The 6 Best Virtual Reality Headsets of 2019

Experience a whole new world with these top headsets

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Oculus Go

4

Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2014, and in 2018 they released their first ground-up VR headset. It comes with a notable innovation: the Oculus Go is entirely standalone, meaning it doesn’t require an expensive gaming laptop or console to operate. Just don the sleek, gray headset, adjust the straps and jump into an immersive VR experience on a premium-feeling device. With this headset, Oculus is ushering in a new era of VR for everyone, not just those on the vanguard of tech development. And while the VR hardware is not quite as powerful as the Oculus Rift, it does deliver a fairly high-end experience. The headset also comes with an Oculus Go controller, which is sort of like a point-and-click remote that, while not as immersive as the Oculus Touch, is intuitive and works for games or experiences like watching a concert. At launch, the Go is compatible with more than 1,000 apps, streaming services, games, and 360-degree experiences, a number that is guaranteed to grow as time goes on.

Best Mid-Range: Oculus Rift + Touch

Oculus Rift
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The most powerful granddaddy of them all that reawakens the rise of VR is the Oculus Rift. Out of every headset on the list, this one is the most powerful to date in screen resolution and capability.

The Oculus Rift features an OLED display with a 2160 x 1200 screen resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. The unit provides a 110-degree field of view, with a 5 x 11 feet tracking area. Inside the headset is an integrated audio system suitable for VR, giving users the experience of sound that provides both space and depth, ultimately fooling all the senses.

The headset comes with two Oculus Touch controllers that let you interact with the virtual world. Of course, the device does come with its own independent remote for navigation through menus and volume controls as well. The headset is said to be comfortable, and fully customizable so as to contort and adapt to the user’s head.

Note that you do need a Windows PC with a NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti/AMD Radeon RX 470 graphics card and 8 GB+ RAM in order to use the system.

Best Splurge: HTC Vive Pro

The HTC Vive Pro is great for VR enthusiasts with some extra money to spend. It’s an expensive piece of hardware, but it's been given a graphical upgrade that offers some of the best visuals on the market.

With a dazzling 2880 x 1600 resolution (versus the 2160 x 1200 resolution on the original Vive), the Pro’s OLED screen is its best asset. It has a 110-degree view which is standard for most headsets on the market and comes with a number of design improvements that make it comfortable to wear, even over an extended period of time. These include a simple strap and built-in headphones that sit directly on top of your ears.

The bottom line is that the HTC Vive Pro has stunning visuals, reducing the number of grainy edges sometimes seen on HTC's older headsets. It truly is the latest and greatest in consumer VR tech. But the price is, of course, the main factor here — if you don’t already have HTC sensors or controllers, you can buy the headset in a bundle with those accessories.

Best All-in-One: Oculus Quest

Most other virtual reality sets are dependent on other devices. Whether you’re going for Google’s headset to work with your phone or you’re using a peripheral for your PS4, these devices are often meant as accompaniments, not as standalone products. The Quest is Oculus’s latest foray into truly standalone VR headsets, meant to work no matter where you set up to play. It thrives in any environment because of the built-in room scale-tracking sensors. Coupled with the proprietary Guardian boundary system, you can play games that map you to your specific room, but also set up virtual room limits intelligently.

The two controllers that come with the system offer solid motion controls that, when paired with the motion tracking headset, give you a wide range of movements from arm gestures to ducking. The built-in audio engine also provides a degree of surround coverage, meaning you’ll be fully immersed in your game. And because the whole thing works on the Oculus engine, it is perfectly poised for developers to add to the library for future features and iterations. Thanks to that engine and developer support, you’ll have a ton of options for compatible games and apps long into the future.

Best for Samsung Phone Users: Samsung Gear VR W/Controller

If you own a Samsung phone released in the past two years, the Samsung Gear is one of the best VR sets that you can buy. In fact, even if you own an incompatible phone, this accessory might inspire you to convert. 

Compared to other smartphone headsets, this might seem big, but its size is also an advantage. Inside, its optics can be adjusted using the top-mounted dial, giving you a more comfortable picture. And it’s pretty breathable considering you’re strapped in tightly. This updated Gear comes with a motion controller, which is a small remote that pairs easily with your smartphone and adds new levels of interactivity. It has a circular touchpad on the front and a single trigger on the back. The headset also has a USB-C port on the bottom for charging purposes. Perhaps most important for any VR system is its content library, and the Samsung Gear has solid but growing shelves, so you’ll never get bored of diving into new realities.

Best for PS4 Users: PlayStation VR

Now that VR has become such a ubiquitous thing — something that seemed ultra futuristic not even 5 years ago — we’ve seen a barrage of headsets coming to the market. While most of them contain some padding and foam for comfort on the face and around the eyes, it’s somewhat surprising how many of them are still heavy, clunky blocks you strap to your face with just one horizontal support strap. For our money, the PlayStation VR is one of the few physical designs that attempts to mitigate that with a bigger, more substantial strap that balances at an angle on your head. This takes some of the pressure off your forehead, theoretically allowing you to use it for longer.

The PlayStation VR's 5.7-inch OLED display sports 1080p resolution and a super-fast 120 fps refresh rate, which isn’t that much of a surprise considering it was designed by a leading gaming manufacturer. Roll that in with an impressive 3D audio system and this is one immersive unit. One thing to keep in mind is that this does require a PS4 for operation, as opposed to just strapping your smartphone in like the cheaper VR headsets, but with the gameplay quality, you’ll be glad you invested in the system. The PS4’s camera receiver will read the LEDs around the headset and the wireless controller to track your movement in the room. PlayStation also regularly releases VR-first games for you to make the most out of the unit. It’s expensive, but if gaming is your thing, it just might be worth it.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent more than 30 hours testing two top-rated virtual reality headsets. To get the most comprehensive results, they tried out a variety of games and experiences. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these headsets, from the screen quality to the ease of use. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in Virtual Reality Headsets

Platform - Just as some video games are only available on specific platforms, different virtual reality experiences can only be sought on specific headsets. Fully immersive platforms will provide you with the best experiences for a price, while others will merely use your phone and rely on your device’s app store for content.

Screen - With your eyes placed only an inch-or-so from a device’s screen, it is essential to be aware of each headset’s display resolution — the higher the resolution, the clearer and more immersive your experience. Some headsets rely on your smartphone’s screen, so you’ll want to make sure you have a smartphone that is sufficient.

Controllers - Some platforms offer fully trackable controllers that follow your hands in virtual reality, while others provide a simple controller. Keep an eye out for the different controllers included with each headset to get a better idea of what experience you can expect.

Test Results: Oculus Go (Best Overall)

4

What We Like

  • Really immersive

  • Easy setup

  • Super portable

What We Don't Like

  • Headset heats up

Oculus Go
Oculus Go virtual reality headset
Oculus Go headset
Oculus Go virtual reality

“I didn't know I needed this product, but I do,” one of our testers gushed about the Oculus Go. According to our reviewers, the simple setup, selection of games and experiences, and high level of immersion made this headset a great option for someone looking to get into VR. Plus, like its name suggests, our testers said the standalone device was perfect for travel. Comfort was the one drawback noted, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker. “The headset heats up in the front where it has the screen and it can start to feel a little stuffy on your face after wearing this for more than an hour,” a reviewer explained.