If you’ve been holding out for VR hardware to mature, you chose wisely. Headsets have come a long way since the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive six years ago. The Meta Quest 3 has just come out, and it’s the best standalone headset we’ve ever seen. And if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, high-end PC headsets are getting cheaper and the PS VR2 is a solid option for console gamers. The VR market is in a state of flux as we await Apple’s Vision Pro, but if you’re still hankering for some virtual action, we’ve collected some of the best options that we've tested and reviewed below.
Meta Quest 3
Best VR headset for most people
Meta Quest 2
Best cheap VR headset
PlayStation VR 2
Best console VR headset
HP Reverb G2
Best PC VR headset under $600
Valve Index VR kit
Best PC VR headset for gamers
Best VR quality, no matter the cost
So what makes a good VR headset?
I tend to judge them on a few basic criteria: Ergonomics, immersion and controls. It's not that hard to shove a mobile display into a plastic headset and strap some cheap elastic headbands onto it. But it takes skill to craft something that's well balanced and doesn't feel uncomfortable after 30 minutes.
Immersion, meanwhile, comes from having high resolution screens with fast refresh rates, so everything looks sharp and smooth. Field of view is also a major element, as it describes how well VR screens can cover what you see. Having a narrow field of view makes it feel like you’re looking through a pair of binoculars, and limits your sense of “presence.” But a wide field of view can make it seem like you’re actually flying over the globe in Google Earth.
And when it comes to controllers, the best options fit naturally in your hands and offer accurate tracking. The industry has basically adopted the design of Meta’s excellent touch controllers, but we're also seeing intriguing leaps forward like Valve's finger tracking gamepads.
Best VR headset for most people: Meta Quest 3
Best cheap VR headset: Meta Quest 2
Best console VR headset: PlayStation VR2
Best PC VR headset under $600: HP Reverb G2
Best PC VR headset for gamers: Valve Index
Best VR quality, no matter the cost: Bigscreen Beyond
How do VR headsets work?
At the most basic level, a VR headset is simply a high quality screen that you’re holding up to your face. For a wired headset, the actual work of rendering a game is done on either a PC or game console. For completely wireless devices, like the Meta Quest 3, that work is handled right on the headset. They rely on either external sensors, or sensors built into the headsets, to map your physical space. While you can use a traditional gamepad or keyboard and mouse in VR, they typically use motion tracking controllers to immerse you in their 3D environments.
What VR headset is best for full body tracking?
While we’re still waiting for a truly great haptic VR bodysuit to arrive, you can still achieve accurate body tracking with most Steam VR-compatible PC headsets. The Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2 both rely on room-tracking sensors that can map your body more effectively than the built-in sensors on competitors. You can also add HTC Vive Trackers to wrist and leg straps, as well as belts, for even better coverage. The Meta Quest 3 doesn’t have any easy body tracking solutions, but you can add Vive trackers when it’s plugged into your PC to mimic a Steam VR headset.
Only a few experiences, like VRChat, take advantage of full body tracking at the moment. Currently there aren’t any body tracking solutions for the PlayStation VR and VR2, but we’re intrigued by the company’s Mocopi body trackers, which were really announced in Japan.
What VR headsets are better than Oculus?
Oculus is the previous name for Meta’s VR hardware. Currently, Meta only supports the Quest 3, Quest 2 and Quest Pro, all of which are wireless headsets. As we explain above, PC VR headsets can generally achieve better quality virtual reality, since they rely on more powerful graphics hardware.
What VR headsets work with Xbox?
Currently, Microsoft’s Xbox consoles don’t support any VR headsets.