Virtual reality headsets provide a fully immersive entertainment experience, whether you're looking to watch 360-degree videos, play games or go places you've always wanted to travel.
After testing and reviewing over a dozen VR headsets, here's our recommendations.
- Mobile: Our top mobile VR headset is the Oculus-backed Samsung Gear VR ($99). There's a plethora of apps, games and experiences — with fresh updates nearly every week.
- PC: If you're looking for a VR experience on your PC, the Oculus Rift (starting at $599) is living up to the hype, especially now that the Touch Controllers are available. The HTC Vive ($799) takes things a step further and lets you actually walk through virtual worlds as well as poke and prod (and shoot) with your hands, thanks to its included touch-enabled controllers.
- Console: Console gamers only have one option in the new PlayStation VR ($399). But it already has some great Triple-A titles and is the most affordable high-end VR system for the millions of gamers who own a PlayStation 4.
- Merged - Intel's Project Alloy headset is one of the first headsets to combine virtual and augmented reality with your real-life surroundings to create mixed reality.
The following is a list of our best picks for virtual reality headsets. It doesn't matter if you're on a budget, want all the bells and whistles, or want an untethered device, there's a VR device for everyone.
In our HTC Vive review, we called it "the total package." At $799, the headset provides the most immersive VR experience on the market. In addition to the headset, the Vive leverages its proprietary room-tracking Lighthouse technology, which allows wearers to physically traverse the virtual worlds developers dream up.
The Vive's Chaperone technology creates a visual grid so you won't walk into a wall or trip over a pet curious about what you're wearing on your head. That in and of itself is revolutionary, but HTC ups the ante with controllers that act as surrogate hands in VR. These enable you to push buttons, direct air traffic or shoot down space pirates as needed.
The HTC Vive requires a significant amount of space to be enjoyed — a dedicated playroom is recommended — and you'll need a powerful PC to partake in the fun, but overall it's the best VR headset you can buy.
As the first PC-powered headset to hit the market, the Rift offers a growing library of games and apps, along with an easy setup and a surprisingly light and comfortable design.
From the first time you take a plunge into the human bloodstream, inject a virus into an unguarded computer node or zip through the air via grappling hook, the Rift is chock-full of wow moments. Best of all, it doesn't require an entire room to work, though you will need a PC with some pretty powerful specs. Since Facebook owns the Oculus Rift, you can expect this device to be on the forefront of social VR experiences in the future.
The $399 PlayStation VR finally brings virtual reality to consoles and features one of the best VR game libraries we've seen yet. Sony's stylish and cozy headset already offers exclusive heavy hitters like Batman: Arkham VR and Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing Mission, as well as established VR hits such as Eve: Valkyrie and Job Simulator.
In our full review, we praised the PlayStation VR's ease of use, intuitive Move controllers and impressive publisher support. If you already have a PS4, PlayStation VR is far and away the most affordable high-end VR option out there — heck, you can get the console and the headset for less than the cost of an HTC Vive.
VR headsets deliver plenty of "wow" moments, but you don't want to be tethered to a desktop to enjoy them. Take the Samsung Gear VR. The $99 device (free with the Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge) is hundreds of dollars cheaper than the heavy hitters but offers easy access to a growing library of immersive games, apps, educational content and videos. Plus, there's already a fair number of compelling social-friendly VR experiences you can share. The Gear VR is also one of the few VR headsets with the ability to surf the web. The Oculus-powered device offers a clean, easy-to-use interface in a lightweight design, but it works with just a half-dozen Samsung phones.
MORE: Best Gear VR Games
Although it's not a true VR headset, Google Cardboard can still provide its share of 360-degree thrills and spills. The easy-to-assemble viewer starts at a mere $15 and supports a wide number of smartphones (both Android and iOS). And if you're the DIY-type, you can build a Cardboard using instructions posted on Google's website. Powered by your phone's processor and a myriad of directional sensors, Cardboard delivers solid VR effects. The viewer's library currently boasts more than 600 apps, some of which have augmented-reality capabilities, a feature most VR headsets lack.
Made of comfortable microfibers and available in several different colors, Google's Daydream View is like nothing we've seen before. Powered by either the Pixel or Pixel XL smartphones, Daydream View offers content, including the J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them experience. More than a simple VR viewer, this aggressively priced headset comes with an easy-to-use remote.
Intel's head-mounted display is blurring the line between the real and virtual worlds. Completely wireless, Intel's Project Alloy utilizes four RealSense cameras mounted on the exterior of the headset to map your play arena and judge depth. The end result allows the headset to incorporate your surroundings into whatever game or app you're playing for a truly unique experience.
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