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Best VR headset 2021: The best wired and wireless virtual reality headsets for all budgets

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We've selected the best VR headsets for PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch users – plus standalone models

Looking to spice up your gaming life with one of the best VR headsets around? As the VR market continues to expand, it’s definitely a good idea – but choosing the best VR headset for you can be a virtual nightmare. Some premium VR headsets will set you back hundreds, and to even use them you’ll need to be tethered to a high-performing PC; On the flip side, there are also VR headsets that cost under £50 and only require a smartphone to run.

In addition to the luxury VR headsets from big-hitters Oculus, Valve and HTC, there's a slew of lesser-known products from manufacturers like Pimax, Zeiss and even HP. Each year brings new possibilities to the VR market – take the new Oculus Quest 2, which is currently the best VR headset around (wireless or otherwise). And then there’s Sony’s PSVR and Nintendo's Labo VR, which brought virtual reality console gaming to the masses.

There are always numerous VR headset releases on the horizon, but this article features the best headsets available right now – plus a handy buying guide to help you choose the right one.

Editor's pick | Oculus Quest 2

Unless you own a high-end gaming PC, the absolute best way to experience VR is via the magnificent Oculus Quest 2. This portable VR headset is the most accessible way to enjoy the likes of Beat Saber and Superhot we've ever tested. It isn't perfect (you will need a Facebook account to play) but it's the best VR headset for most people.
£300 (128GB) | £400 (256GB)

How to choose the best VR headset for you

You can find out even more about VR headsets at the bottom of this page. Here are the most important bits.

What type of VR headset should I buy?

That's right: You don't have to spend your life savings on a gaming PC to enjoy VR. Here are the various types of headsets you might want to consider:

PC VR headset: If you already own a gaming PC, a PC VR headset is an obvious choice. You'll have access to Steam's ever-growing library of VR games, alongside the libraries of either Oculus or HTC (if you opt for one of their products). 

PC VR headsets offer the best displays in the industry, with high refresh rates and resolutions for a more immersive experience. You will need to check that your PC can run VR games before you buy, however – you can do that using Steam's VR benchmark test.

Mobile VR headset: If you just want something to keep your kids/spouse/colleagues entertained, a mobile VR headset is the way to go. Available from as little as £25, these headsets are really just goggles with weird lenses – you'll need to supply the hardware in the form of a compatible smartphone. Download the relevant app, stuff the phone into the slot behind the lenses and you're ready to go. 

Wireless VR headset: Wireless VR is still in its infancy, but that doesn't mean you should discount it – quite the opposite, in fact. It's a bit of a compromise: the visual experience and game library is a tad less impressive than that of PCVR, but you won't need any extra gadgetry to get started. Perfect for newcomers interested in something serious.

Console VR headset: There are VR headsets (or VR experiences) available for both PlayStation and Nintendo fans – if you're an Xbox owner, I'm afraid you're out of luck. You'll find that the type of VR experience is limited by the power of the console; Sony's PSVR is almost as impressive as full-blooded PCVR, where Nintendo's Labo kits are closer to mobile VR. Both are reviewed here.

What specs should I look out for?

Display resolution: VR headset resolutions are measured both as a whole unit, and on a per-eye basis. Modern PCVR headsets tend to have a combined display resolution of at least 2,560 x 1,440, or 1,280 x 1,440 per eye – the higher the resolution, the clearer the image, and the more you will have to pay (usually). 

Display type: You won't need to worry too much about this, but for reference, most PCVR manufacturers are moving to fast-switch LCD panels and leaving OLED displays in the dust. This is because OLEDs are expensive, and produce a blurrier image than LCDs.

Refresh rate: This determines how many new images the display can show in a second (measured in Hz). Fundamentally, a high refresh rate means the moving image you're seeing on-screen will appear smoother, and you might therefore feel less nauseous. Expect refresh rates to vary from 70-120Hz

FOV: Field of Vision – how much of the virtual world you can see when peering into the lenses of your HMD. Most VR headsets have a FOV of around 100-110 degrees, which is just barely enough to make you feel like you're inside the world, rather than just looking at a screen.

READ NEXT: The best controllers to use on PC

The best VR headsets you can buy

1. Oculus Quest 2: The best (wireless) VR headset

Price: £300 (128GB); £400 (256GB) | Buy now from Amazon

Read no further: the Oculus Quest 2 is the only VR headset you need. It builds upon the unexpected success of the Oculus Quest in pretty much every way, but if we had to pick a stand-out improvement, it would be the £100 Oculus has managed to shave off the price.

And that’s without compromising on the hardware front. By slotting in a new processor and increasing the available memory, Oculus has drastically improved the performance of the Quest 2, opening the door for more ambitious VR games. Not that existing titles are left wanting: courtesy of a gorgeous near-4K LCD panel refreshing at a smooth 90Hz, games and other experiences look better than anything we’ve tested before.

The Quest 2 is also smaller and lighter than its predecessor, and uses a fabric strap to stay very firmly attached to your face. Of course, it isn’t without faults: adjusting the distance between lenses (to match your eyes) is a fiddly process and, perhaps more contentiously, new users will need to sign in using a Facebook account. To be blunt, this is entirely for the data-tracking benefits, so we urge new users to take a good look at the privacy settings.

If these things don’t dissuade you, there’s no simpler way to put it: the Quest 2 is the best VR headset around.

Read our full Oculus Quest 2 review for more details

Key specs – Display resolution: 3,664 x 1,920; Display type: Fast-switch LCD; Refresh rate: 90Hz; Field of View: N/A; Supported software: Oculus Home; Dimensions: 191.5 x 102 x 295.5mm; Weight: 503g

2. HTC Vive Pro 2: Virtual reality like no other

Price: £719 (£1,299 for full kit) l Buy now from HTC  

It's no surprise that the most expensive VR headset on this list is also the most fully-featured. It's not cheap, not by any stretch of the imagination, but the Vive Pro 2 benefits from a handful of exclusive, game-friendly features that you won't find anywhere else. 

To begin with, the Vive Pro 2's display is the highest resolution we've ever seen on a commercial VR headset, with a boosted total resolution of 4,896 x 2,448 (2,448 x 2,448 per eye). It also now supports a maximum 120Hz refresh rate, as well as a wider 130-degree FOV. Provided your accompanying PC is powerful enough to meet the minimum spec requirements, then there's absolutely nothing better for virtual reality gaming at the moment. Games like Half-Life: Alyx never looked so good. 

The only reason it misses out on taking the top spot is due to its high price. For most, the Quest 2 is good enough, but if you're hoping to push VR to its very limits, then the Vive Pro 2 offers a virtual reality experience unlike any other.

Read our full HTC Vive Pro 2 review for more details

Key specs – Display resolution: 4,896 x 2,448; Display type: Dual RGB low-persistence LCD; Refresh rate: 120Hz; Field of View: 120-degree; Supported software: Viveport, SteamVR; Dimensions: 348 x 194 x 344mm; Weight: 850g

Buy HTC Vive Pro 2 now


3. PlayStation VR: The best (and only) VR headset for PS4

Price: From £259 | Buy now from Smyths Toys

If games are your thing, you can’t do much better than the PlayStation VR. Anyone with a PlayStation 4 can pick one up and dive straight in, and Sony’s headset has a library full of brilliantly fun VR games that offer up short bursts of fun or perfect lengthy playthroughs. It’s also the only way to scare yourself silly with Resident Evil 7 in VR.

It’s certainly not the most feature-filled headset on the market – especially compared to the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift – but with almost one million sales in its opening months, Sony has clearly got the price-to-performance ratio almost perfect.

Read our full PlayStation VR review for more details

Key specs – Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display type: OLED; Refresh rate: 120Hz; Field of View: 100 degrees; Supported software: PlayStation VR titles; Dimensions: 187 x 185 x 277mm; Weight: 610g

Buy now from Smyths Toys


4. HTC Vive Cosmos: The best Oculus Rift S alternative

Price: £695 | Buy now from Amazon

The HTC Vive Cosmos is an incredibly well-specced HMD. With a combined display resolution of 2,880 x 1,700 (1,440 x 1,700 per eye), it tops the charts in terms of screen quality, beating its predecessor the Vive Pro, and only falling short of the £900 Valve Index and the £300 Oculus Quest 2. This penchant for the premium extends to all corners of the Cosmos: the build is sturdy, and the visor, more comfortable than that of any headset on this list. The addition of built-in tracking cameras, meanwhile, vastly simplifies the setup.

It's by no means a perfect headset, however. The Cosmos still suffers from a few niggling flaws, not least of which is the bloated price tag. The Cosmos controllers are unwieldy, and the lenses have a pitifully small sweet spot, so you will notice strong blurring if you move your eyes from the centre of the image. HTC's Viveport user interface, moreover, is far less polished than the Oculus or Steam equivalents.

This is a VR headset for HTC loyalists, particularly those who already own additional base stations and/or the Vive Pro controllers (the Cosmos can take advantage of both). It's also for those who want a headset that sits between the very traditional HTC Vive Pro 2 and the user-friendly Oculus Quest 2 – a spot no longer filled by the esteemed and dearly departed Oculus Rift S. 

Read our full HTC Vive Cosmos review for more details

Key specs – Display resolution: 2,880 x 1,700; Display type: LCD; Refresh rate: 90Hz; Field of View: 110 degrees; Supported software: Viveport, Steam VR; Dimensions: N/A; Weight: 645g

5. Nintendo Labo VR Kit: The best (and only) VR headset for Nintendo Switch

Price: from £35 | Buy now from Nintendo

The most niche entry on this list by far, the Nintendo Labo VR Kit can only be used by those who own a Nintendo Switch already. An extension of Nintendo Labo, the Labo VR is not so much a headset as a collection of wearable cardboard "Toy-Cons" that are built by the user. To enjoy Nintendo's virtual reality creations, you slot the Switch console into a small cardboard unit that straps onto the head, with a pair of plastic goggles acting as the lens between eyes and display. From there, you add the buildable headset attachments, each of which has their own specific set of VR mini-games.

Building times really vary between the VR Toy-Cons; the main headset takes less than 30mins but the larger, more intricate attachments can take over 2hrs to complete. The Labo VR Starter Set costs just £35, which is excellent value for money, while the complete package is only a tad more at £68. Nintendo Labo VR offers something totally different from every other VR headset and is also completely eco-friendly, as all the parts are made from recyclable reinforced cardboard.

Read our full Nintendo Labo VR Kit review for more details

Key specs – N/A. Nintendo Labo requires a Nintendo Switch console, which itself has a 1,280 x 720 LCD display with a max 30Hz refresh rate.

How to choose the best VR headset for you (continued)

What's the difference between virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality?

If you're a newcomer to VR, you will probably have seen or heard the phrases above. But what exactly do they mean? 

Virtual reality: Peering into a specially designed pair of goggles that display a 3D CGI environment that you can interact with using wand-like controllers (or in some cases, your hands). 

Augmented reality: Layering computer-generated graphics on top of real-world image capturing technology. If you've ever played Pokemon Go, you've experienced augmented reality (through the lens of your smartphone). 

Mixed reality: A combination of VR and AR. Mixed reality takes the concept of AR – layering CGI over the real world – and improves upon it by enabling more complex interactions between the virtual and the real.

Confused? Don't be. Every product on our list is a good old fashioned virtual reality headset. You'll find that headsets with the "Windows Mixed Reality" label have been discontinued – but if you do happen across one that's available to buy, know that it's just a VR headset with support for Microsoft's own VR software. 

What about the rest of the jargon?

HMD: Head-Mounted Display – The catch-all term for the VR headset itself, excluding any peripherals.

Base stations: Small-ish sensors that track the movement of both the HMD and the motion controllers. Some VR headsets require you to set up a few base stations around the room you intend to play in. 

Inside-out tracking: Rather than using base stations, it's becoming more common these days for VR headsets to be dotted with cameras that track your movement, and the movement of your controllers. This is called inside-out tracking, and it's really great: base stations are space-consuming and a pain to set up.

IPD slider: Inter-Pupillary Distance slider – a physical or virtual slider that allows you to widen or shrink the gap between the two lenses inside the HMD. After all, some of us have bigger heads or wider-set eyes than others.

Sweet spot: The area right in the centre of the lens that affords the clearest view of the display itself. The larger the sweet spot, the better.

Screen-door effect: This is when you can see the individual pixels of your headset's display, arranged in a grid that overlays the image. It's an unfortunate side-effect of the current limitations of VR technology; the higher the resolution of the display, the less visible the screen-door effect is.

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