The 5 Best VR Headsets That Put You Right in the Middle of the Action
Looking for an immersive entertainment experience? Find out which of these top-rated VR headsets is best for your budget, needs and personal preferences.
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The best VR headsets to buy right now
Brace yourself, because everything you think you know about gaming and experiencing the metaverse is about to change. The best VR headsets will make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action—whether you’re rock climbing or battling enemies in a fantasy world—and you just may forget that there’s an actual reality outside of them.
Virtual reality has come a long way in the past few years, and as the technology has become more widespread, VR headsets have become more affordable and more accessible. And this is just the beginning. Soon, we won’t just see them being used in gaming and entertainment but also in the next incarnation of the internet, Web3 and so much more.
Still not sure of the difference between AR vs. VR or exactly what you can do with the devices that will let you access them? Here’s what you need to know before deciding on the best VR headset for you.
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What is a VR headset?
Essentially, a VR headset is a device you wear over your eyes that immerses you in virtual reality (VR)—a digital world that you can interact with. That’s different than augmented reality (AR), which involves digital images placed in the real world (think Pokémon Go). VR Headsets provide you with visuals and sound, and other accessories can add movement and vibrations to make whatever you’re interacting with more real. Controllers usually come with the headset, but other accessories like vibration vests and running mats are sold separately.
There are two main types of VR headsets: stand-alone and tethered. While stand-alone headsets allow for freedom of movement and don’t require a PC, tethered headsets have benefits too. Headsets wired to PCs tend to have better visuals and faster data speed. Plus, they offer the capability of screen sharing. Don’t let the word “tethered” put you off. Some headsets have the option of tethering through a cable, while others can be tethered through a virtual connection using Wi-Fi.
Here are some other terms you need to know before you go shopping:
- Resolution: The bigger these numbers are, the clearer the images in the VR glasses will be.
- Refresh rate: The bigger the number, the better. A higher refresh rate means that the avatar moves more in real time with your own movements.
- Field of view: This is how wide the view is in the headset. The bigger the number, the wider the view and the more immersive the experience. For reference, human eyes have a field of view of more than 100 degrees (if you include peripheral vision). Headsets with a field of view of 100 degrees or more are ideal.
How much do VR headsets cost?
For a good VR headset, expect to pay at least $400. Some headsets can cost as much as $1,500. The biggest reason VR headsets are so expensive? Similar to the best 3D printers, the technology is constantly evolving, meaning it’s always new. And new equals a higher price tag. The range in cost also depends on the features and how advanced the technology is. Essentially, the more immersive it is, the more you’ll pay for it. That’s why PC-tethered headsets tend to be more expensive.
Not ready to commit? For around $20, you can get a budget headset that basically holds your phone in front of your eyes while you use VR apps. Just be aware that these phone headsets aren’t immersive and are very limited in how they allow you to interact with the VR world.
How we chose the best VR headsets
To narrow down the list and find the best VR headsets, we combined more than two decades of tech expertise with hands-on testing, expert recommendations and countless user reviews.
These are our top picks:
- Best overall VR headset: Meta Quest 2
- Best VR headset for PC: Valve Index
- Best VR headset for iPhone and Android: Bnext
- Best VR headset for graphics: HTC Vive Pro 2
- Best stand-alone VR headset for mixed reality: Meta Quest Pro
Best overall VR headset
Meta Quest 2
The Meta Quest 2 could also be called the best cheap VR headset. Don’t let its price fool you, though. While the Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as Oculus Quest 2) costs around $400, a lot less than many of its competitors, this headset delivers a surprisingly immersive experience. The graphics are high-quality, and the sound quality is top-notch.
Those new to VR will also love how simple it is to use. Its controls are intuitive, and the dashboard is easy to navigate. Plus, it’s compatible with more than 350 VR apps. We also like that it has both tethering and stand-alone options: It can be tethered through a fiber-optic cable or linked to your PC wirelessly with Oculus Link.
Unlike its baby brother, the Oculus Rift, Meta Quest 2 brings realistic arm movements and limited hand movements to the environment through two wireless controllers. The Meta Quest 2 also massively improved user experience with a faster frame rate, reducing motion sickness and increasing the realness of the environment. When you turn your head, the avatar turns in almost real time.
- Resolution: 3664 x 1920
- Refresh rate: Up to 120Hz
- Field of view: 100 degrees
- Best value
- Tethered and non-tethered options
- High-quality audio cancels out other noises in the room
- Realistic graphics
- Motion tracking that’s nearly real time
- Short battery life
- Front-heavy, so it tends to fall forward
- You need a Facebook account to log in
Best VR headset for PC
The Valve Index is considered by many to be the pinnacle of PC VR headsets and the best VR headset for gaming. This is for two main reasons. First, it has the widest field of view, giving you a more immersive experience. When there aren’t any blacked-out areas in your peripheral vision, your brain is tricked into thinking you’re really in the virtual world. We should also mention that the audio is excellent on this headset, on par with the best smart speakers, and that enhances the experience.
Second, its finger-tracking controllers are incredibly advanced, allowing you to see your fingers wiggle on your avatar in real time with your own. That may seem like a small thing, but it really adds to the experience. Unfortunately, while the Valve Index is compatible with a lot of games, there aren’t a lot of games that use finger tracking yet.
One more thing to consider: Unlike many VR headsets, this one uses external sensors that you place around the room, instead of built-in sensors to figure out your body movements. That makes it a little less portable than some of the other options on this list, since you’ll have to re-set the sensors when you change your location.
- Resolution: 2880 x 1600
- Refresh rate: 120Hz with an experimental 144Hz mode
- Field of view: 130 degrees
- Largest field of view
- Finger-tracking controllers
- Balanced headset doesn’t fall forward during use
- Limited apps compatible with finger tracking
- Uses external sensors
Best VR headset for iPhone and Android
Bnext is the best phone VR headset due to its super light design, which is important, since you have to insert your phone in these headsets. At just over $20, it’s also easy on your wallet, making it a great stocking stuffer. Because of the Bnext’s price and lightweight durability, we also think it’s the best VR headset for kids if you don’t want to splurge on the Meta Quest 2.
What else sets the Bnext apart from other phone VR headsets? Its comfortable padded straps, as well as its adjustable focal distance and object distance to prevent motion sickness. Just be aware that these types of headsets can still make you pretty dizzy. Be sure to try them sitting down first.
One important note: Remember that with phone headsets, you’re not getting the full VR experience. You won’t be able to control what is on the screen, but you can take strolls through fantasy worlds and ride roller coasters. These headsets are a fun, inexpensive way to expand your phone’s capabilities, but don’t expect too much.
- Since the headset uses your phone, the specs, such as sound and video, are as good as your phone provides
- Adjustable focal distance and object distance
- Limited field of view (less than 100)
- Light construction
- Padded straps
- Limited VR experience
- Only supports phones that are under 6 inches
Best VR headset for graphics
HTC Vive Pro 2
If you want incredible graphics that will trick you into believing you’re in another world, the HTC Vive Pro 2 is the VR headset to choose. It boasts up to 5k resolution (4896 x 2448). That’s a big step up from the Vive Pro, which has 2800 x 1600 resolution. In addition to the high resolution, this headset has a wide field of view (120 degrees) and a high refresh rate. When your hands move, your avatar’s hands move.
While this is a fantastic VR headset, it does have a few downsides that prevent it from taking the top spot on our list. First, like the Valve Index, it has external sensors, which can make setup a pain. Also, and maybe most important, you need to tether the headset to a high-powered gaming computer to achieve 5k resolution. If you’re a serious gamer, that may not be a problem. Casual gamers with less powerful computers will find the resolution isn’t quite as awesome, but they can still enjoy its other quality features. When you’re not gaming, the best smart TVs will level up your other entertainment.
- Resolution: 4896 x 2448
- Refresh rate: 120Hz
- Field of view: 120 degrees
- Realistic graphics
- New updates to features and games are added regularly
- Better real-time action
- External sensors
- Needs a high-powered gaming computer to achieve 5k resolution
Best stand-alone VR headset for mixed reality
Meta Quest Pro
Meta Quest Pro VR headset is the newest member of the Meta Quest line. It already has a better field of view and resolution than its predecessor, as well as some unique features. It came out in October 2022, and though there were few user reviews available at press time, experts are calling it the new must-have VR headset.
What makes it so special? The Meta Quest Pro is one of the first at-home headsets that mixes VR with AR for a mixed-reality experience. Remember: VR places you in an imaginary world, while AR places imaginary objects in the real world. Mixed reality is a lot like AR because you can see digital objects in the real world … but you’ll also still be able to play immersive VR games on the Pro. The mixed reality is just an added feature for some apps.
“This is an entirely new feature set and category,” says Jason Yim, an extended reality expert and the founder and CEO of Trigger XR. What’s more, when you do see the real world, it will be in color and high resolution, which is vastly different from older VR headsets.
The Pro will also read your facial features and translate them into facial expressions on your avatar using internal cameras. Other players will actually be able to see how you feel. With other headsets, this is only achievable with an accessory that is sold separately, so the Pro is really the total package. It may not make your daily life easier like the best smart home devices, but it will make it a lot more fun.
- Resolution: 2160 x 2160
- Refresh rate: 90Hz
- Field of view: 106 degrees
- Represents the user more accurately with face tracking
- Incorporates the real world
- Counterbalanced, so the headset doesn’t slip forward
- Only a 90Hz refresh rate, so avatar movements may be slightly delayed