The best VR headset needs to be immersive, comfortable, and offer a wide selection of games and apps. And let's not forget value for money, too, because while you might want to spend $1,000 on a VR headset, you should at least be sure you're getting your money's worth. Luckily there are many excellent VR headsets that fit that description today.
I've got my hands on all the popular VR headsets from Valve, Meta, HTC, and the rest, and did plenty of testing so you can decide which are worth your hard-earned cash. From my time with them all, I've decided the best VR headset for most users is the Meta Quest 2.
If money is no object and you're just looking for the purest, most high-end VR headset out there, the Valve Index is the closest thing to having a holodeck in your office. It's also now worth considering that Meta will release its next-gen Quest headset, probably called the Quest 3, later this year. That's going to be a headset to keep an eye on, as it's supposedly coming at a price "accessible for lots of people".
Once you've secured one of the best VR headsets, the next step is figuring out the best VR games. Half-Life: Alyx shows what VR is capable of, but it'll push your PC to the limits. There are plenty of other sci-fi titles to enjoy that aren't as intense, such as No Man's Sky. I recommend checking out the best VR games on PC if you want to build out your library in anticipation.
Best VR headsets
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Up until the recent $100 price increase, the Meta Quest 2 (previously the Oculus Quest 2) improved on the specs sheet of the original Quest and delivered it for cheaper. Now, at the same price, the Meta Quest 2 takes a small knock to its prowess, but it's still the best VR headset available right now.
It might not stay that way for long, however, as the likely-named Quest 3 is set to release later this year. Meta has been spending big on its VR division, Reality Labs, lately, and it's sure to make a splash with its next-gen headset. That headset will also be priced "accessible for lots of people", so you could make a strong case for waiting to see what's new with that device before making any purchasing decisions.
That's still a good few months out yet, however. If you want a VR headset today, there's still a lot to like about the Quest 2. Especially if you can find a good deal on one.
At 1832 x 1920 per eye, the Quest 2 offers exceptional clarity for what is priced like an entry-level headset, but is much more than that.
So long as you keep the headset at a decent level with your eyes in the centre, the Quest 2 delivers a crisp and clear picture. Powering that is the Snapdragon XR2 System-on-Chip (SoC) from Qualcomm, which is a marked improvement over the Snapdragon 835 SoC used in the older Quest model. That also now comes with 6GB of RAM, a step-up from the 4GB on the original model.
You can either play games purpose-built for the standalone headset, and thus rendered by the onboard Snapdragon XR2 chip, or beamed from your PC using Oculus Link and a compatible USB Type-C cable. I've bought the official Oculus Link cable, although it is really pricey. You can absolutely use a cheaper cable, but bear in mind that some won't deliver the length, bandwidth, or power that pricier cables can.
There are two storage options to choose from: 256GB and 128GB. There was also a 64GB model, as this was all the storage cheaper option launched with, but you'd probably be looking to buy a pre-owned headset to find one. Meta replaced that with the 128GB model for the same price, so we don't recommend picking the 64GB model up unless it's going much cheaper than MSRP.
The Quest 2 is one of the quickest headsets to get up and running on this list. With Inside-Out tracking and hand tracking built-in, you can go from unboxing to up-and-running in VR in just a couple of minutes. The first time setup process will have you removing your headset, memorising Wi-Fi passwords, putting the headset back on again, and then waiting around for a couple of updates. It's a little fiddly, but you need only do it once and it's relatively quick to complete.
The standalone experience is admittedly still hampered by the low-power silicon, and there's no getting around that. The Quest 2 not only deals with the processing onboard, but it's also trying to conserve battery power to ensure a half-decent run. That's roughly around two hours of battery life for gaming.
Having originally required a Facebook account, we're now happy the Quest 2 no longer requires a Facebook login.
As an all-round VR headset for a wide range of uses, the Quest 2 is simply unparalleled. The fact that it's also the cheapest VR headset we recommend is just icing on the cake.
Read our full Meta Quest 2 review.
The Valve Index boasts some of the best visuals of any mainstream, commercially available VR headset, and that's down to the RGB LCD screens Valve is using. The subpixel layout makes for a stunningly crisp picture, and while it's gradually being pushed down the ladder for resolution, it's deceivingly better than it sounds on paper.
The Index's FOV, at 130°, is also best-in-class, and there's virtually no detectable screen door effect inside the headset. It runs up to 144Hz in an experimental mode, but will hit a speedy 120Hz the rest of the time.
All sound good? Yeah, the Valve Index is the granddaddy of VR headsets.
If the specs list wasn't enough, the Valve Index feels great to wear. It's a bit heavier than the Rift S—enough that the weight was noticeable in our side-by-side comparison—but the shape of the head strap better distributes that weight around your head. Not to mention it's built from carefully selected, high-quality materials, with top-notch weight distribution. The strap materials feel quality too—more like a padded extra-soft t-shirt than standard foam padding—never bothering me during extended play sessions.
But most importantly, the Index is comfortable because of how it delivers audio.
Built-in near-field speakers hover just next to your ears, powered by speaker drivers instead of the ones usually found in headphones. What this means is the Index's speakers offer outstanding three-dimensional surround sound, somehow also delivering a level of aural isolation without shutting yourself off completely to external noises.
With zero pressure on your ears, there's less fatigue from staying in VR for an extended period of time, and they somehow don't bleed audio into the rest of the room, either.
The other hallmark feature of the Index is its controllers, which double as both typical motion controllers and hand/finger trackers. The Index controllers strap to your hands—meaning you can release your grip entirely without worrying about dropping them.
Proper finger tracking is one of the distinguishing features of Valve's Index, and there are plenty of impressive implementations now more devs are finding themselves in possession of VR headsets. The best I've tried with the Valve Index is the Aperture Hand Labs tech demo, which has you waving to, high-fiving, and playing rock-paper-scissors with a collection of quirky Portal-style robots. Where previous touch controllers could only articulate grip, the Index controllers let me give a thumbs-up, point with finger guns, or even offer a Vulcan salute.
Not a whole load of games use finger tracking right now, which means outside of Aperture Hand Labs and Half Life: Alyx, the feature can feel a little gimmicky. Still, there's a great deal of potential there for future games and apps.
The Valve Index also boasts some impressive technology and handy convenience features like USB passthrough in the slot hidden behind the front panel. There are tons of cool third-party mods for this slot, including cooling kits.
The Index is a roomscale VR experience, which means it requires two base station sensors positioned around your play area. The HTC Vive and Vive Pro also use base stations. The Quest 2 and Vive Cosmos use inside-out tracking—that is, sensors on the headset instead of placed around your room. After growing accustomed to that more streamlined experience, setting up sensors for the Index was frustrating.
It does deliver a more responsive experience than any of the inside-out options, though; there's a reason the Vive Cosmos Elite goes back to prioritizing the base stations.
After setting up the base stations, the roomscale setup can be a pain. With the Quest 2, the headset's cameras give you a digital view of your surroundings to draw your play area in seconds. But the Index's setup has to be done via Steam on your computer, before you even put the headset on. After calculating floor height, you click the trigger at four corners of your available space, which Steam then measures in order to determine your best play area. After using the Quest 2, it just feels old-fashioned—like having to start your car with a crank.
And all those premium features come at a price. It's the best VR headset on the market... if you don't consider the value proposition. At nearly a thousand dollars, the complete Index package costs as much as three Quest 2s. Still, it is extremely good for immersive VR, and you get what you pay for.
Read our full Valve Index review.
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The HTC Vive Pro 2 brings with it a number of updates on the display front to make it one of the most impressive mainstream options around. The native resolution of 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye is incredible, and when coupled with the 120Hz refresh rate and 120-degree field of view, makes for one of the best viewing experiences around.
The Vive Pro 2 is one of the highest resolution mainstream headsets you can drop your money on and offers a significant edge over the Quest 2 as well, which settles for 3664 x 1920. It's great for high fidelity games, but a less obvious upgrade in more cartoony titles—meaning you really need high-resolution textures and models to truly enjoy the benefits this headset brings.
There's no obvious screen door effect either, and at this resolution it feels like the hardware side of VR has been solved.
Of course, at these kinds of resolutions, you'll need a high-end machine to get the most from this headset, with HTC recommending an Nvidia GeForce RTX 20-series or Radeon RX 5000-series GPU to maintain a smooth experience. For testing, we hooked up the headset to our high-end test PC, which is home to a GeForce RTX 3080 and an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X. We had no problems running any of the games on this setup, but, yeah, it's well up there in terms of specs.
It's very much a tethered experience, and while the cable that connects you to your PC is generous, there are still times when it gets in the way and yanks you out of your virtual world. If you pine for cable-free gaming, then the headset is compatible with the HTC Vive wireless adapter, but that costs an extra $349 (£359) and also limits the refresh rate to 90Hz—not exactly ideal.
The headset itself is comfortable to wear, although I did find myself getting hot after a while. There's plenty of foam padding to help keep things comfortable, although this acts as an insulator as well. It's not the lightest headset around, but it is really well-balanced, and so doesn't feel overly heavy.
As for the software side of getting the Vive Pro 2 up and running, that's handled by HTC's setup app, which goes through the proceedings in a logical way before handing over control to Steam VR for the final configuration. This works well and highlights any issues as you go.
HTC has stuck with the satellite setup for the Vive Pro 2 to ensure you get accurate controller tracking, which means you'll need plenty of power sockets to get everything up and running. The full starter kit comprises the headset, two first-generation controllers, and a pair of Base Station 2.0 satellites.
Setup is still a bit of a pain, and requires mounting the satellites in a way so that they're not bouncing around in response to your own virtual shenanigans. They come with wall mounting brackets, which is probably the best solution. You'll need to place them near power sockets too, as each satellite needs plugging in, and you'll need an extra socket for the headset breakout box too.
It's not plug-and-play is what I'm saying.
The headset is available on its own, which is useful if you're upgrading from a first-generation setup. It's a pricey upgrade over the Valve Index and doesn't do enough beyond the improved display to really justify that cost. Still, if you're looking for the very best display around, particularly as an upgrade, there's certainly a case to be made for the Vive Pro 2. It's a shame the starter kit is so expensive really.
Read our full HTC Vive Pro 2 review.
The HP Reverb G2 has won a place here with the best VR headsets, thanks in no small part to its fantastic resolution. If future-proofing your setup in terms of image fidelity is your main concern, it will not disappoint. With 2160p per eye, the Reverb G2 manages to completely alleviate the screen door effect that can cause issues with some lower resolution headsets—provided you have a powerful enough GPU to handle it.
You are able to step down the resolution per eye with relative ease if it surpasses the limitations of your hardware, though. And even playing in lower resolutions, you get to take advantage of great features like the highly inclusive, physical IPD toggle on the underside of the headset, the range of which is impressive compared to other options on the market.
The use of standard Mixed Reality controllers is a little disappointing, though. While they're battery operated for quick juice swaps, they forgo a lot of the more advanced features found in other designs like the Valve Index's finger-tracking knuckle controllers.
The Reverb G2's tracking solution does mean no base stations are necessary, and that means simpler setup, but also comes with some drawbacks. Visible light tracking means surrounding lighting conditions can really affect your experience. Don't expect it to work particularly well in a Sunroom, or in the dark, as the headset relies on a very particular lighting requirement to position you properly in physical space.
The hand tracking is a little limited without base stations, too, but HP counters this with fantastic IMU gyro sensors will predict movements beyond the tracking area, as long as they are fluid motions. Holding your hands still tells a different story, but this shouldn't make a difference in most in-game situations. It's possible to land steady sniper shots even when prone, as long as you don't pull the controllers too close to your face.
And speaking of invading your headspace, the headset is a snug fit. The Velcro strap gets caught in my hair a fair bit, but its a comfortable solution. It needs to be quite tight on to prevent slippage and, although it's not the heaviest VR headset around, there's a noticeable pressure on the cheeks. After extended periods of play this can make you feel strange due to interference with the sinuses. Either way it doesn't put any pressure on the bridge of the nose itself, and there's enough room to wear glasses inside comfortably.
Some users have complained of trouble with the curvature on the face gasket being too extreme, but there are 3D printed solutions out there if it doesn't fit right. Still, the Reverb G2's tether at least is a step up from the G1, in that it's now a singular cable as opposed to two adjacent cables. At 19.5 foot (6m), it's a little longer than a lot of other top VR headsets, but the jelly feel means it catches on itself, making it a little awkward to untangle.
The off-ear, BMR powered headphones are brilliant, however. Not only is the sound quality incredible, it also helps with keeping you cool and immersed without anything more pressing up against the side of your face. They're similar to the headphones used on the Index, and hopefully we'll see more headsets utilise the tech going forward.
The HP Reverb G2 works seamlessly with Steam VR, though I do have some gripes with its reliance on Windows Mixed Reality. Essentially there is no way to stop it from opening on start-up if you've left the headset plugged in, aside from uninstalling it—which I don't want to do because it does include some cool features. Other than that, I've no real complaints on the software front when it comes to actually using the set on a day-to-day basis.
The Reverb G2 might not have all the fancy greebles of some of the other headsets on the list, but it has enough great features that do make it worth a look for the money.
Read our full HP Reverb G2 review.
Best VR headset FAQ
What are VR lighthouses?
To keep track of your movements, your VR headset needs to use some method of sensing both the headset itself as well as the controllers in your hands. The first VR headsets used what are known as lighthouses, individually placed sensors, or positional trackers, which plugged into your PC.
This is the most accurate method of tracking but is cumbersome, and unless they're permanently installed in a room, you'll need to set them up each time you want to play, and that includes calibrating them anew every time.
What is inside-out tracking in VR?
Inside-out tracking means you don't need external sensors as the headset can keep track of both itself and the controllers around it. Originally this method wasn't as effective, wasn't quite as responsive, and broke immersion in-game. But with the best VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2, the tech is almost on par with the lighthouse in terms of responsiveness now. And is certainly far more convenient.
Are there wireless PC VR headsets?
The Quest 2 is a wireless headset, but you officially need to plug it into your gaming PC via a USB Type-C cable to enjoy the best VR headset experience with your rig. But there are now easily accessible ways to do that wirelessly. However, you do need to have a Wi-Fi 6 router to deliver the level of throughput you require not to spend the entire time vomiting your guts up due to incessant lag.
The old Vive did have a wireless module you could add to the system, which was almost effective, though, in our experience, the connection dropouts would not be something we could put up within the long term.
The Valve Index could be due to its own wireless module as some patents have emerged, indicating a wireless head strap has at least been considered for the company's stellar goggles.
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Field of view (FOV)
The field of view refers to the amount of an environment that's visible to an observer; in VR, it's the extent of the game world that's visible in the displays. A broader FOV in a headset is integral to a feeling of immersion.
Head-mounted display (HMD)
Broadly any wearable mounted on the head with graphical capabilities but often used to refer to VR headsets specifically.
Systems used to track a user's movements in VR that originate in the headset, as opposed to outside-in tracking, where external sensors are used to track movement. Tracking, and the method used, is crucial to enable either three degrees of freedom (being able to look around in any direction in VR) or six degrees of freedom (being able to look around and move your body in any direction in VR).
The delay between an input and a response, in VR, the delay between user input through a controller, moving your head, or other methods, and the response on the headset displays. Low latency is vital to reducing nausea in VR, which is most intense when there's a delay or stuttering between moving or looking and the display reacting.
Resolution is the measurement in pixels, horizontal and vertical, of an image or display. Higher resolution in VR is essential because the displays are so close to the user's eyes, which emphasizes jagged lines, pixelation, and the screen door effect.
The number of images a display is capable of displaying per second, measured in hertz. The high refresh rate is essential for VR similarly to latency, as a low refresh rate can cause stuttering (or even the appearance of freezing), which can cause nausea.
Screen door effect (SDE)
The fine mesh-like effect of viewing an image rendered in pixels at close range, where the grid between pixels is visible. Higher resolutions (or proprietary solutions like that built into the Odyssey+) mitigate this effect.