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The best VR headset

One system edges out the other, but not by much.

The promise of virtual reality has finally evolved from the basic 3D of 90s arcade games to a real headset you can buy and use at home. The releases of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive made VR a real thing for gaming, but neither is cheap. The Vive still sells for $800, while the Rift now sells for $600 with included Touch controllers—you can remove the Touch controllers from the bundle after adding the bundle to your cart. Previously, the Rift by itself was already $600 and the Touch controllers another $200. You still need to shell out another $60 though, if you want more accurate back-side tracking at the room-scale level.

Both the Vive and Rift are now essentially complete, with the Rift's Touch controllers available for purchase separately and as a bundle. They definitely add a dimension to the VR experience but that kind of interactivity has been available on the Vive since its unveiling.

One area where the Rift still falls behind the Vive is room-scale support. it's possible if you add more sensors, but the Rift sensors don't have nearly the room size support as the emitters on the Vive. If you're buying a Rift bundle today, you'll have to also add in a 3rd sensor for better behind-the-back tracking.

The real issue with VR however is content—and we haven't seen major breakthroughs yet this year. There's still a major hole in content that desperately needs to be filled by big publishers. Because of this, we still can't outright recommend either headset at this time. For those who are interested in the cutting edge or just wanting to the novel experience without having to wait, our pick would still be the Vive, although the Rift is now a much better solution than it use to be.

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The most complete VR package available to order right now

  • The best 3D space tracking
  • Can walk around in a room
  • Comes with two controllers
  • Most expensive option
  • Comfort and weight could use some improvement
  • Takes up space

The HTC Vive VR headset is the most complete package for experiencing VR that you can buy today. Although being the most expensive option, HTC's full kit for $800 gives you everything you need to control and move around in real (and virtual) space.

We've used both units extensively and the majority of people on staff feel that the Vive's room-scale capabilities really make it shine. The ability to walk around adds tremendous depth to the feeling of being immersed in a virtual world with the caveat being that you're constantly paranoid of tripping over the wires, which is a distraction, and one that really keeps the Vive from reaching its full potential.

HTC recently showed off a new headset mechanism that's vastly more comfortable than what's available on either headset, and makes wearing the Vive feel more like wearing the PSVR from Sony. That is to say, much more comfortable.

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The most refined experience

  • Most comfortable VR headset
  • Touch controllers now come bundled
  • Comes with remote and Xbox One gamepad
  • Room-scale not as developed as Vive

We can pretty much thank Oculus for making VR a reality. With Facebook snapping up the startup for a cool $2 billion, Oculus has a huge war chest for pushing VR forward. They're investing in game development and research to help the present and future of VR thrive. The Rift headset is the most polished VR headset on the market today, and really demonstrates how far along we've come in bringing VR to the mainstream, but we're not quite there yet, and neither is Oculus.

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If you must have a VR headset today, the HTC Vive is still the best package.

Right now there are two major players for VR headsets for the PC. No one else has demonstrated products that are consumer ready other than HTC and Oculus. There's Sony with its PSVR headset, but that isn't for the PC (at least until modders get their hands on it).

HTC Vive

Despite both the Vive and Rift being available for purchase, we can't give a definitive buying recommendation at this time. There still aren't many compelling games available for either platform and by the time big titles come, Oculus is expected to even the playing field between the Rift and Vive in the coming months in terms of hardware. We also expect that eventually, nearly all VR games will be made to work on both. We recommend the Vive for a more complete experience right now if you're desperate for VR. If you're not, the safe bet is to spend your money on regular ol' PC games for the next few months and watch for more development on the content side.

While there's no other realistic competitor to the Vive or Rift, there are some other headsets that could compete with them in the future, like Starbreeze's StarVR and OSVR, or Open Source Virtual Reality. We don't expect either headset to gain as much developer backing as the Rift and Vive, but it's still early days for VR. In five years, who knows?

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