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Best VR headset in 2020

Best VR headset
(Image credit: Oculus)

The best VR headset for your gaming setup depends on what you need. There are standalone headsets; there are devices that take advantage of your existing gaming PC; and there are accessories that require only a smartphone. Tom's Guide has put a variety of systems to the test, and determined the best VR headset for each use case.

Whether you're looking to spend $50 or $500, you can get immersed in a digital world of games and multimedia. There are VR headsets for PC diehards, console gamers and even casual fans who don't own much hardware. There's also plenty that VR has to offer non-gamers, from inventive music videos to immersive travel apps.

Now is also a good time to invest in VR technology. The headsets have penetrated the mainstream market to some degree, meaning that you'll have plenty of games and apps from which to choose. At the same time, VR tech is still a little bit off the beaten path, so you can still be one of the first people to experiment with some of its more innovative ideas.

Whether you dream of squaring off against Darth Vader in a lightsaber battle or simply seeing the world from the comfort of your couch, use this guide to help you find the best VR headset for your home.

What is the best VR headset?

Based on our reviews, the Oculus Quest is the best VR headset overall, because it lets you play the hottest VR games without being tethered to a PC. Plus, the Oculus Quest now offers hand tracking, so you can interact with content without having to use dedicated controllers. This makes Oculus Quest games incredibly immersive. Of course, you'll still get access to the huge Oculus game library, which includes titles like Beat Saber, Superhot and Vader Immortal.

Although some gamers may want to wait for the PS5 to launch, the PlayStation VR continues to be the best VR headset for consoles. All you need to use this accessory is a PS4 and a PlayStation Camera. From there, the setup process is extremely simple, and you can be up and gaming within half-an-hour or so. Games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Batman: Arkham VR let you step into the shoes — almost literally — of some of your favorite pop culture heroes. The Xbox One and Nintendo Switch don't really offer anything similar, making the PSVR one more potential feather in the PS4's cap, depending on your gaming habits.

It's also worth noting that while we do recommend a smartphone-based VR headset further down this page, it's not necessarily the best investment you could make. VR for smartphones never hit its stride the same way that PC- and console-based VR has. If you're on a budget, we would recommend the $149 Oculus Go; if that's a financial impossibility, then go ahead and buy a smartphone VR headset. Just be aware that your options with it will be limited.

The best VR headsets you can buy today

Oculus Quest

(Image credit: Future)

1. Oculus Quest

Best VR headset overall

Seamless all-in-one VR solution
Can cast content to smartphones and TVs
Capable of room-scale VR
Large library of apps
A tad expensive

The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset overall and the company’s second VR standalone headset, which means there’s not a wire in sight. Thanks to the integrated sensors and computer algorithms, you can walk around in your designated play space without worrying about running into a wall or a piece of furniture.

The system launched with 50 games, but is rapidly expanding its repertoire. The cherry on top is the casting ability, which lets you share your VR experience with others via smartphone or TV. 

Oculus’ Touch Controllers are still the best in the business. They're comfortable and lightweight, which means no undue hand cramps during long sessions. And with the hand tracking feature, you can go controller-free with some titles.

Oculus is also really leaning into the social aspect of VR, launching cross-buy and multiplayer titles. Without a doubt, the Oculus Quest is the best VR headset. 

See our full Oculus Quest review.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Oculus Rift S

Best VR headset for PC

Built-in room tracking
Great game library
Included touch controllers
Not a huge upgrade over original Oculus Rift
PC required

The Oculus Rift S makes the best VR headset for PCs even better. This sleek headset sports a crisp 1280 x 1440 resolution (up from 1200 x 1080 for the original) as well as a speedy 80Hz refresh rate. Its one-pound design makes it comfortable to wear for hours of VR gaming, and it ditches the original Rift's onboard headphones for surprisingly impressive integrated audio that comes right out of the headband.

The Rift S packs Oculus Insight tracking, which allows for room-scale tracking without the need for setting up any pesky external sensors. Oculus' latest PC headset packs in the company's excellent Touch Controllers, which make it easy to virtually climb mountains, battle with swords and create art in virtual reality.

The Rift S also benefits from what's become a very impressive library of games on the Oculus store, including big hits like Beat Saber, Superhot, Job Simulator and Vader Immortal. Overall, the Oculus Rift S is the best VR headset for folks looking for a PC-based system that plays a huge library of great games for a decent price.

See our full Oculus Rift S hands-on review.

PlayStation VR

(Image credit: Future)

3. Playstation VR

The best VR headset for consoles

Good gaming library
Fairly easy setup
Relatively affordable
Camera can be very exacting
Could be visually sharper

The PlayStation VR is the best VR headset for 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.

See our full PlayStation VR review.

Oculus Go

(Image credit: Future)

4. Oculus Go

A great standalone VR headset for the money

Completely wireless
Large library of apps and games
Crisp details and vibrant colors with minimal motion blur
Some smartphone reliance
Lacks room-tracking capability

For an affordable $149, the Oculus Go is one of the best VR headsets because it cuts the cord and preserves your smartphone's battery life. This standalone VR headset is 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. However, the Go offers a lot of apps and games at over 1,000 and counting.

See our full Oculus Go review.

HTC Vive

(Image credit: Future)

5. HTC Vive

Best VR headset for immersive experiences

Smooth graphics with little latency
Touch controllers are easy to use and highly adaptable
Large game library
Requires a lot of space and electrical outlets to use
No built-in audio

One of the best VR headsets for PC use, 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 $59 extra 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 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. 

See our full HTC Vive review.

Valve Index

(Image credit: Valve)

6. Valve Index

The best controls and tracking in VR

Great build quality
Smartly designed controllers
Future expansion options
No charging cable in the box

Valve ought to know a thing or two about gaming experiences, and the company’s experience working with HTC and its work on Lighthouse tracking technology have all fed into the Index. From the moment you wear the headset, you can appreciate the high-quality construction, built-in ear speakers, and comfortable cushions, although it is noticeably heavier than other VR headsets on the market.

The controllers are one of the highlights. Since they strap onto your hand, you don’t need to keep a grip on them at all times, plus they’re customizable to your own hand shape and include pressure-sensitive controls, adding extra immersive potential to games that support it. The display is an LCD panel which offers a range of refresh rates to suit your computer’s processing power, plus it offers images just as high-res and sharp as its rivals. There’s also a pair of cameras and a USB expansion slot on the front, which can theoretically allow the Index to be upgraded in the future without needing to replace the whole headset.

The headset can suffer from technical problems, is heavy to wear, and for some unfathomable reason there’s no included USB-C cable to charge up the components, but don’t let this put you off the benefits the Index will have for your in-game enjoyment.

See our full Full Valve Index review.

Pansonite 3D VR Glasses

(Image credit: Pansonite)

7. Pansonite 3D VR Glasses

Best cheap VR headset

Compatible with a number of smartphones
Lightweight, comfortable design
AR/VR support
No remote
Some light leakage

The Pansonite is as close as you can get to a high-end virtual-reality headset without 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.

See the Pansonite review on our best Cheap VR headsets page.

How to choose the best VR headset for you

There are two major factors to consider when choosing a VR headset: Your existing hardware and your price range.

If you have a powerful gaming PC that you've bought or built within the last three years or so, you can buy a tethered headset, such as HTC Vive. A headset like this will take advantage of your existing hardware, and leverage your PC's power to provide some of the most authentic and immersive VR experiences on the market. If you have a PS4, you can buy the PlayStation VR. If you don't have either a PC or a PS4, then a standalone headset is your best bet, even though the hardware is generally not quite as powerful.

Price is your second consideration, although this is pretty self-explanatory. Oddly enough, a VR headset's price is not primarily determined by whether it's tethered or standalone; there are cheap and expensive options in either category. Generally speaking, you can expect to spend between $150 and $600 for a VR headset, but this number can vary, depending on how intricate you want your setup to be. Stay in your price range, and don't go super-cheap; shoddy headsets that essentially just put a smartphone close to your face are a dime a dozen.

How we test VR headsets

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.

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.

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.