONSOLE VR HEADSET
For those who already own a PS4, this VR headset is a must. The available VR video game catalog on the PlayStation VR is tough to beat. With titles like Borderlands 2 VR, Creed: Rise to Glory and over 500 other games to choose from, you won’t be at a loss for entertainment. And if you have plans to buy a PS5, this headset will still be compatible with your shiny new console (whenever you get one). When you’re done playing games and want to relax, you can turn on a movie and enjoy the headset that way. Even if you don’t have a PS4, you can buy a PS4 and the VR headset (which also comes with controllers and a camera tracker) for less than other VR headsets alone.
3. Oculus Rift S
BEST PC VR HEADSET
You won’t have truly unlimited mobility like you would with the Oculus Quest, but the benefit to being tethered to a high-powered PC is that the gameplay on the Oculus Rift S is sharp, detailed and smooth. Boasting a 1280 x 1440 resolution (better than 1080p) and easy parameter setup, you’ll be submerged in 3D gameplay whenever you’re ready. The Oculus Rift S has an impressive library of VR video games, including backward compatibility with the old version of the Rift. Even if you owned the previous version, you’ll still be able to replay those games that made you fall in love with Rift in the first place.
4. Valve Index
For tethered VR units, the Oculus Rift S is hard to beat for the price, but if money is no object and you want top performance, the Valve Index is what you’re looking for. It’s comfortable, has a wide field of view, a 90 Hz refresh rate and sports incredible graphics and smoothness. The big kicker is the strap-on controllers that track the individual movement of your fingers, providing even more immersion into your gameplay. A few downsides include the need for a powerful gaming computer to get the most from the Index, and updating it can cause pauses in gameplay. If you can look past those, and the $1,000 price, this is one powerful VR headset.
5. HTC Vive Cosmos
The HTC Vive offers high-caliber resolution without the need for external sensors, like the Oculus Rift S. Boasting 1440 x 1700 resolution per eye, the gaming experience is nothing short of stunning. The motion controllers are rounded and ergonomic, making them comfortable to hold for long gaming sessions. There have been complaints about the cable that connects to the computer being a bit unwieldy. For a cable-free experience, we recommend the Oculus Quest, but if you want the hyper smooth and sharp graphics that only a tethered VR headset can provide, the HTC Vive Cosmos is easily one of the best VR headsets for sale right now.
6. Nintendo Labo VR Kit
BEST FOR NINTENDO SWITCH
Some people are natural builders and creators by nature. If you’re one of those people, and you happen to own a Nintendo Switch, the Labo VR kit is right up your alley. You actually build all of your controls, or, at least, the components your joy-cons attach to. That includes your VR headset, which is similar to Google Cardboard, but more comfortable and sturdy. Each toy-con you build has associated games along with it, so it’s not like you have access to an extensive library like Playstation VR. It’s a clever take on VR that Nintendo Switch lovers should all give the ol’ college try.
7. HTC Vive Cosmos Elite
BEST FOR PRECISION TRACKING
The HTC Vive Cosmos Elite is virtually identical to the Vive Cosmos, but there is one key difference that could be a dealmaker for advanced VR users: The Cosmos Elite ships with a special faceplate that allows the headset to work with external trackers. For most people, the benefits of using external sensors to track your movement (which is to say, added precision) probably won’t outweigh the hassle of setting up the external tracking sensors. But for those who really want the ultimate Vive experience, this is the headset to buy. And for owners of the original Vive Cosmos who want to get in on the fun, you can also buy the faceplate for $199, and the sensors for an additional $199 apiece.