Best VR (Virtual Reality) Headset Systems of 2018 Compared & Reviewed

January 17, 2018
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With the recent rise in VR popularity that came with the release of the Occulus Rift and the Google Daydream headsets, virtual reality gaming is here to stay. Traditional gamers interested in learning more about this exciting way to game can find it overwhelming to choose the right headset, platform, and the best virtual reality games for adults. Considering the high price tag that comes with the leading headsets, finding the best VR headset can seem impossible.

Our site is designed to not only help you choose the best virtual reality headset, we also walk you through the important specs and features to consider before you buy, whether it’s portability, image quality, or game compatibility.

Out of the dozens of headsets we reviewed we chose the top six models currently on the market. These headsets were chosen for their comfort, versatility, immersive experience, audio quality, and of course, image quality. We also paid close attention to the compatible extra accessories you can purchase that are perfect for the serious VR gamer.

Virtual reality has come a long way over the past few years. With exciting advancements made not only to the quality of the headsets but to the games themselves, the gamer can now travel to wherever they want to go.

If you’d like to learn more about the best VR games for adults, you can take a look at our helpful guide that features our top picks for 2018.

Comparison Chart

ProductPowerRefresh RateResolutionRatingCost
Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset
Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset
Check Price
Tethered90 Hz2160x1200*****$$$$
PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset
PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset
Check Price
90 Hz1920 x 1080****$$$
Samsung Gear VR w/Controller Headset
Samsung Gear VR w/Controller Headset
Check Price
mobile60 Hz2560 x 1440****1/2$$
ZEISS VR One Plus Virtual Reality Headset
ZEISS VR One Plus Virtual Reality Headset
Check Price
mobilesmartphone refresh ratesmartphone resolution****$
Pansonite Vr Headset with Remote Controller
Pansonite Vr Headset with Remote Controller
Check Price
mobilesmartphone refresh ratesmartphone resolution***1/2$
Google Daydream VR headset
Google Daydream VR headset
Check Price
smartphone refresh ratesmartphone resolution****1/2$

Quick Summary

Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset:

Clearly a favorite headset in the gaming community, this model’s incredible audio, impressive visuals, and comfortable design is what makes it a leader in the industry and leaves us eager to see what comes next from Oculus.

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PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset:

Beginner friendly and easy on your budget, this headset is the perfect option for anyone interested in learning more about virtual reality gaming using a tethered headset. Additionally, this model is very comfortable, breathable, and versatile, so it’s a great choice for beginners and seasoned gamers.

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Samsung Gear VR w/Controller Headset:

One of the leading models of mobile virtual reality headsets, take a closer look at the new and improved Gear VR, learn more about the added controller and the much-needed upgrades it has to offer the gamer on the go.

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ZEISS VR One Plus Virtual Reality Headset:

The One Plus by Zeiss takes a new approach to mobile VR headset design, using genuine glass lenses and a heavily padded design that promotes user comfort. While it can’t quite compete with the big boys in terms of power, this iPhone compatible headset is a great choice for beginners.

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Pansonite Vr Headset with Remote Controller:

A budget-friendly virtual reality headset that allows you to enjoy your favorite games and apps wherever you go, this ergonomic headset is very basic, but it has some great features to offer VR gamers.

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Google Daydream View Virtual Reality Headset:

We can’t get over just how much we love this new and improved version of the Google Daydream headset. Their latest model, you’ll enjoy the improved breathable design, extra padding for user comfort, and the hundreds of apps and games to choose from.

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1. Best Stationary Headset-Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset

Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset

Our Rating: (5/5)

Considered the ultimate tethered virtual reality headset on the market, the Rift by Oculus will give you a true taste of what VR gaming is all about. Explore whole new worlds, check out exciting titles in any gaming genre and prepared to get blown away by the intense graphics, high-quality visuals, and a totally immersive gaming experience like no other.

2. Best Mobile VR Headset for Android-Samsung Gear VR w/Controller Headset

Samsung Gear VR w/Controller

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Samsung Gear VR headset allows you to turn your smartphone into the ultimate virtual reality environment. Enjoy VR gaming on the go using a compatible Android phone and this easy to use, affordable headset. This redesigned model is lightweight with extra padding in all the right places for improved user comfort.

3. Best Mobile VR Headset for iPhone- Zeiss VR One Plus Virtual Reality Headset

Our Rating: (4/5)

Use your iPhone to explore the world of virtual reality. A step up from other models of mobile headsets, the Zeiss is equipped with top of the line, genuine glass lenses for an improved mobile immersive experience.  You won’t get this type of VR gameplay from other mobile headsets that use plastic lenses.

Beginners can use the Zeiss to do a little exploring and test out a wide range of apps for an impressive gaming experience that offers just a taste of what virtual reality has to offer.

4. Best Cheap Headset-Pansonite VR Headset with Remote Controller

Pansonite Vr Headset with Remote Controller

Our Rating: (3.5/5)

A great entry-level mobile VR headset for the beginner, the ergonomic design combined with the impressive amount of compatible games and apps make this headset a great choice for children and beginners. While it doesn’t offer the same type of VR gaming experience that you’ll get from tethered competing models, it does a great job of intensifying gameplay in a device that’s lightweight and easy to use.

5. Best Google VR Headset-Google Daydream View Virtual Reality Headset

Google Daydream View - VR Headset

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Google’s latest virtual reality headset features a sleeker design, more intuitive controls, and a user-friendly setup that makes this model perfect for both beginners and seasoned gamers alike. Very versatile and compatible with several games and apps in the Google Play store, you’ll love this new take on the Daydream VR headset, with its new and improved breathable design, included remote, and intuitive controls.

Read the full Google Daydream View virtual reality headset review 

6. Best Console VR Headset-PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset

PlayStation Virtual Reality Headset

Our Rating: (4/5)

Fans of the PlayStation 4 game console can take their gameplay up a notch with this affordable tethered headset that instantly turns the PS4 into a virtual reality gaming platform that’s hard to compete with. With intuitive controls, impressive graphics, and a wide range of titles to choose from, this state of the art VR headset is one of the leading models on the market for all the right reasons.

Read the full PlayStation 4 virtual reality headset review

Virtual Reality Headset Buyer’s Guide

While the success of virtual reality may seem like it’s an overnight success considering it’s now mainstream, VR has actually been in the works for decades. But back then, VR technology could only be found in prototype form in research labs. These days, you can now find the best VR headsets for sale in stores and online.

The virtual reality options that are available today are impressive, fun, and can be used with popular game consoles, your PC, and even your smartphone. If you plan on diving into VR gaming, there are a few things you should keep in mind, from headset capabilities to image quality, gaming platforms, and pricing.

Of course, you’ll also come across many extra accessories on the market designed to improve your VR experience but most of them aren’t mandatory for gameplay.

Let’s begin learning more about the different types of VR headsets available starting with Google Cardboard

Low Priced VR Headsets

Google Cardboard is a great pick for the beginner because it’s affordably priced. Of course, this system has its own pros and cons. To start, it’s a more budget-friendly option compared to setups designed for advanced gamers. This platform is also compatible with both iOS and Android devices which means there is a ton of content available to choose from. Using Google Cardboard is also incredibly simple, just download the app, take your smartphone and put it in the cardboard viewer.  Next, go through the tutorial which explains how this system works and then purchase a game in Google’s Play store. With the Cardboard Camera app, which is available for free, you can also create your own VR experience. Most of the apps for Google cardboard are priced very low or free, so it’s a great choice for the beginner on a budget. But because this system is so cheap, it can give gamers interested in the world of virtual reality the wrong impression and just doesn’t offer the type of immersive experience many gamers are looking for.

Gear VR by Samsung is a type of VR headset that requires the use of a smartphone to display and process virtual reality magic. Just keep in mind that it’ll zap your phone’s battery life rather quickly.

Both Gear VR and Cardboard lack a full dimension compared to the next wave of high tech virtual reality platforms and devices. In fact, the type of VR experience they provide tends to feel very limited.

In terms of concept, Google’s Daydream is similar to Cardboard. You’ll still need to use your smartphone, placing it in an inexpensive headset which functions as your display with the help of special lenses. Gamers will use a remote to control the action. When you can find a compatible app, gameplay is actually pretty impressive.

Top of the Line VR Headsets

High-powered headsets produced by the big boys such as PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift allow the gamer to move around freely in their virtual environment, unlike lower priced platforms such as Google Daydream, which will only permit the gamer to look up and down, left and right.

These higher priced headsets allow gamers to explore their virtual surroundings using technology known as positional tracking. With systems such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, you’ll be required to place small sensors in your gaming area in order to accurately and closely track your movements. Because of this, setup can be a little more complicated and can require more space to work with, but the result is definitely worth it.

But you can expect some tradeoffs when it comes to the top of the line VR headsets. Pricing will be the biggest downside for any gamer on a tight budget and all headsets require extra hardware that isn’t exactly cheap either. Aside from the higher cost of an Oculus Rift headset, you must use it with a PC that’s Oculus-ready. If you want to use your headset with a touch controller that’s virtual reality optimized, then you’ll need to consider that additional cost.

HTC Vive is another popular option but it comes with a couple of wireless handheld controllers which can save you some cash. However, you’ll still need to use this type of headset with a high powered compatible PC. HTC Vive comes with a loaded package that includes a couple of base stations, a headset, and motion controllers so gamers can enjoy an entire virtual reality area. Instead of just tracking your VR movements in your chair, this setup provides gamers with a ten-foot setup.

PlayStation VR is a more affordable option, especially if you already own PlayStation 4, the Move or Dual Shock controllers, and the PlayStation camera. While the PS4VR headset is more affordable than other leading models, it will only work with PS4 controllers and the PS4 console.

Power Needs of VR Headsets

As you’ve probably gathered by now, all of these higher priced VR headsets must be physically tethered to a console or PC in order to use them. But is a tethered VR headset the best choice for you?

A virtual reality headset will fit under one of two categories: tethered or mobile. As an example, the Google Cardboard headset is a mobile VR headset, while major players in the game such as the Rift, is tethered.

Mobile models tend to consist of lenses and a shell. A smartphone is slipped into the shell for an instant, mobile VR headset. Obviously, mobile headsets are much more affordable than their tethered counterparts, but tethered headsets tend to offer a better VR experience. In fact, tethered VR gaming is simply more immersive and offers better image and overall gaming quality that mobile headsets just can’t compete with.

This is because a smartphone isn’t designed with virtual reality in mind, therefore it cannot offer the best image quality compared to tethered headsets, even with the best special lenses. Mobile headsets tend to be underpowered and don’t pack the oomph that tethered headsets are known for.

Tethered headsets such as the HTC Vive must be connected physically to a PC or console. While the addition of a cable can be cumbersome for some gamers, the virtual reality experience is so much more complex considering you don’t have to have the entire VR system strapped to your face. Instead of using a smartphone as the display, having a dedicated display right in the headset, complete with an external camera tracker and motion sensors, tends to improve head tracking and image quality dramatically.

Why PlayStation VR is Different

Some gamers feel that PlayStation 4 currently offers the easiest to use tethered virtual reality experience. Using this platform, you can play the same games in either non-VR mode or use a mixed mode and play VR whenever you feel like it.

iOS and Virtual Reality

Surprisingly, Apple has yet to release their own version of a virtual reality headset, but there are headsets available that are compatible with iPhones and you can find plenty of VR games in the Apple store. There have been rumors over the past few years that a prototype for the Apple headset does exist, but the gaming community will have to wait for more news in regard to whether or not an Apple VR headset is even really happening.

A VR Headset that Works with Your Budget

With so many of the best virtual reality headsets hitting the market ranging from just ten bucks up to seven hundred dollars, determining your budget is the best place to start. In terms of pricing, you’ll find that headsets are categorized in a few main groups: mobile headsets are the most affordable, while PlayStation 4 VR headsets come in second, followed by the high-end tethered models we’ve covered here.

So, what’s the most affordable option for you? Consider what you already own and determine whether or not you can work with what you have or if starting a VR setup from scratch is the best option. If you’re curious about virtual reality but aren’t quite ready to invest hundreds of dollars in a pro gamer setup, then either smartphone operated headsets or PlayStation 4 would both be great options, especially if you already own a PS4 or smartphone. Of course, for the best virtual reality mobile experience, you’ll want to use a newer Samsung Galaxy smartphone or iPhone.

If you have a high-powered PC that’s loaded with some serious specs, then dropping the cash for Oculus or Vive can seem almost affordable.

A Beginner or Pro Setup?

Do you prefer the ease of a wireless headset over a tethered device? If that’s the case go for a Daydream View or Gear VR. But if you’re excited about a totally immersive experience and you want to enjoy the real deal, the Rift or PlayStation 4 VR are the way to go. With these last two options, there will also be the issue of space. If you’re already a seasoned gamer and you plan on spending hours playing with your new VR devices then you probably won’t mind clearing out a space to accommodate a virtual reality setup complete with movement tracking sensors.

Those of you who aren’t tech-inclined can enjoy a mobile headset that only requires you to download an app and enjoy a totally new experience from the comfort of your couch.

While the price will ultimately play one of the determining factors here, we do recommend going for it in terms of buying a high-end tethered headset if you want to enjoy a genuine virtual reality experience.

Visual Quality

With the VR industry booming and new devices being released all the time, it’s crucial that you focus on the headset’s specs before you judge the overall quality. You’ll need to take into consideration the field of view, and the resolution. Unlike the type of resolution used for movies and TV, the resolution for 360-degree video tends to be much more complicated. The content is stretched out in order to fit 360 degrees horizontally and 180 degrees vertically, then it’s split in half between both eye screens. Additionally, the gamer’s field of view will be limited to one hundred degrees.

Typically, 4k res is necessary in order to view DVD quality content. A minimum of 6K pushes the viewing quality closer to HD. Because of the unique viewing experience that virtual reality offers, headsets should offer a minimum resolution of 4k in order to achieve a decent viewing experience.

What About VR Motion Sickness?

Believe it or not, virtual reality motion sickness really is a thing. It was initially discovered during the infant stages of VR development, but it’s still an ongoing issue these days with some headsets and games causing this issue more than others. This new type of motion sickness dubbed VR sickness is believed to be due to a mismatch of senses. Your eyes and ears are telling you you’re flying, crashing, or jumping, yet your body has barely moved. But is there anything that can be done to combat this problem?

Basically, most pro gamers recommend just taking it slow in the beginning. VR sickness is most likely to occur your first few times playing, so your body just needs time to adjust. Begin by playing sitting down before you work your way up to stand up gameplay. Game developers are aware of this motion sickness problem and have even included comfort settings in their games and apps. These settings often involve changing the player’s point of view, the field of view, or by including static user interface elements. These types of visual anchors work wonders to reduce motion sickness.

Some gamers have reported that the PlayStation 4 VR headset is the most likely model to cause VR sickness, while the Rift is the least likely and is considered one of the most comfortable models to use. Whether or not this is true tends to vary from person to person, so we recommend just taking your first few VR sessions slow and taking breaks when needed.

Extra Accessories

If you decide to go with PS4VR the Move controller isn’t mandatory for VR play but it can definitely make gaming more fun. Most of the games will give players the option and suggest whether to play with the Motion controller or Dual Shock controller.

Gloves, vests, and additional sensors are designed for the hardcore virtual reality gamer. These extra accessories aren’t exactly needed to play any of the best virtual reality games for adults, but they do turn the immersive experience and overall gameplay intensity up a notch. Unfortunately, many of these top of the line accessories are priced almost as high as the headsets since many of these products are fairly new. We recommend giving these products a little more time on the market for the price to go down before you run out and buy the newest latest and greatest VR accessory.

Does Wi-Fi Matter With these Headsets?

While there are a few models of VR headsets out there that use Wi-Fi for a wireless experience, many of the top of the line models do not simply because Wi-Fi and virtual reality technology have not quite been perfected yet. Because virtual reality is such a data-heavy application, Wi-Fi tends to struggle to keep up. And the result? Connection delays that cause lags which can lead to nausea and a break in virtual reality immersion are very common.

How Bluetooth is Used in These Headsets

There are no Bluetooth powered headsets, but you will find plenty of options for Bluetooth VR controllers that are compatible with some of the leading models of headsets.

 

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