The Best VR Gaming Headsets in 2020 & 2021
Virtual reality is here and in a big way! The first VR supportive headsets were released back in 2016, since that day, we've seen the virtual reality platform grow exponentially. With modern technological advancements, VR has expanded to a point where consumers now have a vast plethora of hardware, games, and media options to choose from.
One of the biggest issues virtual reality had when starting up was the expensive price tags manufacturers put on their products. It just wasn't affordable. Since then, VR has become a mainstream form of entertainment and a household name. Even though VR is still considered expensive, prices have dropped hugely since it's initial release in the hope to cater to more of the general public.
In today's market, there are a number of different VR products available with varying degrees of expense attached. The following article is compiled of what we believe to be the best VR headsets available today. We put each headset through its paces to see how it lived up to both the WEPC strict performance tests and the buzz that currently surrounds the subject.
Let's get straight into it by taking a brief look at what's to come in the following best of guide:
The legend which is the HTC Vive takes the top spot for best gaming VR headset over it's old rival, the Oculus Rift.
Developers at HTC have done an extremely good job with their VR headset offering, it offers a tonne of cool features and benefits which include spatial awareness technology, 3D audio output, fantastic comforting design and a shed load of apps and games to utilize.
For us, there's no better option available.
The Best Stand alone VR solution
You're probably more familiar with the Oculus Rift, however, there's a new headset in town. If you're looking for the best wireless VR experience that requires no external, surrounding technology then look no further.
The Oculus quest is the new boy in town and offers something no other VR headset does in this list, the ability and freedom to experience virtual reality anywhere.
It has the computer built into the headset with a number of cameras attached to supply all the features you'd expect with modern day VR.
A great all round experience at an affordable pricetag.
Samsung are no strangers to creating excellent hardware offerings, just think about the SSD's and mobiles which are available today.
However, they're decided to dip their toe in the virutal reality pond and try creating a VR outlet for your mobile. The Gear is a fantastic, use anywhere, VR solution which pairs with your phone and Oculus software to help create a great immersive experience at low costs.
HTC Vive Pro
A luxury option with all the bells and whistles
HTC have taken the vive to the next level with their pro iteration of the classic. It comes to shelves with a superb high resolution screen which has a combined field of 2880 x 1600 making visuals look crisper than ever. It doesn't stop there however, it comes equipped with a whole bunch of other features which we will touch upon later.
If you liked the Vive, you're going to love the Vive Pro.
It's essentially a upgraded version of it's predecessor which come to shelves with all the bells and whistles of the Vive, and some cool additional features you'll only find with the Pro version.
Think better picture, better audio and an overall better usability factor. The Pro is what HTC are calling the ultimate VR experience and it's hard to argue against them.
Sony Playstation VR Headset
A stylish, user friendly VR headset for Playstation 4
Sony have introduced the Playstation VR headset due to the virtual reality games becoming more mainstream than ever before.
Their VR headset has a super sleek design and impressive content support creating fantastic overall experience.
Sony's headset is the only one that caters towards console gaming, specifically. If you're looking to convert your console into a virtual reality with the minimum of fuss then there is simply no other alternative.
How We Choose The Best VR Headset
Like all of our products, we get asked numerous questions on how and why we think the products we recommend are the best. For the most part, the answer is the same and it comes down to WEPC testing criteria and performance levels. Some products do differ, but for VR it was fairly simple.
The following is a short list of some of the areas we take into consideration when choosing the best VR products:
- Screen Resolution
- User Interface
- Build quality and reliability
This is just a brief look at what we consider when picking out the best VR gaming headsets in 2021 but gives you an idea of what to expect from each selection.
How We Test Hardware?
It's hard in the modern age to know whether or not a source is trustworthy or not. Here at WEPC we take the time to vigorously test our recommendations in the hope of finding it's best and worst features.
Our team of PC and gaming enthusiasts work side by side to achieve a varied and unbiased review of each product. Hours of testing goes into each product meaning each and every review is informed at credible.
What Are The Different Type Of VR?
Strictly speaking there are two main types of VR headset, the mobile headsets and the PC/console tethered headsets.
A mobile headset is basically a shell which is used to house your phone whilst using a lense to display your phones image. The lense splits the phones image in two to help us visualize the VR. The Samsung Gear is the only mobile headset in the list but their are other alternatives available such as the Google Daydream View.
Mobile headsets have several pro's which include price and ease of use, however, the main pro must be the freedom to use them anywhere, anytime. Unlike tethered headsets which need to be connected to your PC at all times, mobile headsets take their power from your phone which is directly installed in the headset itself. A great perk for a cheap product.
As touched upon above, tethered PC/console headsets are the second most common type of VR headset. There are several different technologies and hardware's that come with each, but ultimately they all need to be used with your PC or console device.
It means you have a limited range in which you can use your VR headset. This however, is where the negatives finish. The dedicated display inside your tethered headsets is much more indepth than that of your mobile which ultimately creates a better overall experience.
The room scaling feature which you get with tethered allows for more complex VR content as well. External sensors allow for 6DOF motion tracking which allow users to not only look around but move within a space also.
Recently, we have seen the introduction of standalone VR headsets and they sit roughly in the middle of mobile and PC tethered products. In a nutshell, the standalone headset is the same as a mobile one, but comes equipped with an onboard computer which acts as your phone. This is very new technology but we're excited to see what it has to offer.
What Are The Hardware Requirements?
It's an important aspect of VR understanding what the minimum hardware requirements are to fully enjoy all virtual reality has to offer.
So, we've established which type of VR you are getting. If it's a mobile headset you're interested in you just need a compatible phone which can be found on the manufacturers website.
A standalone, as mentioned above, has the computer built into the set itself so again, you don't have to worry about the requirements here either.
However, PC users looking to get VR ready with there tethered headsets will need to meet a minimum specification to run programs and games proficiently.
As a general rule of thumb the following is a list of minimum PC specs you'll require when looking to go VR with your PC:
|Graphics*:||NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480, equivalent or better.|
|Processor:||Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350, equivalent or better|
|Memory:||4 GB RAM or more|
|Video out:||HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or newer|
|USB ports:||1x USB 2.0 or better port|
|Operating system:||Windows® 7 SP1, Windows® 8.1 or later, Windows® 10|
With these specs you will be able to run games and apps well but not to there full potential. To fully experience VR in all it's glory we recommend looking at some of our custom builds:
- FBrilliant All round VR experience
- Partnered with Valve for endless content
- Very nice aesthetic design
- Setup can be a pain
- Lacks built in audio
The HTC Vive gets our number one spot for best gaming VR headset available this 2021 and for good reason. The steam powered Vive comes to shelves with a bunch of cool features and benefits such as room scaling, Play safer and Vive video which combined create a fantastic all round experience for it's users.
The Vive was one of the first VR headsets to be released back in 2016 and since that day has paved the way as far as high quality VR experiences go. The Oculus Rift has been the Vive's main rival and was released at the same time, however, cool Vive features help provide a much more realistic VR experience. Let's touch on some of those features now.
Room scaling is a superb feature which not only lets the user look around the virtual world they're in, but also allows them to physically walk around it as well. The Vive has the ability to do this thanks to the two mapping base stations the headset comes with. You place the two stations in an open space, up to a maximum of 3.5m x 3.5m, and allow the headset to wirelessly synchronize within the zone you have created. Once everything is paired, fire up your favourite game which supports room scaling and start walking around your virtual universe. Very cool.
Thankfully, HTC have developed playsafe technology to stop you becoming another youtube sensation by colliding with your TV. The playsafe software maps out where your walls and objects are by using inbuilt cameras and sensors, then alerts you when you get close to them. The cameras also allow you to switch between VR and reality so you can converse, drink and eat without having to take the headset off.
The directional audio is an added bonus and can be purchased separately or part of a bundle. It intelligently alters your audio depending on which way your facing to create a more realistic experience. A really cool feature if you're happy to fork out a little bit more. Vive Video allows users to play standard 3D, 180 degree and 360 degree video content as well.
Overall, the Vive got it right on day one, it's still our favourite all round gaming VR headset and we look forward to seeing the improves HTC make in the near future.
- Fantastic All-in-One Solution
- Supports Tv and mobile casting
- Brilliant room-scaling support
- Fairly expensive
- Annoying software
The Quest is the latest offering from Oculus and bridges the gap between mobile VR and PC tethered headsets. In a nutshell, the Quest offers remote VR access without needing a phone or device to power it. The computer is built in to the headset itself which offers true freedom to use VR anywhere, anytime.
Similarly to the Vive, the quest comes with room scaling but doesn't require any external base stations to do so. It uses the 4 front positioned cameras to map out your surroundings and translate that into the VR very effectively.
A huge positive for me was the positional audio output which can be found at either side of the headstrap. For what essentially is two mini output speakers, the quality is superb and gives you a real feeling of spacial awareness. It does have a mini jack slot for external headphones but that really isn't necessary. Oculus did a great job in this regard.
The controllers or wands as Oculus like to call them feel great in your hand, they have a real nice ergonomic fit which is perfect for extended periods of usage. One issue I noticed with the controllers was, if you position them behind the cameras, they stop tracking until they come back into the cameras range. It's not a huge issue but stops you from putting your hands behind your head or back.
As for weight, considering this thing has the computer built in, it's really not too heavy at all. It has excellent weight distribution which helps to reduce overall stress on the head and neck. Again, like the Vive, the Quest has it's own version of playsafe, Oculus Guardian. It works in exactly the same way as Playsafe by mapping your surroundings then notifying you when you're in danger of running into something.
Overall it's a really great product and one we feel outranks the Rift respectively. You are taking a small drop in graphical output, but the VR experience really isn't effected massively and still provides users with a great immersive universe.
- Very affordable price tag
- Supports a huge range of mobile devices
- Great user friendly interface
- Build quality not the best
- Could use additional head support
The Samsung Gear gets our best mobile VR headset award and provides excellent performance and affordability respectively. This is the final type of VR headset available and is specifically designed to work alongside your smart phone. Specifically Samsungs, who knew?
The Gear is probably the most popular form of VR today due to it's price, it hit shelves at a fraction of what the tethered models were going for. This is mainly down to the technology which has been implemented within the headset. Ultimately, it's only as powerful as your smart phone, which in real world terms is much less than that of your flagship PC's.
This being said however, the apps and games that are supported on the Gear are extremely immersive and provide a great VR experience for those wanting to get a taste of the action. Sound is achieved by plugging headphones into the mini jack provided and work efficiently, but nothing special.
The Gear is the lightest headset on the list and is extremely comfortable thanks to it's design. The build quality does feel a little cheap in comparison to other models in this list, but what do you expect for a fraction of the price.
Overall, if you're looking to get a taster of what VR has to offer, we couldn't recommend this enough.
HTC Vive Pro
- Fantastic immersive VR experience
- Impressive High resolution display
- blocks light really efficiently
- Massively expensive
The Vive Pro from HTC is something we were looking forward to for a while mainly due to how successful it's brother, the Vive, was amongst consumers.
The Pro is basically a bolstered version of the Vive but with some additional features and benefits. If you've been fortunate enough to have or try the Vive, you'll be more than impressed with the improvements HTC have made to the new Pro addition.
Like the Vive, the pro comes equipped with 360 degree tracking, room scaling upto 3.5m x 3.5m and Playsafe technology. However, to justify the Pro title this model has been branded with, HTC have increased graphics, audio output and general VR usability.
The first change we noticed was the newly installed screen panels which boast 2880 x 1600 resolution. This basically translates to 37% better PPI (Pixel per inch) ratio creating a much clearer, crisper visual. It's not just better graphics that the pro benefits from either, the audio has been upgraded as well.
With the Pro you get 3D spatial audio which have been HMD certified for quality assurance. Whether you look up, down or continually turn around, the headphones will intelligently adjust the audio so create a true feeling of spatial awareness. This feature really helps achieve the feeling of total emmersion.
The Pro's design has also been altered to try and increase comfort. The Vive wasn't exactly uncomfortable, but HTC have optimized ergonomics by designing a new chassis which distributes weight much more evenly. A great little benefit for what HTC claim as their ultimate VR experience.
On the downside, all this doesn't come cheap. It's by far the most expensive kit in the list but with that comes the most realistic VR experience. We'd recommend this for people who are extreme VR enthusiast's and those not sticking within a budget. A great product, but an expensive one.
Sony Playstation VR Headset
- Great User interface
- Quality VR content by established producers
- Aesthetically very nice design
- Lacking visually over competition
- Let's light filter in
Sony's playstion VR headset has been specifically designed to work in partnership with your console. It takes the top spot the console VR solution and provides a decent overall experience.
Sony equipped a 5.7 inch OLED screen, for what they describe as 'hyper-real 3D' graphics, in their VR headset. Alongside this comes 360 degree visual tracking which helps the user become immersed in the virtual universe they find themselves within. Their VR solution can also boast up to 120 FPS across games and apps creating smooth, seamless playback.
It comes with built in audio and a microphone to support multiplayer games and platforms. The headphones work well and have spacial awareness with excellent accuracy. The mic works well but is nothing to write home about.
The lightweight design is super comfortable thanks to the ergonomic design Sony have worked on. The design is certainly unusual but has a certain, pleasing aesthetic element which we really enjoy here.
Nine LED's and a camera form the tracking technology which accurately tracks your position when in game. All this combined makes for a really enjoyable VR experience and if you're looking to make your PS4 VR ready, look no further.
Which VR Headset Is Best For You?
You might be asking yourself at this stage, which is the best VR headset for me? Well, that all depends on what you're looking to achieve from your VR headset.
Ultimately, experience is the main focus when purchasing VR, everyone wants to be fully immersed in a virtual world to the highest level of realism. Obviously with different VR types and budgets the level of realism will vary. It's choosing which best suits your needs and which falls within your budget.
If you're looking for the best all round PC experience then the HTC Vive is definitely the one to go for. If you aren't working with a budget and want the ultimate PC experience upgrade to the Pro.
Mobile devices are best suited to Samsung's Gear VR headset, just make sure your device is compatible before diving in.
Maybe you want the best of both worlds, wireless freedom and graphical output similar to that of a PC headset? The Oculus Quest is naturally the best option in that regard.
Finally, for the console gamers out there, Sony's playstion VR headset offers the best option for those wanting to turn their console into the ultimate VR killer.
There is a VR option out there for all needs and scenarios, it's down to you to purchase the one that best suits you!
So, there you have it, the best VR headsets available in today's market. VR is an industry that is on the verge of exploding due to new technological advancements allowing manufacturers the ability to create superb realistic alternative universes without needing a mass of equipment.
Devices have become more and more versatile and today we find ourselves in a time where there is a product for every type of consumer. Whether it's the ultimate VR experience you're after or a cheaper budget version to get a taste of what virtual reality has to offer, fear not, there is an option for everyone!
Which VR headset do you use? Leave us a comment letting us know!