Which VR Headset is right for you?
The Ultimate Guide to VR in 2019
The virtual reality industry has grown tremendously over the last 5 years, we're seeing new products and innovations all the time, the Oculus Quest, the HTC Vive Pro. This is all great news for any tech enthusiast out there, but it can make it a bit confusing to get into virtual-reality. In this guide we'll compare all the best VR headsets out there, to help you get a better understanding of what's out there, and make a decision.
Requirements of a VR Headset
Different VR Headsets serve different purposes and come at different price ranges, the biggest and most important difference between VR Headsets is what the headset requires to be used.
Most VR headsets are built for gaming, this means they usually require a powerful gaming PC to be used with it, usually including a dedicated graphics card and fairly high-end specs, and is an important consideration for someone getting into VR. (More information on how to know whether your PC is VR-Ready here.) On the other hand, for people who aren't into PC Gaming but instead prefer console gaming and already own a console, you have the PSVR which is specifically made to be used with consoles.
There also exists a new kind of VR Headset that doesn't require any additional hardware, this comes in the form of the Oculus Go(a budget-friendly VR device built for streaming content on the move) as well as the brand-new Oculus-Quest(a completely wireless VR Gaming Headset).
Important specs of a VR Headset
Another important consideration is the actual specifications of the headset, as someone new to VR this might tend to go over your head, here are some of the most important terms you should be aware of going in.
Screen Door Effect: The screen door effect is a visual effect where individuals using a VR Headset are able to directly notice and view the grid of pixels that make up the screen, the affect of this is usually exaggerated but it can lead to a slightly poorer VR experience when it is really bad. For more information on that you can check out this article.
Refresh Rate: Just like the refresh rate of a monitor, the refresh rate of a VR Headset is the amount of times a second that the display is updated with new frames, the higher this is, the better as a low refresh rate would result in games or content appearing to stutter when viewed, for more information on that, you can check this article.
Platform: This is most important for the selection of content you will have access to, as well as the ecosystem you will be locked into(games purchased on one platform cannot be transferred to another). There are two major VR platforms in terms of content, Oculus's store which allows downloading/purchasing content for the Oculus Go, Oculus Rift and the Oculus Quest, this has one of the largest libraries of content and Oculus is constantly working hard to add new types of apps and experiences.
We also have SteamVR which is compatible with any Windows Mixed Reality VR Headset(Samsung Odyssey, HP WMR) as well as the HTC Vive, Vive Pro and the new Valve Index. If you want a platform that will work with almost any VR Headset out there, without being stuck in the Oculus ecosystem, this is for you.
Resolution: This is fairly simple and affects the actual clarity of content displayed on the VR Headset, just like with a computer monitor or a TV, the higher the resolution the better the viewing experience, most VR Headsets on this list have screens around 2560 x 1440 although this does vary.
(Before we get started with the in-depth VR headset comparison, if you are short on time and want a quick personalised recommendation, you can try this quiz.)
The Oculus Go is a new type of VR Headset, completely wireless and not built with gaming in mind, it completely differs from traditional VR Headsets like the HTC Vive. Its key selling point is it's price and portability.
It retails for less than half the price of a traditional VR Gaming Headset and is fairly fully featured for someone interested in just "getting into" VR. Rather than a gaming headset, the Oculus Go offers a more casual experience.
At its core it still has some of the gaming experience VR offers(although at a much smaller scale with less games and only 1 controller) it also provides the ability to sit back and watch traditional 2D content, for example Netflix or YouTube via the built-in app, on a virtual TV, or even custom 360 content such as through the National Geographic app.
However while the 360 content is fairly interesting and the Go includes some interesting narrative games(check out the game "Virtual Virtual Reality" on the Oculus Store!), what really sets apart the Go is the experience of being able to sit back on a long flight and watch a normal TV Show in a simulated living room, as if you were back home. Or the ability to live stream a sports event, like the Olympics in virtual reality and even chat with friends in VR while watching it.
View Oculus Go on Amazon
The Samsung Odyssey+ belong to a newer generation of VR Headsets and is part of the "Windows Mixed Reality" ecosystem created by Microsoft. It is designed to work with Windows devices in particular and is also compatible with SteamVR, one of the biggest VR Gaming platforms, built by Valve.
The primary benefit to being SteamVR compatible is that it will work with all your pre-purchased VR games, whether you bought a game for the Vive or another SteamVR compatible headset, you can play it on your Samsung Odyssey+.
The new edition of the Samsung Odyssey also comes with the highest resolution screen on this list albeit a fairly high price in comparison to some of the more budget-friendly items on this list.
View Samsung Odyssey+ on Amazon
The Oculus Quest(released less than a month ago) is Oculus's newest VR headset and it certainly set's itself apart. Its key selling feature is that it requires no cables and no gaming PC.
One of the primary entry barriers for VR gaming has always been the need to buy an expensive gaming PC or console for use with something like an Oculus Rift S or a PSVR, which also required a user to be tethered to the gaming PC. This restricted the freedom to move around while gaming and also way increased the overall cost to enjoy VR.
The Oculus Quest is great for entering VR Gaming with a very low budget because it doesn't require any external hardware and costs less than 400$, this means the total cost to enter VR using the Oculus Quest is 400$, with absolutely nothing else needed. It also comes with some great features for it's price-point, like a great max-resolution at 2560 x 1440 as well as complete inside-out tracking meaning the entire unit is self-contained and requires no external sensors.
The Quest does have it's downsides as it's the first-generation of it's kind, it only features a 72hz refresh rate which is less than some of the other VR Headsets on the list, like the Oculus Rift S. It also only has an OLED screen which could lead to a slightly poorer experience than some more expensive VR Headsets which require gaming PC's, such as the HTC Vive Pro, it also isn't using a PC's graphics card so performance will be weaker than if you were tethered to a PC and using its processor.
Overall, while the Quest has it's draw-backs due to not being able to depend on a PC, the very fact that it is untethered and requires no external hardware, means that it has opened up VR for a completely new market of casual gamers who aren't able to purchase or don't want to purchase expensive hardware to use their VR Headsets with.View Oculus Quest on Amazon
HTC Vive Pro/HTC Vive
The new HTC Vive Pro is essentially an updated version of the older HTC Vive, featuring some of the best specs out there, 2880 x 1600 max resolution with AMOLED as opposed to the OLED on the Vive, as well as a far higher pixels per inch(less screen-door-effect and a crisper experience.).
If you want the ultimate experience, no matter the cost, this is the VR Headset for you. Like the Samsung Odyssey, the HTC Vive series headsets are compatible and built for SteamVR which is great if you already are in the Steam ecosystem and have games on there.
It's price however is likely far too high for the average person looking to enter VR Gaming, upwards of 800$ for the base headset not inclusive of motion controllers/base stations which come in at about 300-500$. This doesn't really justify the performance and spec upgrade the Vive Pro offers, I would highly recommend going with the normal Vive over the Vive Pro for someone looking for a decent SteamVR experience at a decent price.
View HTC Vive Pro on Amazon
View HTC Vive on Amazon
Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift S is another newer addition to the VR Market, released alongside the Oculus Quest during March 2019 as an update to the classic Oculus Rift. It features decent specs and is an all-around good headset for VR Gaming albeit requiring a tethered connection to a PC and a VR Ready PC It features a better screen than the original Rift, at 2560x1440 and a higher PPI(less screen-door-effect and a crisper experience.), but with a lower refresh rate of only 80hz from the original's 90hz.
Where it really differs from the original Oculus Rift is that it features inside-out tracking as opposed to external tracking, this means that you don't have to attach any physical sensors around the room to use it. The new Rift S also doesn't have the integrated headphones the original Rift featured, instead going for an integrated speaker inside the headband.
The Rift S also includes a 3.5mm standard headphone jack so users can plug in their own audio peripherals. It comes at a decent price for a VR Headset, lower than the higher-end Vive Pro but still more expensive than a cheaper Windows Mixed Reality device like the HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset. It's a decent buy for someone who has a powerful gaming PC and wants a decent VR Experience, but doesn't mind having cables and plugged into a PC, it is also great for someone who doesn't want to deal with the trouble of setting up sensors and is fairly "plug-and-play".
View Oculus Rift S on Amazon
The PSVR is a completely different VR Headset from the other items on the list and is the perfect(and only) VR Headset for the console gamers out there, it comes in fairly cheap at less than 350 USD and has a large variety of games available from Sony.
The PSVR also comes in with a much higher max refresh-rate than most other VR Headsets out there, maxing out at 120hz as opposed to the traditional 90hz, this means that it'll render a lot smoother and 'faster' in action-packed games.
On the flip side, it is important to note that the PSVR requires a cable connection to a PS4 console, so if you don't have a console you cannot use this VR Headset. Another shortcoming of the PSVR is it's relatively low pixels per inch, this means that the headset is prone to the screen-door-effect which can reduce immersion, it also only features a 1920x1080p screen which is lower than most of the other items on this list.
The PSVR is overall a great VR Headset for someone who wants a decent VR Headset specifically for their console, at a fairly low price although with a slightly worse screen.
View PSVR on Amazon
Still undecided? Try this quiz and get a personalised recommendation.