After combing through the Internet, we've compiled a list of the top 10 VR headsets; our top pick is the Oculus Quest 2 for its high resolution, refresh rate, and field of view that brings you the most realistic experience. The other products on our list might also pique your interest, so read on to know what they are! Plus, there is a buying guide at the end with various tips to help you choose a product that works the best for you.
Tony has been interested in tech since he was very small. In 2014, he co-founded Immotionar, a VR startup aimed at bringing the entire human body into the virtual world (instead of just your hands and head). He currently pens the blog The Ghost Howls, where he talks virtual reality, augmented reality, and startups. He's also active on social media, where he talks tech and business, sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly, but always with a lot of passion.
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Table of Contents
When researching this article, we realized we wanted to talk to someone in the VR industry who was both a consumer and insider, who buys and plays around with headsets as an excited fan, but who’s also caught up on all the newest trends and developments. And so we interviewed Tony, the SkarredGhost.
But all of that comes with a cost. First off, it’s the most expensive–pretty much always an upwards of $300. And that doesn’t even include the cost of the powerful PC and graphics card you’ll need to own to run the software. (The Vive Pro, for example, demands at least a GTX 1060 or RX 480–and the newer, the better.)
It also requires the most setup–whether that be of external cameras used to track the player’s movements or a huge cable connecting you to your desktop that might limit movement.
Still, if you're looking for great graphics, PC headsets are the way to go since they can reach higher frame rates in comparison to consoles. Also, if you don't want to be tied down to your console or computer, go for a wireless headset!
The best VR there is now is the one for PC. While, on a standalone like the Quest, this is impossible. If you render a huge number of polygons, you'll have something like one frame per second and you’ll probably vomit in 30 seconds of gaming. So it depends on the power of the device—this is the real problem of standalones.
Console headsets are designed to elevate your console gaming experience. Even though they cannot provide graphics as clean as the PC type, they are more affordable. Setting up should be self-explanatory as well since you'll just need to plug the headset into your gaming console.
Also, keep in mind that console headsets are usually sold as a peripheral device to a specific game console. This is a plus point since you won't have to worry about any hardware compatibility problem.
For instance, if you own a PlayStation console, you'll need a PSVR headset. We think the PSVR is user-friendly and a good match for middle-class consumers, but it does have one big weakness, as Tony mentions below.
So it’s not reliable in that sense because it uses PS Move, which is old technology. In general, though, the experience is worse than PC but good enough that it still sells well.
Set-up is also pretty easy; you just strap your phone into the cardboard ones or plug them into the fancier headsets. The problem with VR headsets for smartphones is that not all of them work for both iOS and Android devices. So check carefully what operating system the VR headset is compatible with before making a decision!
Also, while cardboard headsets can technically be used with any device, always check out the recommended screen size. Otherwise, your phone might be too big and not fit into the device, or it might be too small and slide around inside the device–thereby preventing the illusion from working.
The advantage of cardboards is that you pay very little money, and the experience can work with almost any mobile phone. And the phone must feature gyroscopes because if it has no gyroscopes, then it can’t detect that you’re rotating it. The problem is that the quality is low.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are high-quality headsets like the Samsung Gear VR. They provide great visuals, comfort, and all the rest.
Of course, you have to fit all of that processing power into a device light and small enough to go on your head, so the graphics aren’t going to be as crisp, the movement not as smooth.
The problem with standalones is that they’re mobile devices, so they can’t provide high-quality VR. On PC I can play awesome games with fantastic graphics; on mobile devices, the game maybe is inside a room so there are few things that it has to render.
The image quality produced by a VR headset is determined by the resolution per eye. Basically, resolution per eye is the number of pixels that the VR headset can display and is shown as a pixel width x a pixel height.
Sometimes, the product listings might use a combined resolution instead of a resolution per eye. But they can be calculated from each other and technically describe the same thing. For an immersive experience, you'll want products with a resolution per eye of at least 1080×1200 per eye (or 2160x1200 pixels combined).
Some high-end models such as HTC Vive Pro and Oculus Quest feature a resolution of 1440x1600 pixels per eye (or 2880x1600 pixels combined). And currently, Reverb G2 is the VR headset with the highest resolution at 2160x2160 pixels per eye, which totals more than a 4K resolution when combined (3840x2160 pixels).
As for the display, it can be either LCD (liquid crystal display) or OLED (organic light-emitting display). Generally speaking, OLED will give you richer, saturated colors and cleaner images. LCDs, however, offer brighter images.
However, LCD technology is still evolving. If you look at newer LCD screens, oftentimes, they change colors just as quickly and look almost as good as OLED displays.
There are lots of factors to be considered when talking about graphics. For instance, there is a resolution, and there is how the pixels are arranged. Just keep in mind that the more resolution you have, the better—the visuals are better, it is more credible and such.
90Hz will give you fluid motion and it's also the lowest value where you won't experience flickering. Some models such as the Valve Index have a refresh rate of up to 144Hz to bring you a highly responsive gaming experience. But a high refresh rate tends to reduce the battery life substantially.
If you need to compromise, try not to go below 60Hz. If the game lags too much, your brain gets confused. You would turn your head, only to have the system update the visuals two seconds later–the perfect recipe for motion sickness.
I think that that the minimum to have a good VR experience is 60Hz, 60 frames per second. And the current standard is around 90Hz.
The wider the field of view (FOV), the more real the environment feels. Humans have a monocular FOV of about 170 - 175 degrees (what you see through separate eyes) and a binocular FOV of around 100 - 110 degrees (what you see through both eyes at the same time)–this overlapping area is where we have depth perception.
In an ideal world, your entire field of view–including the monocular–is covered by your VR headset. However, it takes a lot of computing power to provide that much image in high quality.
That is why devices out now aim to cover just your binocular FOV. After all, we see only a tiny, focused region in high resolution, and our peripheral vision is blurry. So, with current technology, we would say a FOV of 100 degrees is a good threshold for an immersive VR experience as it's basically the same as our binocular FOV.
The problem is that all the VR headsets we’ve had lately have a very similar field of view—maybe 10 degrees more or 10 degrees less, but no big evolution. There are some headsets that feature a bigger field of view of like 180, 200 degrees. And it is a mind-blowing experience because it is not like seeing through binoculars anymore.
And there is also this little thing that few know about—a bigger field of view means also more motion sickness. So it's a little drawback of having a bigger field of view.
Some headsets offer a huge play area and can now follow your movements across a space–this is known as room-scale VR (room-scale virtual reality). We hardly need to talk about how much more immersive the experience is if you can use your own two legs to move around.
For a high-quality room-scale VR, headsets use either an inside-out or an outside-in tracking system. In inside-out tracking, motion trackers and sensors are attached to the headset itself, offering you more freedom and mobility.
However, this type of tracking needs good computer vision, and this technology is actually lagging behind the outside-in tracking.
On the other hand, outside-in tracking needs external cameras and sensors. Setup is, therefore, more of a pain, because you have to position the sensors or cameras in such a way that they can keep track of you across the entire play area. If you move out of a camera's view, you will break your immersive experience.
Still, compared to inside-out tracking, outside-in tracking provides better latency and also accuracy. You're also less likely to experience nausea.
I ran some tests here in the office with the Vive Focus and the Lenovo Mirage Solo. I moved in a little yard continually to see if the tracking was stable enough. It was fantastic because I could move and see everything moving smoothly around me. You get a sense of freedom when you have untethered VR with room-scale tracking.
But there are a few other things you can consider when looking at content. Do the manufacturers have any partnerships? Vive, for example, works with Steam, which is an extensive game library.
Moreover, do you like any of the games currently available on the device? Not only can you play those, but you can also look forward to sequels in the future.
I think that currently, Oculus is doing the greatest job in creating good content. They fund lots of games on the platform. After Oculus, we have Steam. Steam is the best place to find games for PC, and even for VR.
The VIVEPORT is lagging behind a bit because it is a new ecosystem, so it has a few high-quality games at the moment. PlayStation is another topic; it has some exclusive titles like Resident Evil that everyone is vying for.
Sometimes, peripherals can be game-changing. Some VR headsets still use gamepads, which are fun, but many new controllers are streaming onto the market, such as motion-tracking wands. The more streamlined the design is, the more real everything feels.
The Tracker for the Vive, for example, looks like a big hockey puck. You attach it to things, which it automatically turns into a controller. You can stick it onto a racket and play a virtual game of tennis, for example. Or you can mount it on a gun, and where you point the gun, your digital crosshairs will follow.
Also, check if the headset comes with integrated audio. If not, you will have to plug in separate headphones. If you’re an audiophile, you might prefer this because then you can use your own high-end audio system. But it is extra weight on your head.
Integrated audio systems will be much more comfortable, and while the sound isn’t topnotch, it’s good enough for a believable VR experience.
Out of controllers that are out at the moment for consumer headsets, I think that the best are the Oculus ones. I like the Touch because it can provide some kind of hand emulation. But it is not perfect at all. You can move only some fingers in some fixed state, so it is not as using your true hand.
Valve is developing these controllers called the Knuckles. And these Knuckles are very interesting because the hand emulation will be better than Oculus Touch and let you, for instance, squeeze objects in VR. It also lets you completely open your hands.
If, for example, you need to read a text message, or respond quickly to something in the real world–a strange sound, for instance–you can do so without taking off your headset. It also opens up lots of gaming and programming possibilities, where you can digitally manipulate the real world in whatever way you wish.
There are a lot of new applications that can mix the real world with the virtual world or can change the real world. I shared some videos on Youtube on some experiments with the Vive Focus. For instance, I changed the world that I see, giving it a Matrix-like look. This can be useful for the arts, showing you the world in a different way.
Click to purchase
Oculus Quest 2
Sharp Image Quality for an Immersive Experience
HTC VIVE Pro Virtual Reality System
Superior Graphics and Tracking
Samsung HMD Odyssey+
High Resolution and Wide Viewing Angle
Rift S PC-Powered VR Gaming Headset
Pass-Through Feature to Display the World Realistically
Sony PlayStation VR
Solid, Believable Graphics and a Compelling Library of Games
Comfortable Cardboard-Type VR for Kids
V5 VR Headset
Anti-Blue Light Lenses to Protect Your Eyes
Daydream View HR Headset ｜MAIN-62303
Cushy and Breathable, with Decent Content
Vive Cosmos Elite Virtual Reality System
Convenient Flip-Up Design
Official Cardboard ｜2 pack
Simple and Sturdy Headset Perfect for Testing Out VR
Another bonus point is the built-in speakers that are capable of delivering crisp and natural audio. However, a few buyers didn't like how they had to log into their Facebook accounts in order to use the headset. Some were also disappointed with the short battery life of the product.
Nonetheless, various reviewers were impressed with the clear image quality and the extensive library of apps (200+) provided by this device. Many were also impressed with the powerful processor, further adding that they didn't experience any stuttering or lag.
Some buyers weren't that impressed with the integrated headphones, saying the sound quality wasn't that good.
Still, this headset won the heart of many as it was comfortable to wear and could be adjusted to fit. Most buyers further commented that the high resolution made the text easy to read and they also enjoyed the wide variety of app options.
The headset has 6DOF tracking, meaning it knows when you’re walking–and, theoretically, it can follow you anywhere. Yet, a few buyers mentioned that images that were off-center were a bit blurry.
Meanwhile, most users were satisfied with the resolution and further added that they didn't experience any screen door effect. Installation was easy since it didn't require any external sensors or cameras. Also, other buyers found the built-in speakers worked well and produced decent audio quality.
A few users reported that visual glitches happened sometimes and the device started freezing after a few weeks of use.
Nonetheless, the majority of reviewers were pleased with the crisp visuals that the headset offered. They also loved the inside-out tracking that eliminated the need for external sensors and made setting up a breeze.
Some buyers were disappointed that the product didn't come with the PlayStation camera and move controllers and noted that they had to buy those items separately.
A few reviewers mentioned that they weren't able to adjust the lens and get it to focus. Some others found the headset a bit uncomfortable on the nose.
On the other hand, many buyers liked how the strap could be adjusted to fit anyone, including kids. Besides, reviewers didn't have any issue setting up the headset and were also happy with the sturdy material.
One restriction of this product doesn't work for all phones, even if they are Android. You can check the list here. Moreover, some people mentioned that there were not a lot of apps that worked for this item. Nonetheless, most buyers agreed that the device was easy to use and a good start to VR. It was comfortable to wear as well.
This headset features a refresh rate of 90Hz, an LCD display, and a resolution of 1440x1700 per eye. These amazing specs help eliminate the screen-door effect and bring you an immersive experience that you'll feel like you’re in another world.
Also, the product boasts an innovative flip-up design that enables you to switch between the real world and virtual reality without having to remove the headset. Yet, some buyers noticed that the sweet spots were quite small, making it tough for them to adjust the headset and get clear images.
On another note, various reviewers were amazed at the crisp and realistic visuals. The high refresh rate also rendered smooth graphics with low latency.
The main limitation of this product was that it wasn't designed with a head-strap so people had to hold the cardboard up to the eyes like binoculars. Some reviewers ended up purchasing a separate head-strap to make it easier to use.
Nevertheless, various reviewers loved the simple and sturdy construction of this product and further added that it was a great introduction to VR.
Are you a die-hard VR gamer? We've got many interesting games to keep you entertained! So check out our articles to know what they are.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
No. 1: Oculus｜Oculus Quest 2
No. 2: HTC｜HTC VIVE Pro Virtual Reality System
No. 3: Samsung Electronics ｜Samsung HMD Odyssey+
No. 4: Oculus ｜Rift S PC-Powered VR Gaming Headset
No. 5: PlayStation｜Sony PlayStation VR
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The descriptions of each product are referenced from content available on manufacturer, brand, and e-commerce sites.
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