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Guide to the Best VR Headsets You Can Buy Today

Virtual reality technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, and there are now many excellent VR headsets on the market for both PC and standalone VR gaming. Whether you‘re a VR veteran looking to upgrade your setup or a newcomer ready to dive into immersive virtual worlds for the first time, this guide will help you find the best VR headset for your needs and budget.

I‘ve thoroughly researched and tested the top headsets available today, evaluating them on criteria like visual quality, comfort, tracking, audio, content library, and overall value. While the "best" headset is subjective and depends on your specific situation, I‘ll share my expert picks for the best all-around option, the best premium experience, the best visuals, and more. I‘ll also provide a detailed comparison of the key specs and features of each headset.

By the end of this guide, you‘ll have all the information you need to confidently choose the ideal VR headset to transport you into amazing virtual reality experiences. Let‘s get started!

The Best VR Headsets of 2023

Here are my top picks for the best VR headsets you can buy right now:

Best Overall: Meta Quest 2
Best Premium Option: Valve Index
Best Visuals: HP Reverb G2
Best Standalone: Meta Quest Pro
Best for PS5: PlayStation VR2
Best Budget PC VR: HP Reverb G2

Best Overall VR Headset: Meta Quest 2

For most people getting into VR for the first time, the Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2) is the clear winner. This standalone headset offers the best blend of performance, features, content, and value currently available.

The Quest 2 boasts an impressive resolution of 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye, a 90Hz refresh rate, and a fairly wide field of view around 100 degrees. This translates to crisp, smooth, and immersive visuals that hold up well even coming from high-end PC VR headsets. The headset is also quite comfortable thanks to its compact design and adjustable head straps.

One of the biggest draws of the Quest 2 is its fully standalone, wireless nature. The headset contains all the necessary hardware built-in, including a powerful Snapdragon XR2 processor, so you can enjoy high-quality VR experiences without being tethered to an expensive gaming PC. It also offers the option to connect to a PC for even more content, as well as hand tracking and passthrough mixed reality capabilities.

Speaking of content, the Quest has access to an extensive library of games and apps, including many of VR‘s biggest hits like Beat Saber, Supernatural, Population: One, and Resident Evil 4 VR. Meta‘s Quest store is curated and growing rapidly, so there‘s always new content to jump into.

Perhaps most importantly, the Quest 2 offers all this starting at just $299 for the 128GB model, making it one of the most affordable ways to get a high-quality VR headset. It‘s an outstanding value and the best all-around option for most people. The 256GB version for $399 is also well worth it if you plan to download a lot of large games or capture video.

While the Quest 2 isn‘t the absolute best in any one category, it threads the needle exceptionally well, offering great performance, a wide content library, and a fully standalone, user-friendly experience at an unbeatable price. If you want to get into VR with minimal fuss and expense, the Quest 2 is the headset to beat.

Best Premium VR Headset: Valve Index

If price is no object and you want the most premium, high-end VR experience available, the Valve Index is my top recommendation. This PC-tethered headset offers top-of-the-line specs and unique features for VR enthusiasts and those with powerful gaming rigs.

The Index sports dual 1440×1600 RGB LCD panels with a class-leading 130-degree field of view and hardware IPD adjustment for maximum visual immersion. But the headset‘s signature feature is its ultra-smooth 120Hz refresh rate with an experimental 144Hz mode, delivering the fluid motion and responsiveness that‘s especially crucial for fast-paced games and experiences. The Index also has built-in off-ear headphones that provide fantastic 3D spatial audio while allowing you to still hear the real world.

But the Index‘s innovations don‘t stop at the headset – the controllers are a huge selling point on their own. Valve‘s "Knuckle" controllers strap around your hands so you can completely let go of them, enabling intuitive individual finger tracking for realistic, natural interactions. Their buttons, triggers, and control sticks are also top-notch.

The Index uses external SteamVR 2.0 base stations for highly precise room-scale motion tracking across a large play space. Setup is more involved than inside-out tracking solutions, but it allows for more reliable performance, especially in situations with lots of movement. It‘s the gold standard for VR tracking.

Of course, all this cutting-edge technology comes at a price – $999 for the full kit with the headset, controllers, and 2.0 base stations. You‘ll also need a powerful gaming PC to take advantage of the Index‘s capabilities. But if you have the budget and the hardware, the Valve Index delivers the ultimate enthusiast VR experience with its class-leading refresh rate, expansive FOV, best-in-class controllers and tracking, and easy access to the vast Steam VR library.

Best VR Headset for Visuals: HP Reverb G2

The HP Reverb G2 is the headset to get if visual clarity is your top priority. It boasts the highest resolution of any consumer VR headset at 2160×2160 pixels per eye, yielding a combined 4320×2160 across both screens. This blows the Quest 2 and even the Index out of the water in terms of sheer pixel density.

The result is simply stunning visual fidelity, with text and textures remaining tack-sharp even when viewed up close. Screen door effect is practically nonexistent, and the level of detail and realism is unmatched. The Reverb G2 also has impressively vibrant colors and deep contrast thanks to its dual LCD panels.

However, the high resolution does come at the cost of refresh rate, which is capped at 90Hz. This is still perfectly sufficient for smooth motion in most cases, but some may prefer the Index‘s ultra-high refresh rate for certain applications. The Reverb G2‘s field of view is also narrower than the Index at 114 degrees diagonal.

The headset itself is sleek and comfortable with well-balanced weight distribution and a convenient flip-up visor design. The off-ear speakers developed in collaboration with Valve provide excellent spatial audio while allowing you to still hear your surroundings.

The Reverb G2 uses four inside-out tracking cameras for decent room-scale tracking performance without the need for external base stations. The cameras can struggle with slower controller movements and aren‘t quite as precise or reliable as the Index‘s lighthouse tracking, but it‘s more than adequate for most use cases. The headset also lacks capacitive touch sensors on the controllers for finger tracking.

At $599, the Reverb G2 is pricey for the resolution bump alone, especially since you‘ll still need a beefy PC to power it. But there‘s no denying that it offers the sharpest, most detailed VR visuals available today. If you value clarity above all else, the HP Reverb G2 is the headset for you.

Best Standalone VR Headset: Meta Quest Pro

For those seeking the most advanced untethered VR experience possible, the Meta Quest Pro is the ultimate standalone headset. It improves on the Quest 2 in almost every way, but that extra performance and technology comes at a much higher price.

The Quest Pro features pancake lenses and mini-LED LCD panels for 37% more pixels per inch than Quest 2, with 1800×1920 resolution per eye. Beyond the specs, the visuals are noticeably clearer and more vibrant with better contrast. The refresh rate has also been bumped up to a buttery-smooth 120Hz.

The Quest Pro is equipped with high-res outward-facing cameras for full-color passthrough mixed reality, enabling applications like the Horizon Workrooms virtual office space. When combined with the headset‘s eye and face tracking, this allows your virtual avatar to mirror your real facial expressions and eye movements. It‘s a taste of the metaverse future Meta is building towards.

Those outward-facing cameras also enable more robust controller tracking, even when your hands are out of your direct line of sight. The redesigned self-tracked controllers themselves are slimmer and more ergonomic, with better haptics and a stylus tip for writing or drawing in VR.

One of the biggest upgrades on the Quest Pro is the headset design. The visor now features a continuous lens and pancake optics, allowing for a much sleeker and better-balanced headset. The cushioning is softer and more form-fitting, and the rear pad can be positioned higher or lower. Even the interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment is now motorized. All these enhancements make the Quest Pro extremely comfortable, even for extended sessions.

Of course, all these cutting-edge features don‘t come cheap. The Quest Pro will set you back a whopping $1500, which is out of reach for most consumers. It‘s primarily aimed at businesses and professionals using VR for productivity and collaboration.

But even with the steep asking price, the Quest Pro is an incredibly impressive piece of technology. It delivers the best standalone VR experience currently possible, with top-notch visual fidelity, class-leading comfort, advanced tracking and mixed reality capabilities, and access to the Quest content ecosystem. If you have the budget, the Quest Pro shows the exciting future of standalone VR.

Best VR Headset for PS5: PlayStation VR2

For PlayStation 5 owners, the PSVR2 is hands-down the best and only choice for VR gaming on the console. And it‘s a massive upgrade over the original PSVR in every way, bringing it much closer to its PC VR counterparts.

The PSVR2 uses an OLED display with a resolution of 2000×2040 pixels per eye, a huge leap over the original‘s 960×1080. The screen also supports HDR for improved colors and contrast, and the refresh rate has been doubled from 90Hz to 120Hz for extra fluid motion.

The headset itself has been completely redesigned with a more balanced and ergonomic shape resembling the Quest 2. The adjustable headband accommodates different head sizes, and the scope can slide forward and back. The new lens adjustment dial allows you to match the lens distance to your IPD for maximum clarity.

The PSVR2 uses inside-out tracking with four embedded cameras – a huge improvement over the original‘s cumbersome external camera setup. This enables more reliable controller tracking and even headset rumble for haptic feedback. Eye tracking is also built-in, allowing for foveated rendering to boost performance as well as new gameplay possibilities.

The new Sense controllers, inspired by the DualSense, are a massive step up from the ancient PS Move wands. They feature finger touch detection, precise haptic feedback, and adaptive triggers, all of which enhance immersion. Gameplay wise, the PSVR 2 will take full advantage of the PS5‘s power and offer exclusive AAA titles like Horizon Call of the Mountain.

The only real downside is that the PSVR2 will be exclusively for the PS5, with no backward compatibility with PS4 or PSVR titles. Still, it looks to be a huge generational leap that brings console VR much closer to the state-of-the-art. The PSVR 2 will retail for $549.99 when it launches in early 2023.

Best Budget PC VR Headset: HP Reverb G2

If you want to get into PC VR gaming without spending a fortune, the HP Reverb G2 at $599 is my top pick for the best value. As mentioned above, it offers outstanding visual clarity thanks to its class-leading resolution, and the built-in off-ear speakers are icing on the cake.

The inside-out tracking is convenient and works well enough for most games, even if it‘s not quite as flawless as base stations. And while it lacks some of the Index‘s more advanced features, the Reverb G2 delivers 80-90% of the core VR experience at nearly half the price.

However, keep in mind that even though the headset itself is less expensive, you‘ll still need a fairly powerful gaming PC to run it, especially at full resolution. But if you already have a capable rig, the Reverb G2 is a fantastic choice that won‘t break the bank. It‘s often on sale for $450 or less, making it an even better bargain.

Choosing the Right VR Headset: Buying Guide

With so many different headsets on the market, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is right for you. Here are the key factors to consider when making your decision:

Platform – Do you want a standalone headset that works wirelessly on its own like the Quest 2, or a tethered headset that connects to your gaming PC or console? Standalone offers convenience and portability, while PC VR provides access to more graphically intense games and a broader content library.

Budget – VR headsets range in price from $299 for the 128GB Quest 2 all the way up to $999 for the full Valve Index kit and $1499 for the Quest Pro. Higher-end headsets offer better specs and premium features, but there are great options at lower price points as well.

Priorities – What aspects of VR are most important to you? If you value visual fidelity above all else, the HP Reverb G2‘s 4K resolution may be worth the tradeoff of a lower refresh rate. If you want the most immersive and responsive experience possible, the Valve Index‘s 144Hz display and Knuckles controllers can‘t be beat. Carefully consider what you value most.

Comfort – The best VR headset is the one you actually want to wear for extended gaming sessions. Look for a headset with a comfortable and adjustable design, especially if you wear glasses. The weight, padding, head strap and IPD adjustment can all impact comfort.

Content – What kind of VR games and experiences do you want to play? Some headsets like the Quest have their own exclusive content ecosystems, while others rely on SteamVR or the PlayStation store. Make sure the headset you choose supports the kind of content you‘re most interested in.

My Top VR Headset Recommendations

After researching and testing all the major headsets, here are my final recommendations:

  • If you‘re new to VR and want an affordable, user-friendly headset that does everything well, go with the Meta Quest 2. It‘s the best overall value and a fantastic entry point into standalone and PC VR gaming.

  • If you‘re a VR veteran with deep pockets looking for the ultimate, most immersive PC VR experience, the Valve Index is the enthusiast‘s choice. Its 144Hz refresh rate, wide FOV, best-in-class controllers and SteamVR library are unmatched.

  • If you prioritize graphics and want the clearest, most detailed VR visuals, the HP Reverb G2 and its class-leading 4K resolution is the way to go. It‘s also the best value for PC VR gaming at under $600.

  • If you want the most cutting-edge standalone VR headset with advanced features like face/eye tracking and mixed reality passthrough, the Quest Pro shows what self-contained VR is capable of. But its $1500 price tag means it‘s primarily for professionals and businesses.

  • If you own a PS5 and want to experience VR on consoles, the PSVR2 is the clear choice. It‘s a monumental upgrade in terms of specs and features over the original PSVR and should have some great exclusive VR titles.

Ultimately, there‘s no single headset that‘s the absolute best for everyone. It all depends on your specific needs, preferences, and budget. But I hope this guide has helped clarify the current VR headset landscape and equipped you with the knowledge to choose the right one for you. Whichever route you go, you‘re in for an incredible journey exploring the boundless possibilities of virtual reality. Thanks for reading, and happy VR gaming!