Virtual reality is not exactly something that you want to dive in on the daily with. The VR games and shorts and full-length movies are fun as hell — no doubt about it — but also a bit visually exhausting. They’re a special event — but an accessible one, given that virtual reality sets are more advanced, more affordable, and easier to find than ever before. The boom in headsets, in fact, has created a glut in the market — and now choosing the right one goes far beyond choosing the only one available.
The below products are the best VR headsets based on graphics, ease of setting up, comfort, price, and accessibility. Whether you want to slightly dip into VR with your smartphone, or if you want the full immersion experience that packs PC power, there’s something for every virtual dreamer on the list.
As a starter kit, especially for younger kids, the Google Cardboard is likely your best VR headset option. It’s cheap, easy to use, and there’s a DIY element when crafting together the headset thanks to Google’s instructions. If you’re not too sure how deep you want to get into VR, the Cardboard will serve as an introduction.
Pros: Although it says Google on the box, you can use any smartphone with Cardboard. If you’re on an Android, you’ll find more options, however, with more than 30 compatible apps in Google’s Play Store. The process of setting up the headset is a fun experience, plus, it’s really affordable.
Cons: This is basically a cardboard holder with some simple lenses, so the graphics are limited to your phone’s resolution. If you’re looking for an immersive experience, this is not the right device for you. Plus, it’s still cardboard, so durability will definitely be an issue, especially if multiple members of the family are using the device.
The Oculus name has been synonymous with VR since 2012, yet the company has only released two headsets, and they’re both really good. The Go offers an experience that does not require a PC or a smartphone, but all that firepower in one device means the Go has a short, two-hour battery lifespan. Still, it’s a big step to bringing VR to a global audience.
Pros: No cords! The Go is also Bluetooth friendly and can pair with various controllers, including the Xbox One controller. And if you don’t want your kids tripping over the furniture when they’re traversing the Oasis, the Go is a completely sit down experience with no room tracking capability.
Cons: Sometime this year, the third VR headset by Oculus will be released: the Quest. It’s already promising to be completely wireless (again) and it will not require a PC (again). You may want to hold out until the Quest is released, but there’s no way it’s going to match the price of the Go. Also, Oculus is owned by Facebook, and that could be a turn off for some.
One of the most comfortable VR sets out today, the Daydream packs impressive displays but at a lower price. It’s lightweight and softer than most VR headsets that offer a clunky, albeit, higher resolution experience. Plus, it’s the only VR set that looks like it was made from a Herschel backpack, so points for style.
Pros: Typical from Google, the Daydream can work with a variety of Android-based smartphones, and it supports more apps than higher model VR sets, like Youtube.
Cons: The Google Daydream does not support iOS. If that doesn’t matter for you, there are hundreds of videos and apps to play with, but if you’re looking for a more immersive gaming experience, like Beat Saber, then you’re better off looking at a gaming VR set like what the Oculus can offer.
When it comes to a home console, there’s no better option than the PS VR. At a middle range price, this is the perfect alternative to more higher priced VR sets, especially considering Sony’s vast VR game library (and it’s still growing). If your family’s entertainment system is already built around the PS4, then get the Sony VR.
Pros: With an already impressive library of more than 150 games you can purchase via the PS Store, the VR headset graphics get an upgrade if you own a PS4 Pro, which is 4K capable. The headset provides a comfortable fit, comes with a PS Move controller, which is tracked by the PS4 camera.
Cons: Unfortunately the PS VR requires a PS4 camera. If you don’t get the PS VR bundle with the camera included, you’ll have to make another purchase. Despite that, you’ll also need a PS4 (obviously). Also, the lack of USB ports on the PS4 will make charging the set, controller, and your PS4 controller at once impossible.
This PC tethered headset is one of the best out there. With a lower price (compared to its initial release), and the inclusion of Oculus Touch controllers, the Rift is a serious contender. Thanks to a powerful OLED panel, it offers a visually stunning experience.
Pros: The Rift is one of the few VR sets you can wear with glasses (others include the HTC Vive, Samsung Gear, and PS VR), and if you’re emotionally attached to traditional controllers, you can use an Xbox One controller with the system.
Cons: This can happen with any immersive VR headset, but the Rift has been known to cause nausea more than most other headsets. Plus, you may want to get longer cords to allow for more mobility during gameplay and that’ll require an additional purchase.
If VR had a Cadillac, it’s the HTC Vive. It’s universally lauded as the best VR headset experience you could get. It doesn’t hurt that the headset was launched as a joint project between HTC and video game developer and creator of Steam, Valve. Offering a big, bright screen, and a decent variety of games, the Vive also comes with responsive controllers.
Of course, owning the Vive is only part of the fun. You’ll need a serious PC hardware, like a graphics card, and a strong processor to get the full impact of VR. That being said, it’s not necessary to have those tools to get the full immersion. Whether you’re running off of state of the art PC or something more mid-range, you’re going to love the experience.
Pros: Full immersion. Just Youtube “HTC Vive gameplay” and you can see how life-like everything feels behind the Vive. Vive also works with Mac or PC, so you’re not tethered to one specific form of computer.
Cons: Being a premium VR set doesn’t come cheap. At $500, you can buy pick up a used or a refurbished PS4 and Xbox One. But it’s still cheaper than the Vive Pro, which is an $800 high-resolution upgrade of the Vive.