The best VR headsets of 2018
Back in 2016, the world of consumer virtual reality changed forever with the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets. While both were solid options in their own rights, our favorite was the HTC Vive. With room-scale experiences, bundled motion controllers, and a pretty decent starting line up of launch titles, it provided a fulfilling experience right out of the box. When the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were in the Digital Trends office, almost everyone preferred the latter, from first-time gamers to veterans.
But time, as with everything, things change and the VR landscape is certainly much busier than it was. So which headset would we recommend to you now? Well, the HTC Vive is still at the top of our list, but it’s no longer the only VR headset that’s worth investing in. Here are our picks for the best VR headset you can buy.
At a glance
The best VR headset
Why you should buy this: It’s the best all-round virtual reality system available.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a full VR experience without breaking the bank.
How much will it cost: $500
Why we picked the HTC Vive
Even with the Vive Pro out there, HTC and Valve’s original virtual reality headset is still the most complete and approachable VR experience available. It’s specifically builtfor room-scale experiences and its library of games is massive. Most importantly, it does it at an affordable price.
The twin OLED displays touta combined pixel resolution of2,160 x 1,200, with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 720p camera for tracking and obstacle detection. The headsetalso includes a pair of motion controllers, two lighthouse trackers, and a pair of earbudsto go along with its$500 price tag.
The tracked space starts at 5 x6.5 feet, and reaches 16 x 16 feet with the two bundled sensors. You can walk around freely in the space, and evencrouchdown and lean around corners for a closer look at what’s around you. It’s incredibly immersive, and it also sidesteps many of the issues early headsets had with motion sickness. The Vive’s motion controllers are incredibly intuitive as well, equipped withjust a few buttons and powerful clicking touchpad that allows forprecise movement and settings.
You’ll need a reasonably capable PC to run it, but that’s far easier to come by today than it was during the GPU shortage.
Should you wait: The HTC Vive is getting a little long in the tooth, but that just means the platform is fully mature. With a recent price cut, now’s the time to buy the HTC Vive.
HTC Vive Pro
The best premium VR
Why you should buy this:You have a powerful gaming PC, and you want the highest quality VR experience out there.
Who’s it for:Anyone who already has a powerful VR PC, and doesn’t mind spending an arm or a leg.
How much will it cost: $800 for just the headset, $1,100 – $1,400 for the full setup.
Why we picked the HTC Vive Pro
The Vive Pro is the best but priciest VR headset on the market. The headset alone costs $800, and if you need the controllers and sensors — which you will if you don’t already own an HTC Vive — you’re looking at least $1,100 all-in. So what do you get for over a thousand dollars? An exceptional VR experience.
The Vive Pro improves on the original Vive in almost every arena — it’s more comfortable, it’s better balanced, but most importantly, it features two high-resolution displays that deliver unparalleled detail without that pesky screen-door effect.
The original Vive featured two 1,080 1,200 displays — one for each eye — for a max resolution of 2,160 1,200.The Vive Pro ramps up the resolution to a whopping 2,880 1,600 — or 1,400 1,600 per eye. Increasing resolution has the same effect as increasing the resolution for any PC game. Graphics look sharper and cleaner. The resolution bump also dramatically reduces the screen door effect.
As we mention in the review, the Vive Pro is the best VR headset on the market right now, but its pricing knocks it down a peg because the new features the Vive Pro offers don’t quite make up for the increased cost.
Should you wait: If you’re a VR veteran and you need the newest hardware available, the Vive Pro is it. Oculus’ offerings won’t be competing with the Vive Pro in the ultra-premium market for the foreseeable future, so if you have a spare $1,100, go for it.
The best console VR
Why you should buy this:You have a PS4 Pro, and you want to play VR games like Moss.
Who’s it for:Those who already own a PS4 and want to experience VR without buying a whole PC for it.
How much will it cost: $300
Why we picked the Sony PlayStation VR
Since the launch ofPlayStation VR in 2016, serious console gaming in VR has finally become a reality. Although significantly cheaper than the HTC Vive, the PSVR is a surprisinglyeffective headset. Its technical specifications demonstrate the difference in power between modern game consoles and desktop systems, but it features more subpixels on its OLED display than the ones used both main competitors which meansbetter color reproduction.
If also offers great visuals and decent tracking with its camera system, but does fall behind in terms of controller input. Its Move Motion controllers are fine for broad strokes, but the older tracking technologycan’t match the advanced systems offered by the Vive.Unfortunately, the PSVR also suffers from the screen door issue in the visuals even more so than the Rift or Vive.
The Sony PSVR has the hardware, competitive price, and the large user baseto potentially become the first big mainstream VR solution for gaming, but purchasers should be aware that the Vive and the Rift still offer an overall better experience.
Should you wait: If you’ve recently upgraded to the PS4 Pro, and you’re not planning on picking up a gaming PC, the PSVR is an excellent addition to an excellent console.
The best mobile VR
Why you should buy this:It offers a solid entry-level virtual reality experience at a great price.
Who’s it for:New VR users who don’t want to be tethered to anything.
How much will it cost: $200
Why we picked the Oculus Go
Most mobile virtual reality headsets need some form of smartphone of a specific brand, type, or size to act as screen and processor, but not the Oculus Go. It has all of that built-in and offers hours of completely untethered virtual reality for much less than the mainstream offerings on PC and console.
Its only real limitationis the three-degrees-of-freedom, which means it can’t track you moving forward and backwards or up and down, but it can track tilt and orientation, making it perfect for seated VR experiences. It’s a comfortable fit and well designed, giving you a lot for your money. While there are better headsets out there (like the Lenovo Mirage Solo), none of them offer this sort of functionality for just $200.
The Oculus Go may have its limitations, but it gives users a streamlined virtual reality experience that acts as a great jumping off point for VR newcomers.
Should you wait: If you’ve not tried VR before, the Oculus Go is a great place to start and is unlikely to be eclipsed at this price anytime soon.
The best VR value
Why you should buy this:Easily upgradeable in the future, cheapest PC solution.
Who’s it for:You want a premium VR headset at a discounted cost.
How much will it cost: $400
Why we picked the Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift keeps getting more and more competitive, especially with itssignificant, permanent price drop.At just $400, it may not bedirt cheap, but it’svery inexpensive for a VR headset. Paired with a powerful computer, is every bit as capable from a technical perspective as the HTC Vive and offers decent roomscale tracking and some of the best motion controllers out there.
After more than two years of development, the Rift also has hundreds of compatible applications and games to enjoy, offering a wide array of experiences to VR users new and old. While there isn’t quite as much to play as on the HTC Vive and the hardware is getting a little long in the tooth, for just $400, there’s not a VR headset in the world that can offer such bang for buck.
Should you wait:The Oculus Rift just got a price cut, and it’s only going to get better. Now is a great time to buy.
Should you buy now, or wait?
There’s another question haunting this whole discussion, and it’s whether right now is the correct time to buy a premium VR headset at all. If you don’t already have a high-end gaming PC or PlayStation 4, the price is still rather high. Plan on spending $1,000 or more when all is said and done.
If that seems like a lot, there are also a host of Windows Mixed Reality headsets that are worth considering, but we haven’t been particularly impressed by any of these. The Dell Visor, the Samsung Odysseywere decent budget options, but not as robust as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or PSVR. So if you’re curious about the future of VR, or you’re not quite sold on the above options, it might not be a bad idea to wait.
But, if you’re ready to take the plunge, there are enough games and experiences out there that you’ll have plenty to do — as long as you go with one of the established headsets like the Vive, Rift, Oculus Go, or PSVR.
How we test
At this point, you might be wondering how we came to these conclusions. It’s a valid question, and one we try and be as transparent as possible about.
We start by learning everything we can about an HMD, often long before we have a chance to use it. Once we have it in our hands, we try to play as many titles as we can, and push the hardware into awkward situations to see how it responds.
After that, we put it in as many of our coworkers’ hands as possible. We give them free reign over the device, allowing them to choose demo titles and work with it freely. The less instruction we give, the more we see regular users finding hidden corner use cases that reveal the hardware’s mettle, and often points out issues like nausea and controller familiarity that wouldn’t be issues for reviewers.
Most importantly, we take the time to compare the headsets to other offerings on the market. That includes HMDs we’ve spent time with, and products that aren’t available yet, to determine whether each offering represents a good value.