Best VR Headsets of 2018

Product Use case Rating
Oculus Rift Best Overall 4
Pansonite 3D VR Glasses Best VR Headset Under $45 4
Samsung Gear VR Best Mobile VR Headset 4
Oculus Go Best Standalone Headset 4
HTC Vive Best Immersive Experience 4
Lenovo Mirage Solo Best Standalone Headset for Google 4
Playstation VR Best Console VR Headset 4
HTC Vive Pro Best Headset for Professionals 4
Google Daydream View Best Google VR Headset 4
HP VR1000-100 MR Headset Best Microsoft Mixed-Reality Headset 3

We tested the most popular virtual-reality headsets available for PCs, mobile devices and consoles, to help you find the best device for you. In terms of content, pricing, equipment and setup, the Oculus Rift is the best overall virtual- reality headset for most consumers, provided you have the space and desktop (or laptop) to support the device. The Samsung Gear VR is our top mobile pick.

Best Overall: Oculus Rift

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, ergonomic Touch Controllers, and a surprisingly light and comfortable design. Priced at $399, the Oculus Rift is more affordable than the $499 HTC Vive.

Best Value: Pansonite 3D VR Glasses

Want to explore VR without spending tons of cash? The Pansonite is our value pick, as it supports both Android phones and iPhones, has integrated earbuds and works with most Google Cardboard apps. It's also one of the few VR headsets that also support augmented-reality apps. Best of all, it's less than $50 on Amazon.

Best Mobile VR Headset: Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR continues to be the gold standard for mobile VR. The addition of the controller adds a tactile experience to certain games that can't be achieved with a traditional gamepad. The ever-growing library is a cornucopia of new games and apps that have to be experienced to be believed, and you can access it all via voice commands.

Latest News and Updates (November 2018)

  • HTC recently announced that it will start selling the Vive Focus, the company's first standalone VR headset in the U.S. for $599.

  • Oculus just announced Oculus Quest, the company's first standalone high-end headset that promises room-tracking and Rift-quality graphics.

  • Mobile Casting will be coming to Oculus Go, with the ability to cast content to your television to follow. 

Whether you're plunging into the human bloodstream, injecting a virus into an unguarded computer node or zipping through the air via grappling hook, the Rift is chock-full of wow moments. Best of all, it doesn't require an entire room, unless you want full room-tracking abilities. The headset can also work with lower-tier graphics cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, thanks to the company's proprietary Asynchronous Spacewarp. Still, for the best experience, you'll want a gaming PC with some pretty powerful specs.

The Touch Controllers are by far the most comfortable in the PC-powered VR headset market. Thanks to the positioning of the buttons and analog sticks, it feels like you're making a relaxed fist. Movements like grabbing a bottle or holding a golf club feel fluid and natural. You can also invest in a pair of Oculus' attachable earphones to increase the immersion factor.

Since the Rift's launch, Oculus has expanded its library to over 500 games, including titles from AAA game developers like Insomniac Games, Ubisoft and Harmonix. In addition, the company has been funding many developers' projects, keeping a constant flow of content going.And because Facebook owns Oculus VR, the company is constantly working on ways to make VR interactions more social via multiplayer experiences.

Pros:

  • Sleek, comfortable design
  • Ergonomic  Touch Controllers
  • Extensive library of VR games and apps

Cons:

  • Can't install games from the headset
  • Doesn't ship with everything needed for room tracking

MORE: Best Oculus Rift Games

The Pansonite is as close as you can get to a high-end virtual-reality headsetwithout paying an exorbitant price. It features a cloth design in front, similar to Google's Daydream, along with an adjustable plastic headband that's reminiscent of the PlayStation VR. Pansonite's headset also packs built-in headphones with an aux input — which is great if your phone still sports a headphone jack or if you have an adapter on hand — and a dial on top for adjusting the focus.

In front, the headset features a small flap for holding your phone in place, leaving the camera uncovered for any AR-based mobile apps. Despite all that open space, the Pansonite manages to block out almost all external light for a pretty immersive experience.

Playing Roller Coaster VR on this headset was exhilarating, and this 360-degree shark experience was a blast. Even this fan-created Star Wars VR video on YouTube was fun to watch through the Pansonite. Nothing about the headset detracted from any of these experiences, making the Pansonite one of the best overall VR headsets at this price.

Pros:

  • Compatible with a number of smartphones
  • Lightweight, comfortable design
  • AR/VR support

Cons:

  • No remote
  • Some light leakage

MORE: Best Google Cardboard Apps

 

The Samsung Gear VR continues to be one of the most popular mobile VR headsets on the market. But that doesn't mean Samsung is resting on its laurels. The latest version of the Gear VR adds a controller, resulting in a more tactile experience that traditional gamepads can't match. You can also use your voice to launch apps, re-center your view or perform a search.

The interface has gotten an update, and it's more polished than ever. The virtual lobby is still set in a lavish home, complete with hardwood floors, but interacting with the interface is much smoother than in previous iterations.

Thanks to Samsung's partnership with Oculus, there are over 600 titles in the Oculus store, with more arriving every month. Apps still range from free to $15.99 and cover a range of genres, including education, gaming, entertainment and social. The store recently added a section for controller-specific apps, so you won't have to go hunting through the massive catalog.

Pros:

  • Accurate, responsive controller
  • Innovative voice commands
  • Clean, easy-to-use interface

Cons:

  • A bit pricey

MORE: Best Gear VR Games

For an affordable $199, the Oculus Go cuts the cord and preserves your smartphone's battery life, delivering a standalone VR headset teeming with intriguing apps and games. In our testing, we appreciated the clear detail, lovely color and immersive spatial audio.

As evidenced by its game-heavy library, the Go is still very much a headset for those looking to fight virtual baddies. But thanks to Facebook's influence, Go has a larger focus on entertainment and social. For instance, you can use Oculus Rooms to create your own virtual apartment, where you can invite up to three friends to join and play games, watch movies on Netflix or Hulu or share your own 360-degree videos.

Aside from cutting the cord, the major differences between the Go and the Oculus Rift is the built-in speakers and microphones, the higher resolution lenses and a built-in Qualcomm processor. The Go is outfitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU with a 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 WQHD fast-switch LCD display. That translates into 1280 x 1440 per eye, which is better than the 1080 x 1200 per eye (2160 x 1200) of the Rift and Vive.

What you don’t get from the Oculus Go is six degrees of freedom, so you can’t dodge or duck in games as you can with the Lenovo Mirage Solo. The Mirage Solo also has a beefier Snapdragon 835 processor. However, the Go offers a lot more apps and games at over 1,000 and counting.

Pros:

  • Completely wireless
  • Sleek, Minimalist design
  • Large, library of apps
  • Crisp details and vibrant colors with minimal motion blur

Cons:

  • Some smartphone reliance
  • Lacks room-tracking capability

MORE: Best Oculus Go Games

The HTC Vive stands out for a number of key features, including room-tracking capability right out of the box. With the Oculus Rift, you have to pay $59extra for that level of immersion. HTC also gives you the ability to access your phone while in VR as well as the pass-through camera, which delivers a peek at the real world when necessary.

The Vive has also debuted a number of innovative accessories, including the Vive Trackers, which let you bring real-world items, like a tennis racket, into the virtual plane. The  $299 TPCast add-on lets you take the Vive totally wireless, eliminating the nagging fear of tripping over that 6-foot cable tethering you to your laptop or desktop. If you're looking for more immersive audio, check out HTC's $99 Deluxe Audio Strap, which adds a pair of adjustable headphones.

The Vive is still trying to catch up with Oculus in terms of content, but its 375-plus games and apps aren't t too shabby. In addition to letting you purchase individual apps and titles, HTC has launched its Viveport subscription service. Starting at $6.99 per month, Viveport allows you to pick five games or apps from a curated list of content to use each month.

Pros:

  • Room-tracking technology is eerily accurate
  • Smooth graphics have little latency
  • Touch controllers are easy to use and highly adaptable

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of space and electrical outlets
  • Lacks built-in audio

MORE: Best HTC Vive Games

Headsets like Lenovo's Mirage Solo with Daydream put us firmly in the mid-generation of the VR evolution. For $399, you get a head-mounted display that is truly independent of your smartphone. From the time you take it out of the box, it's just you, the controller and a virtual world. Still, the image quality is a step below what you'd find on PC-powered headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Just like the Oculus Go, the Mirage Solo features an integrated processor. The Mirage Solo uses the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 CPU. However, the Solo lacks built-in speakers and microphones.

The headset draws from Google’s Daydream library of over 350 games and apps, which is fairly small compared to the Oculus Go's catalog, which boasts over 1,000 pieces of content. However, Google and Lenovo are looking to offset the deficit with the Mirage Camera ($299), which captures stills and video in 180 degrees that can then be viewed in the headset.

What really sets the Mirage Solo apart from the pack are the integrated cameras and sensors in the faceplate and Lenovo's WorldSense Motion Tracking technology. WorldSense enables the wearer to move around in virtual space with six degrees of freedom. It's not room scale by any means, but it's still a major step forward for the future of virtual reality. The Solo also allows the wearer to mirror what's going on in the headset to a compatible television using Google's Chromecast.

Pros:

  • A truly wireless, stand-alone VR experience
  • WorldSense technology allows (limited) movement
  • Excellent battery life
  • Can Cast VR Experience to TV
  • Expandable microSD slot

Cons:

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Smaller content library than Oculus Go
  • No built-in speakers
  • Expensive

MORE: Best Google Daydream View Games

The $299 PlayStation VR finally brings virtual reality to consoles, and it features one of the best VR game libraries we've seen. Sony's stylish and cozy headset already offers exclusive heavy hitters like Batman: Arkham VR and Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One 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 the price of an HTC Vive. The PS VR has a lower lens resolution compared with those of the Vive or the Rift, but depending on the game, the PS VR can deliver a 120-hertz refresh rate — one of the highest available.

When you aren't playing games in VR, you can watch movies. The headset has a Cinematic mode that allows you to watch movies and TV in a theater-like setup at 120 Hz. We suggest you try it out with a 4K Blu-ray movie. PS VR also has a Social Screen so people who aren't wearing a headset can still watch the action.

Pros:

  • Striking design
  • Games created by well-known companies
  • Fairly easy setup

Cons:

  • Camera can be very exacting
  • Not as visually sharp as the competition

MORE: Best PlayStation VR Games

Made of microfibers and available in several colors, Google's Daydream View is like nothing we've seen before. It's easily one of the most comfortable headsets currently available. Powered by either the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, the latest version of the Daydream View comes in three captivating colors (including a stunning coral) and is aggressively priced at $94.

One of the biggest changes to the View is the expanded field of view (from 90 degrees to 100), which ups the immersion factor and puts it on a par with that of the Gear VR. Google has also been growing its content library, boasting a beefy catalog of over 200 games and apps.  To increase the device's user base, Google has expanded the catalog of compatible phones. So, in addition to the original and current Pixel and Pixel XL, you can use the Daydream View with the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, Note 8, Huawei Mate 9, ZTE Axon 7, LG V30, Motorola Moto Z, Z2, Asus ZenFone AR, and the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+.

We're still waiting for the arrival of Daydream 2.0 Euphrates, the Android 8.0-powered update to the Daydream platform, which will make content easier to discover by introducing curated lists onto the main home screen. The update will also bring Google Cast support, so you can share your VR content to a nearby television, along with a new VR window manager that will allow people to interact with smartphone notifications in VR.

Pros:

  • Aggressively priced
  • Extremely comfortable design
  • Accurate, intuitive controllers

Cons:

  • Lacks integrated audio
  • No voice command

MORE: Best Google Daydream View Games

Although Microsoft would have you believe its set of head-mounted displays are mixed-reality, in their current iteration, they're nothing more than VR headsets. Still, headsets like the HP VR1000-100 can do something that other PC-powered devices can't: run virtual reality on PCs with integrated graphics.

The V1000-100's standout feature is the headphone-jack placement on the bottom right of the headset, which makes it easier to plug in headphones. HP lets you adjust the length of the USB 3.0/HDMI cable from 2 feet to 6 feet. Outside of mobile headsets, the HP VR1000-100 has one of the easiest setups. Just plug the 2-in-1 cable into HDMI and USB 3.0 ports on your laptop or desktop.

When plugged into a laptop with integrated graphics, the headset will deliver a lower refresh rate of 60 Hz, which is acceptable, although we prefer 90 Hz or above. If you get tired of point-and-click navigation, you can issue a voice command to Cortana to select objects, launch apps and resize objects, as well as get a quick restaurant recommendation or weather update.

The HP VR1000-100 headset provides a solid VR experience, despite the lack of content. If you're looking for an inexpensive, PC-powered virtual-reality headset that can work with both integrated and discrete graphics, the HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset VR1000-100 is a good choice.

Pros:

  • Attractive design with smartly placed ports
  • Swappable cords
  • Compatibility with a number of systems

Cons:

  • Small selection of apps and games
  • Noticeable visual differences depending on connected system
  • A bit heavy

MORE: Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets: What You Need to Know

Why Trust Us?

We've spent more than 100 hours researching and testing well-known virtual-reality headsets alongside the more obscure brands. The goal is to actively identify defining key features, as well as flaws, in each product so consumers can get an idea of how each device performs. Although nearly every headset we tested ran VR content with a 90-Hz refresh rate, some looked better than others.

How We Test

There are a number of factors we consider when reviewing virtual-reality headsets, such as setup; design and comfort; interface; controllers and accessories; and content selection.

We also evaluate each device's respective controllers, head tracking and interfaces, to see how easy it will be for the average user to jump in and start playing.

Setup

The first step in reviewing any virtual-reality headset is setup. For PC and console-powered devices, we examine how much space is needed to use the headset and any bundled accessories. For mobile VR headsets, we focus on software installation time and how securely the phone fits into its enclosure.

Design and Comfort

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.

Interface

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.

Controllers

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.

Content

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.