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The best VR headset

It's a close competition, but price is a big factor…

The Oculus Rift + Touch and HTC Vive are both good bundles, though the $400 Rift bundle is slightly better than the $500 Vive bundle in our minds. The more comfortable, higher-resolution Vive Pro is a great headset, too, but at $800 (without controllers or sensors!) it can't be our first recommendation for anyone looking to jump into VR right now.

We recommend the Oculus Rift with Touch controllers for a few reasons. One, the two included sensors now allow you to move around while standing, if not with the degree of freedom the Vive's harder-to-install mounted sensors offer (it can lose tracking when you turn around). Add a third sensor for $60, though, and full room-scale play is possible with the Rift—still at a slightly lower price than the Vive.

The Touch controllers are lighter and more comfortable than the Vive's wands, as is the Rift headset itself. As for games, Facebook is putting more resources into developing games than any other company in the VR space, so we feel good about an investment in a Rift headset right now. Currently, you get six games bundled with the Rift: Lucky’s Tale, Medium, Toybox, Quill, Dead and Buried, and Robo Recall. 

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The best VR headset today

  • Now $399
  • Better perceived resolution than Vive
  • Touch controllers come bundled
  • Roomscale size not as big as Vive's

We can pretty much thank Oculus for making VR a reality. With Facebook snapping up the startup for $2 billion, Oculus has a huge war chest with which to push VR forward. 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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Price made all the difference

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—except Sony with its PSVR headset, but that isn't for the PC (at least until modders get their hands on it).

HTC Vive

While both headsets hold close positions in our hearts, Oculus made all the difference by bundling its headset with the Touch controllers and dropping the price significantly. This was the deciding factor in choosing the Rift over the Vive as our new preferred headset. 

The games helped, too. We expect that eventually, nearly all VR games will be made to work on both headsets, but right now Oculus boasts quite a few existing and upcoming exclusives (which we aren't exactly happy about, but they are a factor).

If you have the cash and a big room, the Vive's wall-mounted sensors provide the best room-scale VR we've experienced. If you've got a lot of cash, the Vive Pro is much more comfortable than the original Vive, and ups the resolution to 2880x1660, but as mentioned previously, the main reason we don't recommend the Vive Pro above a regular Vive package or the Oculus Rift is that for $800, you don't get the sensors or controllers—pricey!

A close race

The competition is neck and neck. Valve has said that it's developing new VR games of its own (though it would be somewhat un-Valve like to release them as Vive exclusives when they could easily be Rift-compatible). Valve has also been talking about new 'knuckle' controllers, which depart from the wand design for a more Touch-like experience. 

HTC is diverting most of its attention to improving its VR products. The company recently sold off its mobile phone division to Google for $1.1 billion, and plans to use significant portions of that money to its VR efforts. LG is also developing a SteamVR headset, and several other companies are showing off prototypes. Our recommendation could change quickly, so we'll be keeping an eye on the news and updating this article as new games and headsets are announced and released. 

VR is still very young, so any investment right now comes with the caveat that a better headset might release next year, or a price drop could be around the corner. Much like the early years of PC gaming itself, we expect leaps in quality to come fairly quickly, meaning that this is a high-end purchase that likely will not stay cutting edge for more than a year or two. That said, the current VR experience with either the Rift or Vive is a lot of fun.

As prices change and new headsets are released, our recommendation will surely change. For the foreseeable future, though, we'll continue to recommend the Oculus Rift as the most affordable, comfortable package with the best software.

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