No, You Don’t Need to Buy That Expensive VR Headset

But you can if you really want to

Key Takeaways

  • Despite the more expensive offerings out there, experts say users shouldn’t always go for the most expensive virtual reality headset on the market.
  • Finding a VR headset that works for you comes down to figuring out what kind of experiences you want to have in VR.
  • Users who want the highest quality experience may want to go with more expensive options, but only if they have a computer that can support it.
Man wearing a VR headset and looking at a car in VR

XR Expo / Unsplash

With so many VR headsets out there, it’s easy to think spending more money gets you a better experience, but that isn’t necessarily true.

Despite having their choice of more than a few VR headsets, many still feel the pressure to purchase the most expensive option, thinking it will deliver the best VR experience. While the pricier head-mounted displays add a few extra bells and whistles, ultimately, VR can be enjoyed without spending thousands of dollars on the fanciest headsets.

"You can absolutely enjoy VR experiences with a less-expensive headset," Amy Peck, an AR/VR strategist and CEO of EndeavorVR, told Lifewire in an email. "The more-expensive headsets are very powerful with amazing graphics, but they require a VR enabled PC—which adds upwards of $1,500 to the price tag."

Weighing the Options

While the overall cost of a VR headset may not seem that high in some cases—some higher-end headsets only run $600 or $700—you also have to factor in the cost of the hardware needed to run it. Additionally, there’s the concern that comes with figuring out where to mount things like motion sensors and other hardware needed to power the VR experience.

This has long been an issue in the consumer VR market, which is why we’ve seen such a push for more self-contained hardware. Headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 are a standalone VR option, forgoing the need to run everything off a powerful computer. Sony’s PlayStation VR isn’t completely self-contained, but it doesn’t require a powerful computer, instead using the PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 to run VR games and apps.

This isn’t to say other VR headsets don’t have better quality, because in some ways they do. But getting the most out of VR hardware depends on the overall design, weight, and what you as a user want out of the headset.

"If you are a hardcore gamer and already have a spec’d out gaming PC, then one of these headsets might make sense for you, but otherwise, in my mind, the Quest 2 has pretty much cornered the standalone VR market for three reasons," Peck explained.

These three reasons, according to Peck, are the Quest 2’s easy-to-justify price—$299 for the cheapest option; the Oculus Store, which has over 200 VR games and other experiences for people to indulge in; and the fact that the headset is easy to use for many people, since all you need to do is put it on, log in, and start a VR app.

Finding Your Perfect Headset

When it comes to finding a headset that works for you, it’s all about determining what you want to do in virtual reality. Gamers who want the smoothest refresh rate and already have an expensive computer may want to go for a more expensive option like the Valve Index, which currently retails for around $1,000.

The PSVR isn’t a bad option, either, if you aren’t expecting the highest quality VR content. You’ll find mostly VR games on this device, but it’s still an okay way to check out the kind of immersive experiences VR has to offer.

If you’re just looking to take a quick step into VR and try it out, then cheaper headsets like the Quest 2 or even the mid-range head-mounted displays like the HP Reverb 2 can deliver that splendidly.

"I would recommend buying a refurb PSVR if you already have a PS4 or PS5 and you like MMO type games. If you are a casual gamer or just interested in VR, especially Social VR, which is a great way to hang out with friends from anywhere in the world, then go with the Quest 2," Peck said.

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