Over the past few months, VR has assumed a radically different sense in a society where people are more isolated from each other than ever before. VR is still not the venue or office for social events that I would like it to be, but it's closer. The Oculus Quest has been the closest thing that's ever been available to a home VR console. But right now, VR is still in flux, as the technology is ever-evolving.
Thanks to Valve's VR masterpiece, Half-Life: Alyx and, more recently, Star Wars: Squadrons, VR games have been better than ever this year. But if you want a headset that plugs into your PC or console, or select a standalone option like Oculus Quest while playing a VR game, you still have to decide. The new Oculus Quest 2 is the latest, most affordable choice for VR at the moment, but a Facebook account is needed to work.
Quest 2 of Oculus
The Oculus Quest 2 is the best VR headset right now, but if you have a PC or PlayStation 4/5, you may want another choice.
More modifications will come. Companies such as Qualcomm (which makes the chips inside most self-contained VR headsets, including the recent Quest 2) are building new chips at lower prices, including those that plug into your computer, leading to a wave of better standalone headsets.
Meanwhile, like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream, the handheld VR headset and the phone-based VR headset are effectively dead. With the old handheld VR goggles, a large number of the new iPhone, Android and VR app solutions don't even work. If smartphone-based VR returns, it is more likely to be in the form of small headsets for VR content, VR gaming and other uses that connect to phones via USB-C.
Regardless, a powerful gaming PC-connected VR headset provides the most flexible software range for an immersive VR experience if you are a PC gamer, and allows you to use the headset for creative and business resources. Notice that a more powerful VR device would still be mostly tied to a laptop or desktop, and external sensors may be needed for a PC VR headset, so they may not be the best choice for everyone.
And what about games on the console? If it's on sale and you have a PS4, the aging PlayStation VR is still fun, mostly because there are tons more great games for this computer than you'd expect. Although it works with PSVR, the PlayStation 5 needs older controllers and adapters and doesn't yet have many graphics-enhanced VR games.
You just know VR is still here, but it's changing. Augmented reality headsets and mixed reality headsets are still not ready for regular home use, so a good VR headset is your best bet for escaping to other worlds in the meantime. To find out which is right for you, read on. We regularly update this, but note that prices are subject to change.
Read more: Want to play Alyx: Half-Life? The VR gear that works is here
Quest 2 of Oculus
The finest independent VR
Good: Self-contained and wireless; decent touch controllers; convenient gaming design; doubles as a headset for PC VR.
Bad: Needs an account on Facebook.
The Oculus Quest 2 provides virtual reality games and an interactive VR experience anywhere, at $300 with nothing else required. It's easier, smaller, cheaper and more convenient to wear than the original Search, but in order to use it, you must log on to Facebook.
Thanks to its simplicity and fun, The Quest 2 reminds me of the Nintendo Switch, plus it takes only seconds to start up and fits very well over glasses. The standalone VR headset has self-contained motion detection and a VR control that is the same as those on the PC-required Oculus Rift, plus a surprisingly great high-resolution display and built-in speakers for six degrees of freedom (aka 6DoF) full-motion. Apps are downloaded straight to the onboard storage of the standalone headset. Games such as Beat Saber, Moss and SuperHot VR still play extremely well with its more restricted mobile processor, and it can even connect to a PC if you want to, using a single USB-C cable.
Next spring, Facebook will make Quest 2 its only VR headset, discontinuing its own PC VR headset, the Oculus Rift S. For this reason, Quest 2 is the best option over a Rift right now, but also keep in mind that there are several other headset choices for PC VR users. Read our review of Oculus Quest 2.
299 dollars in AMAZON
Index of Valves
The best PC VR to explore VR controllers' future
Good: Amazing futuristic controllers; headset of high quality; works with hardware from Vive.
Bad: Expensive; includes room configuration and cable tethering.
The latest headset of Valve could be this year's most fascinating virtual reality experience for PCs, just for its fancy new controllers. The "knuckle" controls from Valve are pressure-sensitive and can monitor all five fingers, making them almost gloves-like. Not many apps still make the most of them, but Valve's hardware is compatible with the HTC Vive mix-and-match, which is also based on the Steam VR platform. There is excellent audio and a very sharp, wide field-of-view display in the Index headset.
The Index uses "lighthouse" external boxes, which means that first you need to set up those in a room. It's not as self-contained as the HTC Vive Cosmos, or Oculus 'Rift S, which can monitor the room with in-headset cameras. It's certainly not wireless either, but if you already have any Vive hardware, you may be able to add mix and match sections of the Index. Read our analysis of the Valve Index.
AT STEAM $999
PlayStation VR from Sony
It also pays off for the gamers.
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Good: Lots of games; lower price; fits with several DualShock and Transfer PS4 controllers.
Bad: Resolution is not cutting-edge; Sony has not yet produced great competition-matching VR controllers.
The three-plus-year-old PSVR headset from Sony is still the only head-mounted gaming console display, and its screen still provides a remarkably immersive experience. Much better, for as low as $200, it is always on offer, often with games thrown in, too. Many excellent virtual reality games, many of them exclusive, have been (and continue to be) delivered by Sony. The PSVR and a PlayStation 4 are all you need and you can begin playing. (A few good games to start with are described here.) But, compared to the alternatives, this VR system demonstrates its era. And, when operating with the PSVR, the new PS5 will require your old PS4 controllers and camera to operate, plus a camera adapter. Best Buy is currently selling it for $350 with Iron Man as a package. Read our review of the Sony PlayStation VR.
The Cheapest Deal $350
HP G2 reverb
The PC VR headset with the highest resolution
The good: really sharp high-res display, great audio, comfortable design, really nice display, great audio
Mediocre controllers The bad: Mediocre controllers
HP's newest VR headset wins whether you're trying to do VR work, or just want the best picture quality. At this price point, the 2,160x2,160-per-eye resolution and 114-degree field of view are the best and the lightweight, supportive headset also has Valve-designed fantastic drop-down speakers. Technically, it's a headset of Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality that tends to launch into the native Windows 10 VR environment of Microsoft, but it bridges with Steam VR and even works with certain games and applications. It is easier to set up built-in camera-based room monitoring than the external base stations of the Valve Index, but it is more susceptible to tracking errors. Based on Microsoft's VR controller concept, the included controllers sound clunkier than either the Oculus Touch controllers or the Valve Index controllers.
$600 HP AT
Vive Universe by HTC
A lightweight, modular device may be a
Good: Interchangeable faceplates for additional features; built-in tracking; Steam VR fits with a flip-up visor.
The Vive Cosmos, the follow-up to 2016's HTC Vive, is a wild-card pick for PC VR. Like the Oculus Quest 2 and Reverb G2, the Cosmos has self-contained tracking and also has swapable faceplates that can add more mixed reality cameras and external sensor tracking (for larger holodeck-type experiences). You can mix and match Vive and Valve Index accessories with it, but right now we prefer the Reverb G2 and Valve Index over Cosmos. Read all about Vive Universe from HTC.