PC Gamer Hardware Awards: What is the best VR headset of 2020?

PC Gamer Hardware Awards
(Image credit: Valve)

I've certainly wished to escape reality this year, as have I imagine many of you. Virtual reality has proven one such way to get outside, abroad, or just anywhere but your house for a moment or two. From piloting a TIE Fighter in Star Wars: Squadrons, battling the Combine in the stellar Half-Life: Alyx, to clutching a flashlight for dear life in Phasmophobia, I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's a great time to get into virtual reality.

A big part of that is the sheer quantity and quality of VR headsets available today, primed to plug into our gaming PCs and whisk us away to virtual worlds. New arrivals have some big shoes to fill in 2020, following in the footsteps of the Valve Index. Yet we've seen at least one new challenger for the tethered VR crown in 2020: the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite.

Towards the very tail-end of the year there was also the staggered arrival of the HP Reverb G2, although with availability solely to those who pre-ordered in November, and with little word on a public release, we've not been able to consider it for this title fight. The HP Reverb G2 is still in a sort of limbo between pre-order release and one to the public in earnest, it seems. Similarly, Pimax released the 5K Super just before time. This just goes to show how varied the VR headset market is nowadays—hardly the two-horse race it once was between HTC and Oculus.

Speaking of Oculus, this year also saw the arrival of the Oculus Quest 2. Starting at $299, it is the most affordable of the lot, and even more so once you discount the need for a powerful PC with a VR-capable graphics card. While not the usual fare we'd consider here at PC Gamer, the Oculus Link functionality introduced with the initial Quest headset back in 2019 turns the Quest 2 into a thoroughly decent tethered headset with only a single USB Type-C cable.

 Best VR headset 2020: the nominees 

Vive Cosmos Elite
Best VR headset 20...

Vive Cosmos Elite
HTC led the way for many modern VR headsets with the original Vive, and since then it's only further tweaked and tempered the design to get it just right for PC gamers. It's a solid blend of specifications on the Cosmos Elite, too. A 1440 x 1700 per eye resolution, 110° FoV, a 90Hz refresh rate, and interchangeable faceplates. 

Oculus Quest 2
Best VR headset 20...

Oculus Quest 2
This one came as a bit of a surprise to us, purely in how much we enjoy this headset as an all-round affordable alternative to a purely PC VR one. The specs sheet isn't as modest as you might expect, either: 1832 x 1920 per eye resolution, 90Hz refresh rate (in supported titles, otherwise it's a 72Hz standard), a new fast-switch LCD panel, and a snappy onboard Snapdragon XR2 processor. 

You'll find out the winner on New Year's Eve, a fitting day to kiss goodbye to the hardware we've enjoyed over the past year and look forward to what the next year has in store. It won't be long until we hear all about some of it, either, with CES 2021 going all virtual next year and kicking off January 11, 2021.

Here's hoping for some more tantalising virtual reality headsets and accessories at the show.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog from his hometown in Wales in 2017. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, where he would later win command of the kit cupboard as hardware editor. Nowadays, as senior hardware editor at PC Gamer, he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industry. When he's not writing about GPUs and CPUs, however, you'll find him trying to get as far away from the modern world as possible by wild camping.