All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices correct at time of publication.
If you’ve been waiting for VR hardware to mature, you’ve chosen wisely. Headsets have come a long way since the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive launched six years ago. The Meta Quest 2 has been around for two years already, and it’s proven to be a very capable handheld VR experience. And if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, high-end PC headsets are getting cheaper (and there’s the new PS VR 2 to look forward to). Although the overall VR market hasn’t really changed much since last year (aside from the somewhat disappointing report Meta Quest Pro), at least there are plenty of VR experiences to dive into.
So what makes a good VR headset?
I tend to judge virtual reality headsets on a few basic criteria: Ergonomics, immersion, and controls. It’s not that difficult to fit a mobile screen into a plastic helmet and attach cheap elastic headbands to it. But it takes skill to craft something that is well balanced and not uncomfortable after 30 minutes.
Immersion, meanwhile, comes from high-resolution displays with fast refresh rates, so visuals are crisp and smooth. Field of view is also a major element, as it describes how well VR screens can cover what you see. Having a low field of vision feels like looking through binoculars, limiting your sense of “presence”. The best VR headsets have a wide field of view that can make it look like you’re flying over the world in Google Earth.
And when it comes to controllers, the best options naturally fit in your hands and offer precise tracking. The industry has essentially embraced the design of Meta’s excellent touchscreen controllers, but we’re also seeing intriguing advancements like Valve’s finger-tracking thumbsticks.
More than two years after its release, the Meta Quest 2 remains the best VR headset for the vast majority of consumers. It’s completely wireless and comfortable to wear for long sessions. Unfortunately, due to supply chain pressures and deteriorating economic climate, Meta ended up raising the price of the Quest 2 by $100 this year, making it a $400 headset. It’s still a great device, but it’s also in the odd position of being a worse deal than last year.
Here’s what’s still good, though: there’s a massive library of VR titles you can check out anywhere, and it comes with Meta’s excellent motion controllers. You can also connect the Quest 2 to a gaming PC to stream more complex VR experiences.
The Quest 2 features fast-switching LCDs with a resolution of 1832 x 1920 per eye, the highest we’ve seen from Meta. It also has a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, which is impressive for something running entirely on mobile hardware. The Quest 2’s field of view isn’t the best – it’s been measured at around 90 degrees – but it’s still enough to enjoy most VR experiences. You can also use different face pads to increase his field of vision a little. And if you want an even more comfortable fit, you can hook the Elite headband for $49 (Or $129 with built-in battery and case).
Meta a recalled foam inserts of the original model and offers silicone covers to make the helmet more comfortable. We didn’t encounter any issues during our review or in the last year of use, but there were enough complaints for Facebook to take action. The base $399 Quest 2 also comes with 128GB of storage, which is double the space of the original model, giving you even more room to cram in VR games and apps.
The Quest 2 might not offer the best overall VR experience, but it’s certainly the most accessible headset on the market. (At least until we see a potential follow-up next year.)
Best VR console: PlayStation VR2
In many ways, the PS-VR2 is the best headset we’ve tested to date. It offers two 2K OLED HDR displays, giving you 4K quality and an immersive VR experience. It is one of the most comfortable helmets around. And it has some really refreshing new features, like eye tracking and headset haptics. (Yes, it can literally rock your noggin.) And best of all, the PS VR2 delivers high-quality virtual reality without the need for a $1,000+ gaming PC – everything you need is a PlayStation 5.
Now, our recommendation comes with some caveats. At $550, the PS VR2 is more expensive than the PS5 itself. And it’s unclear how quickly its library of games will fill up (the initial series only has a few exclusives, like HorizonVR And Gran Turismo 7). But it’s the easiest way to experience high-end virtual reality, and it’s a major upgrade over the original PS VR.
Best PC VR headset under $600: HP Reverb G2
If you don’t care about wireless VR and want to invest a bit more in a high quality PC VR headset, Reverb G2 at $599 from HP is for you. It was developed in cooperation with Valve and has some of the best features of the more expensive Index headset, such as near-field speakers. The Reverb G2 also has sharp displays, offering 2,160 x 2,160 pixels per eye, a 90Hz refresh rate, and a relatively wide 114-degree field of view.
It’s also the first Windows Mixed Reality headset to include four sensors, which helps provide more accurate VR tracking, especially during fast-paced games. I also thank HP for making a connected VR headset that is extremely comfortable thanks to its luxurious padding around the eyepiece and the back strap.
The Reverb G2’s motion controllers aren’t my favorite, but they’re still a big step up from HP’s previous model. You can also upgrade it to use Valve’s finger tracking controllers, but that involves hooking up SteamVR sensors and a lot more setup. Still, it’s nice to have the upgrade path available.
Best PC VR headset for gamers: Valve Index
Valve index kit remains one of the best high-end VR solutions on the market for PC gaming. For $999 you get the Index headset, Valve’s finger tracking controllers, and two SteamVR base stations. While we’ve seen higher-resolution headsets arrive over the past couple of years, these are still a very solid option, boasting a 1440 x 1600 pixel resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, and a massive 130 degree field of view. I would happily lose a few pixels to get a smoother, larger screen, which is still way beyond any other consumer headset.
As a SteamVR product, the Index requires two sensors to be installed at opposite corners of your room. And of course, it’s hardwired to your PC. But that awkwardness is worth it for the higher refresh rate and more accurate tracking. Sure, it’s not as easy to use as the Quest 2, but at this price range we suspect you’ll suffer a bit of inconvenience to get a truly high-quality VR gaming experience.
Valve’s finger tracking controllers are also fantastic, with a handy strap that locks them to your hands. They play Half-Life: Alyx feel like a dream. It’s unfortunate that other VR games haven’t taken full advantage of finger tracking.
The best VR quality, no matter the price: HTC Vive Pro 2
HTC Vive Pro 2 is the most beautiful VR PC I’ve seen. It has an incredibly sharp 5K display and a solid 120Hz refresh rate. Just brace yourself: the full kit, which includes the headset, two SteamVR sensors, and wand controllers, costs $1,399. You can also buy the helmet separately for $799 as an upgrade from the original Vive Pro or Valve Index.
For the price, you get a well-balanced and extremely comfortable VR headset. THE Professional 2 is a clear sign that Valve has pretty much perfected the art of making high-end hardware. I’m less impressed with the large wand controllers, which are the exact same ones that came with the original HTC Vive in 2016. They’re functional, but they’re nowhere near as ergonomic as Oculus’ touch controllers.
I mainly recommend the Pro 2 here because of the amazing quality of the headphones.
True VR fans might just want to grab that separately with SteamVR base stations and Valve’s finger tracking controllers. This way you can make sure you have the best experience while playing. Whip Gun.