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To help you find the best VR headsets available for gaming and movie watching, we purchased a multitude of top products and spent many hours testing them. Our testing consisted of watching movies, playing video games and experiencing other interactive virtual reality apps. As we strapped the headsets on and dived into imaginary worlds, we looked specifically for image quality, a good refresh rate, a good refresh rate, comfort and user-friendliness. We also looked at application-specific metrics like motion tracking for video games.
With all of these metrics and features in mind, it was easy to select the Oculus Quest VR headset as our top pick. This excellent headset is packed with technical prowess and performance. From full motion range to stellar display quality, the Quest is great for gaming and movies alike. Keep reading below to learn more about the Oculus Quest VR and the other best VR headsets of the year.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This standalone VR headset offers incredible immersion with a high-resolution display, wire-free operation and six degrees of freedom (6DOF). It also offers a good amount of content that’s fun to play and experience.
One of the best things about the Oculus Quest VR headset is the fact that it’s a completely standalone device. You won’t need to connect it to your PC, gaming console or a smartphone in order to completely immerse yourself into virtual worlds. And while this means you’ll lose a little power, the wireless design is well worth it. Plus, you still get an OLED display with a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye and surprisingly snappy Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. The Quest also includes built-in motion tracking and two motion controllers, the combination of which give you a full six degrees of freedom in your movement. This means you can make almost any kind of movement and the Quest will register it within the game.
If you’re worried about playing in tight spaces, you can rest assured that this VR headset includes an innovative boundary feature that lets you “draw” the boundary you don’t want to cross while playing. Once you near that boundary, the headset displays a grid that solidifies as you get closer and fades as you move away. The Oculus Quest also includes some of the best VR games available today, including options like Beat Saber and Superhot. The headset is designed well and is comfortable to wear, although it does feature some minor light leakage. Once playing, though, you’ll hardly notice it. If you want more comfortable eyewear, then check out our guide to the top-rated smart glasses.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This mobile VR headset is comfortable and compatible with a wide variety of different smartphones. With included headphones and a gaming controller, this option gets you up and running on mobile VR games in no time.
The Pansonite is a mobile VR headset that works with both iPhone and Android smartphones. It’s compatible with all smartphones with displays ranging from four inches up to six inches. Simply place the phone in the front panel with the right VR apps installed and you’re ready to go. The overall design of the Pansonite isn’t as nice as some of the more expensive headsets, but that’s to be expected at this affordable price point. We were impressed that the unit included integrated headphones. They’re surprisingly comfortable, if a little flimsy. Your purchase even includes a small controller for gaming.
The Pansonite excels at mobile performance, whether it’s with games or movies. It mostly accomplishes this through its impressive lens set up. They’re HD lenses with a wide, 120-degree field of view. You can also adjust the lenses in two ways: interpupillary distance and focal distance. This allows you to create the most comfortable experience for your eyes. The headset itself is also comfortable with breathable padding on the face pads and headphones. If you’re interested in tech, you might also be interested in purchasing the best gaming laptop under 2,000.
Award: BEST QUALITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: With an incredible display, integrated motion tracking and tons of VR content to choose from, this VR headset offers tons of value and immersion over the competition. It’s also extra comfortable and easy to use.
The HTC Vive Cosmos brings a new level of technical prowess to the VR world, and while it’s certainly not a cheap VR headset for PC gaming, it can easily count itself among the best. For starters, it’s designed with full immersion in mind. With an impressive 1700 x 1440 resolution per eye, 90Hz refresh rate and full 6DOF motion detection, the Cosmos allows you to dive completely into virtual worlds. One of the best parts about this HTC VR headset is the fact that it features integrated cameras so you don’t need external sensors around your room. And with a choice between SteamVR and Viveport, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to content. If you want to make sure your computer is running up to speed for VR use, take a look at the best gaming computer processor too.
The overall design of the Vive Cosmos is impressive, as well. It looks sleek and modern with an edgy triangle pattern across its front. The head straps and face pad are padded with faux leather, creating a comfortable experience. Fortunately, the padding is also breathable so you won’t be bothered by any excess sweat while you play. The motion controllers are comfortable and responsive, and the headset even includes some integrated headphones for better audio quality. The one downside about the headset is that it requires a physical connection to your PC. The cable is clunky and awkward, but once you get used to it, you can pretty much learn to ignore it. In the end, the added performance of being connected to a PC is well worth the physical connection. If you’re going to spring on the Vive, you might also want to take a look at the best computer for VR too.
Award: BEST ON A BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re looking for hours of interactive and varied VR gaming experiences, this is the VR headset for you. It encourages creativity in both beginners and veterans alike, all at an incredibly affordable price point.
There are no two ways about it. The Nintendo Labo VR Kit is one of the most unique approaches to virtual reality on our list. Instead of assuming a single form, the Labo VR Kit comes in a huge variety of different options. You start with a base set of VR goggles that you then build upon for different applications. Everything is made out of cardboard and needs to be created using the included interactive instructions. This creative approach provides for hours of fun, perfect for parents and children to do together. Of course, with so many different creations to experience, you might find your living room filled with cardboard quicker than you’d like. However, the fun of the process is well worth the extra clutter.
When it comes to performance, we have to be honest in saying that we’ve experienced better. You use your Nintendo Switch as the graphical power behind the headset, which can make for a little bit of grainy image quality. However, we don’t recommend purchasing the Labo Kit purely for image quality. Instead, we recommend using it for the variety in games and interactivity you get. We were also pleased to find that Nintendo encourages healthy gaming habits by reminding you to take a break every so often. Because of its kid friendliness and incredibly creative game options, the Labo is also the best VR headset for education.
Award: BEST FOR VIDEO GAME CONSOLES
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re looking for amazing console virtual reality at a budget that won’t break the bank, you can’t go wrong with this VR headset. Plus, you get tons of gaming content with the required performance to run them smoothly.
The Sony Playstation VR headset has proven that you don’t need an ultra-expensive gaming PC to experience high-quality VR immersion. Instead, all you need is a PS4 and a couple of Playstation games. This is the best VR headset PS4 players can use and if you already have the console, then you’re already halfway there. Sure, the Playstation VR doesn’t feature as high a resolution or image quality as some of the other top-of-the-line options, but it does extremely well considering. It’s got an OLED display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 100-degree field of view, which is great considering the relatively low price.
The headset itself is also designed well. It’s comfortable and breathable, enabling you to play for hours on end without getting bothered having a bulky device strapped to your face. There is some disappointing light leakage with the headset, but in the long run, it didn’t affect our ability to play games. And speaking of games, you have a ton of options. You can play popular games like Skyrim VR and Playstation VR Worlds, but there are many more options available, and more coming out regularly. If you want to make sure your PlayStation always has the fastest internet, why not take a look at some of the best mesh routers too.
Award: BEST USER FRIENDLY
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re looking for a VR headset that’s lightweight, affordable and comfortable for extended periods of mobile gaming, this is the option for you. The face padding is breathable and it’s compatible with almost any smartphone available today.
The OPTOSLON VR headset is an excellent option for mobile gamers who want to experience virtual reality without spending an arm and a leg to do so. We were impressed by how well made it was when compared to its extra affordable price point. The headset is durable enough to take with you on the go. It’s also extra comfortable with breathable padding around the face and head straps that are stretchy enough to fit any head size or shape.
The headset’s image quality is also something that surprised us. While the bulk of the graphical performance will come directly from your smartphone, the OPTOSLON includes lenses that are fully adjustable to fit your comfort level. While the manufacturer doesn’t provide any kind of resolution measurements, we still found the image quality to be crisp and clear with a wide field of view. There were times that we experienced light leakage, but it was really only when we were in intense gaming moments.
Award: BEST FOR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCES
WHY WE LIKE IT: This VR headset is an excellent option for users who only want to watch movies or other video content in a 360-degree, VR environment. Its padding is extra comfortable and it offers surprisingly good video content at a low price.
The BNEXT is the best VR headset for movies on our list because of its extra-comfortable design and superb image quality. For starters, the padding that sits on your face is thicker than other models we tested, and it’s also very breathable with added ventilation so your face doesn’t get sweaty after extended periods of use. The head straps are also surprisingly comfortable once you get them sized right, even in spite of the lack of added padding.
The BNEXT is also easy to set up and is compatible with most smartphones, even larger options with displays up to 6.4 inches. The headset offers an easy setup, too. Simply slide open the phone compartment, place your phone in the tray and then slide it closed. We were pleased with the overall image quality here, as well. It’s not as good as some of the other picks on our list, but it creates an amazing immersive experience for watching VR movies.
Our top consideration when rating the best VR headsets of the year was how immersive they each were. If you’re purchasing a new VR headset, you’re probably doing it to experience some level of escapism, and if the unit you buy doesn’t give you that then you’ll likely feel disappointed overall. In order to measure how immersive each option was, we looked at image quality and field of view. We rated options higher if they offered high resolution and a wide field of view. Comfort is another part of the immersive experience, so we gave bonus points for headsets that could be worn for hours at a time without hurting your face.
Next, we considered the availability of VR content with each headset on our list. The options on our list provide a large variety of content including games, movies and apps. Content should be easily available through online stores like Steam VR or proprietary app stores. We awarded bonus points to options that included content that came highly rated from other users.
Finally, we rated each VR headset based on its user-friendliness. Virtual reality itself is a fairly complicated technology when you look under the hood, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be incredibly complex to use. The best VR headsets are easy to install and set up. The user interfaces and controllers, if included, should be simple and easy to learn. We also gave preference to VR headsets that were secure on your head and durable enough to take the occasional drop. When you’re in an incredibly immersive experience, it’s easy to forget that you still have gear on your head or in your hands that can be easily dropped during intense moments.
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