Best VR headsets to buy in 2021
(Pocket-lint) - The idea of virtual reality or VR isn't new, of course. It's been circulating in the tech space for a number of years, but, over the last decade, the technology has broken through some of the long-standing barriers. VR headsets are now more accessible, both in terms of price and usability.
It might have started with devices like Google's Cardboard opening the door for anyone with a smartphone, but even the high-end headsets are now easier to use - and more appealing, too. Modern gaming machines are also more capable, helping deliver lifelike virtual environments in the comfort of your home. This makes it a much more exciting time for VR.
As ever, we've been testing some of the very best options on the market, experimenting with games and apps to see how they perform. We test a variety of different metrics, not least their graphical prowess, how comfortable they are to wear for extended periods, and what level of compatibility they offer. So, let's detail the best selections.
Our top pick is the HTC Vive Pro 2.
Our Top PickPocket-lint
HTC Vive Pro 2
- Amazing display
- Nice and comfortable
- Plays nice with most games
- You'll need a fancy PC
The HTC Vive Pro 2 is the upgraded version of the HTC Vive Pro, and the very best that HTC has to offer. It has the current best-in-class display, which offers an incredibly high pixel count, great field of view and a 120Hz refresh rate, too. Like the previous Vive Pro, it needs a high-end gaming machine to run properly but delivers a superb experience that stands out from the crowd.
If you already own a Vive or Vive Pro, this makes for a nice upgrade, while the full package (including base stations) is a must for those new to the Vive experience.
VR headsets we also recommend
Here are four other superb headsets that we've tried and can recommend.Pocket-lint
Oculus Quest 2
- Amazing value
- Facebook login mandatory
The Oculus Quest 2 is another contender for the title of best VR headset, and that's not just because it's one of the most affordable virtual reality headsets around. It's a wire-free headset that doesn't need a PC to run, while still packing enough hardware inside to play some of the best VR games around. Wireless VR is glorious and gives you plenty of freedom.
Other highlights, like hand-tracking, inside-out tracking (meaning no external sensors), passthrough cameras and a clever guardian system, make Quest 2 incredibly fun to play with. Great visuals, superb audio and the ability to plug in and play more with Oculus Link make Quest 2 even more special, as well.Pocket-lint
HP Reverb G2
- Great resolution levels
- Works nicely with Steam
- Solid pricing
- Not the best controllers
It might not be as flashy as others on this list, but the Reverb G2 is currently one of the better VR headsets you can play. Largely, this is thanks to having some of the best lenses around, combined with one of the highest pixel counts, too.
It features 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye, offering some seriously satisfying visuals. It was also built in collaboration with Valve and Microsoft, meaning it works with both Windows Mixed Reality and Steam VR, giving you the best of both worlds. Inside-tracking cameras, a comfortable design and fantastic gaming experiences round off a great package.Pocket-lint
Oculus Rift S
- Great resolution
- Nice and comfortable
- Good for glasses-wearers
- Not the newest
Despite being outshined somewhat by the Quest 2, this is a very strong headset in its own right.
It's designed with "inside-out" tracking - meaning all the sensors are built right into the device - and, as such, it's one of the easiest PC tethered headsets to use.
The best part is the Rift S is compatible with Rift games, and you can buy new experiences from Steam or the Oculus store.Pocket-lint
Sony PlayStation VR
- Works so easily with PlayStation consoles
- Some great games to try
- Not the biggest library to call on
Rather than presenting a complete VR system, Sony's PS VR is an accessory for the PS5, PS4, PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro consoles, meaning it is less costly to own than the high-end options on this list. PlayStation VR uses the same technologies as the others, although its screen resolution is lower than those used by HTC and Oculus.
It tracks the movement of your head and uses the PlayStation Camera, in combination with your regular PS4 controller or PlayStation Move motion controls, to present the VR experience. This is an extension of the console, which makes it a very natural fit for many. There is a hearty line-up of content available, too, with Resident Evil 7, Driveclub VR, Skyrim VR, Doom VFR, Gran Turismo Sport and others all supporting PS VR.
It's not the most complete, but it's certainly not bad.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Many of the devices we consider don't make our final best guides.
These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top five:
How to choose a VR headset
There are plenty of questions that you'll want to ask yourself before you take the plunge on what could most likely be a quite pricey purchase to enter the world of VR. Here are some of the things you should be asking:
How much should you spend on a VR headset?
This is a question that can apply to basically any purchase in the world of technology, but that doesn't make it any less apt when we're talking about VR headsets - you need to set your budget! Work out how much you'd be happy to spend, and that will go a long way toward deciding what headset is best for you.
This is more true for VR than other areas, too, since the hardware we're dealing with can get seriously pricey. And keep in mind that it doesn't always have to be the most expensive option, since there are now plenty of VR headsets that are available for a relatively cheap price.
Do you want to go wireless?
A huge question about VR headsets comes down to whether they require a tether or not - in most cases, they do need to be plugged into a PC or console to work. Some, like the Oculus Quest 2, have the ability to work standalone, with reduced graphical prowess, but can still be plugged in for tethered fun when you need a boost, which is arguably the best of both worlds.
Others, like most HTC Vive headsets, can be converted to work wirelessly using accessories that will add a bit of cost and could take a little while to set up, but once you do so you'll have amazing graphics without worrying about wires. If you've ever tried VR before, this will be an area to decide on before buying.
Is resolution the key for you?
Another key variable between different VR headsets, and, in fact, one of the main ways to tell the difference between them, comes down to what level of resolution they can offer you. This is about the number of pixels in their displays, as close to your eyes as they are, and the higher the number the crisper the visuals will be able to look.
However, it's not the be-all-and-end-all, so it might be that you care more about what games you'll be able to play than exactly how sharp they'll look while you do so.
What are you going to use VR for?
That leads to our final point - what do you want a VR headset for? There are plenty of amazing videos out there to explore in VR, as well as brilliant productivity tools and coworking spaces to help you combat isolation. Of course, there's also a whole world of gaming, too.
So, it's worth figuring out what your priority is in order to pick the headset that best fits your aims. This is the surest-fire way to ensure you don't accidentally pick one that isn't so ideal.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life. That means using each VR headset extensively to ensure that we've put it through its paces, not just for gaming but also for general tasks and useability.
We're always sure to consider comfort, too, given that many headsets on the market aren't nice to wear for long stretches. VR has been an area of expertise for Pocket-lint for years, since the time when it was a niche idea that was lightyears away to being the consumer-friendly product it is today. We've tracked its growth into a mainstream option, and have been reviewing and testing headsets that entire time, building up a bank of comparisons and judgements to call on.
In the above summaries, we've kept things brief, avoiding jargon and numbers, but if you click through to a headset's individual review you'll find more granular breakdowns. As ever, there is also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides. Writing by Chris Hall and Adrian Willings.
Editing by Conor Allison.
Originally published on 27 February 2015.
- ^ virtual reality (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ Google's Cardboard (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ Modern gaming machines (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ HTC Vive Pro 2 (little.getsquirrel.co)
- ^ HP Reverb G2 (little.getsquirrel.co)
- ^ Oculus Quest 2 (little.getsquirrel.co)
- ^ Oculus Rift S (little.getsquirrel.co)
- ^ Sony PlayStation VR. (little.getsquirrel.co)
- ^ HTC Vive Pro 2 (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ Oculus Quest 2 (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ the best VR games around (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ Oculus Link (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ gaming PC (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ plenty to play (www.pocket-lint.com)