Virtual reality finally seems to be reaching a time when everyone should be taking a closer look. It's important to get the best VR headset so you can truly appreciate what's possible. The number of intriguing games is skyrocketing, and there are plenty of VR headsets to choose from. The challenge is finding the system that's right for you.
Prices range from a shockingly affordable $150 accessory to a $1,990 VR headset that requires a powerful gaming PC. There are plenty of titles available for every VR system mentioned below, so the only considerations are how big your budget is and what type of hardware you already own.
Meta Quest 2
Best VR headset overall
- Incredibly low price
- Wireless and standalone design
- 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye
- Air Link to Windows PC
- Mobile processor
- 97-degree FOV
Meta's Quest 2 is still a phenomenal value. Right out of the box, you get inside-out tracking in a standalone device, with no need to set up base stations or be tethered to a computer. The display resolution and refresh rate are in line with most VR headsets. Other manufacturers simply can’t compete with Meta Quest 2's quality and features at such a low price.
Meta’s Quest 2 isn’t simply the budget choice, however. With innovative features like built-in hand tracking that lets you operate the system without controllers, Air Link to wirelessly connect to a PC, the option of running SteamVR through Virtual Desktop, and syncing a physical keyboard for use within VR, Meta's budget headset maintains its position on the cutting edge of virtual reality even three years after launching.
The greatly improved and much more expensive Meta Quest Pro has been released and we'll talk about that headset below, but it doesn't oust the Quest 2 from its long-held position as the best all-around VR headset. A large number of new VR devices are expected in 2023, including a Quest 3 but Meta's Quest 2 could be our top pick until the end of the year.
The best VR headset for PS5 consoles
- Very comfortable
- Clear display
- Excellent Sense controllers
- Improved tracking and feedback
- Competitive specs
- Bulky wired design
- Costs more than a PS5
- Lacking games and direction
After seven long years, Sony decided interest in VR had risen, and technology had advanced sufficiently to justify a refresh of its aging PSVR accessory. The PlayStation VR2 is one of the most advanced headsets available but comes with some serious tradeoffs when compared to the Quest 2.
The PSVR2 requires a PlayStation 5 console, adding extra expense if you don't already own one. The tether is much smaller and lighter than that of the PSVR, but can still feel restrictive. If you are coming from a PCVR system, that won't be a concern.
The visuals rival the best PCVR systems, but the Fresnel lenses have a small sweet spot of clarity. At $550, the PlayStation VR2 is a great option for PlayStation 5 owners, adding high-powered VR with some great new titles. However, if you don't already have a PS5, there are cheaper options available through other platforms.
Sony PlayStation VR
The VR headset for PS4 consoles
- Integrated stereo headphones
- Streamlined cables
- Adds HDR pass through
- Slimmer build overall
- No performance changes
- Limited efficacy of camera and Move controllers
If you have a Sony PlayStation 4, this low-cost PSVR add-on is almost an automatic purchase. For about $150, it delivers a unique take on virtual reality that can’t really be experienced on any other platform. A perfect example is the VR game creation app Dreams, which lets you design your own worlds. Sony also has several exclusive games for PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR requires a PS4 or PS5 gaming console, so it isn’t recommended unless you already own the console or intend to use it separately. If you own a PS5, you should consider the much newer PSVR2 described above.
Sony’s PSVR has been around since 2016, with a minor update in 2017, making it the oldest system on the list. The low-resolution display wasn’t a glaring issue at that time, but the lenses are starting to show their age. Still at such a low price, it's hard to pass up this bargain.
Best for SteamVR
- Fast 144Hz refresh rate
- 130-degree wide FOV
- Made by SteamVR developer Valve
- Great Knuckles controllers
- 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye
It should come as no surprise that the Valve Index is the top pick for the best headset for SteamVR since both are created by Valve. The Valve Index hits the sweet spot with a very solid design at a reasonable price for a PC-based VR system.
The display is sharp, with a wider-than-average 130-degree field of view and one of the best refresh rates at up to 144Hz. The Valve Index is on the heavy side, but it has a very comfortable head strap.
This product was launched in 2019. Rumors suggest that a new higher-resolution model is in development, but there have been no recent hints of a launch date. If you like the look of the Valve Index, it's still one of the best VR headsets available, despite its age.
Using a Quest Pro connected to a PCVR system provides better clarity but costs a bit more. The HTC Vive XR Elite also might bring stiff competition and it ships soon. For the moment, though, the Index is still the best you can get for about $1,000
HTC Vive Pro 2
A high-end PCVR option
- Crisp 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye
- 120-degree FOV
- Plenty of accessories
HTC has a long history of making VR headsets, and the company's best available model represents a balance of high-end features and expansion options. The Vive Pro 2's 2448 x 2448 pixel resolution is the highest available in a VR headset with a 120Hz rate.
Note that the HTC Vive XR Elite will probably be replacing the Vive Pro 2 on this list soon. We haven't had a chance for a full review, but after some hands-on time, we can tell the Vive XR Elite takes quality to new heights and will likely challenge the Meta Quest Pro and Varjo Aero for the best VR headset. The Vive XR Elite is currently in preorder, with shipping expected to begin in March.
As a SteamVR solution, the Vive Pro 2 requires a Windows PC or a gaming laptop with a powerful graphics card to get the best results. HTC also makes standalone VR headsets but with compromises and costs that put them out of the running when compared to Meta’s Quest 2.
Optional accessories for HTC’s powerful and versatile Vive Pro 2 include a face tracker, body trackers, and a wireless adapter. The Vive Pro 2 can be made into a leading wireless system that can place your whole body in VR along with facial expressions. You can add any or all of these accessories to enhance the VR experience.
The HTC Vive Pro 2 didn’t win a spot on this list of best VR headsets without a challenge. On the downside, it is a heavy headset, but its head strap is among the best. It can run a bit hot when playing intensive games for long periods, so it’s important to take breaks, as with any VR system. The HTC Vive Pro 2 is one of the most expensive and best VR headsets on the market.
Pimax 5K Super
Alternate pick for SteamVR
- Fast 180Hz refresh rate
- Super-wide 200-degree FOV
- Sharp 2560 x 1440 pixels per eye
- Best refresh rate narrows FOV
- Widest FOV slows refresh rate
Pimax also makes a super high-resolution VR system, Pimax 8K, which features 4K resolution sharpness for each eye. The reason the Pimax 5K Super won out is that it allows an ultra-fast refresh rate and an incredibly wide field of view. Quicker screen updates can be more important in fast-action VR than resolution, and the wider view increases peripheral vision, another boost for reaction time. The Pimax 8K resolution is also much more expensive.
A new Pimax headset, teased since the middle of last year, is expected to ship soon. The Pimax Crystal will probably replace the Pimax 5K Super on this list since it incorporates several advanced features such as inside-out tracking, a standalone headset option, and a dense, high-resolution display, backed by mini-LED lighting. Prototypes were shown at CES 2023, and most agree that it's a great headset.
The Pimax 5K Super is still very advanced and offers features few headsets can match. You can adjust the refresh rate and field of view, and you have to choose which is most important. To achieve the highest refresh rate of 180Hz, the field of view is reduced to 150 degrees. This is still quite wide and a good choice for fast-action games. If you pick the widest field of view, 200 degrees, the maximum refresh rate drops to 120Hz.
Pimax headsets have a reputation for being finicky and lead to a love-it-or-hate-it experience. Make sure that this is what you want and read the community forums before purchasing.
HP Reverb G2
Best for Windows Mixed Reality
- Sharp 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye
- Limited to 90Hz refresh rate
- Optics blur around the edges
HP is best known as a computer and printer manufacturer, but it's also a solid choice for getting started with virtual reality. The Reverb G2 has a relatively low price, a high-resolution display, and a competitive field of view. It’s a great way to dip a toe into Windows Mixed Reality and is compatible with SteamVR.
The HP Reverb G2 does have some shortcomings. The display refresh rate is somewhat slow at 90Hz, and this could make fast movements become a little disorienting. While the central portion of the display is quite crisp, the edges are soft, so there are trade-offs at this low price compared to other PCVR systems.
Meta Quest Pro
A work-centric VR headset
- Very comfortable & no face pressure
- Top display clarity pancake lenses
- Good contrast with mini-LEDs
- Excellent controller tracking
- Improved multitasking performance
- Needs frequent charging or a power cord
- Software is a bit glitchy at release
- Very expensive
Meta's productivity headset, the Quest Pro, arrived in October 2022 as the first standalone VR headset meant for work. It's also one of the best gaming headsets since it includes most of the best features of the Quest 2, is compatible with the same games, and offers greatly improved display quality and controller accuracy.
Using pancake lenses and mini-LED backlighting, the display is brighter and crisper across the entire lens, while offering better blacks. The field of view has been increased to 106 degrees horizontally. That's not as wide as some competing headsets but it's enough to make a difference if you've noticed the edges of the scene when using the Quest 2.
The downside is the price of $1,500, more than triple that of the Quest 2. There are multiple reasons for the price increase and it is still a bargain given the advanced technology packed into this all-in-one VR system. Its XR2+ chip offers 50% greater speed and enhanced 12GB memory boosts multitasking performance.
As a work device, it ticks most of the boxes and can connect to a Mac or PC when you run across a task that the Quest Pro can't handle. This is a brand new concept and it's still rough around the edges but earned a place on our list of best VR headsets as the first standalone system designed for productivity.
The sharpest VR business headset available
- The best display with 2880 x 2720 resolution
- The headset is very comfortable
- Eye-tracking with automatic fit adjustment
- Very expensive
- Requires a powerful GPU for best quality
- Doesn't come with controllers or base stations
The Varjo Aero is one of the best PCVR headsets available, with its amazing display quality and great comfort. The super sharp 2,880 x 2,720 resolution, clear optics, and mini-LED backlighting exceed every other device on available currently.
The only downside is the cost. At nearly $2,000 for the headset alone, it's out of reach for most shoppers. By the time you add Steam VR controllers, base stations, and a powerful PC that's worthy of pairing with the Varjo Aero, the cost skyrockets. Varjo designs for businesses and, like the Quest Pro, is meant for work use. You can, of course, play Steam VR games, also.
We went hands-on with the fantastic Varjo Aero and were impressed with the quality. If you already have a premium PCVR gaming system and want a top-quality headset to match, this might be the right VR headset for you.
FOV stands for field of view and describes how much can be seen at once when you look through a VR headset. A narrow field of view is like looking through a tube with only darkness visible at the edges. Over 100 degrees has become fairly standard, and more is usually better. On the other hand, an ultrawide field of view reduces pixel density and makes the graphics less crisp.
The refresh rate of a VR headset’s display is very important. A high refresh rate means images shown in the headset change more frequently, matching the movements of your head with greater accuracy. This is important since any mismatch is disorienting and might lead to motion sickness.
Whenever the motion detected from your inner ear disagrees with what is seen visually, it causes a conflict that your nervous system struggles to resolve. Perhaps motion sickness evolved as a way to purge the digestive system of ingested toxins. In modern times, it can be quite inconvenient.
The VR headsets in our list are the best available right now, but virtual reality technology is advancing rapidly. Be sure to check back in the coming months for several big announcements that are expected. With Apple's long-rumored headset expected soon, rumors of a Valve Index 2, and the ever-growing collection of headsets from HTC and Pimax, our expectations for a top-quality VR headset could be completely rewritten within months.
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