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The 9 Best Virtual Reality Headsets of 2019

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

  • Best Overall: Oculus Go at Amazon, “An entirely standalone headset, meaning it doesn’t require an expensive gaming laptop or console to operate.”
  • Best Splurge: HTC Vive Pro at Amazon, “Truly is the latest and greatest in consumer-level VR tech.”
  • Best for PS4 Users: PlayStation VR at Amazon, “One of the few designs that attempts to mitigate the discomfort problem with a bigger, more substantial strap.”
  • Best All-in-One: Oculus Quest at Amazon, “The newest Oculus is also the best, out of the box, for having fun.”
  • Best Tracking: HTC Vive at Amazon, “Despite its age, it’s still one of the best bang-for-buck options available today.”
  • Best for iPhone Users: Pansonite VR Headset at Amazon, “It works not only regardless of operating system, but its hardware support is unrelenting as well.”
  • Best Mid-Range: Oculus Rift S, “Designed as a replacement to the original Oculus Rift, it matches it in price and hardware and can work with the same software.”
  • Best for Samsung Phone Users: Samsung Gear VR at Amazon, “One of the best VR sets you can buy if you own a Samsung phone.”
  • Best Innovation: Valve Index at Steam, “The best VR headset in its class in terms of raw specs and features.”

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Oculus Go

Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2014, and in 2018 they released their first ground-up VR headset. It comes with a notable innovation: the Oculus Go is entirely standalone, meaning it doesn’t require an expensive gaming laptop or console to operate. Just don the sleek, gray headset, adjust the straps and jump into an immersive VR experience on a premium-feeling device.

With this headset, Oculus is ushering in a new era of VR for everyone, not just those on the vanguard of tech development. And while the VR hardware is not quite as powerful as the Oculus Rift, it does deliver a fairly high-end experience. The headset also comes with an Oculus Go controller, which is sort of like a point-and-click remote that, while not as immersive as the Oculus Touch, is intuitive and works for games or experiences like watching a concert.

At launch, the Go is compatible with more than 1,000 apps, streaming services, games, and 360-degree experiences, a number that is guaranteed to grow as time goes on.

Best Splurge: HTC Vive Pro

The HTC Vive Pro is great for VR enthusiasts with some extra money to spend. It’s an expensive piece of hardware, but it’s been given a graphical upgrade that offers some of the best visuals on the market.

With a dazzling 2880 x 1600 resolution (versus the 2160 x 1200 resolution on the original Vive), the Pro’s OLED screen is its best asset. It has a 110-degree view which is standard for most headsets on the market and comes with a number of design improvements that make it comfortable to wear, even over an extended period of time. These include a simple strap and built-in headphones that sit directly on top of your ears.

The bottom line is that the HTC Vive Pro has stunning visuals, reducing the number of grainy edges sometimes seen on HTC’s older headsets. It truly is the latest and greatest in consumer VR tech. But the price is, of course, the main factor here — if you don’t already have HTC sensors or controllers, you can buy the headset in a bundle with those accessories.

Best for PS4 Users: PlayStation VR

Now that VR has become such a ubiquitous thing — something that seemed ultra-futuristic not even 5 years ago — we’ve seen a barrage of headsets coming to the market. While most of them contain some padding and foam for comfort on the face and around the eyes, it’s somewhat surprising how many of them are still heavy, clunky blocks you strap to your face with just one horizontal support strap.

For our money, the PlayStation VR is one of the few physical designs that attempts to mitigate that with a bigger, more substantial strap that balances at an angle on your head. This takes some of the pressure off your forehead, theoretically allowing you to use it for longer. The PlayStation VR’s 5.7-inch OLED display sports 1080p resolution and a super-fast 120 fps refresh rate, which isn’t that much of a surprise considering it was designed by a leading gaming manufacturer. Roll that in with an impressive 3D audio system and this is one immersive unit.

One thing to keep in mind is that this does require a PS4 for operation, as opposed to just strapping your smartphone in like the cheaper VR headsets, but with the gameplay quality, you’ll be glad you invested in the system. The PS4’s camera receiver will read the LEDs around the headset and the wireless controller to track your movement in the room. PlayStation also regularly releases VR-first games for you to make the most out of the unit. It’s expensive, but if gaming is your thing, it just might be worth it.

Best All-in-One: Oculus Quest

Most other virtual reality sets are dependent on other devices. Whether you’re going for Google’s headset to work with your phone or you’re using a peripheral for your PS4, these devices are often meant as accompaniments, not as standalone products.

The Quest is Oculus’s latest foray into truly standalone VR headsets, meant to work no matter where you set up to play. It thrives in any environment because of the built-in room scale-tracking sensors. Coupled with the proprietary Guardian boundary system, you can play games that map you to your specific room, but also set up virtual room limits intelligently.

The two controllers that come with the system offer solid motion controls that, when paired with the motion tracking headset, give you a wide range of movements from arm gestures to ducking.

The built-in audio engine also provides a degree of surround coverage, meaning you’ll be fully immersed in your game. And because the whole thing works on the Oculus engine, it is perfectly poised for developers to add to the library for future features and iterations. Thanks to that engine and developer support, you’ll have a ton of options for compatible games and apps long into the future.

Best Tracking: HTC Vive

Having aided in its initial pioneering, the HTC Vive was one of the first on the premium VR headset market. Yet despite its age, it’s still one of the best bang-for-buck options available today. Its hefty weight and typical design won’t sway the unconverted, but for existing VR fans, the Vive doesn’t disappoint.

Its 2160×1200 display, for instance, has now become the standard resolution among higher-end headsets, and the natural 110-degree field of view and controllers are still the best you’ll find on a VR headset. Meanwhile, the internal display is OLED and offers a buttery smooth 90Hz refresh rate.

A pair of base stations allow for a relatively sizable tracking area (up to 15 by 15 feet), and the included pair of controllers are versatile due in part to their large clickable touchpads and two-stage rear triggers. What’s more, the Vive is millimeter-accurate with no noticeable lag. In other words, it works the way you’d expect it to out of the box — no laborious tweaking necessary.

The other big bonus with HTC Vive is that it was made in partnership with Valve, the creator of wildly popular digital games marketplace Steam, so it’s one of the best virtual reality headsets to buy if you’re already invested in that ecosystem. That said, you’ll need a powerful PC to use it, as HTC recommends at least an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU, an Intel Core i5-4590 CPU, and 4 GB of RAM.

Best for iPhone Users: Pansonite VR Headset

If you’re looking to simply dip your toes into the world of VR and don’t want to spend a lot of money, then a mobile smartphone-based VR headset is the way to go. Among the best of these budget options is the Pansonite VR Headset.

Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones, it works not only regardless of operating system, but its hardware support is unrelenting as well. In other words, you don’t need the latest iPhone XS or Samsung Galaxy S10 to drive it — most smartphones made in the last three to four years should do the trick.

Of course, because it uses lenses and sensors to augment what’s shown on your smartphone screen, your experience with the Pansonite VR Headset won’t be as immersive as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. But since there are no cables, you’ll get complete freedom of movement. High-definition lenses and a 110-degree viewing angle mean it’ll still look visually stunning, while accelerometers and gyroscopes allow for fairly precise head tracking.

The headset itself is made of a light and flexible plastic along with faux leather pads inside, so the build quality feels a little cheap, but it’s comfortable to wear even for long periods of time. While you’re not going to be playing Skyrim VR or Beat Saber on a headset like this, it’s still a competitive entryway into the world of VR. And it’s especially compelling if you’re looking for a headset that’ll play VR films and documentaries rather than triple-A games.

Best Mid-Range: Oculus Rift S

With the Oculus Rift S, you get to make your own reality. The PC-powered VR gaming system requires no external sensors and boasts sharper graphics and more powerful responses. The graphics have been upgraded to 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye, and while refresh rate is reduced from the original Oculus Rift, the headset includes ASW, a technology that is said to optimize quality across PCs.  

Upgraded with comfort in mind, the VR headset is padded and can be tightened easily with the fit wheel, though it might feel bulkier due to the outward facing cameras: two front-facing, two side-facing, and one pointing upwards. The headset includes two touch controllers, which are light and responsive as you play. The tracking ring is positioned at the top, rather than the bottom, of each, which allows the headset to better detect them and create a smoother, more realistic gaming experience. 

Designed as a replacement to the original Oculus Rift, it matches it in price and hardware and can work with the same software. Like its forerunner, the Oculus Rift S is wired and is connected to your PC via a USB 3.0 port and a DisplayPort connection. 

Best for Samsung Phone Users: Samsung Gear VR

If you own a Samsung phone released in the past two years, the Samsung Gear is one of the best VR sets that you can buy. In fact, even if you own an incompatible phone, this accessory might inspire you to convert. 

Compared to other smartphone headsets, this might seem big, but its size is also an advantage. Inside, its optics can be adjusted using the top-mounted dial, giving you a more comfortable picture. And it’s pretty breathable considering you’re strapped in tightly. This updated Gear comes with a motion controller, which is a small remote that pairs easily with your smartphone and adds new levels of interactivity. It has a circular touchpad on the front and a single trigger on the back.

The headset also has a USB-C port on the bottom for charging purposes. Perhaps most important for any VR system is its content library, and the Samsung Gear has solid but growing shelves, so you’ll never get bored of diving into new realities.

Best Innovation: Valve Index

After partnering with HTC to help build two previous VR headsets, gaming giant Valve has ventured directly into its own hardware, producing the first VR headset under its own brand, the Valve Index — the best VR headset in its class in terms of raw specs and features. First, you’re getting a display that offers an unprecedented field of view, thanks to a new dial on the front that allows you to move the lenses right up to your eyes, thereby improving your peripheral vision.

While the 1440×1600-pixel displays are only LCD, rather than OLED, we suspect this is a deliberate design choice on Valve’s part, since LCD pixels are subtler and minimize the screen door effect — something that would otherwise be a glaring problem when the lenses are crammed up to your eyeballs. The Index starts at 120Hz but also features an “experimental” 144Hz mode. At any rate, the net gain is not only a gorgeous and immersive VR experience but the ability to game for longer without concern for eye fatigue.

Two base stations provide a 10×10 gaming field, although these are only modest improvements over the HTC Vive versions, with which the Index is also compatible. The two controllers that come with the Valve Index are also a huge step forward, offering the ability to track each of your fingers individually, and even the difference between simply closing your hand or squeezing it. That said, you’ll still need a fairly powerful PC with a decent GeForce or Radeon GPU, but no more than any other premium VR headset.

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought six top-rated virtual reality headsets that our reviewers tested for more than 50 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these VR headsets, from their screen quality to their controllers. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in Virtual Reality Headsets

Platform – Just as some video games are only available on specific platforms, different virtual reality experiences can only be sought on specific headsets. Fully immersive platforms will provide you with the best experiences for a price, while others will merely use your phone and rely on your device’s app store for content.

Screen – With your eyes placed only an inch-or-so from a device’s screen, it is essential to be aware of each headset’s display resolution — the higher the resolution, the clearer and more immersive your experience. Some headsets rely on your smartphone’s screen, so you’ll want to make sure you have a smartphone that is sufficient.

Controllers – Some platforms offer fully trackable controllers that follow your hands in virtual reality, while others provide a simple controller. Keep an eye out for the different controllers included with each headset to get a better idea of what experience you can expect.

Test Results: Oculus Go (Best Overall)

What We Like

  • Intuitive

  • Comfortable, quality build

  • Truly wireless and standalone

  • Supports voice commands

What We Don’t Like

  • Short battery life

  • Fixed IPD (interpupillary distance) can cause eye strain

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

According to our tester, the “sleek and modern” Oculus Go is “ a great choice for untethered VR experiences.” She said, “It’s a very comfortable headset and remote, and its environment is relaxing.” Downsides, according to our reviewer, include poor battery life and “a young app store.” She added, “It doesn’t have adjustable IPD, so I got migraines the first couple times I tested it.” However, our tester loved the sound, clear LCD screen, and intuitive software. “If the lenses do not cause eye strain, it is worth buying,” she concluded.

Test Results: HTC Vive Pro (Best Splurge)

What We Like

  • Comfortable, quality design

  • Excellent audio spatial awareness

  • Flawless tracking

  • High-resolution OLED display

  • No eye strain

What We Don’t Like

  • Expensive

  • Heavy

  • Difficult to set up

  • Currently only supports the HTC Vive wand controllers

 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

“The Vive Pro has an amazing screen that brings the games to life,” our tester raved. “It’s also really comfortable, so I was able to have multi-hour play sessions.” Our reviewer’s biggest complaint was that it’s not compatible with third-party controllers as an alternative to the wand. Also, she felt the price makes it impractical for “anyone but the most demanding of VR users.” However, if you’re looking to splurge, she did say, “Overall, the best part is just that I keep wanting to come back to the Vive Pro and use it.”

Test Results: PlayStation VR (Best for PS4 Users)

What We Like

  • Large game selection

  • Comfortable headset

  • Affordably priced bundles

What We Don’t Like

  • Imprecise controller tracking

  • Can’t do room-scale experiences

  • Lengthy setup

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

“The PlayStation VR has arguably the best game selection of any VR headset, thanks to a mix of exclusives, top multiplatform releases, and smaller bonus experiences,” our tester said. Another major plus, according to our reviewer, is the “well-designed and comfortable” headset, which is super easy to put on, especially if you wear glasses. On the other hand, our tester didn’t like the controller tracking or the lengthy setup process. “Camera-based tracking means that the PSVR isn’t capable of room-scale experiences like the Oculus Quest and PC-based systems,” he explained. The takeaway: “It’s worth buying if you have a PlayStation 4 console,” our tester concluded.

Test Results: Oculus Quest (Best All-in-One)

What We Like

  • Immersive and robust experience

  • Entirely self-contained

  • Impressive controls

What We Don’t Like

  • Limited battery life on headset

  • Battery covers on controller are loose

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

“This is the best VR headset for the greatest amount of people, finding the sweet spot between power, functionality, ease of use, and price,” our tester raved. He particularly liked the Touch controls and was impressed with how well the games look and run ”even with an older smartphone processor.” The negatives? According to our reviewer, the headset’s battery life is limited to two or three hours, however, you can play it while plugged into the wall or battery pack. He also mentioned that the battery covers on the controllers sometimes come loose. Overall, though, our tester loved that “it is an immersive and robust VR experience that is entirely self-contained and doesn’t require a PC, console, or smartphone to operate.”

Test Results: HTC Vive (Best Tracking)

What We Like

  • Sturdy hardware

  • Native support for Steam VR

  • Six degrees of freedom

  • Excellent, accurate tracking

What We Don’t Like

  • Expensive

  • Display suffers from screen door effect

  • Unwieldy controllers

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

 Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Our tester recommended the HTC Vive for its “excellent tracking” and “durable build.” She added, “It also interfaces well with Steam VR.” However, while our reviewer reported “minimal eye-strain,” she noted that the screen door effect makes it difficult to read text. Another issue? “It also doesn’t come with speakers or integrated headphones, which is ridiculous compared to the competition,” she explained. Overall? “Unless you’re in love with the Vive wands or need the highest tracking accuracy possible, we recommend the Rift over the Vive,” our tester concluded.

Test Results: Pansonite VR Headset (Best for iPhone Users)

What We Like

  • Comfortable, practical design

  • Built-in headphones

  • Adjustable lenses

What We Don’t Like

  • Looks and feels cheap

  • Included controller is not good

  • Expensive for what it is

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez 

“If you like mobile VR, this headset is not a bad buy,” our tester said. She thought the “soft and cushy material” of the headset was comfortable and liked the integrated audio. However, according to our reviewer, while the headset is easy to wear, it also “feels rather cheap.” Another negative? “[The controller] is small, feels cheap, has loud buttons, and struggles to connect to phones,” our tester reported. Overall, she called the Pansonite a “decent option,” but cautioned that “it won’t match the quality of more costly standalone headsets.”


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