With a headset and motion tracking, VR lets you look around a virtual space as if you’re there, or play a game as though you’re really in it. In this article, we will highlight the best VR Headsets for 2021.
If you’re looking for the best VR headset 2021, there isn’t an easy answer, so when you ask what the best VR headset is, the answer remains that It all depends on who you are and how much you want to spend.
Modern VR headsets are in two categories: tethered and standalone. Tethered headsets like the HTC Vive Cosmos, PlayStation VR, and Valve Index are physically connected to PCs, or in the case of the PS VR, a PlayStation 4. The cable makes them a bit unwieldy, and 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. But the Standalone headsets offer the greatest physical freedom by completely removing the cables and not requiring any external device to handle the processing.
Oculus Quest 2
If you’re looking for a VR headset that doesn’t need to be wired up to an expensive PC and offers a lot of movement and freedom, then the Quest 2 is the best VR headset for you.
At $300 with nothing else needed, the Oculus Quest 2 delivers virtual reality games and an immersive VR experience anywhere. It’s faster, smaller, cheaper, versatile, fun, and more comfortable to wear than the original Quest, it takes mere seconds to start up and fits well over glasses. The standalone VR headset has self-contained motion tracking and a full-motion six degrees of freedom (aka 6DoF) VR controller that is the same as the ones on the PC-required Oculus Rift, plus a surprisingly great high-resolution display and built-in speakers. Apps are downloaded right to the standalone headset’s onboard storage. Its more limited mobile processor still plays games such as Beat Saber, Moss, and SuperHot VR extremely well, and it can even connect with a PC if you want to, using a single USB-C cable.
To use Oculus Quest 2, you have to log in to Facebook. Facebook is making the Quest 2 it’s one VR headset going forward, discontinuing its PC VR headset, the Oculus Rift S, next spring. The Quest 2 is the best option over a Rift for this reason right now, but also keep in mind that PC VR users have lots of other headset options. Read our Oculus Quest 2 review.
HP Reverb G2
This is HP’s newest VR headset wins. If you’re a serious gamer, VR racing sim fan, or If you’re looking for the best image quality in consumer VR, this may be your best choice. Its lightweight, comfy headset also has fantastic drop-down speakers designed by Valve. HP Reverb G2 pricing start at $650.
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Technically, it’s a Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality headset that prefers to launch into Microsoft’s native Windows 10 VR ecosystem, but it bridges with Steam VR and works with those games and apps, too. The included controllers, based on Microsoft’s VR controller design, feel clunkier than either the Oculus Touch controllers or Valve Index controllers. Also, the over-ear speakers are your only audio choice, there’s no headphone jack.
Valve’s “knuckle” controllers are pressure-sensitive and can track all five fingers, making them almost like gloves. Not many apps make the most of them yet, but Valve’s hardware is mix-and-match compatible with the HTC Vive, which also is built on the Steam VR platform. It’s also definitely not wireless, but if you already have some Vive hardware, you could add on parts of the Index to mix and match.
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It costs $999 if you buy everything you need for it to work. However, you can save some money by reusing your HTC Vive base stations, cutting the price down to $749, or get only the headset and provide your motion controllers and base stations for $499.
It’s a significant upgrade to the HTC Vive and runs much smoother than the Vive Pro, a powerful VR headset that struggled to deliver on the promise of high-end, room-scale VR. Also, setting it up can be painful, updates can cause connection issues, and you may find a new error the next time you go to use it. You’ll also need one of the best laptops for VR – this isn’t a standalone headset like others in this list.
Sony PlayStation VR
This is still the only head-mounted display for gaming consoles and its screen still offers a surprisingly immersive experience. Even better, it’s often on sale for as low as $200, sometimes with games thrown in, too. It has always been delivering excellent virtual reality games, many of them exclusives. All you need is the PSVR and a PlayStation 4 and you can start playing.
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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.
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 wild-card pick for PC VR, the follow-up to 2016’s HTC Vive. The Cosmos has self-contained tracking like the Oculus Quest 2 and Reverb G2 and also has swappable faceplates that will add more cameras for mixed reality and external sensor tracking for larger holodeck-type experiences. With it, you can mix and match Vive and Valve Index accessories.
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Windows Mixed Reality
The hardware is sound and the setup is simple, but position tracking isn’t as accurate as tethered headsets with external sensors or the Quest 2 with its outward-facing tracking cameras. Also, the Windows Mixed Reality store doesn’t have as many compelling VR experiences as the Rift and SteamVR stores, though you can use SteamVR games on Windows Mixed Reality headsets, again with some software wrestling. Also, the only current-generation consumer Windows Mixed Reality headset is the HP Reverb G2.
Oculus Rift S
Like the Oculus Rift, the Rift S works in tandem with a PC to deliver virtual reality experiences. It connects to your PC over a USB 3.0 port and a DisplayPort connection and is tethered to the machine by a lengthy cable that’s more than enough to accommodate the ‘room-scale experiences that Rift S is capable of delivering. It’s more limiting in terms of free movement than the superb wireless Oculus Quest, but the trade-off here is that, by being powered by your PC, it’s capable of powering more detailed and dynamic experiences.
It’s easier to set up, potentially more comfortable to wear, has a much more robust games library than it did at launch, and an improved resolution. But, unfortunately, Oculus has had to sacrifice greater audio and refresh rates to do that.
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What Happened To Phone-Based VR?
Phone-based VR used to be common, with Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR letting anyone with a compatible phone get a VR experience for under $150.
Since the arrival of the Galaxy S9, Samsung hadn’t updated the Gear VR. You can still find cheap shell headsets, but the software ecosystem and support for these is almost nil. For now, phone-based VR is effectively dead.
Best VR Headset 2021: Which Should You Buy?
As mentioned earlier, choosing the best VR headset for you will mostly depend on the price, the platform, and your preferences. At the moment, the four best VR headset range on the market are the Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Quest 2, and PlayStation VR. However, each of the best VR headsets has its unique strengths and weaknesses, so you should study them well before purchasing.
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Which Are The Best Augmented Reality Headsets?
Many of the best-augmented reality headsets, like the Microsoft Hololens 2, are available to buy but the focus seems to be more on augmented reality for an enterprise or business setting, like the Microsoft HoloLens 2 Industrial Edition, which is an untethered mixed reality device designed and tested for use in regulated industrial environments and the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2.
But possibly, very soon, you’ll be able to get one of the best augmented reality headsets for casual use in your home just like the best VR headsets in our list above because major tech brands are currently pumping a lot of time, energy, and resources into new AR offerings.