Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

To some virtual reality might seem like a passing trend, but 2019 has actually been a great year for VR. New headsets with significant tech improvements and lower prices have hit the market, providing an immersive and entertaining experience. So, if you’ve been contemplating getting a VR headset for a while, there is no better time than now. Here are our picks for the best VR headsets you can currently buy.

Best VR headsets:

Editor’s note: We will be updating this list as new VR headsets launch.

1. Oculus Quest

  • Price:$399/$499
  • Pros:standalone headset, great tracking, no additional sensors needed, great controllers
  • Cons:unimpressive battery life, occasional screen door effect

Oculus Quest VR headset

VR enthusiasts have been waiting for a powerful untethered headset for a while, and it has finally arrived in the form of the Oculus Quest. A major improvement on its Oculus Go predecessor, this standalone headset offers a true all-in-one VR experience. The Oculus Quest not only sports an impressive 2880 x 1600 resolution (or 14400 x 1600 per eye) that is a step above the original Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but also doesn’t require a high-end gaming PC or a complicated set up. It offers room-scale tracking without external sensors, while the Oculus Guardian system helps you avoid obstacles in your play area of choice. No need for a dedicated playroom!

The Oculus Quest offers a true all-in-one VR experience without the need for an expensive PC.

Its “pick up and play” quality is further enhanced by its comfort and good weight distribution. We also cannot understate how natural and easy to use the new controllers are. Compared to the single remote-like controller of the Oculus Go, they feel like an extension of your arm. The Quest even features a built-in microphone, so you don’t have to slowly and clumsily type with your controller when looking through your library. And you will be able to find a lot of popular VR titles there — Superhot VR, as well as Beat Saber are both available on the Quest.

However, where the headset falls short is battery life. In most cases you will be able to get two to three hours out of the Oculus Quest. For most that will be plenty, but some hardcore enthusiasts will be disappointed. A point in the Quest’s favor is the ability to cast content to a smartphone or TV and share the fun with friends, but that will further drain the battery of the device. There also is the occasional screen door effect, but that is still a common problem with many headsets. Nevertheless, the low price tag and portability of the Oculus Quest still make it a true standout on the VR market and our number one choice.

2. HTC Vive Pro

  • Price:$799 without sensors or controllers
  • Pros:powerful, stunning visuals
  • Cons:expensive, accessories cost extra, requires a powerful PC

HTC VIVE PRO

If the Oculus Quest is a device meant to attract more mainstream attention to virtual reality and do away with cumbersome sensors and extras, the HTC Vive Pro is the opposite. An improvement on the already impressive original Vive, this headset is unashamedly dedicated to hardcore enthusiasts. So, if you have the time and money to spend, this could be your number one choice.

Although it has the same resolution as the Oculus Quest, the visuals of the HTC Vive Pro are unrivaled thanks to its dual AMOLED screens. The immersive feeling is further helped by adjustable built-in headphones with 3D spatial audio. They do make the headset look a bit bulky, but it has good ergonomics and is not as front-heavy as its predecessor. However, getting and setting up the full HTC Vive Pro kit is neither cheap nor easy. The starter kit, which includes two base stations, a link box and two controllers will set up you back a whopping $1098. And unless you own the original HTC Vive and have these peripherals already, that’s what you have to purchase. You can’t really do anything with just a headset. Worse yet — you need a beefy desktop PC to tether the headset to.

The HTC Vive Pro offers unrivaled performance and visuals but it’s an enthusiast’s device.

If that doesn’t bother you, the big question that remains is what content the Vive Pro offers. It is a solid option thanks to its compatibility with SteamVR, but also thanks to the recently introduced Viveport Infinity. This subscription service is the first of its kind in the VR realm, allowing you access to a large library of content for a monthly fee. Even so, it is hard to say that the Vive Pro or its even more expensive successor the Vive Pro Eye are anything more than niche devices. If you already love VR, you will love HTC’s headset too, but if you are new to the hobby there are far better and more affordable options.

3. Oculus Rift S

  • Price:$399
  • Pros:no external sensors needed, cheaper than competition, excellent controllers
  • Cons:non-removable cushions, unsatisfactory audio

Oculus Rift S

We cannot exclude the device that ushered in the modern era of VR from our list — the Oculus Rift. It is back with major improvements in the form of the Oculus Rift S. It is lighter, slimmer and more powerful. The best part, however, is that the Oculus Rift S is still PC-powered without the need for external sensors. All you need is two cables to connect the headset to your PC, while the external cameras on the Rift S do the tracking for you.

Its resolution is not as impressive as that of the Vive Pro or even the Oculus Quest. The Rift S offers 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye (or 2560 x 1440 total), but the difference is minor enough that it won’t affect your experience. What the two Oculus devices do have in common are the excellent touch controllers, which are intuitive and easy to use. The headset itself is also quite comfortable, at a relatively low weight of 561g. However, it could have benefitted from built-in headphones even if they made the Rift S bulkier. The current speakers located on the head strap don’t deliver stellar audio, and the overall design of the headset makes it difficult to put on gaming headphones on top.

Nevertheless, the Rift S still is leaps ahead of the competition in other regards. The dreaded cable panic is gone, the PC requirements are not monstrous, and you don’t have to worry about your battery constantly. This makes the Oculus Rift S one of the best PC VR choices on the market.

4. Valve Index

  • Price:$749.00
  • Pros:stunning visuals, no screen door effect, high FOV and refresh rate
  • Cons:external sensors, expensive

Best VR headsets: Dive into another reality 1

The initial rumors and leaks about this device garnered a lot of attention online, and the Valve Index has lived up to the hype. It might not seem like it at first glance, but it boasts some of the most impressive tech on the market. Although it has the same resolution as the Vive Pro and the Oculus Quest, it is a leader in the visual department. It sports the best field of view (FOV) on the market — around 130 degrees compared to the typical 100 you’d find on most other headsets. And the improvements don’t stop there. The Index boasts 120 Hz refresh rate paired with almost no noticeable screen door effect.

The Valve headset doesn’t fall behind in the audio department either. Its built-in headphones provide great sound quality without sacrificing comfort. The best addition, however, are the Valve Knuckles controllers. They are radically different than the typical wand-style controllers bundled with most headsets, but their unorthodox shape makes them easy to grip and intuitive to use. The Valve Index even offers individual finger tracking, but that’s rather inconsequential with most current VR titles.

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As a Valve device, the Index is, as expected, compatible with Steam VR which gives you access to plenty of interesting content to enjoy. However, there still is no Half Life VR game on the horizon. And that isn’t the only disappointing thing about the Index. While some of its tech is revolutionary, it still clings to the use of external sensors. Its price, without accounting for the gaming PC you’d need to connect it to, isn’t close to affordable either. Nevertheless, if you want a premium experience and you are ready to pay the premium price, the Valve Index should be your number one choice.

5. Samsung Odyssey+

  • Price:~ $499
  • Pros:no screendoor effect, no external sensors, great visuals
  • Cons:Windows Mixed Reality platform, limited content

Samsung Odyssey Plus

 

If you aren’t a VR enthusiast, you might have missed the original Samsung Odyssey HMD. However, we are here to tell you that its successor, the Samsung Odyssey+, is among the best VR headsets currently on the market. It is part of the Window Mixed Reality ecosystem, but don’t be confused by the name. The Odyssey Plus is still a virtual reality headset first and foremost. Just like the Valve Index, HTC Vive Pro and Oculus Quest, it has an excellent resolution of 2880 x 1600. Its visual fidelity is further helped by the AMOLED screen, which produces great dark and black colors.

What makes it rival even the Valve Index is its anti-screen door effect technology. That coupled with the built-in headphones with 3D audio, make the Odyssey + one of the most immersive VR headsets you can get your hands on currently. Better yet, there are no external sensors involved. The Samsung Odyssey + uses inside-out tracking cameras, which is a welcome addition for those that are tired of complicated setups. You will still need a PC, but it’s a major improvement, nonetheless.

If there is anything that is holding the Samsung headset back, it’s the Windows Mixed Reality platform. It has come a long way, but its content library is still not up to par, compared to others like Vive and Oculus. But if you’re fine with relying mostly on Steam VR, which this HMD is compatible with, you won’t regret your purchase. This is especially true thanks to the much lower barrier of entry that the Samsung Odyssey + poses. It is half the price of the comparable Vive Pro and Index and you can often find it on sale for even less.

6. PlayStation VR

  • Price:~$250
  • Pros:cheap, great game library
  • Cons:low resolution, poor motion controls

Best VR headsets: Dive into another reality 2

If you are console gamer and you don’t feel like investing in a standalone headset, your best choice is the PlayStation VR. As you can guess from its name, it is a dedicated PlayStation headset that works with every console from the PS4 family. It might not be nearly as shiny or high-specced compared to others on this list, but it should not be overlooked.

Its 5.7-inch OLED screen offers a resolution of only 1920 x 1080, but that comes with a more than decent 120Hz refresh rate. The PlayStation VR also comes with a built-in microphone and immersive 3D audio. It is a relatively comfortable headset, but its build quality leaves a lot to be desired. So do its motion controllers. They occasionally have issues being detected by the PlayStation camera, which tracks the position of the headset and the controllers. But you can always swap them for your standard DualShock controller.

The PSVR headset might not sport top-of-the-line specs but it has an impressive game library.

Where the PSVR does shine, however, is its game library. You can find all of the favorites — Beat Saber, Skyrim VR, DOOM VFR, but also fun and innovative exclusives like Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. So, if you already have a PlayStation, this might be one of your best choices, especially considering its low price and great bundles the PlayStation VR headset is often sold in.

Honorable mentions

If you are not sure whether any of the headsets above are a good fit for you, we also recommend checking out the Oculus Go — an older but cheaper standalone headset. And if you are looking for something casual and family-friendly, your best choice is the Nintendo Labo VR kit. It’s made from cardboard and you have to build yourself, but that’s what makes it so fun. It comes with 64 fun experimental games and it’s a great and cheap addition to the Nintendo Switch.

These are our picks for the best virtual reality headsets. Stick around if you can’t make up your mind, as we will regularly update this list when new and more powerful devices launch!