Are you interested in a VR headset, but not willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a high-end virtual reality device? Don't worry, you still have options. Skip past tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, keep going past premium mobile designs like Samsung's Gear VR and the upcoming Oculus Quest, and you'll find a sea of cheaper models for $45 or less.
We've scoured the internet for some of the best cheap options available. Every product listed here will work with pretty much any iPhone or Android device around. After some extensive testing, we've ranked all these headsets based on design, comfort, visual quality, ease of use and any other special features.
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 headsets, 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 knockoff 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 around at this price.
Topmaxions is a no-frills virtual reality headset that works surprisingly well. The design is simple and minimal, with a little foam in front to protect your face, but not enough to make it particularly comfortable to wear. As a bonus, there's a suction-cup panel in front for holding your phone in place, and a section of the outer cover snaps off to uncover the camera for AR apps.
On the downside, there's no way to adjust the focus, but thankfully, the visual quality was actually pretty good during testing with Roller Coaster VR and a few 360-degree YouTube videos. The head strap in back also needs to be manually attached, but thanks to a Velcro design, that takes only a few seconds to do. Overall, this is a capable little VR headset at a shockingly low price, though it is missing a few frills we saw in other models, like built-in headphones and adjustable focus.
The VR Elegiant's design is among the best we tested; considerable venting at the front and top of the headset along with perforated face padding kept things cool. Individual focus adjustments for each eye come in handy, and the removable magnetic front panel allows you to explore AR apps.Image quality, clarity and color all proved excellent. VR games felt slightly zoomed in as compared to others, which can be more immersive but also problematic as the view felt off at times.. The elaborate head strap is the most immediately noticeable feature on this headset; it features a padded cap on the top strap and another across the back. This can make for a perfect fit on the right head, but for others it will prove quite uncomfortable, as that rigid section cannot be adjusted.
This virtual reality headset has some style, thanks the red accents on the device's front panel, but it's far from perfect. The design features a removable tray for holding your smartphone, and sliding it out for the first time is a little difficult. The device weighed down on my nose, creating some discomfort after a few minutes of continuous use.
On the plus side, the Bnext headset does a pretty good job of blocking out external light. It offered a passable VR experience when I was playing Roller Coaster VR, along with a window in front for AR apps. It also sports a pair of toggles for adjusting each lens individually to the left and right or forward and backward. Still, at $40, it's not really worth it when you consider the competition.
One of the smaller and lighter options on this list, the TaoTronics 3D VR headset is quite comfortable. The downside of this headset’s small size is increased concentration of heat; larger phones in particular could present a problem. The TaoTronics is the only option we tested that features the Google Cardboard magnet “button,” which allows for additional interaction with some apps without the need for a controller. Separate focus adjustments for each eye is another welcome option. Unfortunately, VR content looked slightly distorted and colors were a bit muted.
The Destek V4 offers a pretty basic and sometimes mediocre experience, especially for a virtual reality headset at the high end of our price range. I noticed some light bleeding in, which can ruin even the best VR app, and it applies a little too much pressure on the bridge of your nose to be comfortable. Your phone's camera is also totally blocked, which means no AR support, and the headstrap needs to be attached before it can be used. The design is as simple as it gets, with the only clear branding being a transparent sticker that had already begun peeling off when we opened the box.
This headset's only redeeming quality may be the included Bluetooth remote for navigating app menus, which is actually sort of nice compared to the others we've seen, but it's still not good enough for actual gaming. However, the chances that you'll actually use this accessory aren't high enough to compensate for the rest of the device's shortcomings.
Credit: Destek V4