Best VR headsets 2023
Is the wired, upgraded PSVR 2 "better" than the wireless, more affordable Quest 2? It's not a simple decision!
When it comes to virtual reality, Oculus (or Meta, as it's called now), has dominated the conversation for years, and is the most well-known among casual VR fans. But despite the fact that we consider the Meta Quest 2 the best VR headset available today, other VR headsets like the PlayStation VR2 and Valve Index make the case for being better, depending on your hardware, budget, local region, and other factors. We'll run through your options so you know which VR headset to buy or whether or not you should consider upgrading.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
While every other major VR headset on the market requires a smartphone, PC, or console to power the experience, Oculus (now Meta) has built a headset that does everything you could ever want, all without needing to connect it to any external system. Using an Oculus Quest 2 is as easy as putting the headset on and immediately entering the world of VR. There's no fiddling with settings, no tangling around wires, and no worrying about incompatibilities with the latest games or apps. Just make sure it's charged and go.
The Meta Quest 2 is a significant upgrade over the original Oculus Quest in almost every way. In our Meta Quest 2 review, we detail exactly why, but in a nutshell, the Quest 2 is not just significantly more powerful than its predecessor: It features a 50% higher resolution screen, better speakers, faster Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and plenty of extras you might not even consider.
That 50%-higher-resolution display utilizes a specialized fast-switching LCD panel built for VR, featuring an ultra-crisp RGB-stripe sub-pixel arrangement. It's also running at 90Hz — which makes the action 25% smoother than the original Quest and helps cut down on motion sickness — and later added 120Hz gaming support. The speakers are in the same place as the original Quest, but are louder and deliver higher-quality sound.
On top of this, the cloth head strap can be completely removed and changed out with different straps, like the Elite Strap with Battery. This strap not only makes gaming on the Quest 2 more comfortable, but it also doubles the battery life to up to six hours on a single charge. You may see this as a positive or negative: The Quest 2 can be greatly improved with accessories over time, but without a better strap, battery, or face cover, the Quest 2 has its flaws.
Speaking of battery life, Oculus improved the Oculus Touch controllers this time around with better ergonomics, better button placement, a thumb rest, and battery life that's out of this world. Many people have reported still having full battery after a month of usage, which is unheard of on any console.
You can play the Oculus Quest 2 anywhere thanks to the Oculus Guardian system, which utilizes the four cameras on the headset to see and map the environment around you so you don't knock into anything. Because of the lack of wires, you'll find experiences on the Meta Quest 2 that you can't get anywhere else, like the incredible Supernatural VR fitness program. However, if you have a gaming PC, you can hook the Quest up with a single USB Type-C cable, known as an Oculus Link cable, turning it into a full-fledged Oculus Rift.
Meta sells the Quest 2 with either 128GB or 256GB of storage, and while this storage isn't expandable, you'll be able to house dozens of installed games; plus, the Quest 2 now supports cloud saves, so you can delete a game after you beat it without losing your progress for good.
The Meta Quest 2 has sold well over ten million headsets, and should remain popular until the Quest 3 arrives later this year. Wide-reaching developer support, an extensive community, and exclusive features like hand-tracking make this the very best VR headset you can buy.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The "best VR headset" conversation finally got more interesting once the PS VR2 launched in early 2023. We still rank the Quest 2 highest, simply because it offers immersive VR without requiring a second purchase (like the PS5). But if you weigh the Quest 2 vs. the PS VR2, Sony's headset makes a case as the better option if you can accept the PS5 wired requirement.
Visually, the PS VR2 gives you a 120Hz OLED display with 110º field of view and eye tracking for foveated rendering — meaning some games can concentrate the best possible graphics in your line of sight for better performance. It can take full advantage of the high resolution because of the power of the PS5 and its 8 CPU cores clocked 3.5GHz, 10.28 TFLOPS for graphics, and 16GB of memory.
In terms of PS VR2 games, you'll find a combination of AAA exclusives like Horizon Call of the Mountain and Resident Evil Village, PSVR 1 games with a free graphical upgrade for the new headset, and a ton of Quest 2 games enhanced with better graphics, eye tracking, and advanced haptics that'll make you feel more immersed in the world. You'll store all these games on the PS5, which means you'll have plenty of room if you buy an internal SSD and/or external hard drive for the console.
While the wired design ensures the PS VR2 headset doesn't run out of battery, the controllers will only last about four hours before the built-in batteries need a recharge. It has no speakers, either, though you can wear the included lightweight earbuds or buy a PS5-compatible wireless headset like the 3D Pulse that'll connect directly to the console.
Our PS VR2 review goes into greater detail about all its strengths and weaknesses. Generally speaking, this is an excellent VR headset that's easy to set up and adjust to any head size, so long as you can accept the ever-present wire.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
When nothing but the absolute best will do, you get a Valve Index. When Valve announced the Index, it blew the minds of VR enthusiasts everywhere. From its incredibly comfortable design to the super-high refresh rate display, the finger-tracking controllers, and even the unparalleled built-in speakers, the Valve Index is just about everything a PC gamer could want in a VR headset.
Part and parcel of the Valve Index experience are the controllers, which are unmatched in terms of precision and realism in the virtual world. Valve's controllers don't just offer a wide range of buttons and movement inputs, but they also can precisely track your fingers and the movements of your hands. You can even let go of the controllers completely and they won't go anywhere thanks to an ingenious handstrap design.
With this design in tow, the Valve Index can provide gamers with unparalleled immersion as they pick up crowbars in games like Boneworks, or explore the deeply interactive world of Half-Life: Alyx. Being able to actually feel like you're grabbing or picking up things in the virtual world helps deliver an experience you simply won't find anywhere else.
Valve utilizes the SteamVR tracking system, which is the most precise tracking system on the market and features compatibility with dozens of accessories. It still requires external sensors to be installed in the room, however. You'll also still be plugged into a PC (preferably a powerful one to take full advantage of the Index's specs).
The Valve Index headset is among the single-most comfortable pieces of hardware on the market, with intelligently-designed headstraps that help balance weight and alleviate the strain that other headstrap designs can leave. It's even got the industry's best built-in headphones which, interestingly enough, hover just over your ears and provide an impressive range of sound and volume.
Like the Oculus Quest 2, the Valve index features a fast-switching LCD panel with a tight pixel structure that helps eliminate that nasty "screen-door effect" that previous-generation VR headsets had. As a result, the Index delivers one of the crispest, sharpest images in the industry. On top of that, the ultra-high refresh rate display ensures VR motion sickness is a thing of the past, and the ultra-wide-angle lenses reveal more of the virtual world than you'll get on any other headset.
Why choose the Quest 2 over the Valve Index? You can also play SteamVR games on the Quest 2, in addition to standalone titles that the Valve Index can't play. And the Index is just too pricey for a lot of people, if you also add the cost of a required PC gaming rig on top of it.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This is the VR headset that Mark Zuckerberg has been teasing us with in those creepy Metaverse videos. The Meta Quest Pro may just be a "niche headset" but if you've got the scratch to pick one up, it's an impressive step toward the future of virtual reality access.
The Meta Quest Pro is a sleek and powerful piece of hardware that's designed more with developers in mind, but it's also got plenty of cool features even if you're not trying to design the next virtual multiplayer shooter. The headset houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1 that offers a 50 percent bump in graphics capabilities compared to Meta's cheaper model. It can even track eye movements for foveated rendering, which gives certain games a graphical boost of its own.
Plus, you get the fantastic Quest Pro controllers, which have their own embedded Snapdragon chips that let the headset track their positioning via a dedicated signal instead of inside-out cameras, giving much more accurate results. You can buy them separately for the Quest 2, but they cost a whopping $300 standalone.
You get an extra 10º for the field of view on the brand-new QLED display, which has 500 individual dimming zones for a visual boost. The headset itself has a built-in Elite Strap that gives you a secure and comfortable fit, whereas the Quest 2 makes you buy the replacement yourself. Really, there are several ways that the Quest Pro beats the Quest 2, though it obviously should when it costs three times as much.
Still, you shouldn't buy a headset this expensive just for minor visual and graphical upgrades. The main reason to buy the Quest Pro is if you're an actual prosumer developer, who needs a headset with almost no latency between the headset and computer, as well as fantastic full-color passthrough so you can spend your day in mixed-reality instead of virtual reality. You can see your surroundings so you don't feel isolated, while still getting an augmented view of the world and access to virtual desktops.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
While Meta has a stranglehold on standalone VR in certain parts of the world, mainly the US, it hasn't done as well in other regions like Germany, where it was up until recently banned due to privacy issues. The Pico 4 recently launched in Europe and Asia as a standalone VR competitor, giving people a tempting alternative.
The Pico 4 is lighter than the Quest 2 because of its pancake lenses, something currently exclusive to the Quest 3. And its strap uses an Elite Strap design by default — whereas the Quest 2 makes you buy that for an extra $60 — so it is more balanced and easier to use for exercise apps. Add in a more comfortable facial interface, and the Pico 4 will require fewer accessories than the Quest 2 out of the box.
Generally speaking, the Pico 4 takes the Quest 2 template and just makes everything a little better. It has a wider and taller field of view and higher resolution, though it struggles to hit the same refresh rates as the Quest 2 with the same Snapdragon XR1 chipset. Plus, its IPD adjustments are more variable, so it's more likely to match your eyes' gap exactly.
While the Pico 4 benefits from its parent company (ByteDance) and has support for TikTok, it misses out on many of the best Quest 2 games that are Meta exclusives, though the company has worked to significantly grow its library to well over 100 games since launch.
We hope that Pico will eventually challenge Meta on its home turf and bring its headsets to the United States, so that American VR fans have more variety in their standalone VR options.
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Ultimately, the Oculus Quest 2 is the best VR headset you can buy, regardless of whether you own a PC or a console. That's because the Oculus Quest 2 doesn't need any PC, console, or even a smartphone to run the experience. All of it is built-in, and the experience is even better than other headsets because of this fact.
The Meta Quest 2 is great for gaming and social activities, and you can even bring it to your friends' and families' houses, since there are no cords and barely any setup involved in the process. What's more, you can even connect the Oculus Quest 2 to your gaming PC to unlock the full power of PC-powered VR.
If you want the best possible visual experience, a PS VR2 or Valve Index should enter the conversation. But we'll never recommend that you buy an expensive console or PC just for VR when the Quest 2 exists. It's only something we suggest if you already own the PS5 or a gaming PC.
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- Danny GallagherFreelance Writer, VR/AR
- Michael L HicksSenior Editor, VR/AR and fitness