Getting the best VR headset should be a top priority if you're looking to enter the next phase of gaming, entertainment or digital art. And we're here to help. Though it's taken a while, affordable, accessible and impressive virtual reality is here, and it's only going to get more popular, so there's never been a better time to jump in.
The best VR headsets used to be PC-driven, tethered models such as the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift. But recently, standalone headsets have been launching all over the place with capabilities and visuals that rival their tethered counterparts. In this guide you'll find our pick of the best options for each kind of headset at a range of prices.
As well as the obvious utility for gaming, VR is becoming a major tool for a range of industries, from filmmaking to architecture and medicine, even those designing VR games and experiences need a good headset. In this guide you'll find the best options for all needs. But if you're purely games focused, you'll want to make sure you've got the best games consoles out there. If you're just entering the world of VR, you may like our rundown of the best VR apps in 2022. And now, here are some of the very best VR headsets around.
The best VR headsets you can buy
This is our pick for the best all-round VR headset for a couple of reasons. First, there's the experience of using it. An update on the already good first iteration, the Oculus 2 brings a sharper display, and with more RAM a more responsive user experience. It's also lighter, so you're getting a better visual experience for gaming, backed up with more comfort.
Then there's the price. Have a scroll down to the other options and now look at the entry price of the Oculus 2. For what you get, the price point is fantastic! There are two options, you can go for the 64GB storage model for around the $299/£299 mark, or if you want the bigger 256GB version, that'll set you back around $100/£100 more. Seeing as it dropped at the tail end of 2020, the Oculus 2 has a long life ahead of it before being superseded, and at that price, it's a great investment.
Facebook's Oculus Rift S VR headset came out in April 2020, and is a refresh of the original Oculus Rift headset. This updated model displays some definite changes for the better, with the excellent Insight tracking system being a particular highlight. It's also much less PC resource-hogging in terms of its port usage. The materials used to build the headset are also well thought-out, feel robust enough to last and are pleasant to touch.
While the general experience is better, the critical element of any head-mounted display, the screens themselves, seems to have taken a back seat. While not actually any worse than their predecessor, they don’t appear to have made the expected leaps and bounds they could have (like the Oculus Rift 2). However, if you're looking for a good deal, it's still a great, affordable VR headset.
Check out our full Oculus Rift S review here.
Even more than two years after its release, the Valve Index remains one of the best VR headsets that money can buy. You'll need to be tethered to your PC to use this one, but don't worry about power, the Valve Index has a good track record when it comes to older GPUs. The field of view and refresh rate even rival some of the more expensive hardware on the market.
Games look phenomenal on the high-resolution display and the Index's 'knuckle' controllers provide an excellent level of interactivity. In fact, those that haven't grown accustomed to the usual VR controllers may find these a more natural fit.
The catch? Well, such power doesn't come cheap. However, this is an excellent VR kit for those using it at home and looking for high-end hardware.
Another affordable option, specifically aimed at console gamers, is the PlayStation VR. This headset is tethered to a PlayStation 4 console rather than an expensive PC gaming rig. That makes it the obvious launchpad into VR gaming if you already own a PS4 or PS5.
The downside of this is less power – and so potentially less immersion. The PlayStation Camera tracks nine light points on the headset so room-scale VR is technically possible, but as Sony has opted for one sensor instead of two, the tracking is not as good as on the HTC Vive.
Although, at present, PlayStation VR content is more gaming-focused, the headset’s huge sales figures make it a serious proposition for the mass market. So if you have a PlayStation already and aren't completely sold on VR, then going for this model makes a nice affordable option by way of a convincer.
Whether or not you have used the previous incarnation of this gamer-centric headset, the Oculus Go, you will be pleasantly surprised by the Oculus Quest HMD. From the well-thought-out packaging design, through to the materials chosen for various parts of the device, everything feels good to the touch and comfortable. The head straps have been changed to a rubber-type strap system, which while soft and grippy does take a bit of tweaking to get a good fit. This is fine for most but if you share with friends and family there will be some inevitable adjustment needed.
Setup is a breeze. A nice touch is that you get to see your room through the headset each time you turn it on, to confirm the safe space but also to help you feel centred in VR. Overall the Oculus Quest HMD is an excellent update on the Oculus Go and the incremental hardware changes are more than the sum of their parts.
The Oculus Go headset is much more affordable than most other standalone options. The screen is also good quality, it’s roomy and comfortable to wear, and it doesn’t overheat in the same way a phone-powered headset does, which is a definite advantage. Battery life is good too. The hand controller makes it easy to point and click to operate once the headset is set up – and all of these things mean it’s great for consumer use at home.
However, for something sold as standalone, it’s disappointing that you have to download the Oculus app to your own smartphone to set up the headset. This doesn’t help the user experience – and neither does the fact that the headset is so completely tied to the hand controller.
It’s easy to develop for, but there are a few clumsy aspects; for example, any apps that are side-loaded directly onto the device are hidden away in the very un-user-friendly ‘Unknown Sources’ section of the device library. It’s also surprising, given the similar design to the Rift, that the Go doesn’t have 6DOF capabilities. Still, it's undeniably good quality for such an affordable headset.
The HTC VIVE (opens in new tab) needs to be tethered to a powerful desktop GPU – but the result is the ability to create immersive, active VR. One huge benefit is the ability to move around space (a minimum of 2x1.5m is recommended by HTC). It works by using two sensors positioned in the corner of the room that track the whereabouts of the headset by sweeping with lasers.
The VIVE comes with two handheld controllers, meaning greater capability for menus, navigation and gesture recognition. The headset also sports a front-facing camera, giving designers the ability to build the real world into games or experiences. And if you feel like you'll need something even more powerful, try the duel OLED running HTC Vive Pro (opens in new tab).
The HTC VIVE Focus (opens in new tab) is the standalone version of the HTC VIVE. It's striking, but tends to divide opinion in terms of looks – some like it, some think it looks like some kind of alien. It’s also not universally comfortable and we had some difficulties getting the screen to focus. But like all VR headsets, this will come down to personal comfort/preference.
Once it’s on, the headset is well balanced and it’s quick and easy to access great content – the undeniable advantage of its VR brand heritage. The in-built speakers are very good, and the controllers are simple to use. That said, we struggled to find a way to use the headset without the controller, which is irritating. Like all things VIVE, the visual quality is excellent and the tracking accurate. It’s got a load of exciting content that’s immediately available and will please its fanbase. It’s pricier than the Go, but we can see it having a strong future as a gaming console.
Much like the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift requires a wired connection to a high-spec (and often very expensive) gaming PC, running Windows 7 or higher, but the payoff is the ability to create processing-heavy interactive experiences and games.
When it first launched, the Rift couldn’t do room-scale VR (so users had to sit, or stand still). But updates have since brought in an additional low-latency constellation tracking system, meaning users can now walk around with the headset on.
The same applies to the newly launched Touch controllers, which need to be purchased separately to add greater interactivity. The Rift’s integrated VR audio system is excellent and is widely considered to be better than its main competitor, the HTC Vive.
The successor to Microsoft's powerful HoloLens headset, the Microsoft HoloLens 2 opens up a world of mixed-reality possibilities for creators. It improves upon its predecessor in just about every way. For starters, a new carbon fibre build means it's lighter, easy to adjust and more comfortable, whilst remaining a robust piece of kit. The field of view is a vast improvement on the original and there's a host of functionality improvements, including a smart new interface that makes the HoloLens 2 easy to use.
This is a particularly expensive headset and those in the UK may find it difficult to get hold of, but businesses and developers in the US are sure to find the HoloLens 2 a powerful new tool.
Powered by Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Samsung Gear VR (opens in new tab) effectively splits the phone screen in two to create 3D visuals, to offer affordable, wire-free virtual reality. Lacking the power of a high-spec PC, Gear VR is a natural home for 360-video (passive content) or semi-active experiences that require moving the head to hotspots, rather than hugely interactive projects.
Originally launched in 2013, the Gear VR is the go-to VR platform for many. It’s widely understood by the public and a large number of experiences already exist for it. This has been boosted by a partnership with Facebook, bringing the Oculus VR store to the platform.
And an upgraded headset has improved the size of the lenses to widen the field of view, making the Gear VR’s experiences feel more immersive than the original launch model. Not bad at all for the price.