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The 4 best VR headsets: For gaming, the metaverse, and beyond

What is the best VR headset? The Quest 2 is our top choice. We analyzed the best VR headsets by specifications including display, tracking, storage, inputs, processor, price, assembly and usability, sound quality, and more to find the best option for you.

Always on the doorstep of adoption, never quite there. That pretty much describes the consumer virtual reality landscape over the last half-decade. But increasing competition and new headsets from a variety of legacy and first-time players, which may soon include Apple, plus a full brand makeover for a certain social media giant, makes VR worth considering. 

Mark Zuckerberg's big bet on the metaverse will likely keep attention in this direction for a long time to come as the technology enters its consumer judgment day. Meanwhile, the business case for VR, especially in areas like employee training, has helped make up for sluggish consumer adoption, and that trend is expected to continue. What's clear is there's a lot of development happening and a lot of content being produced for VR, and for gamers and hobbyists there's never been a better time to give the technology a look.

What follows are our picks for the best VR headsets available.

Quest 2 review best vr headset
By nikkimeel -- Shutterstock

Display panel: Fast-switch LCD; 1832x1920 per eye | Tracking: Oculus inside-out tracking | Internal Storage: 128GB, 256GB | Input: Two Oculus Touch controllers | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform

From the company that pioneered wireless VR, Quest 2 is an evolution of the popular Quest headset. With Quest 2, Meta makes a multi-generational leap in processing power with the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform offering higher AI capability and 6GB of RAM. The new display features 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye -- the company's highest resolution display yet. With 50% more pixels than the original Quest, everything from multiplayer games and productivity apps to 360-degree videos look better than ever.

There have long been rumors of a Quest 3 in the works, but Zuck put those to bed for the time being at Facebook Connect in late 2021. The next Meta headset is being dubbed Project Cambria, and not much is known about it other than that it's not a direct successor to the Quest 2. That's a good thing because the Quest 2 pretty much nails it and the current model is still the most relevant buy in the Meta lineup. 

Why? For one thing, it has excellent hand tracking via very comfortable controls. The Quest 2 is also easy to set up and use, which is a must with an early generation consumer technology. Users draw their own perimeter area, like a private arena for excellent gameplay. And games are the Quest's specialty. Meta has a great app store, and 50% more pixels than the previous version, the Quest 2 renders phenomenal virtual worlds for exquisite gameplay. 

You'll want the 256GB version, which retails for $399.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Exquisite display
  • Wireless

Cons:

  • Only 2-3 hrs battery life
  • Requires Facebook sign-in

Display: 3.4" diagonal; 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels combined) | Input: Integrated microphone & headset button | Processor: Intel Core™ i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better | Memory: 4GB RAM

If you want to level up your experience to 2880 x 1700 combined pixel resolution, and if you want full-room playability with best-in-class room tracking, the Vive Cosmos is worth a look. It's an upgrade to the original Cosmos, and because the system is designed with interoperability in mind, you can create your own VR gaming experience with other HTC components.

All of that, of course, comes at a price, although that price has come down a fair bit in the last year, and you can currently nab a unit for about $749. You'll get best-in-class tracking (a complaint with the entry-level version) and a VR unit that's primed to make the most of PC-based gaming. We also noticed the sound quality of this unit is a step above the competition, which helps create a truly immersive playing experience.

On the downside, this is a wired device, so you don't have full freedom of movement. That shouldn't be a deterrent for most users. This is definitely a top choice if you already have a great PC gaming setup. 

Pros:

  • Modular
  • High resolution

Cons:

  • Trackers require installation
  • Clunkier design
  • Pricey

Display:  OLED 1920 x RGB x 1080 (960 x RGB x 1080) | Field of view: 100 degrees | Sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope | Connection: HDMI, USB 

So much of VR is geared toward gamers; it makes sense that the experience should integrate into your favorite gaming console. At the risk of starting a war, PS4 and PS5 currently reign supreme in the console-based gaming world, and if you have either unit and think a VR spin on gaming could be cool, this one is for you. 

Even though it's now a few years old, Sony's VR headset capably upgrades the PlayStation experience with VR gaming and a great cinema experience. It's also a relatively affordable option these days, with units available for less than $400. Consider it a gateway drug for the world of VR.

Worth noting, however, that Sony PSVR 2 is rumored to be on its way for early 2023. That shouldn't impact the usefulness of the original model any time soon, but for those who want to hold out (and have the coin), an updated version should be on its way soon.

Pros:

  • Price is right
  • Great PS games
  • Comfortable and still relevant design

Cons:

  • Dated unit with a newer version on its way
  • The tracking can be a bit buggy

Display: Dual 4K LCD RGB pixel Matrix panels; 3840 x 2160 | Tracking: 6-DoF SteamVR Lighthouse 1.0& 2.0, built-in 3-DoF tracking | Audio: Built-in mic, but no headphones

If you want an immersive PC experience, and if you have a gaming PC that exceeds the somewhat beefy minimum required specs, the latest from Pimax is a knockout. The dual 3840 x 2160 RGB pixel matrix panels render a high-resolution image that is upscaled to 4K. It's precisely those two 4K screens, plus VR that runs at 90Hz (and 110Hz in an experimental mode), that make this unit so darned immersive.

However, what it isn't is cheap, so this unit is definitely a recommendation for the hardcore gamer. The headset runs about $800 fulfilled through Amazon, but start adding in the Knuckles controllers, a tracking kit, and a base station, and the price quickly climbs toward $2000. That's quite an investment on top of a kitted out gaming PC, but it represents the height of immersive gaming for those who game or die.

Bottom line, Pimax is at the vanguard of tethered VR PC experiences. With USB-C connections, an innovative form factor, and impressive tracking, this is a unit that's at no risk of becoming obsolete anytime soon.

Pros:

  • Ridiculous field of view
  • Great build-quality and design
  • Fantastic tracking

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Initial calibration can be tricky

What is the best VR headset?

The Quest 2 is the best VR headset based on our research of specs like display, tracking, price, design, and more.

VR Headset

Price

Display

Tracking

Quest 2

$399

Fast-switch LCD; 1832x1920 per eye

Oculus inside-out tracking

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite

$749

3.4" diagonal; 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels combined)

N/A

Sony PlayStation VR

$300

OLED 1920 x RGB x 1080 (960 x RGB x 1080)

6 DoF Outside-in

Pimax Vision 8K Plus

$795

Dual 4K LCD RGB pixel Matrix panels; 3840 x 2160

6-DoF SteamVR Lighthouse 1.0& 2.0, built-in 3-DoF tracking

Which VR headset is right for you?

The biggest consideration is the use case. Will you be using a headset for gaming only? Do you already own a powerful PC and need a headset that interfaces seamlessly?

The gulf between commercial and consumer VR has always been small, with plenty of enterprises utilizing Oculus headsets and savvy consumers looking into enterprise headsets for powerful collaboration potential. The reality is it's still very much the Wild West for a technology class that's been puffed up by years of hype but is still searching for a knockout case for adoption. The use-cases remain niche: Gamers, designers, enterprise applications like training. Within each utilizer pool, there are a small number of serviceable, if quirky headsets, meaning budget tends to be the deciding factor after the use-case. One thing we've noticed is that the technology hasn't advanced as much in the past few years as it might have, so don't shy away from older tech, which is cheaper and represents a great value in what's still the first blush of our mixed reality future.

Choose this VR headset...

If you want...

Quest 2

The best overall option.

HTC Vive Cosmos Elite

A high-resolution VR headset.

Sony PlayStation VR

A VR headset compatible with PS4 and PS5.

Pimax Vision 8K Plus

An immersive, PC-based experience.

How did we choose these headsets?

We took a broad survey of available devices to compile this list and spoke to independent industry experts not affiliated with the brands listed. Nothing beats the hands-on trial, and we also had fun putting these headsets through their paces.

Do VR headsets require a PC?

While many VR headsets do require a capable desktop or laptop computer, there are a few standalone options like the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus. A standalone headset does have more limited motion parameters, usually only allowing for up/down, left/right, and forward/back movement of your head. The trade-off is that they have onboard memory storage for games and programs, freeing you from being tied to a PC just to pop into Minecraft or VRChat for an hour or so.

What VR headset works with PlayStation?

The Sony PlayStation VR headset is the most compatible with PlayStation and upgrades the PlayStation experience with VR gaming. 

Are there free VR games?

Yes! While many of the titles you'll find on Steam or the Epic Store will cost you at least a little money, there are tons of free software options out there like Spider-Man: Far From Home VR or the demo for the popular rhythm game, Beat Saber. Just make sure that the game you want to download is compatible with your particular headset.

Is it worth buying a VR headset?

That is a complicated question to answer. Many PC-reliant and standalone VR headsets are on the expensive side, making widespread adoption of the tech sort of difficult, not to mention the cost of building or buying a pre-built PC capable of virtual reality. They also require lots of space to operate safely since you're basically walking around blind in a room full of things to trip over, and many folks don't have whole rooms they can dedicate solely to VR gaming. 

If you're a serious gamer who wants to keep up with the latest tech, it's worth investing in at least a mid-tier headset like the Oculus Quest to cut your teeth on before diving into the more high-end options. But if you don't think you'd use the headset for more than the occasional Beat Saber session, you're better off borrowing from a friend.

Are there alternative VR headsets worth considering?

Virtual reality is now entering its second or third generation, with more brands jumping into the fray. That's good news for gamers and potentially for a future in which Zuck's vision of the Metaverse actually comes to fruition. 

In addition to the top units above, we recommend the following headsets for those looking to expand their options and comparison shop:

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