Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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HOW WE TESTED

After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested most of our top five — including the HTC Vive Pro 2, HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, HP Reverb G2, and Oculus Quest 2 — to be sure that these products are worth your time. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

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Buying guide for Best VR headsets

Virtual reality is now a practical reality: it’s easier than ever to put on a VR headset and immerse yourself in a completely different environment that transforms your entire field of vision. When you put on a VR headset, you get a 360° view, so you can explore interactive landscapes without ever leaving the comfort of your living room.

There really is nothing quite like virtual reality. With the right VR headset and setup, you can do anything — from playing next-generation video games to exploring virtual replicas of famous locations from all over the world. Whether you want to explore virtual dungeons, or just understand what your favorite monument looks like in person, all you need is a good VR headset.

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The terms augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are often confused. Augmented reality is any hardware or software that overlays text or graphics on real-world images or video. Virtual reality is any hardware or software that places the user in a completely artificial environment.

Tether permitting

Virtual reality headsets don’t work on their own: they all rely on external devices to do the heavy lifting of presenting entire environments to the goggles the user wears. In some cases, that outside device is a smartphone; other VR headsets are powered by a computer or a game console.

The first decision to make when purchasing a virtual reality headset is which type will work best for you.

  • Smartphone-enabled VR (like Google Cardboard) are essentially goggles that hold your smartphone, and use its screen as lenses. With the help of specially enabled apps and games, you can explore virtual environments to your heart’s content. Some of these VR headsets only function with specific smartphone models. When browsing wireless VR headsets, remember that the cost of the smartphone is not included. This option is much cheaper, but it does require a smartphone to operate.

  • VR headsets can be both wired or wireless. Dedicated to computer and console gaming, they have their own screens inside the goggles and are powered by a computer or game console. These headsets provide more powerful VR and a better experience, but they are significantly more expensive than smartphone units (even before the cost of the computer or console).

Virtual reality headset prices

Pricing for virtual reality headsets can be tricky because there are so many hidden costs.

Smartphone-enabled VR headsets

These goggle headsets are the most affordable, and you shouldn't spend more than $100 per pair, but that price doesn’t include the cost of the smartphone needed to power the experience.

VR headsets

If you’re looking for a proper VR headset, budget $700-$800 before accessories.

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Expert Tip
Avoid used or refurbished VR equipment. Virtual Reality setups all have moving parts, and there’s no way to know which parts are worn out, or what (if any) repairs have been performed.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

The places you’ll virtually go

A virtual reality headset will let you tap into a near-limitless world of simulations and adventures. These are the most common types of experiences on a VR headset:

  • First-person action games put you right in the middle of the excitement — whether that’s behind the wheel in a virtual racing game, or with an elite squad of commandos. If you think traditional console games are intense, VR games up the stakes, and deliver heart-pounding adventures in real time.

  • Crafting apps, including the ultra-popular Minecraft, have been so successful on VR platforms they’ve become their own category. Whether you’re into casually building your own virtual empire or designing objects that can be 3D-printed in the real world, there’s a VR app for that.

  • Virtual tours allow you to browse locations from all over the world, throughout history. Users can take a stroll through Ancient Rome, downtown New York City, or even their favorite museum.

  • Multi-device co-op games take on a new twist with a VR headset. In these games, the player with the headset must use what they see and work with other players who are using their own devices. Classics like “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” are great for parties or gatherings — just so long as everyone gets a turn!

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Expert TIp
Do a few quick tests to make sure you can hear the real world around you. Being immersed in VR is great, but it’s still important to be able to hear things like sirens, alarms, or loved ones who need your attention. Make sure that you’re still able to hear important sounds around you while you play so you don’t miss anything urgent.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Virtual comfort

While most people focus on the virtual reality features of VR headsets, at the end of the day, they’re still headsets, which means you’ll need to find one that fits your head comfortably.

One of the key factors in VR headset comfort is the headset strap material.

  • Fabric straps are generally more elastic, and typically more comfortable overall. However, fabric straps will absorb sweat over time and can be a challenge to clean.

  • Plastic, rubberized straps are more durable and simple to clean. Many VR headsets with plastic straps have extra comfort features, like padding near the forehead area.

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Expert Tip
If you’re just getting started, get a friend to show you around. Virtual reality is literally boundless, so it helps to have a guide your first few times! Get them to show you their favorite locations and activities!
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Tips

Before buying a VR headset, consider these tips:

  • If you’re showing virtual reality to a friend or loved one, give them plenty of physical space if it’s their first time. Most first-time users move around quite a bit as they get used to VR, so keep anything fragile out of their path.

  • Most VR headsets include one or more hand-held controllers for navigating virtual environments. Before starting a VR session, learn what each button on the controller does.

  • Virtual reality sickness can be very real: some people get symptoms of motion sickness while using VR headsets, even when there is no motion. If you experience any of these symptoms while using a VR headset, discontinue use immediately and consult a physician.

  • Some wireless VR headset phone units are meant to work only with specific smartphone models. Before buying a wireless VR headset, confirm that your phone is supported.

  • If your headset has any padding or soft surfaces, periodically clean or deodorize the soft parts to keep them smelling fresh.

  • Most VR headsets don’t come with protective cases. Pick up a case for all of your VR gear to keep your investment safe, and ensure enjoyment for years to come.

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While most modern VR headsets can be used either sitting or standing, the first consumer headsets could only be used when sitting.

FAQ

Q. Can I wear a VR headset if I already wear glasses?

A. Yes, although your mileage may vary, depending on the VR headset you buy. Many, but not all, virtual reality headsets allow you to adjust the viewing depth to accommodate eyeglasses. Do a few quick searches before you buy — typically, other users will post complaints or warnings if a particular pair does not work well with normal glasses.

Q. Will a smartphone-enabled VR headset work with my iPhone?

A. Most, but not all, smartphone-enabled VR phone headsets work with Apple iPhones. Apple doesn’t make their own VR headset, but many apps for third-party, VR headsets are available in their App Store.

Q. Where can I buy virtual reality apps?

A. Smartphone-enabled VR headsets rely on smartphone apps that can be purchased in the Google Play Store (for Android devices) or the App Store (for iOS devices). Computer and console VR headsets typically run proprietary apps and games built specifically for unique hardware. For example, the Sony Playstation VR only works with games from the Playstation Store, the Oculus Rift utilizes “experiences” from their online store, and so on.

Q. Are virtual reality games multiplayer?

A. While most VR games are single player, a growing number of games include multiplayer options. Be sure to read the fine print — some multiplayer games are designed for one player to be at a computer while the other wears the VR headset, while others support multi-headset functionality.

Q. How long can I play a VR game?

A. Every user has their own threshold for how long they can keep gaming without a break. With virtual reality headsets, breaks are especially important. Regular pauses can prevent you from getting headaches or feeling dizzy, cramped, or even dehydrated. While some people claim to prefer marathon, all-day, uninterrupted VR sessions, your best bet is to prioritize your health: take breaks when you need to, drink water frequently, and get up and stretch regularly.

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