The 8 Best VR Headsets of 2021

Experience a whole new world with these top headsets

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With the best VR headsets, you have an option to enter any virtual world, domain, or experience you can imagine. You are transported to entirely new dimensions. The concept of virtual reality has been around in some form or another for years, whether demoed in movies and TV shows or presented through immersive experiences at theme parks and beyond.

But over the past few years, and thanks to VR headset manufacturers like Oculus, Samsung, Valve, and Sony, we are now able to have those virtual reality experiences in the safety of our own homes, even in our living rooms.

The scene exploded with the revolutionary launch of the original Oculus Rift and has since expanded to include dozens of different devices and platforms, across a variety of potential channels. For example, the Oculus Quest 2 is a completely standalone platform, whereas the PlayStation VR requires a PS4, and the Valve Index is designed to work with PCs.

Each platform comes with a set of pros and cons, as well as a unique library of games and entertainment titles to experience. Some have more to offer than others, which begs the question, which VR headsets are the best in 2021?

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Valve Index at Amazon
The Index delivers an immersive and beautiful experience, no matter what you’re playing or watching.
Best Wireless:
Oculus Quest 2 at Amazon
You don’t need a PC or a console, and there’s a pretty impressive library of content to use and access from the device.
Best for Consoles:
Sony PlayStation VR at Amazon
The good news is you may already have compatible titles waiting for you if you own a PS4.
Best Resolution:
HP Reverb G2 at Amazon
The LCD and fresnel lenses produce clear, sharp, and vibrant visuals, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Best Refresh Rate:
Samsung Odyssey+ at Amazon
It employs a 3K-resolution AMOLED display with a 110-degree field of view and refresh rate of 90Hz for smooth action.
Best Tracking:
HTC Vive Cosmos at Amazon
The Vive Cosmos offers innovative head and arm tracking to translate your movements into virtual worlds and gameplay.
Best Mid-Range:
Oculus Rift S at Amazon
It’s affordable, it’s capable, and it’s a great option for anyone looking to break into the world of VR.
Best Budget:
Oculus Quest at Amazon
The original Oculus Quest is still an excellent and capable VR option for those who don’t want to empty their bank accounts.

Best Overall: Valve Index VR Kit

Valve Index
What We Like
  • Works with PC

  • Individual finger tracking

What We Don't Like
  • You need a beefy GPU

  • Expensive

Valve, the company well known for its PC gaming platform Steam, has released its own hardware in the Valve Index lineup. You can grab the Index headset in either a standalone bundle or one that includes wireless controllers and the base stations.

When it comes to specifications and raw features, the Valve Index is best in class, especially for PC gamers. It starts with the 1440 x 1600-pixel LCD displays, and the 120Hz refresh rate that extends up to 144Hz in an “experimental” mode. The Index delivers an immersive and beautiful experience, no matter what you’re playing or watching.

The base stations, which also pair with the HTC Vive, provide a 10 x 10 gaming field while you’re wearing the headset. They create “room-scale precision” with the help of lasers, creating a decent play area for you to move around and maneuver within. The base stations work with any SteamVR compatible controllers, including the Index models.

Individual finger tracking is also possible, which translates nicely into various games and virtual worlds—allowing you to make more precise movements and interactions. Of course, you will need a pretty powerful GPU from AMD or Nvidia to leverage the true power of the Valve Index. That may or may not be a problem for some considering the GPU shortages going on.

Panel Type: LCDs | Resolution: 1600 x 1440 | Refresh Rate: 90Hz/120Hz up to 144Hz (experimental) | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 58mm to 70mm with physical adjustments | FOV: 107 degrees horizontal, 104 degrees vertical | Connections: 5m tether, 1m breakaway trident, USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, 12V power | Platform: PC and SteamVR

"If you’re looking for the best VR experience possible, then you should buy the Valve Index."Emily Ramirez, Product Tester

Valve Index

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Best Wireless: Oculus Quest 2

Oculus Quest 2
What We Like
  • Smoother performance

  • Competitive price

  • Excellent content library

  • Standalone

What We Don't Like
  • Requires Facebook account

  • Imprecise IPD settings

  • Uncomfortable straps

The Oculus Quest 2 is one of the best VR platforms for one reason: It strikes a solid balance between price and performance, and yet it’s much improved over its predecessor. It’s also a standalone system that you can use wirelessly, from anywhere. You don’t need a PC or a console, and there’s a pretty impressive library of content to use and access from the device.

You also have the option to connect your Quest 2 with a PC, similar to the Oculus Rift or Valve Index. WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 LE are built-in, the latter for wireless connections with the peripherals.

It has a faster processor, double the RAM, and a high-resolution LCD display at 1920 x 1832, per eye, with a refresh rate of 120Hz. Most bundles include the headset, two wireless controllers, and a carrying case.

An older model shipped with 64GB of onboard storage, but the latest versions come with 128GB to 256GB, plenty of space for VR apps and games. You can set up the entire experience with just the headset and a compatible smartphone. You also get 3D cinematic surround sound with built-in multi-directional speakers. The downside is Facebook now owns Oculus, so you’ll need an account with the social network to use the platform, and you'll need to sign in.

Panel Type: LCDs | Resolution: 1920 x 1832 | Refresh Rate: 120Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 58mm to 68mm with physical adjustments | FOV: 89 degrees horizontal, 93 degrees vertical | Connections: USB-C, 3.5mm audio | Platform: Standalone (with a smartphone), PC

"The Oculus Quest platform has amassed a very nice selection of native games that you can download and play right on the headset." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Oculus Quest 2

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best for Consoles: Sony PlayStation VR

Sony PlayStation VR
What We Like
  • Best in class VR exclusives

  • High refresh rate

  • Impressive 3D audio

  • Lots of supported titles

What We Don't Like
  • Lower resolution than most

  • For PS4 only

If you own a PlayStation 4 and you’re heavily ingrained with Sony’s console ecosystem, it makes sense to go with the PSVR. Chances are you may already own a game that includes VR support, like Gran Turismo Sport, No Man’s Sky, Hitman 3, or Minecraft.

One thing to note about the PSVR is how the headset is designed, or rather the strap. It uses a more substantial design, rather than a simple, stretchy strap, that’s both comfortable and secures the headset to your head during use. That’s a big deal too, because you’ll be doing a lot of moving around.

The PSVR features an OLED display, at 5.7 inches, with a 1080P resolution and a refresh rate of 120Hz. It also features one of the better 3D audio surround systems built into a VR headset, and the immersive experience overall is nearly unmatched.

Plus, you get access to Sony’s expansive and ever-growing library of VR titles including smaller experiences, full AAA-quality games, and beyond. It can be expensive, even with some of the cheaper bundles, but the good news is you may already have compatible titles waiting for you if you own a PS4.

Panel Type: OLED | Resolution: 960 x 1080 | Refresh Rate: 120Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 58mm to 70mm with software adjustments | FOV: 96 degrees horizontal, 111 degrees vertical | Connections: HDMI, USB 3.0 | Platform: PS4

"A must-buy for any existing PlayStation 4 owner with even the slightest interest in VR, given the stellar game library and very reasonable cost as an add-on experience." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

PlayStation VR

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Best Resolution: HP Reverb G2

HP Reverb G2
What We Like
  • Best display period

  • Excellent for flight simulations

  • Spatial audio speakers

  • Reliable motion tracking

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for young for inexperienced users

  • The cable clip tends to fall off

If you’re a videophile, and both resolution and image quality are of the utmost importance to you, then the HP Reverb G2 VR headset is probably going to be your top choice. It features a resolution of 2160 x 2160, per eye, with a refresh rate of 90Hz.

The LCD and fresnel lenses produce clear, sharp, and vibrant visuals, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, well, at least in a VR headset. The higher visual fidelity means it’s the perfect choice for flying games and flight simulators, but it also pairs nicely with motion controls for more precise interactions. It syncs up with PC via Windows Mixed Reality but is also compatible with SteamVR.

Spatial audio speakers offer a unique, yet surround-style audio experience that is both impressive and enjoyable. The HP Reverb G2 isn’t too expensive either, especially when compared to some of the high-end headsets and models. However, the design isn’t conducive for younger players and may be somewhat fragile if not cared for. If you know what you’re doing, and have experience with VR headsets, you’ll feel right at home here.

Panel Type: LCD | Resolution: 2160 x 2160 | Refresh Rate: 90Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 60mm to 68mm with physical adjustments | FOV: 98 degrees horizontal, 90 degrees vertical, 107 degrees diagonal | Connections: DisplayPort 1.3, USB 3.0 | Platform: PC, Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR

“If your number one priority in a VR headset is sheer image quality, then it's hard to beat the Reverb G2.” - Andy Zahn, Product Tester

HP Reverb G2

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Best Refresh Rate: Samsung Odyssey+

Samsung Odyssey+
What We Like
  • Gorgeous 3K resolution

  • 110-degree viewing angle

  • Samsung AMOLED display

  • Built-in headphones with spatial sound

What We Don't Like
  • Wired

  • Expensive

What’s unique about the Samsung Odyssey+ VR headset is that it employs a 3K-resolution AMOLED display with a 110-degree field of view and refresh rate of 90Hz for smooth action. That creates a rather coherent and immersive visual experience that works perfectly with a wide variety of platforms.

For example, it’s compatible with SteamVR, Viveport Infinity, and Microsoft’s Mixed Reality. A built-in mic and spatial audio speakers deliver a solid surround experience you can hear from virtually all directions.

There’s a “flashlight” hardware button you can tap at any time to see your surroundings without ending your game experiences. This allows you to quickly make sure you’re not about to bump into anything or create a huge mess. The biggest downside, of course, is that the system is not wireless, so you’re tethered to your PC.

Panel Type: LCD | Resolution: 2160 x 2160 | Refresh Rate: 90Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 60mm to 68mm with physical adjustments | FOV: 98 degrees horizontal, 90 degrees vertical, 107 degrees diagonal | Connections: DisplayPort 1.3, USB 3.0 | Platform: PC, Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR

Best Tracking: HTC Vive Cosmos

HTC Vive Cosmos
What We Like
  • Unique, six-camera array for tracking

  • Works with PC, SteamVR, and Vivoport libraries

  • Slick design

  • Includes two months of Viveport Infinity

What We Don't Like
  • Wired is the default configuration

  • Wireless adapter sold separately

Thanks to a wild six-camera array, the Vive Cosmos offers innovative head and arm tracking to translate your movements into virtual worlds and gameplay. Imagine more responsive sword swings, better body-to-virtual movement translations, and just a more immersive experience overall.

A dial built into the headsets allows you to fine-tune the screen distance which is great in a pinch if you’re feeling dizzy or just want to take a closer look at the action. Headphones are integrated into the headset so you don’t have to wear additional gear, but you can still chat openly with friends while playing. The headset merges a lot of different experiences together to create an otherworldly player environment—like the halo strap and camera vision support.

Another dial allows you to adjust the fit of the headband and helps make things a lot more comfortable, especially during long play sessions. It does use a wired connection to sync up with a PC, but there is a separate wireless adapter available from HTC if you want to cut the cord.

It works with PCs, specifically SteamVR and Viveport application libraries. Bundled with the headset is a complimentary two-month subscription to the Viveport Infinity service for access to hundreds, if not thousands of games and VR experiences.

Panel Type: LCD | Resolution: 1440 x 1700 | Refresh Rate: 90Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 61mm to 72mm with physical adjustments | FOV: 99 degrees horizontal, 97 degrees vertical | Connections: HDMI, USB-C 3.0, 3.5mm audio | Platform: PC, SteamVR, Viveport Infinity

"The Vive Cosmos feels like the sum of a lot of different trends in VR. It has a halo strap, ring controllers, inside-out tracking, and real-life camera vision." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester

Vive Cosmos

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Best Mid-Range: Oculus Rift S

Oculus Rift S
What We Like
  • Comfortable and good for long sessions

  • Affordable yet capable

  • Excellent library of titles

  • Decent resolution

What We Don't Like
  • Only the bulky side

  • Wired

It’s tough to ignore the brand that started a lot of the VR hype with its original headset, and the Oculus Rift S is no exception. It’s affordable, it’s capable, and it’s a great option for anyone looking to break into the world of VR or experiment a little.

It does rely on a wired USB 3.0 and DisplayPort connection, so you’ll be tethered to your PC. That said, the compatibility with various PC platforms means access to a huge selection of VR titles and experiences.

The Oculus Rift S features an LCD display with a resolution of 1440 x 1280 and a refresh rate of 80Hz. It also features a slightly narrower horizontal and vertical field of view, but the display and smooth refresh rate more than make up for it.

It doesn’t require any base stations, and the controllers may or may not be bundled with it—they usually are. The downside is the headset has been discontinued at this point, so it may be difficult to find a brand new model.

Panel Type: LCD | Resolution: 1440 x 1280 | Refresh Rate: 80Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 58mm to 72mm with software adjustments | FOV: 88 degrees horizontal, 88 degrees vertical | Connections: DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0, 3.5mm audio | Platform: PC, SteamVR, Oculus Home

"The Oculus Rift S is a solid and affordable option for those just getting into VR." — Zach Sweat, Product Tester

Oculus Rift S

Lifewire / Zach Sweat

Best Budget: Oculus Quest

Oculus Quest
What We Like
  • Works with PC or standalone

  • Excellent resolution

  • WiFi and Bluetooth built-in

  • Sleek design

What We Don't Like
  • Discontinued

  • Lower refresh rate

Although it will be more difficult to find, the original Oculus Quest is still an excellent and capable VR option for those who don’t want to empty their bank accounts. Like the Quest 2, the original is a standalone VR platform that also works with PC via SteamVR and Oculus Home. You will need a Facebook account to use the system.

It features a dual-OLED display with a 1440 x 1600 resolution, per eye, and a refresh rate of 72Hz. It does have both WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 LE built-in, along with dual 3.5mm audio jacks for audio output. Integrated stereo speakers and a microphone are built-in, so there’s no need to wear a headset. You also get partial finger and thumb tracking thanks to the compatible wireless controllers.

Panel Type: OLED | Resolution: 1440 x 1600 | Refresh Rate: 72Hz | Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): 58mm to 72mm with physical adjustments | FOV: 94 degrees horizontal, 90 degrees vertical | Connections: USB-C, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm audio x2 | Platform: Standalone, PC, SteamVR, Oculus Home

Final Verdict

Right now, the best VR headset in terms of specs, raw power, and versatility is the Valve Index (view at Amazon). It is a little more expensive than some of the other options, but you also gain access to an incredible library of games, applications, and experiences. If you own a PS4, you’re better off springing for the PlayStation VR (view at eBay). If you want a standalone experience, go with the Oculus Quest 2 (view at Amazon), just know you’ll need a Facebook account to use it.

About Our Trusted Experts

Briley Kenney lives in the always-exciting state of Florida where he works as a freelance copywriter and technology enthusiast. He’s been around computers and electronics his entire life, which has earned him plenty of experience and knowledge in the field.

Emily Ramirez is a tech writer and narrative designer who's extensively covered AR, VR, and XR trends, and specializes in wearable technology and audio and visual equipment.

Andrew Hayward has been covering the tech industry for more than 14 years now, and developed expertise in wearable technology, smartphones, and gaming. His work has appeared in a number of top tech publications.

Zach Sweat is a tech writer, photographer, and editor, who specializes in gaming, mobile tech, and consumer electronics. He earned a dual degree in multimedia journalism and photography from the University of North Florida.

Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, covering consumer technology, gaming hardware, and more.

FAQs

How much does VR cost?

While it is a more ambiguous question, the cost of VR depends on the platform you choose, as well as the experiences you’d like to have. You will need to purchase the VR headset, whether in a bundle or not, and then the applications and games you’d like to play separately. With the PlayStation VR, for example, if you buy only the headset, you’ll still need to purchase games for your PS4 that are VR-compatible.

Is phone VR worth it?

Phone VR platforms—like Google Cardboard—are both hit and miss. You can find some interesting experiences and have fun, but you’ll be limited overall. It’s better to invest in a true VR experience with one of the headsets listed above. What’s more, they don’t require your phone to be connected or installed inside the headset, and something like the Oculus Quest 2 can be used as a standalone wireless system.

Oculus Quest
 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

What to Look For in a Virtual Reality Headset

Display, Resolution, Refresh Rate

These three properties are linked together because they help determine the visual fidelity and smoothness of the virtual reality experience. The display type—such as OLED vs. LCD—and the resolution determine how bright, vibrant, and sharp the display appears. The refresh rate determines the overall response time of the display and the smoothness of the action, without jitters, artifacting, and beyond. You want, at minimum, an HD resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate. Ideally, you want to opt for something with much better specs.

Bundle vs. Headset

Nearly all VR headsets come in several packages or bundles. They’ll often come as a standalone option with just the headset, or in larger bundles with controllers and other accessories. When choosing a platform, consider what you’ll need to play, which almost always requires wireless controllers.

HTC Vive Pro
 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Motion Tracking

There are several forms of motion tracking that are also translated into the VR world and experiences. Some examples include head or general movement tracking, arm tracking, finger tracking, and so on. The more nuanced the tracking, the more precise the interactions and virtual reactions will be. A headset with arm tracking, for instance, will convert arm movements into the game world, which might help a sword swing be more accurate.

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