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Best VR Headset 2020: Strap On The Best Virtual Reality Headset

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VR headsets are continuing to get better at taking us away to different worlds, and new games like Half-Life Alyx demonstrating that those game worlds can be as grand and full in scale as any other game. The result is that there’s never been a better time to dive into VR.You can still find plenty of small games that let you ease your way into VR, but more and more games are going for a much bigger experience. The best VR headsets will make sure that experience is as good as it can get. With the displays so close to your eyes, the higher resolution screens you’ll find in good VR headsets ensure you’re not seeing pixelated images. Good head and hand tracking are also essential in VR, and the best headsets will keep track so accurately that you won’t have to worry much about motion sickness.

The big caveat for VR headsets right now is that they’ve seen an explosion in popularity, and it can be very hard to find them available. If you want to be sure to get one when the next shipments are in, you might have to put up with backorders and waitlists. So, take this time to read closely about each of these great headsets so you can find the one that’s going to work best in your space, as you may not need the fanciest headset if you’re planning to play seated or in a small room.

These are the Best VR Headsets:

1. Oculus Quest

Best VR Headset

Our Pick

Oculus Quest

On Amazon

The Oculus Quest (read our review) is the best virtual reality headset ever invented without question. On its own, the Quest is a very effective standalone VR headset that offers up 1,440 x 1,600 pixels per eye at a refresh rate of 72Hz, and that’s all pushed along with an internal Snapdragon 835 processor—the same chip that powers the majority of the latest Android phones. Additionally, you get room-scale support without needing any wires or setting up any external base stations.

Not needing to connect this headset to a VR-capable PC or console, makes it so much easier to just start playing around with this headset whether you’re at home or some park outside. That said if you do want the power of a PC to push higher-resolution graphics or a faster frame rate you can do that with this headset too using the Oculus Link.

You’re getting the best of both worlds with a hassle-free standalone VR headset and the visual fidelity of a PC-powered experience when you have it properly hooked up to a computer. You honestly can’t go too wrong with the Quest, especially given its (relatively) low $400 price tag—and the $79 price of the Oculus Link cable.

2. Oculus Go

Best Budget VR Headset

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If you want to just take a gander at what virtual reality is like without spending a fortune, the Oculus Go is your best option. At $200, it’s the most affordable standalone VR headset available on the market that offers a great tetherless experience.

With a resolution of with a 1,280 × 1,440 per-eye, it’s actually sharper than the first Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Movement also looks smooth even with the headset’s maximum 72Hz refresh rate. Unfortunately, motion tracking on this headset is limited to looking around only, but that’s all really you need to get started with virtual reality.

3. PlayStation VR

Best VR Headset for Console Players

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If you’re more of a console gamer, PlayStation’s VR headset uses your PS4 to run games instead of an expensive PC. It’s $220 for the headset or $350 for a bundle with the controllers and camera, which brings the total cost down quite a bit compared to other solutions.

However, it’s also weaker than its competition in terms of specs: it sports a single 1,920 x 1,080 display, as opposed to the sharper per-eye displays of other headsets, and its tracking isn’t as good as the Oculus Rift S or HTC Vive, limiting you to a pretty small play space. That said, there are some solid games from big studios on PSVR, and if you already have a PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro, it’s the lowest barrier to entry VR headset you’ll find.

4. Oculus Rift S

Best VR Headset for PC

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The Oculus Rift made a splash as the first consumer VR headset for PCs, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift S is a welcome refresh. Like the Oculus Quest, it only costs $400, and while it requires a fairly capable gaming PC to play, that’s still a lot more affordable than the Valve Index. It also has “inside out” tracking, like the Quest, so you don’t need external sensors around your play area—though you are tethered to your PC through a wire, which means you can’t roam too far.

The headset is light and comfortable, and Oculus’ Touch controllers are great, allowing for very basic finger tracking. Being on a PC means you get better image quality than the Quest, too—albeit with a slightly lower 1,280 x 1,440 per-eye resolution on the screens themselves. While the Rift S isn’t the most powerful headset out there, it’s probably the best bang for your buck given its relatively low price.

5. HTC Vive

Best Wireless PC VR

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The HTC Vive may be a first-generation product, but it’s still a perfectly capable VR system. Sure, it requires two base stations placed around your room, and it has a lower resolution of only 1,080 x 1,200 per eye…while still being $80 more expensive than the Rift S. But there’s still a place for the Vive in 2019: it’s one of the few headsets that allow for wireless play on the PC.

You do need the Vive’s official Wireless Adapter that costs an extra $300, which is almost as much as the rest of the kit but trust me: it’s a game-changer. I didn’t think it was a worthwhile upgrade until I tried it, and truly untethered VR on the PC is something you have to experience to appreciate.

If you want the freedom of the Oculus Quest with the higher-end graphics of the PC, the HTC Vive is still a worthwhile purchase. And if you just can’t get over its last-gen specs, the $1,000 Vive Pro is a decent step up—albeit one designed more for enterprise use than gaming.

6. Valve Index

Best High-End VR Headset

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Valve’s Index headset is the latest and greatest in PC-based VR that will fill each of your eyeballs with 1,440 x 1,600 pixels at a refresh rate of 120Hz. The Index also employs new base stations supporting a larger play area, and a new set of controllers that support full finger tracking.

In other words, it’s better than the last generation’s Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in just about every way…except the price. The Index currently costs $1,000 for the whole kit, but—thanks to the versatility of SteamVR—you can mix and match components from the older, less expensive Vive if you want to save money.

Only interested in finger tracking? Pair the Index controllers with a Vive headset and go to town. Prefer the high-res headset? Buy the Index headset on its own and use it with your old Vive setup. Or buy it all together for the best experience possible—it isn’t cheap, but if you want the absolute best VR the PC has to offer, this is it right now.

7. Pimax 5K XR

VR with a Wide Field of View

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While Oculus and Valve are the biggest names in VR right now, there are a few other companies doing noteworthy stuff in the space. Ask any VR enthusiast about the best headsets out right now, and chances are they’ll at least mention Pimax. This smaller VR-focused company is known for making some of the highest resolution headsets with the widest field of view such as the Pimax 5K XR.

Unlike more well-known headsets, which offer a field of view around 110 degrees, Pimax’s headsets offer closer to 200 degrees—much closer to actual human vision. That means your games look less like they’re being played through binoculars, which seriously changes the experience.

Unfortunately, to drive 2,560 x 1,440 pixels per eye on the 5K Plus you’ll need some serious hardware in your gaming PC, and even then you may not get a super smooth experience. This headset also demands a high price for its sharp image quality at $999. And that’s not counting the cost of whatever base stations and controllers because they don’t come with the Pimax 5K XR—though the good news is this headset practically works with anything.

8. HP Reverb Professional Edition

A High-Res Windows Mixed Reality Headset

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HP Reverb Professional Edition

On Amazon

Despite not getting a lot of attention, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are still a thing, and the HP Reverb Professional Edition is arguably the best out there right now. It offers significantly a higher resolution picture of 2,160 x 2,160 per-eye, which translates to noticeably better graphics in-game.

There are some setbacks with this headset though as tracking and controllers aren’t as good as the Rift or Vive. The Windows Mixed Reality ecosystem is also not nearly as dense as SteamVR, but thankfully, you can still play SteamVR games through these headsets with a plugin.

The HP Reverb Professional Edition asks for a kingly $680, so most people will probably go with one of the more affordable, gaming-focused options above. However, if resolution is king and you have the graphics card to drive it, the Reverb offers some of the sharpest picture quality you’ll find right now.

What to look for in a VR Headset

These aren’t the only headsets on the market, and they won’t be the last—there are more on the horizon (including HTC’s upcoming Vive Cosmos). When deciding which VR headset is right for you, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Platform: The best VR headset is the one you can actually use. If you already have a beefy gaming PC in your house and it’s in a room large enough for room-scale VR, grab a SteamVR headset. If you’re more likely to play a standalone system despite the lower graphical quality, don’t second-guess that instinct—go with the Oculus Quest.

In addition, if there are any exclusive games you want to play, keep that in mind as you narrow down your platform of choice—PSVR games will be limited to the PlayStation, and Oculus has some exclusive games for its headsets as well. SteamVR is pretty open, so it’ll work on pretty much any PC-based headset. Some Oculus exclusive games may be playable on SteamVR devices with Revive, but it’s no guarantee.

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Resolution and refresh rate: When your eyes are right up against the screen, resolution matters. A lot. The lower the resolution, the more likely you are to get the “screen door effect,” where you can see the space between each individual pixel—like you’re looking through a screen door.

Note, however, that resolution isn’t the sole indicator of visual quality. The Oculus Quest, for example, has lower quality graphics than the HTC Vive, despite its higher resolution. It just has less of that screen door effect. (Within a given platform, though, resolution can give you an idea of which headsets are going to look better than others.)

If the refresh rate is lower than 90Hz, things may look a bit choppier, and may even induce serious motion sickness


Don’t neglect frame rate, either—high resolution may be nice, but if the refresh rate is lower than 90Hz, things may look a bit choppier, and may even induce serious motion sickness for some—though this can vary largely from person to person. (I found the 72Hz Oculus Quest more than smooth enough, for example.)

Stationary vs Room-Scale play: The best VR experiences involve room-scale play, which allows you to walk around your play space, crouch down, jump, and turn your head in any conceivable way—this level of motion tracking is known as “six-degrees of freedom.” Most of the headsets on the list above fall into this category.

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Other headsets, like the Oculus Go or the smartphone-based Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View, support fewer degrees of freedom, only tracking the swivel and tilt of your head rather than following you as you move around. If you’re only watching movies or playing seated games in VR, those cheaper headsets are fine, but for the best experience, you want something that supports room-scale play.

Tracking system: Some recent headsets, like the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, and HP Reverb, support “inside-out” tracking—that is, you can achieve room-scale play without any external sensors or cameras. Other systems, like the HTC Vive and Valve Index, require you to place a few base stations around the room to track your movements. These systems can be more accurate than inside-out systems for discerning players, but they’re also a bit more obtrusive, so you’ll have to weigh which makes the most sense for your living space.

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Wired vs Wireless: Finally, you’ll want to consider how “tethered” you’re willing to be in a space. The best VR headsets usually require a wire connected to your PC, while standalone solutions allow you to roam freely. (The HTC Vive and Vive Pro also have an optional wireless adapter for untethered PC-powered VR.)

Being wired up isn’t the worst thing in the world by any means, especially if you’re only going to play in one room anyway, and you’ll see the best resolution and image quality possible. Going wireless makes tripping one less thing to worry about, but it also adds the constraints of battery life.

VR is still in its relative infancy, but it’s come a long way in a few short years. No VR headset is perfect for everyone just yet, but with these things in mind, you should be able to find one that suits you nicely. Just be careful not to put your arm through the wall or anything.

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Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get grease on his mechanical keyboard.

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