The world of VR just gone more interesting with the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx—the first proper full length Half-Life game in a decade! As such we've been scouring the internet for the best VR headset Cyber Monday 2019 deals, trying to find a set capable of playing Valve's latest opus.
VR deals area already emerging ahead of the Cyber Monday sales. HTC's sale has begun with $300 off the Vive Pro Starter Kit and $100 off its newest headset, the Vive Cosmos. The Oculus Rift S is also discounted $50 until December 2.
Where to find Cyber Monday deals
Amazon - All the things
Walmart - Games, Movies, Budget Laptops
Best Buy - PCs, Laptops, and Accessories
Target - Games, Accessories, and Laptops
Staples - Gaming Chairs
Razer - Laptops and Gaming Accessories
Newegg - Components and Hardware
Microsoft - PCs, Laptops, and Games
Dell - Alienware PCs and Laptops
NZXT - 10% off all builds
As much as we'd love the Valve Index to come down in price, it's an unlikely prospect—it would be cruel to knock money off the best VR headset days after many will have bought the kit at full price to play Half-Life: Alyx. Luckily you don't need a Valve headset to play Half-Life. You can pick up a good Oculus headset and still get a great experience.
Valve's full-room VR isn't suitable for everyone. It's expensive, and requires a lot of space. Fortunately there are great competitors like Oculus. They may not deliver the same performance as an Index, but they're great sit-down VR headsets that perform very well. We're not quite in Tron territory yet, but VR headsets are getting better year after year. Hopefully more killer games like Half-Life: Alyx will follow, turning VR from a niche hobbyist pursuit into must-have technology.
Scroll down for a quick breakdown of what to expect from each headset.
Black Friday VR headset deals
Oculus Rift S | $349 (Save $50)
The Rift S is a clear improvement over the original Rift, with a 1280x1440 display (per eye) and inside-out tracking that means you don't need external sensors. Our review is here.View Deal
Vive Pro Starter Kit | $799 (Save $300)
The Starter Kit includes the headset, base stations, and controllers, which is everything you need. The $1,099 Full Kit is also on sale, and includes upgraded SteamVR base stations.View Deal
Vive Cosmos | $599 (Save $100)
We haven't reviewed the Vive Cosmos yet, and it's still pricier than the Oculus Quest or Rift S, even with the discount. But inside-out tracking means no base stations to worry about and it's got a 2880x1700 pixel screen (1440x1700 pixels per eye). View Deal
We're collecting all the best deals from across the web for PC gaming, from the latest graphics cards to the most comfortable gaming chairs, and everything in-between. Stay tuned to PC Gamer all through Black Friday and Cyber Monday for up to the minute savings.
How to choose a VR headset
I can use a modern VR headset for an hour or more before it becomes at all uncomfortable, though I haven't been prone to motion sickness since the banana pancakes road trip incident of 1993. Your mileage may vary, so it's a good idea to try out a headset at a friend's house or demo station before buying, if you can.
Outside of your sensitivity to motion sickness, the primary concerns when buying a VR headset are cost, convenience (wired or wireless?), comfort, and technical specs like screen resolution and field-of-view. You should also make sure your PC is powerful enough to run VR games at high framerates. To start with, I'd recommend an Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card or higher. If you want the best experience on high-end VR hardware, an even more powerful card will be important.
As a brief primer, resolution (how many pixels each eye sees) and refresh rate (how many images per second the screens can display) are the numbers that get the most attention, as they affect the quality of the image and how quickly it refreshes as you look around. Higher refresh rates should mean less of a disconnect between you and the world you're inhabiting.
It would be a mistake, however, to make blanket statements based on those numbers alone. The Oculus headsets can't match the refresh rate of the Valve Index, but that doesn't mean they offer a piss poor experience. In fact, when considering comfort, price, and convenience, the Oculus Quest is currently our favorite headset despite its lower specs. Many factors, including optics design, tracking latency, and display technology, factor into how a headset feels to use.
All of the headsets listed here are good picks depending on your budget, and we go into more detail in our VR headset buying guide.
As a final thought, consider how invested you really are in VR. Are you going to be able to disconnect from the world around you for an hour or more at a time, or do you have concerns like small children that require awareness of your surroundings? Do you have enough space near your PC for room-scale movement, or will you have to play standing still or sitting? Your answers to questions like these should help you determine how much to spend.
High-end: SteamVR headsets
SteamVR headsets are built to work with Valve's tracking system of the same name, and the primary options are the HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, HTC Vive Cosmos, and the Valve Index. The latter two are the top-of-the-line VR picks, with the Index sporting dual 120Hz 1440x1600 displays with an "experimental" 144Hz mode, fancy off-ear headphones, finger-tracking controllers, and a 130-degree field of view. We consider it the best high-end VR headset, but those luxuries mean it costs $999 for a full kit.
We've yet to test the new Vive Cosmos—our friends at Tom's Hardware liked it well enough—but it similarly aims for the high-end market, with 1400x1700 per-eye resolution at 90Hz. We did like the Vive Pro, which didn't blow us away with its resolution increase over the original but is much more comfortable.
These headsets are for people who want to go all out and create a semi-dedicated space for VR play with a fairly powerful PC. If you're not quite ready to commit to that, you may be happier with one of the cheaper (but still good) headsets below.
Mid-range: Oculus headsets
In the more reasonable VR headset price range are the two newest Oculus headsets, which are both $400: the Oculus Quest and the the Oculus Rift S. The Quest is currently our all-around favorite VR headset, offering a wireless, all-in-one VR experience—there's no fiddling with tracking sensors or HDMI cables.
The Oculus Quest won't be able to run Half-Life: Alyx with its built in processing, but Oculus is currently beta testing a link cable that allows Quest users to play games from a PC, and so by the time Alyx releases, it will be compatible at the loss of that wireless freedom. (This is something we'll have to test before declaring it a success, but given that Valve advertises it as an option, it should work.)
The Oculus Rift S must be connected to your PC like the original Oculus Rift, and with it you can play SteamVR games, as well as Oculus exclusives available through its store, such as Stormland. Rather than using external sensors like the Vive Pro and Index, the Rift S uses "inside out" tracking like the Quest, meaning that all of the motion tracking instruments are contained within the headset.
At $400 without any discounts, the Quest and Rift S are significantly cheaper than their competitors, which means they can't muster the same specs. The Rift S offers a 1280x1440 per-eye resolution, 80Hz refresh rate, and a 110-degree field of view. The Oculus Quest ups the per-eye resolution to 1440X1600 and has a better OLED display, but only manages 75Hz and a 100-degree field of view.
It may sound like you're taking a huge quality hit if you don't shell out a grand for a Valve Index, but I have a the first consumer version of the Oculus Rift, and it can still impress me even with its lower resolution. That's not to say I wouldn't happily play VR games on an Index if one fell into my lap, but that kind of spending isn't needed to enjoy VR.
Also existing: Windows Mixed Reality headsets
Windows Mixed Reality headsets get the least attention, but don't be deceived by the name. While Microsoft is pushing augmented reality (headsets which combine the real world with 3D graphics), the Windows Mixed Reality platform is also used by VR-focused headsets like the Samsung Odyssey+, which is our pick for the best WMR headset and features 1440x1600 per-eye resolution at 90 Hz and a 110-degree field of view.
WMR headsets work with SteamVR games and Microsoft Store VR apps, so you won't be left out of anything but Oculus exclusives by picking one up. (And with some tinkering, it is possible to get SteamVR and WMR headsets to work with Oculus exclusives.)