Best Virtual Reality Headsets For Gaming

How To Choose the Best VR Headset For Gaming?

Virtual Reality is the best way to immerse yourself in the games you love. Now that technology lets you step inside the game, which VR headset is the best on the market for gamers? Aside from the power each VR headset packs, some handy features differentiate a great VR headset from a low-end one.

There are a few features that we should consider when we’re looking to buy a VR headset. For instance, gamers will have to choose between an untethered or a tethered headset. Then, they have to decide whether they will need a PC to run the headset, a console, or a stand-alone VR headset. With that in mind, we are looking at the VR headset basics and checking all the best gear that you can now buy.

Currently, the best VR headsets that can be used at home are Oculus (the new Oculus Quest 2 has just been released), HTC, PlayStation, and Valve. Let’s take a look at each of these Virtual Reality headsets.

4. PSVR – The Best Console VR Headset

If you are a console gamer and want to have a VR headset, then choosing Sony’s PSVR is a no-brainer. At $299, this is the VR headset you will need if you want to run VR games on your PlayStation console. With a large and great game library, the PSVR is popular, and it is not expensive either. Plus, it is compatible with the PS5 too.

+ Pros: Affordable, great selection of games, easy setup

– Cons: A bit dated, controllers do not come in the box, not exactly sharp in terms of visuals, spotty motion controller tracking, not too great at sealing out light

While most VR headsets need a high-end gaming PC to run games, the PSVR only needs a PS4 (or PS5) to run. And if you already have a PS4 (or waiting for the PS5), then having a PSVR headset is a good choice.

PSVR – Specs

  • Display: OLED (5.7 inches)
  • Resolution: 1920 x RGB x 1080
  • FOV: Approx. 100 degrees
  • Refresh rate: 120hz, 90hz
  • Tracking: External camera (PlayStation Camera)
  • Connections: HDMI, USB
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds (624 grams)

PSVR – Features

Although the PS4 and PCs can have a very big difference in performances, the PlayStation VR is quite good, it has great head tracking and responsive refresh rates (some games support 120Hz refresh rates). The headset is surprisingly comfortable too since none of its weight rests on your eye-nose-cheek zone.

One thing we are not fans of is that Sony didn’t include its controllers in the PSVR box, but there are different PlayStation VR bundles offering the accessories that you’ll need – the PlayStation Camera included, PlayStation Move controllers and others.

In addition, PlayStation VR has gotten cheaper over the years, and with the next PS5 and continued PSVR support, things will certainly be better. There will be more VR games aside from the huge library Sony already has. Plus, there are other sweet features, including watching Blu-ray movies in a virtual theatre.

However good the features and games are on Sony’s PSVR, there is a catch.

The PSVR is already 4 years old and other newer VR headsets such as the Oculus Quest 2 are much better in terms of performance and game immersion. The VR headset from Sony is not bad, but if you have a reasonably good PC as well, we’d go with the Oculus Quest 2.

If you still want to get a VR headset for your console, our recommendation is to be patient and wait for Sony to announce the next PSVR. Maybe with a little luck, we only have to wait a year or so for the next-gen VR headset now that Sony is finished with working on the PS5.

3. Oculus Quest 2 – The Best Stand-Alone VR Headset

The Quest 2 offers a great in-game experience without needing a PC, and the untethered feature is pretty sweet, allowing more freedom since it lets you move around the room. For $299, the Oculus Quest 2 is a bargain! Released in October 2020, this is the newest VR headset so far.

+ Pros: Affordable, very comfortable, incredibly immersive, easy to use, room-scale VR apps and games, content can be cast to TVs and smartphones

– Cons: Requires linking to Facebook account, can cause motion sickness

Coming with the option to be either wired or unwired, the Oculus Quest 2 is one of the best VR headsets on the market. With an affordable price, this headset is a fan favorite for different reasons.

For instance, it is an improvement over the original Quest, having better specs in terms of RAM, chipset and resolution. The headset is also lighter than the previous generation, and it can now run games at 90Hz refresh rate for a better comfort when playing.

Oculus Quest 2 – Specs

  • Display: Single-panel RGB-stripe LCD
  • Resolution: 1832 x 1920
  • FOV: Equal (as the one in the original Oculus Quest, not specified by Oculus)
  • Refresh rate: 72Hz, 90Hz
  • Tracking: Internal cameras
  • Connections: Oculus Link cable (USB Type-C)
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds (503g)

Oculus Quest 2 – Features

The Oculus Quest 2 comes with integrated sensors, which are used with algorithms helping the user to set up the VR space in a room. This way, you will not bump into walls or objects.

The Oculus Quest 2 is lighter than its predecessor and it’s also glasses-friendly. The controllers are also among the best controllers out there for VR headsets.

What’s more exciting about the new Quest, is that it had a library of 50 games at launch, meaning you definitely have a lot of content to try out. More games should also follow in the future. You can also use the Oculus Link option to tether the Oculus Quest 2 to a PC and play some more games that are not included in the library.

2. HTC Vive Cosmos Headset – Best Whole-room VR

With a much better higher-resolution display than the original Vive and a comfortable halo headband, the Vive Cosmos is a good VR headset. At $699, getting the Vive Cosmos could be a great choice, but not when its competition brings some more features to the table – for price.

+ Pros: Vive wireless adapter, comfortable to wear, high-resolution display, modular design (wireless connection and external tracking)

– Cons: Tracking spotty, not the best controllers

HTC Vive Cosmos – Specs

  • Display: Dual LCD
  • Resolution: 2880×1700 – combined
  • FOV: Approx. 110 degrees
  • Refresh rate: 90Hz
  • Tracking: Internal (six sensors), External, SteamVR Tracking 1.0 or 2.0
  • Connections: USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds (645 grams)

HTC Vive Cosmos is definitely a better choice when you are on a budget. Offering slightly less better experience but $300 cheaper, the HTC Vive Cosmos can win this round.

HTC Vive Cosmos – Features

The mid-range VR headset is supposed to be just between the $399 Oculus Rift S and the $999 Valve Index. HTC Vive Cosmos is a great choice, it has outward-facing cameras for motion tracking.

HTC Vive Cosmos has a great display, but a FOV capped at 110 degrees and no eye relief.

The Vive Cosmos also works with SteamVR like the Oculus Quest 2, aside from Viveport. Through Viveport Infinity membership, users get unlimited access to VR apps.

One of the Cosmos’ best features is that it is compatible with the Vive wireless adapter and can make your headset wireless. The adapter costs around $250, though, so getting the Oculus Quest 2 should be a better choice if you are looking for a wireless VR headset.

Compared to the Valve Index, the Vive has spottier tracking. The controllers are not as precise as the Knuckles from the Valve Index.

1. Valve Index – The Best PC VR Headset

The Valve Index is the next-gen headset any gamer would want to get, that is if they have the $999 to throw at it. The headset was released in June 2019 and can be bought from Valve’s Steam Store, as a standalone product, or with controllers or the full kit (with 2 SteamVR 2.0 Base Stations).

+ Pros: ‘Knuckle’ controllers have a wide field of view, great build quality

– Cons: Expensive, high-end GPU required, heavy, does not come with a charging cable in the box

The Valve Index has an ultra-crisp display and also works ok with older GPUs. It has a high refresh rate and the controllers can track the movement of all your fingers. This VR headset is definitely a great piece of equipment and your first choice if you’re looking to upgrade from the HTC Vive or Vive Pro.

Valve’s VR headset is powerful and can offer a high-end, room-scale VR. But there’s a catch.

Some of the most annoying things the Valve Index has is the painful setup and updates that can cause some errors. If you are patient, then there are no actual cons to this VR headset.

Valve Index – Specs

  • Display: Dual LCD
  • Resolution: 2880 x 1600 – combined
  • FOV: Approx. 130 degrees
  • Refresh rate: 144Hz
  • Tracking: External, SteamVR Tracking 2.0
  • Connections: USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds (809g)

Valve Index – Features

Wearing the headset is comfortable, even if it is heavier than other VR headsets out there. The controllers strap onto your hands, so you will not need to grip them all the time. What is so great about the controllers is that they are customizable to each hand shape and come with pressure-sensitive controls, offering more immersive potential to the games that come with this feature.

When it comes to the display, the LCD panel comes with different refresh rates. The images have high resolutions. Instead of replacing the Index, it can be upgraded in the future thanks to the USB expansion slot on the front.

As we mentioned in the cons, the headset can be a bit heavy to wear. There is also the issue of the USB-C cable not being included in the box, so you will need to get one separately to charge up the components. Last but not least, the price is a bit eye-watering. Nonetheless, the in-game experience is worth it, even with these inconveniences.

Which VR headset Is The Best?

What will surely help you decide is the platform you choose to play on. If you go for a console headset, there is the only one from Sony – the PlayStation VR. However, as we mentioned earlier, its best if we waited a few more months until Sony announces a successor to their PSVR.

If you are looking for a standalone VR headset, the best choice is the new Oculus Quest 2. While the HTC Vive Cosmos can work untethered, it still needs to connect to a PC. The Oculus Quest 2 does not need a PC to run games, but can be tethered to allow users to run games that are more demanding.

Finally, if you are looking for a headset that works with PCs, choosing between the Valve Index and HTC Vive Cosmos should not be difficult. For those on a budget, the Cosmos is a good choice. For those that want the best of what VR tech can offer right now, the Valve Index is definitely the winner in this list.

The verdict for choosing the best VR headset on the market (irrespective of the platform it uses) is the Valve Index. Even though it costs $300 more than the Cosmos, if you are on a budget and still want the best tech, it is better to save up the extra cash and wait until you can buy it.

About James Sterling

James Sterling received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Southern California (USC). His Bachelor of Science was completed in Computer Science (Games) and his Master of Science was completed in Game Development. James spends his free time contributing on popular forums such as Tom's Hardware and AnandTech while hanging out with his cat Jonathan. Humorously, his favorite youtube channel is Jimquisition by Jim Sterling.

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