Virtual Reality (VR) is a great new way to experience a new environment. Whether that’s a game, or just a city you want to visit next summer. VR headsets come in various sizes and costs, so it can often be confusing when you want to pick one up, but don’t know which one to get. Luckily for you, FinalBoss has you covered. We looked into some of the best virtual reality headsets to buy right now, and here’s what we think.
But before we do list out our top headsets, there are a few things you need to know. VR headsets are of two types – tethered and standalone. Tethered devices (like the HTC Vive Cosmos and PlayStation VR) connect to a PC via a cable. This does make using them a little more difficult, but on the plus side you get much better graphics since the PC is doing all the processing. They also come with more motion tracking and immersive capabilities. Standalone or mobile headsets on the other hand, are usually smaller, lighter and less powerful. They work using your smartphone as a display, so don’t expect a breathtaking virtual reality experience. But that said, they are cheaper, and might be good if you aren’t so keen on immersive experiences. However, they are no longer officially available, after Google discontinued its DayDream headset in 2019. You can still find some online, but they aren’t the latest and will no longer be supported with most new smartphones.
So when buying a VR headset what do you need to keep in mind? First is the refresh rate, 120Hz is the ideal rate as it prevents cybersickness. Without getting too technical, low refresh rates lead to a disconnect between your auditory and visual inputs, resulting in nausea, headaches, fatigue and even vomiting. Next thing you need to keep in mind is position tracking, especially for immersive gaming. Position tracking allows the VR headset to adjust your presence in the virtual world, based on the real world. So for example, if you move two steps forwards in the real world, you will also move two steps in the game. The best way to ensure smooth position tracking is a camera, which most high-end headsets have.
- Price: $525 from Amazon US | £245 from Amazon UK
- Platform: PlayStation 4
- Controller: DualShock 4 & PS Move
- Position Tracking: Available with Sony Camera V2 for PlayStation 4 accessory
- Display: OLED
- Resolution: 960 × 1080 per eye
- Field of View: 100°
- Refresh Rate: 120hz
- The Good: Variety of games, design, 3D audio
- The Bad: Expensive set, position tracking, user interface
The PSVR is a great companion for PlayStation owners. It offers a 100° OLED display that comes with a 120Hz refresh rate. There’s also 3D audio for a more immersive experience. Unfortunately, the PSVR does not come cheap. If you really want to take full advantage of Sony’s library of virtual reality games, you will need to splash some additional cash on the PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move controller. You also need the PlayStation 4. While you can find some good deals on the set, it still adds up to a lot for casual gaming. Then there’s the Pro version, which offers more power if you really need it.
What about the experience you ask? Well, early reviews of the latest model indicate that it’s far from perfect, but a great system nonetheless. Position tracking can often be unreliable, and the need to switch between the PS Move and DualShock 4 controllers makes gameplay tedious at times. However, very few companies can match Sony’s extensive library of games. So in the end, it’s probably a great buy, but only if you are already invested in Sony’s ecosystem.
Oculus Quest 2
- Price: $299 from Amazon US | £299 from Amazon UK
- Platform: Windows 10
- Controller: Xbox One Gamepad or Touch Motion controllers
- Position Tracking: Inside out tracking
- Display: LCD
- Resolution: 1832×1920 per eye
- Field of View: 104°
- Refresh Rate: 90hz (to come), 72Hz at launch
- The Good: Comfort, controllers, user interface, vast library of games
- The Bad: Design, refresh rate, LCD display
The highly anticipated follow up does deliver in some areas, but unfortunately falls short in more. Facebook has made plenty of tweaks and improvements, including some powerful internals. You now get 6GB of RAM, and an updated 128GB of storage, at a lower price point. it’s still a little more expensive than the PS VR, but he you get a “nearly” 4k display, so it’s probably worth the extra money. It’s also lighter and smaller, so there’s definitely a lot of upsides.
The downsides include an LCD display, which does seem a bit criminal given the PS VR offers OLED. But, with an improved resolution, it’s not a big issue. The headband design also means the Quest 2 isn’t exactly going to sit tightly, be warned it can shift with sudden movements. The store does offer plenty of games, but you can enjoy even more with a Link Cable, to connect your PC. Overall, it’s a pretty convincing buy, whether you are a pro, or just starting out with VR gaming.
HTC Vive Cosmos
- Price: $1139 from Amazon US | £599 from Amazon UK
- Platform: Steam
- Controller: Vive Wand Controllers
- Position Tracking: IR laser tracking through 2 towers (room-scale VR)
- Display: AMOLED
- Resolution: 1440 x 1700 per eye
- Field of View: 110°
- Refresh Rate: 90hz
- The Good: Environment tracking, high graphics quality, premium head strap and high rez built-in audio
- The Bad: Lighthouse tower tracking system, software, apps, outdated controllers
HTC’s Vive Cosmos is big, and clunky, but looks a lot better than its predecessors. Unlike its competitors, HTC uses two base stations (to be placed at opposite ends) that shoot out lasers to track your motion in the real world. Does it sound cooler? Oh hell yes. Does it work better? Well… not really. The stations need to be placed 6 meters above floor level, with a clear line of sight to each other and if for some reason they still can’t see each other they need to be tethered together with a cable, which can be frustrating.
But it’s not all bad. Unlike its competitors, the Vive tracks your physical environment, throwing up a virtual fence so you know when you are within a foot of the wall or any large furniture. The front camera also gives you a monochrome outline of the world around you, it can also be changed to act as a regular camera so you can see without feeling like you are on a Royal Marines mission.
The Vive software leaves a lot to be desired, it is ill-organised with settings scattered across multiple Vive apps. The catalogue of games for Viveport Infinity isn’t the best either, most of the games feel unfinished according to many reviewers. The 90Hz refresh rate is also a downer at this price point since it limits how long you can play before feeling cybersick. The only upside is the very impressive graphics performance, and 3D spatial audio. But unless you’ve got plenty of cash to drop, you are better off staying away from this given it’s a LOT of money for little.
- Price: £919 from store.steampowered.com
- Platform: Steam
- Controller: Knuckle Controllers
- Position Tracking: IR laser tracking through 2 towers (room-scale VR)
- Display: LCD (Full RGB Colour Space)
- Resolution: 1440 × 1600 per eye
- Field of View: 130°
- Refresh Rate: 144hz
- The Good: Cameras to see the environment, design, controllers, best in class display, resolution and audio
- The Bad: Software can be buggy, knuckle controllers have durability concerns
Even by virtual reality standards, the Valve Index is expensive. The headset alone costs £459, and if you want the entire kit (controllers + base station) it will set you back £919. Since HTC’s Vive was built off the Valve platform, they share a lot of similarities. You get the same ‘lighthouse’ base station tech (with its above-mentioned drawbacks), tracking issues and poor software. That said, the Valve does offer some substantial benefits over the Vive. There are two front-facing cameras so you can see the outside world. There’s also a type-A USB port in front, so you can experiment with other devices. And most importantly, the Index offers a 120Hz refresh rate and an experimental 144hz mode, which makes it the fastest VR display valuable right now. Design-wise, the Index offers a padded helmet-like headband. There’s a dial to change the distance between lenses and between your eyes and the lens. The Index also offers a Robocop-like look, which is better than HTC’s Vive Pros and a bit more stylish than the PSVR.
The unique Index Knuckle Controllers are definitely different, offering a more natural gameplay and comfort experience over other VR controllers with full finger tracking, a first for the VR market. However, Steam VR is a bit hit and miss for people, sometimes it works others times you’re left scratching your head as to what you might have done wrong. This somewhat lets the Index down, as from a hardware standpoint it is a true next-gen VR headset.
In the end, we would recommend purchasing the PlayStation VR if you already own a PlayStation 4. If not, the Oculus Rift S might be worth checking out as it is half the cost of the high-end VR headsets in this list. Of course, there are other options out there, like the excellent Oculus Quest. But if immersive gaming is what you desire, these are your best options today.