Choosing the best VR headset is an interesting proposition. Virtual reality is still a niche prospect, albeit one that's grown a lot in recent years. As such, the range of VR headset to choose from isn't massive.
In fact we only have a quartet of virtual reality headsets on this list, as discontinuation of some means the very best are but a small cohort.
But with the likes of the Oculus Quest 2, now called Meta Quest 2, and Valve Index, you can't really go wrong with getting the best VR headset for you and your home.
What are the best VR headsets?
Our pick for the best VR headset is the Oculus Quest 2, now called the Meta Quest 2. That's because it's an all-in-one VR headset we feel is ideal if you want to get started with virtual reality or just want a headset that doesn't require a powerful PC to play. And there's also the option to connect the Quest 2 to a PC and enjoy playing Oculus-supported games that way.
Beyond the Quest 2, if you want a true high-end VR then you will need a VR headset that’s connected to a powerful PC. In that case, the Valve Index is your best bet, though it's very expensive. Do bear in mind you’ll need a good bit of free space to get the most out of these headsets, especially if you plan on doing room-scale VR.
If you have a PS4 or PS4 Pro (opens in new tab) handy, then the PlayStation VR is a good option. Its simple setup means you’ll be playing games like Batman: Arkham VR and Star Trek: Bridge Crew in no time. Just make sure you have a PlayStation Camera handy and bear in mind it won't work perfectly with the PS5.
The best VR headsets you can buy today(opens in new tab)
The Oculus Quest 2 is a masterclass in incremental improvements over its predecessor, the Oculus Quest. As reviewer Michael Andronico concluded: "The Oculus Quest 2’s price, game library and overall ease of use make it the best entry point into virtual reality yet."
That's because sports a slicker design, better display resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate in some games and apps, and faster overall performance. It also just feels like a neat yet rather well-made headset.
It also does all this yet again with any cables, though you can connect it to a PC via the Oculus Link cable and get access to full-fat PCVR games; deputy editor Mike Prospero did just that with Microsoft Flight Simulator and the Oculus Quest 2.
With a starting of $299, it's arguably one of the most affordable yet solid quality ways of getting started with the world of virtual reality experiences. Furthermore, the suite of apps and games on the Oculus Store can make the Quest 2 a great headset for all kinds of VR experiences, even helping with your workout and saving your from a dull fitness regime.
See our full Oculus Quest 2 review.(opens in new tab)
If you want to play VR games on a console then the PlayStation VR system is your best, and pretty much only bet. As reviewer Sherri L. Smith noted: "PlayStation VR delivers compelling games in a comfortable, easy-to-use headset that won't break your budget."
The semi-futuristic looking headset is surprisingly comfortable, with a superb range of games that’s been slowly expanding. You can play games like Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing Mission, Eve: Valkyrie, and Batman: Arkham VR, as well as Astro Bot Rescue Mission.
If you have a PS4 or PS4 Pro, then PlayStation VR is one of the more affordable ways to play VR games, especially given that you don’t need an expensive gaming PC. Yet with the initiative Move controllers and movement tracking, you are still getting a rather high-end VR experience.
One thing to also bear in mind that the PS5 also has support for PlayStation VR. The only problem is that it doesn't play nicely with the Move controllers. But there's good news as the PSVR 2 headset is in the works and it will bring with it a pair of new controllers.
See our full PlayStation VR review.
The Valve Index represents the culmination of the gaming giant's efforts to make a VR headset by itself. And it succeeded. And Valve did so with great success.
Our colleagues over at Tom's Hardware have tried the headset, and in a Valve Index review (opens in new tab), contributor Kevin Carbotte noted: "The Valve Index headset offers excellent visuals, best-in-class tracking and top-quality build, and its Index controllers are unquestionably the best solution for interacting with virtual worlds."
So Valve Index is a comfortable and high-end VR system, with high-quality construction, comfortable cushioning and smart built-in speakers. The downside of this quality is that the headset can be rather heavy to wear for an extended period of time.
But despite this, there’s a lot to like about the Index, as it comes with an LCD panel that offers variable refresh rates to suit the power of your PC. Naturally, you'll need to be prepared for a tethered VR experience, but there's not a higher quality way to get into high-end VR in your home.
How to choose the best VR headset for you
Our picks for the best VR headsets are rather few, due to the fact that a lot of the top VR headsets of the past few years have been discontinued and replaced with one or two models. Yet, that's not to say the choice is a completely easy one.
The first thing to consider is what type of VR games you want to play and what hardware you have. For those with powerful PCs and a dedicated virtual reality space, then a headset like the Valve Index is worth considering.
People with less space and less powerful hardware should go for the what's now called the Meta Quest 2. It offers an all-in-one VR experience and can be connected toa PC using a Link cable, which can be a pricy extra.
For owners of the PS4 or PS5, the choice is a lot easier as your only option id the PSVR headset. That's no bad thing as the system is fairly neat and it comes with a decent if not stellar range of games.
As it stands, if you want some virtual reality action on the PS5 and Xbox Series X your out of luck... mostly. Only the PS5 supports VR in the form of the PSVR headset, though a second-generation headset is in the works and will be designed specifically for the PS5. On Xbox Series X and Series S there's not a VR option, and there's no hint that VR support will come in the near future. We hope that would change given Windows 10 has baked-in VR support, but right now things don't look too hopeful for games console VR.
How we test VR headsets
Identifying the best VR headsets takes a suite of things to consider, from the hardware itself to the software the headsets will work with. We test and consider how easy it is to set up a VR headset and system, how well designed and comfortable the headset is, how well its interface works, and take a look at the accessories the VR headset can use.
We also take a look at how specific VR headsets work such and how easy the interface to use, as well as how head tracking performs and the quality of the controllers with the headsets.
A major part of initial testing involves evaluating how much space is needed to set up one of our picks for the best VR headsets to get the most out of them. This doesn’t apply to headsets that use a smartphone to power them, but in this case, we look at how easy they are to get working with an Android phone and well as how much software one needs to download and how well the phone fits inside the headset’s enclosure.
A product can look great but still be uncomfortable to use. Aside from testing out all the various content, we spend at least 30 minutes wearing each headset. We test to make sure any embedded air vents are keeping things cool. And if it does get sweaty, we see how well the face guard wicks away moisture. We also weigh the headsets, because even the lightest gadget can feel heavy after long periods of use. Finally, we test how adjustable the head straps are and how secure they feel.
As the de facto face of your virtual experience, the interface is vitally important. We test how responsive and intuitive the home page and subsequent menus are, as well as test special features, like voice commands and gesture control.
Whether it's a traditional gamepad or something more elaborate, like the Rift's Touch Controllers, we're checking to see if the input devices are ergonomically designed; after all, no one wants hand cramps. We also test tracking and responsiveness in a number of games.
Hardware without great software is just an expensive paperweight. We not only examine the size of a device's library but also scour the listings and test out some of the higher-end apps and titles. At this point, a good library should feature a number of games, apps, movies and other experiences.