VR isn’t a new and emerging consumer technology any more. With more and more options to choose from than ever before, and with advances like eye tracking and, further down the line, advanced rendering and head and motion tracking designed to eliminate VR motion sickness, the reality of a VR headset in every home is looking even more likely, but which is the best VR headset?
So, where do you start if you want to try out VR for yourself? We’ve ranked everything from the most affordable mobile VR experiences to more expensive standalone or PC-based VR solutions.
Related: Best VR games
1. Oculus Quest
The best value for money standalone VR system
- All-in-one system means simple setup and more affordable price
- Going wireless is so liberating
- Best-in-class VR controllers
- Fantastic launch lineup of games
- Demanding games may see a performance drop
- Controllers require AA batteries
The Oculus Quest is a new entry VR system and is easily one of the best ones we’ve tested. In terms of ease of use and convenience, it’s hard to beat. The fact that you don’t need to drop your phone into this, connect it to a static power supply or hook it up to a gaming PC is a big plus for lots of reasons – it’s instantly more affordable and you have more freedom to explore virtual worlds in your living room.
As Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip runs the show here, the Oculus Quest is able to run more demanding games like Beat Saber and Superhot VR, games which you’d struggle to run properly (or play at all) on cheaper systems like the Oculus Go.
In terms of display quality, the Quest features an OLED display with a 1440 x 1600 resolution for each eye – which is on par with what you’d get from the more expensive HTC Vive Pro.
Convenience and affordability make the Oculus Quest the very best virtual reality headset you can buy.
Read our Oculus Quest review
2. PlayStation VR (PSVR)
Excellent VR experience, no-brainer buy for PS4 owners
- Amazing games available
- Simple setup
- Movies look great in the headset
- Comfortable to wear even with glasses
- Better value than Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
- Processor unit needs to be unplugged to power down
- PS4 console desperately needs another USB port to charge all the controllers
- PlayStation Camera still fiddly
If you’ve got a PlayStation 4, then chances are you’ve already been eyeing up the PlayStation VR (aka PSVR).
While of course this is locked to PlayStation owners – you’ll need a couple of PlayStation Move controllers and a PlayStation Camera to boot – the PSVR still offers a relatively inexpensive VR experience, especially when compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It’s also very comfortable, and can even be worn if you wear glasses.
The PSVR is perhaps not as immersive as the Vive, and the 1920 x 1080 resolution means it’s not as detailed as other VR displays here. Another minor quibble is that the dedicated processor unit needs it own power supply. Oh, and the cables. The PSVR needs quite a lot of cables, so much that not only is there a lot of clutter, it’s sometimes a chore keeping everything charged up.
Aside from that, PSVR offers a very slick and immersive VR experience for less than some of the higher-end VR brands.
Read our PlayStation VR review
3. HTC Vive Pro
High end – but expensive – VR experience
- Comfortable fit
- High-resolution screen
- Built-in headphones
- No light bleed
- Field of view could be better
- Set-up is still too involved
- Price and system requirements are high
The HTC Vive Pro is the VR headset for someone who is fully invested in consumer VR and wants the best of the best – at least, until the HTC Vive Pro Eye goes on sale.
Boasting a combined resolution of 2880 x 1600 (1440 x 1600 pixels per eye), the Vive Pro’s AMOLED displays are simply gorgeous to look at and an increase in pixel count, plus a more comfortable fit compared with the previous-gen HTC Vive, mean that the level of immersion you get here is unparalleled.
Downsides include space requirements and, naturally, cost – the HTC Vive Pro offers a premium experience, and is therefore pricey. In order to get the HTC Vive Pro working, you’ll need to have two base stations set up in your room, so that the headset can be accurately tracked through virtual spaces – HTC says you’ll need a minimum of 2m x 1.5m.
And, while you can now free yourself from a wired connection by picking up a Vive Wireless Adapter, that’s sold separately. You’ll also need a powerful enough PC to actually run VR games and experiences too, so if your current gaming rig isn’t up to snuff, there’s a cost consideration here, on top of the £799 you’ll have to shell out for the headset itself.
If you can stump up the cost and you’ve got enough room at home for a dedicated VR den, then the HTC Vive Pro is your weapon of choice.
Read our HTC Vive Pro review
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4. Oculus Go
Cheap and cheerful VR experience for buyers on a budget
- Decent screen resolution and refresh rate
- Tracking feels accurate
- Plenty of software available at launch
- Motion controller included as standard
- Battery life could be better
- No killer app
Even with the plug ‘n play friendly Oculus Quest hitting shelves, the Oculus Go is still your go-to option if you want a cheap all-in-one virtual reality experience.
For the £199 you’ll hand over, you’ll get a complete system which doesn’t require a connection to a dedicated gaming PC and you get a motion controller thrown in as standard. Compared to some options, where you’ll need to pay around £300-£500 and have a games console or PC as well, the Oculus Go represents incredible value for money.
There are a couple of drawbacks – while the Oculus Go is very cheap and easy to set up, because you don’t have motion controllers, or a piece of external hardware handling processing, it can only track rotational movement – i.e., the Oculus Go knows if you’re turning your head left, right, up, and down, but if can’t tell if you’ve moved your body back, forwards, or to the sides. The sense of immersion you can get is therefore not as good.
Not being tethered to a power supply, while being liberating in a physical sense, also means you’re stuck with the internal battery for power – this gives you a maximum of 2.5 hours. That’ll be fine enough for short experiences, but means there’s no chance of you enjoying a longer gaming session on the Oculus Go.
Read our Oculus Go review
5. HTC Vive
VR poster child still offers a decent experience
- Incredible, immersive free-moving VR
- Intuitive controllers with good battery life
- Solid selection of games already available
- Pain to set up
- Software is buggy
- Expensive and needs lots of space
Oculus may have the glory of starting the VR race, but it was the HTC Vive that really refined the experience. The original HTC Vive now costs £499 – down from the original £799 asking price – and still offers a slick, fluid experience that compares well to other VR options.
At launch way back in 2016, the HTC Vive was the only headset to offer 4 x 3m room scaling and motion controls. Although the likes of Oculus have since caught up, the Vive remains a top choice for power VR users.
On the hardware side of things, you get a pair of 1080 x 1200 pixel AMOLED displays (2160 x 1200 pixels combined), two base stations for location tracking, and two wireless controllers, all of which adds up to a very fluid and immersive VR experience – despite the resolution being fairly low by today’s standards, mind.
In terms of software, you’re really spoilt for choice. Based on the SteamVR platform, the Vive has access to one of the best games list on the market now, and HTC’s launched its own VR gaming subscription service, Viveport, too.
The only downside is that, like the Oculus, the Vive has high PC system requirements and a fairly tricky setup process. You’ll need a lot of lounge space for the HTC Vive, not to mention a gaming PC that’s got enough chops to run the show.
Also, despite the fact that the HTC Vive is not as good as the HTC Vive Pro, it’s still expensive for something that came out several years ago. However you slice it, you’re looking at spending a lot of money here – you may as well stump up the extra and go for the Pro, unless you can get a good deal on the original HTC Vive.
Read our HTC Vive review
6. Oculus Rift
The original consumer VR headset is showing its age
- Incredible experience
- Light and robust
- Simple setup
- Strong launch lineup
- Images could be sharper
- VR sickness an issue with some games
- No motion controls included
The Oculus Rift is the one that started it all – Facebook effectively kicked off the consumer VR craze back in back in 2016, with the Oculus Rift.
The model we’ve reviewed here is a consumer-level Oculus Rift (i.e. not the early models intended for developers), and, while in 2020 it’s starting to show its age, it still offers a great VR experience.
The 2160 x 1200 (1080 x 1200 per eye) display in particular looks a little old-school, especially compared to the Vive Pro and PSVR. The Oculus Quest also beats the Rift in the resolution count here.
As with the HTC Vive Pro, you’ll need to invest in some extra tech in order to get the most ou of the Rift – namely, a third motion sensor (approx. £60-£100) and a set of Oculus Touch motion controller (approx. £100-£150).
PC requirements are also high – none of the processing is done on the Oculus Rift headset, so if you’re after an inexpensive VR set-up, the Oculus Rift might not be for you. But, if you’re already set for a gaming PC, and you can find a cheap Oculus Rift deal on eBay or elsewhere – at the time of writing, the original Rift is not on sale from the Oculus site – then you could pick up a bargain.
Read our Oculus Rift review
7. Lenovo Mirage Solo
Another cheap all-in-one VR headset that’s more advanced than the Oculus Go
- Full freedom of movement (in a very limited space)
- Relatively sharp and colourful image
- Handy auto on/off function
- No obvious motion blur issues
- It’s cable-free VR, just like you wanted
- Only comfortable for shorter sessions
- Controller tracking is basic
- Google WorldSense library is new, therefore limited
- The lenses introduce image quality issues
The Lenovo Mirage Solo is an interesting proposition. Like the Oculus Go, it’s an all-in-one VR headset that’s easy to set up. It’s also more advanced than the Oculus Go, and features superior tracking movement.
But at £399, nearly twice the price of the Oculus Go, it’s still quite an ask for buyers, even if it doesn’t have to be paired with a high-end gaming PC or any base stations.
That said, while you don’t have any on-device cameras or static sensors tracking your position in a cube of space, the Mirage Solo instead gives you a square metre to move around in – it’ll fade the image out and tell you to return to the play space if you stray beyond the virtual borders.
Also, Google’s WorldSense ecosystem offers around 60 experiences, versus the 600+ which are on offer from HTC’s Viveport store. If you’re mainly after a VR headset for short experiences and you’re less invested in VR gaming, that might not be a dealbreaker.
Read our Lenovo Mirage Solo review
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8. Lenovo Explorer
A mid-range VR headset with Windows Mixed Reality features
- Solid design
- Decent tracking
- Easy setup
- SteamVR support still a work-in-progress
- Strap is a little rigid
The Lenovo Explorer costs £399 and on the surface, offers a cheaper entry point into VR gaming.
You’ll need to connect this to a gaming PC in order for the software to work, but thanks to cameras and IME sensors in the headset and controllers, you’re not required to position a string of motion sensors around your living room.
The Explorer runs Windows Mixed Reality, Microsoft’s new new-ish VR platform. Like the Lenovo Mirage Solo, which comes with Google WorldSense, Mixed Reality is something of a ‘one to watch’ platform right now.
That said, the Lenovo Explorer has the advantage of giving you access to SteamVR, though the experience at the time of our review was nowhere near as polished as it was on the HTC Vive and HTC Vive Pro.
Read our Lenovo Explorer review
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