Best VR Headset 2018: Six of the best ways to escape reality

Virtual reality isn’t the new kid on the block any more. This year we’re slowly making our way into the second generation of the hardware. 

So if you actually want to try out VR for yourself where should you start? There are a lot of options out there, ranging from affordable mobile VR headsets to more expensive PC-based solutions.

Here’s our guide to the best VR hardware available right now. It’s not the case that there’s one headset that’s perfect for everyone. Getting the right headset will depend a lot on the amount of money and space you have available.

Figuring out which headset to opt for is fraught with difficulty, but with our definitive guide to virtual reality it will be quick and easy to find the right headset for you.

Related: Best VR games 

Oculus Go

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Score:

Key features

  • Room scaling: No
  • Motion controls: Yes
  • Minimum system requirements: iOS or Android device for companion app
  • Price: £199

Mobile VR is the cheap and easy way of getting into virtual reality, but compatibility tends to be limited to a small number of flagship phones if you want to enjoy the likes of the Google Daydream or Gear VR.

The Oculus Go is a little bit different. It’s got everything you need for a complete VR experience built into the headset itself. You’ll need a smart phone to get it set-up, but after that it’s a completely self-contained experience.

Sure, the Oculus Go is nowhere near as powerful or capable as a full PC VR experience (so no room-scale tracking here), but it competes very well with other mobile VR solutions at a fraction of the price.

Since it’s built on the same platform as the Gear VR, the Oculus Go has a thousand apps at launch, and 100 of these have been specifically optimised for the headset and its controller which is included as standard. There are a wide range of games, experiences and media-viewing apps.

There’s no one killer app, but the Oculus Go is still a great value VR headset at £199.

Read the full Oculus Go review

Key features

  • Room scaling: Yes
  • Motion controls: Yes
  • Minimum system requirements: Intel HD 620 graphics or greater, Intel Core i57200U CPU or greater, 8GB RAM
  • Price: Depends on headset

Windows Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s shiny new augmented and virtual reality platform. It’s baked directly into the company’s Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Edition software, and is compatible with a number of different headsets – including the Acer Headset (£400 with controllers), the Lenovo Explorer (£400 with controllers), the Dell Visor (£380 with controllers), and the HP Headset (£380 with controllers).

The reference design comes with a variety of perks, including fairly minimal system requirements and a nifty tracking solution that reduces the number of cable connections you need.

If all you want to do is check out interactive experiences, watch VR and 360 movies, or do basic office and web browsing in VR, you’ll simply need a PC or laptop with an Intel Core i5 7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and Intel HD 620 graphics.

For intensive tasks such as 3D gaming you’ll need more powerful hardware, but the specs offer a much more wallet-friendly entry point to VR than other PC solutions. The competing Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both require a dedicated GPU (Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or higher) to run.

The setup process, too, is pain-free since Windows Mixed Reality headsets don’t require external sensors. Instead, the headsets use two front-facing cameras and IME sensors in the headset and controllers to track their wearer’s position and surroundings.

The downside is that the headset tech doesn’t currently match the Oculus or Vive for a couple of key reasons. First, the dual 2880 x 1440 LCDs with a 90Hz refresh rate and 105-degree field-of-view optics aren’t as vibrant as the Vive and Oculus OLED panels. This, plus a few teething issues with the Windows software’s tracking, makes the headset feel a little less polished than its more established competition.

Nevertheless, if you’re on a budget and don’t want to clutter your house with VR sensors then Windows Mixed Reality remains a fantastic option.

Buy Now: The Windows Mixed Reality headset for £379 and save £20 on Amazon 

 

Read the full Windows Mixed Reality review

Oculus Rift

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Score:

Key features

  • Room scaling: Yes
  • Motion controls: Yes
  • Minimum system requirements: Nvidia GTX 970/AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater, Intel i5-4590/AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater, 8GB RAM
  • Price: From £399

For many, the Oculus Rift is the headset that ignited their interest in VR. Since early models of the Rift appeared at trade shows many moons ago, gamers have been swooning at its potential.

When it finally went on sale two years ago, we weren’t disappointed. Featuring slick PC software, a super-comfortable fit and an impressive launch lineup of games, the Oculus Rift was one of 2016’s best bits of tech.

Since then things have got better, thanks to the arrival of the super-intuitive Oculus Touch motion controllers and ever more exclusive titles, including the amazing Echo One space odyssey and blastastic shooter Robo Recall.

The only downside to the Oculus is its fairly hefty system requirements and the fact that you need to invest in a third rear-facing sensor to get the most out of the experience. Without the third sensor you won’t have access to key features such as room scaling, and certain titles just won’t play properly on the Oculus.

Room scaling is a VR technology that uses a combination of player positioning and VR headset tracking within a mapped area to simulate real-world movement.

The third sensor plus the Oculus itself also brings with it a fairly lengthy set of cables to manage, and will leave any play area with a sprawl of rogue wires. This may be an issue for people with limited space.

Still, with the price of the Oculus falling every month, the faffy setup is a small price to pay for one of the best virtual reality gaming experiences on the market.

If the cables are a deal-breaker then you’ll be happy to know that Oculus is also set to release the wireless – but less powerful – Oculus Go headset next year.

Buy Now: The Oculus Rift for the low price of £399 from Argos

Read the full Oculus Rift review

Score:

Key features

  • Room scaling: No
  • Motion controls: Yes
  • Minimum system requirements: PS4 (any version)
  • Price: £320

With pricing starting at a modest £320 for the starter pack on Amazon, the PSVR is pretty much the only option available to console gamers looking to get into virtual reality.

As a piece of hardware, the PSVR strikes a balance between the casual VR experiences offered by mobile platforms such as Google Daydream, and more serious platforms such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

It’s by far the easiest gaming headset to set up and will run on any PlayStation 4, meaning you don’t have to worry about complex specs sheets or checking each game’s system requirements before diving into virtual reality.

The selection of games is also stellar, including awesome titles such as Skyrim VR and Doom VR, which run like a dream.

The only downside is that by only using a front-facing camera, the PSVR doesn’t offer the same level of tracking as the Oculus and Vive. As a result, experiences are limited to stationary sitting positions.

Still, considering the simplicity of the setup and wealth of games available, even with these compromises taken into account, the PSVR remains a must-buy for PS4 owners.

Buy Now: Playstation VR From only £299.99 on Amazon

Read the full PlayStation VR review

The HTC Vive

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Score:

Key features

  • Room scaling: Yes
  • Motion controls: Yes
  • System requirements: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater, 4GB RAM
  • Price: £599

The HTC Vive won Product of the Year and VR Headset of the Year at the Trusted Reviews Awards in 2016, and for good reason. At the time, the Vive was the only headset to offer 4 x 3m room scaling and motion controls. Although the Oculus has since caught up, the Vive remains the go-to headset for true VR power users.

Based on the SteamVR platform, which is rapidly becoming the main marketplace for virtual reality games, the Vive has the best games list on the market. In addition, the wands remain a stellar interface through which gaming is wonderfully immersive – there’s nothing like swinging a digital sword or blasting a virtual shotgun to make you feel at the centre of the action.

The only downside is that, like the Oculus, the Vive has some pretty demanding system requirements and a fairly laborious setup process. Featuring a number of sensors that need to be placed around the play area, most people will have to rearrange their lounge – or be rich enough to have a dedicated playroom – to get the most out of the Vive. However, the base stations can communicate wirelessly, which makes setup a little less cluttered than the cable-heavy Oculus Rift.

Even though the Vive technically only requires a GTX 970 or later to run, games with significantly higher system requirements are also becoming more common on SteamVR. Based on our experience, you’ll probably want a PC with an Nvidia GTX 1070 and 6th-gen plus Intel Core i5 CPU to get the most out of the Vive. Considering its £599 RRP, this makes it an expensive luxury.

Still, if you’re after the ultimate VR experience – and don’t mind moving a little furniture around to accommodate – the HTC Vive is a fantastic headset that’s well worth the money.

Note that HTC is also set to release a new, cable-free model – the Vive Focus – next year, which will go head-to-head with the Oculus Go.

Buy Now: The HTC Vive for £752 on Amazon

Read the full The HTC Vive review

HTC Vive Pro

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Score:

Key features

  • Room scaling: Yes
  • Motion controls: Yes
  • System requirements: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater, 4GB RAM
  • Price: £799

So you’ve got a beefy gaming PC along with the space to enjoy a properly room-scale VR experience, but maybe you want to go a step further than the HTC Vive with a headset that’s much higher resolution and much better built.

The HTC Vive Pro is better than the original HTC Vive in basically every way. It’s got a pair of built in headphones that make it a much easier piece of equipment to use, and the increased screen resolution means that you’re getting a much clearer image with way less of a screen door effect.

In other words, it’s every bit the second generation we were hoping we’d get from HTC.

But all these extra nice features will cost you, and the price of the Vive Pro doesn’t even include the motion controllers or the base stations that you’ll need to run it.

The Vive Pro is meant as the VR headset for people that have already used, and grown tired with, the original Vive. It’s price will come down with time, but until that happens you’ll be much better served by the original Vive which offers far better value for money.

Buy Now: The HTC Vive Pro for £886 on Amazon

Read the full HTC Vive Pro review
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