You don't need a Vive or an Oculus Rift to experience great VR. A Galaxy S7 will do just fine.

Listen, we get it: You don't have space for an immersive virtual reality experience like the HTC Vive, nor do you want to shell out upwards of $600 for a fancy Oculus Rift setup. Thankfully, you don't have to—at least, not for the headset. If you've already got a high-end flagship in your hands from the likes of Samsung or Google, chances are it's ready for VR.

Right now, Samsung's Gear VR is leading the charge. It's in households and on roller coasters. And it's an affordable $99 for Oculus-blessed virtual reality.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Galaxy S7

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We have to pick the latest and greatest from Samsung for virtual reality. The Galaxy S7 launched alongside Samsung's first big Gear VR headset push, which features a responsive D-pad button on the unit, and a slightly wider field of view than Google Cardboard. The S7 itself comes with top of the line specifications, including a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, as well as a substantial 3000 mAh battery.

Samsung has also been touting its Vulkan API graphics compatibility precisely because it'll make games run more smoothly, which should translate to virtual reality, too. And since it sports a smaller 5-inch Super AMOLED display with ridiculous 534ppi density, you'll have fewer opportunities to observe the "screen door effect" in VR.

Bottom line: If virtual reality is your main concern from your next smartphone, the Galaxy S7 is the one to consider.

One more thing: Samsung offers this phone in three colors, and they will all function the same in either version of the Gear VR.

Why the Galaxy S7 is the best

Big, beautiful, and well-equipped for virtual reality.

The Galaxy S7 is the best precisely because it's fully equipped to deal with all that virtual reality requires: a powerful processor, a capable graphics processor, and enough memory to handle rendering the visuals on screen. It's also worth nothing that Samsung's offers the most established virtual reality ecosystem at the moment. The company has been actively commissioning interactive games and video content for the Gear VR over the years, and it's been pushing headsets as add-ons with every new device launch. The Gear VR will surely be around for a while, and if you're already a Samsung user, it's a great way to become acquainted with virtual reality.

Best battery life

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

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You need a VR machine that can keep you in the zone for a long time. The Galaxy S7 edge's 3600 mAh battery is about two percent larger than the Note 7's, but it lasts that much longer. Every little bit counts when you're in a virtual reality.

Inside, the Galaxy S7 Edge is essentially the same hardware as the rest of the Galaxy family of smartphones that have launched this year. It also offers a beautiful 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display and powerful processor.

Bottom line: It's bigger than the Galaxy S7, but the curved display may have some unintended negative consequences in some VR experiences.

One more thing: The Galaxy S7 edge works with the second-gen Gear VR headset, too!

Best Daydream phone

Google Pixel/Pixel XL

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We certainly couldn't ignore the fact that Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are the next big thing to happen to virtual reality. With its launch came the arrival of Daydream, Google's next step into virtual reality. Daydream is a comfortable alternative to Samsung's Gear VR. It's easy to set up, light to wear, and comes in an array of neat colors. You can read more about it here.

The only real downside to using Daydream View right now is a limited number of apps and games. This is a platform Google will work hard to grow over the next couple of months, but for now it's a limitation that isn't found elsewhere.

Bottom line: Daydream has the potential to be the best VR platform powered by a phone once there are more apps and games available. If you're using VR potential as a barometer for your next phone choice, the Pixel XL should eventually offer you quite a bit.

One more thing: Daydream View comes with the only controller you'll ever need in order to enjoy every experience.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Galaxy S7

See at Amazon   See at AT&T   See at Sprint  See at T-Mobile   See at Verizon

We have to pick the latest and greatest from Samsung for virtual reality. The Galaxy S7 launched alongside Samsung's first big Gear VR headset push, which features a responsive D-pad button on the unit, and a slightly wider field of view than Google Cardboard. The S7 itself comes with top of the line specifications, including a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, as well as a substantial 3000 mAh battery.

Samsung has also been touting its Vulkan API graphics compatibility precisely because it'll make games run more smoothly, which should translate to virtual reality, too. And since it sports a smaller 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with ridiculous 534ppi density, you'll have fewer opportunities to observe the "screen door effect" in VR.

Bottom line: If virtual reality is your main concern from your next smartphone, the Galaxy S7 is the one to consider.

One more thing: Samsung offers this phone in three colors, and they will all function the same in either version of the Gear VR.