Top VR Headsets? Talking of top VR headsets, whether you’re looking for a standalone headset or one that tethers to your PC or console, today Hot Tech Gadget is here to list for you the very best top VR headsets or top virtual reality headsets to help you figure out which, if any, is right for you.
The Oculus Quest VR headset combines a wire-free experience with six-degrees-of-freedom motion tracking and two controllers, all without the need for a separate computer to use it.
The Sony PlayStation VR headset brings powerful, compelling virtual reality, with motion control support, to the PlayStation 4.
The Oculus Rift S improves on the previous Rift headset with a sharper screen and a camera array that doesn’t require external sensors.
The HTC Vive Cosmos VR headset is a technically impressive improvement on the original Vive, but it’s very expensive and you still have to deal with a cable.
Virtual Reality is a fascinating way to travel using nothing more than the power of technology. With a headset and motion tracking, top VR headsets let you look around a virtual space as if you’re there, or play a game like you’re really in it. It’s been gaining traction in recent years thanks to some very compelling games and experiences, though it still seems very much in a state of flux, with headsets coming and going fairly rapidly.
Oculus has both tethered and standalone headsets in the form of the Quest and the Rift S. HTC has the Steam-friendly Vive Cosmos and the developer-focused Vive Pro. Sony has the PS4-focused PlayStation VR, and Microsoft is supporting its Windows Mixed Reality platform with a few third-party headsets. There’s also Valve, with its expensive Valve Index headset providing the only taste of a new Half-Life game. Here’s what you need to know about all of them.
What VR Is the Best?
Modern VR headsets now fit under one of two categories: tethered or standalone. Tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift S, the HTC Vive Cosmos, and the PlayStation VR are physically connected to PCs (or in the case of the PS VR, a PlayStation 4). The cable makes them a bit unwieldy, but putting all of the actual video processing in a box you don’t need to directly strap to your face means your VR experience can be a lot more complex. The use of a dedicated display in the headset instead of your smartphone drastically improves image fidelity, and either external sensors or outward-facing cameras on the headset provide full 6DOF (six degrees of freedom) movement tracking.
The least expensive tethered options are currently around $400, and that’s before you address the processing issue; the Rift S and Vive headsets need pretty powerful PCs to run, while the PS VR requires a PlayStation 4.
Standalone headsets offer the greatest physical freedom by building The Quest uses similar outward-facing cameras to the Rift S to provide 6DOF motion tracking, and uses the same Oculus Touch motion controls. Combined with a faster Snapdragon 835 processor compared with the Oculus Go’s Snapdragon 821, the Quest offers a much more compelling and immersive VR experience, all without the unwieldy cable or PC requirement of the Rift S.
|Oculus Rift S
|Accurate motion tracking.
Full software library.
Easy to set up.
Physical cable to connect to a PC.
Lower resolution than Oculus Quest.
Perfect for all sized rooms
Performance rivals the Rift
Six degrees of freedom
|Slight light leakage
The battery lasts 2 hours
|Sony PlayStation VR
|Comfortable and well-designed
Decently immersive VR
A solid lineup of launch games
Cheaper than rival VR headsets
|The narrower field of view
PS4 hardware isn’t that fast
|HTC Vive Cosmos
|No need for external sensors.
Improved motion controls.
Large software library
Viveport and SteamVR.
No full-size DisplayPort 1.2 port.
Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift was the first big name in the current wave of VR, and it’s still a major player with both a tethered and standalone headset. The Rift S is the tethered Oculus headset, connecting to your PC over DisplayPort and accessing a wide selection of VR games on PC through the Oculus Store and SteamVR. It abandons external cameras in favor of a pair of outward-facing cameras for motion tracking, which means fewer cables to deal with.
Instead of an OLED panel that displays 1,080 by 1,200 resolution for each eye, the Rift S uses an LCD with a 1,280 by 1,440 resolution per eye. Its refresh rate is a bit lower at 80Hz to 90Hz, but that’s still quite comfortable considering we had no problems with the Oculus Quest’s 72Hz refresh rate. The shift from OLED to LCD is curious, especially since the Quest still uses an OLED panel with a higher resolution (1,440 by 1,600 per eye, the same as the HTC Vive Pro), but it’s still a step up from the Rift.
The Oculus Store has established itself nicely in the last few years and offers hundreds of different VR games and apps. If you can’t find what you want through Oculus, you can also use SteamVR with the Rift S. However, SteamVR’s integration can require some troubleshooting to get working properly, from setting the correct launch parameters to tinkering around various settings.
The Rift S uses the same Windows 10-based Oculus software as the Rift to set up your VR experience. This is done through your PC display for the first part of the process, walking you through making a free Oculus account, plugging in the headset, pairing the controllers, and making sure everything fits. Once you’ve done that, the program tells you to put on the headset and go through the rest of the setup process in VR, which primarily involves setting up your Guardian boundaries.
The Guardian system lets you define virtual walls around an open space you so you can safely play in VR; Oculus recommends at least a seven-by-seven-foot square for this. The previous Rift requires holding an Oculus Touch controller insight of two external sensors and dragging it around where you want to place a virtual wall. The Rift S makes setting up Guardian boundaries much faster and easier.
The headset’s cameras give you a monochrome view of your surroundings, projecting a horizontal pattern to determine where the floor is. Placing a Touch controller on the floor and picking it back up again will set the floor height. After that, you can point the controller toward the floor like a laser pointer and draw your virtual wall. You don’t have to take off the headset or worry about keeping the Touch controller given fixed spots in the room; just wave it around and Guardian will be set up in under a minute.
Once Guardian is configured, the headset will track your surroundings with those virtual walls in mind. If you get close to the edges of your play space, a blue grid will appear where the walls are, letting you know you’re approaching them. If you make contact with the walls with the headset or Touch controllers, they will turn red to let you know you’re leaving the play area. If you completely move your head past a virtual wall, the cameras on the headset will turn on and give you a live view of your surroundings in monochrome. The addition of a live view when you’re outside of your play area makes this new implementation of Guardian much more helpful than simply displaying virtual walls.
The Oculus Quest, on the other hand, is an all-in-one VR headset with a Snapdragon 835 processor. It doesn’t have nearly the processing power as a Rift S tethered to a gaming PC, but it also doesn’t need cables at all, and fully supports 6DOF motion tracking with dual motion controllers (the same controllers as the Rift S). It doesn’t have the same software selection as the PC-based Rift S and its much bigger Oculus Store, but it still offers hundreds of different experiences including some very compelling games like Beat Saber and Superhot VR. It’s also currently the only VR platform that can use Spatial, an intriguing new VR teleconferencing service with free access for consumers.
Oculus did offer a simpler, less expensive standalone VR headset in the Oculus Go, but it recently discontinued that model. The Go is an affordable, $200 all-in-one headset that offered a solid taste of VR, but only had 3DOF (three degrees of freedom) motion sensing and a single directional remote, so it was much more limited than the Quest, which has surpassed it.
The Oculus Quest is one of the best-looking VR headsets currently on the market. It feels like a solid and well-designed piece of kit as soon as you get it out of the box. However, measuring 120mm x 110mm x 90mm, it looks surprisingly compact and it’s light too – especially considering everything powering your virtual experience is housed in that one, standalone device.
The front has a matte black exterior with Oculus printed at the top. The sides are covered in a tough fabric, with a similar feel to the Go. Turn it over and there’s a foam inner lining around the goggles.
To secure it onto your head there are three thick, velcro straps – one on top and one either side – that you can easily adjust before you put it on and during gameplay, which is handy because it’s bound to move about a little and needs tightening.
These velcro straps are attached to a rubberized, triangle-shaped headband that covers the back of your head. This stayed very secure – even after an hour of Beatsaber-ing. The fit is generally snug but there’s some slight leakage around the nose. This wasn’t as bad as the Go or other headsets we’ve tried, mostly because it’s small and we’d not even noticed it until we were a few games in.
Sony PlayStation VR
The PlayStation VR is compelling thanks to Sony’s backing development for it and the affordability and availability of the PlayStation 4 compared with gaming PCs. All you need is the headset, a PlayStation 4, and a PlayStation Camera (now included with most PlayStation VR bundles).
There are some excellent games on PS VR like Moss, Rez Infinite, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, and Five Nights at Freddie’s: Help Wanted. Many PlayStation VR games work with the DualShock 4, so you don’t even need motion controls. However, those motion controls are where the PlayStation VR lags; the headset still uses the PlayStation Move wands from the PlayStation 3 era, and they aren’t nearly as capable or comfortable as the Oculus Touch controllers. They’re also expensive, and not always included in PlayStation VR bundles.
It appears that the PlayStation VR will work with the upcoming PlayStation 5. Sony has not announced any new VR hardware, though the PS5 will have a new camera accessory that will presumably enable PS VR.
PlayStation VR has the arduous task of completely immersing you in a video game by producing two images simultaneously and then sending them to a headset a few feet away. But unlike competing devices (which require expensive graphics cards to get the job done), PS VR can do it using only the PlayStation 4’s built-in GPU.
It achieves this by using the PlayStation Camera to track nine different points of light on the headset, plus the lights on either the Move controllers or on the DualShock 4, depending on which game you’re playing.
It’s surprisingly accurate given the fact that it’s only using a single camera to track what’s happening… but it’s not foolproof by any stretch of the imagination. We’ll cover performance in detail in a minute, but be prepared for the camera to lose track of the controllers. A lot.
But the real bummer here is that because Sony only uses one camera instead of two, it’s harder for PlayStation VR to track you if you get up and walk around than it is for a system like the HTC Vive, which can offer true room-scale VR.
If you decide to get up and wander around, the PSVR can follow you to an extent but don’t expect to take more than a few steps in any direction without a warning from the system that you’re straying too far away.
To that end, most PlayStation VR games can recommend that you stay in one of two positions, either sitting down or standing up and stationary. If you’re prone to motion sickness, sitting down might be a bit more comfortable, but certain games are better played on your feet.
HTC Vive Cosmos
HTC’s Vive Cosmos is the upgraded version of the Vive headset, boasting a higher resolution and replacing the external base stations with outward-facing cameras for motion tracking. It’s a comprehensive package for whole-room VR, but at this cheaper price, it’s quite expensive compared with the Oculus Rift S, which offers similar performance.
For even better motion tracking, the Vive Cosmos Elite brings back external base stations to augment how it follows your head and motion controllers, though it’s pricier, you can buy it cheaper here. The Vive Cosmos works with SteamVR just like the Oculus Rift S and has its own VR software store in the form of Viveport. Viveport also offers the Viveport Infinity membership that provides unlimited access to VR experiences through a subscription service instead of a la carte software purchase.
A set of on-ear headphones rest on short arms on the sides of the headband and can flip up and down and slide vertically to adjust to your ears. Unfortunately, the arms are a bit too flexible, and the hinge a bit too loose, so you need to reach up to the hinge itself and press down firmly to get the headphones to click into place over your ears. If you try to just pull the headphones against your ears without manually clicking the hinge closed, they’ll just pop off.
The Vive Cosmos displays a 1,700-by-1,440-pixel resolution picture to each eye, edging out the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Pro’s 1,600-by-1,440 resolutions. It isn’t quite as sharp as the HP Reverb’s 2,160 by 2,160 pixels per eye, but it’s still very good. A 90Hz refresh rate matches these other headsets and keeps the movement smooth.
HTC is finally catching up to Oculus’ ergonomics for controls, with a completely new set of motion controllers. They are decidedly Oculus Touch-like, with rounded grips, curved triggers that conform to your index and middle fingers, and analog sticks instead of touchpads. They feel very comfortable in the hands and less rigid and straight than the Vive’s controllers.
A thick plastic ring extends upward around each controller’s buttons and analog stick, also like the Oculus Touch. The rings feature translucent bands around the edges and geometric patterns along the middle, that light up when the controllers are turned on
The Vive Cosmos connects to your PC through a Link Box identical to the one that comes with the HTC Vive Pro. It’s a small, gray plastic box about the size of a cell phone. The back holds power, USB, and Mini DisplayPort connections, and the front has a connector for the Vive Cosmos itself, which fits the plug on the end of the headset’s 15-foot cable.
The Link Box needs to be connected to the computer with a USB 3.0 cable (included) and a mini-DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort cable (also included; the mini DisplayPort end connects into the Link Box) and plugged into a power outlet with the included adapter. A full-size DisplayPort connection appears to be required, which means you’ll need a desktop PC with a dedicated graphics card; attempting to set up the Vive Cosmos on a gaming notebook that otherwise meets all the requirements of the headset, but only has a mini DisplayPort, resulted in errors.
If you think the HTC Vive Cosmos is pricey, Valve’s own PC-tethered VR headset, the Valve Index, costs this cheaper, if you buy everything you need for it to work (except the computer, of course). You can save some money by reusing your HTC Vive base stations, cutting the price down, or get only the headset (and provide your motion controllers and base stations) for $499.
In terms of hard numbers, the Valve Index uses a dual LCD display with a 1440 x 1600 resolution per eye. Unlike Oculus, which has actually dropped the refresh rate of its displays for the Oculus Rift S, the Valve Index has a 120Hz display, with the option to bump this up to 144Hz. For comparison, the more-expensive Vive Pro has a lower refresh rate and smaller field of view, so this actually feels like a big upgrade.
Inside the box you’ll find the headset itself, the new Valve Index Controllers (colloquially referred to as ‘knuckle’ controllers), and the Version 2.0 Base Stations, which need to be set up around your room. Now, if you have a Vive or Vive Pro headset already, the first-gen base stations are compatible with the Valve Index, but you’ll probably want to start with the second-gen stations if you don’t have a pair already.
Amazingly, while all these features would seem to require extra horsepower under the hood of your PC, they actually worked fine with our much older Nvidia GTX 980 GPU. That’s a boon for folks who don’t have the money to upgrade their GPU after buying a $1,000 VR headset, and it could allow for more people to get into VR.
Oculus Rift S – (Top VR Headsets)
The Oculus Rift S is a worthwhile follow-up to the original Oculus Rift. It does all of the same things as the previous headset, but with a higher resolution and a 6DOF motion tracking system that doesn’t require external sensors or three USB 3.0 ports. At $400, it’s an excellent way to enjoy the full software library and processing power of PC-based VR. Just make sure you have a DisplayPort to plug it into; the switch from HDMI can leave some gaming laptops out in the cold.
It’s hard to get past the wires of the Rift S, though. While it doesn’t have cables running from your computer to external sensors, the tether to the headset is still there and it still feels cumbersome. The Oculus Quest has proven that wire-free 6DOF VR with satisfying performance is possible, and it costs the same amount as the Rift S. The Quest’s Android-based Oculus store has a much smaller library than any PC-based VR platform, but it already has some excellent games and apps on it. We think cutting the cables is the next big step VR needs to take, which is why the Oculus Quest earns our Editors’ Choice. The Rift S is still an excellent headset, but it’s only an iterative update to the Rift while the Quest is a massive step forward from both the Rift and the Oculus Go.
The Oculus Rift S improves on the previous Rift headset with a sharper screen and a camera array that doesn’t require external sensors.
The Oculus Quest – (Top VR Headsets)
The Quest raged things up with an out-of-the-box VR gaming system that’s just as accessible but with added movement tracking. With a display that rivals the Rift, the Quest is hard to fault. It’s lightweight, comes at a reasonable price point, and fits into rooms of any size within minutes – zero equipment required.
Sony PlayStation VR – (Top VR Headsets)
The PlayStation VR is surprisingly comfortable and capable, despite its limited hardware. And surprisingly, it has better games than the Rift or Vive. But it’s still an expensive and risky purchase for most people.
HTC Vive Cosmos – (Top VR Headsets)
The HTC Vive Cosmos is a technically impressive VR headset, but it doesn’t go far enough to justify its $700 price. It has a fairly high resolution, improved motion controllers, and it doesn’t require any external sensors. However, the Oculus Rift S offers a very similar experience for $400, and the HP Reverb boasts a much higher resolution (though frustrating Windows Mixed Reality issues) for $600.
Then there’s the cable. It’s the same kind of cable used by the HTC Vive, the Rift S, and the HP Reverb, and it doesn’t get any easier to deal with overtime. After using the Oculus Quest and enjoying completely untethered virtual reality, going back to tripping over a thick wire while playing games feels like a big step backward. Combined with the high price, it makes it hard to recommend the Cosmos over the Rift S, and I’d still choose the wire-free convenience of the Oculus Quest over both.
The Valve Index is the next-generation VR headset the market has been waiting for, but the Steam VR platform on which the headset depends is still capricious, and painfully hard to troubleshoot. At this cheaper price for the full package, Valve’s high-powered headset is an expensive portal to the future – and one that we’ll use almost exclusively going forward – but it’s powered by decades-old software.