Best VR Headsets

Updated December 2021
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Bottom Line

After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested HTC VIVE Pro 2 Virtual Reality System to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

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Buying guide for Best VR headsets

Virtual reality is now a practical reality: it’s easier than ever to put on a VR headset and immerse yourself in a completely different environment that transforms your entire field of vision. When you put on a VR headset, you get a 360° view, so you can explore interactive landscapes without ever leaving the comfort of your living room.

There really is nothing quite like virtual reality. With the right VR headset and setup, you can do anything — from playing next-generation video games to exploring virtual replicas of famous locations from all over the world. Whether you want to explore virtual dungeons, or just understand what your favorite monument looks like in person, all you need is a good VR headset.

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The terms augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are often confused. Augmented reality is any hardware or software that overlays text or graphics on real-world images or video. Virtual reality is any hardware or software that places the user in a completely artificial environment.

Tether permitting

Virtual reality headsets don’t work on their own: they all rely on external devices to do the heavy lifting of presenting entire environments to the goggles the user wears. In some cases, that outside device is a smartphone; other VR headsets are powered by a computer or a game console.

The first decision to make when purchasing a virtual reality headset is which type will work best for you.

  • Wireless VR smartphone headsets are essentially goggles that hold your smartphone, and use its screen as lenses. With the help of specially enabled apps and games, you can explore virtual environments to your heart’s content. Some wireless VR headsets only function with specific smartphone models. When browsing wireless VR headsets, remember that the cost of the smartphone is not included.

  • Tethered VR headsets and their wireless cousins dedicated to computer gaming have their own screens inside the goggles and are powered by a computer or game console through wires that are slightly unwieldy. Wired headsets typically have superior image quality, although they are significantly more expensive than wireless units (even before the cost of the computer or console).

Virtual reality headset prices

Pricing for virtual reality headsets can be tricky, because there are so many hidden costs.

Wireless goggle headsets are the most affordable, and typically cost less than $100 per pair, but that price doesn’t include the cost of the smartphone needed to power the experience. Similarly, tethered VR headsets start around $300, but the required computer or console quickly bumps the total cost up by several hundred dollars.

Once you’ve purchased a VR headset and all of the necessary supporting hardware, there is also the cost of software to be considered. Many exploration-style apps are free — Facebook 360 is a popular free download, great for checking out environments from around the world — but most games and premium content must be purchased separately.

Virtual reality games and apps range anywhere from $4 to $50, and should be factored into the total cost of ownership.

Did you know?
The world’s first VR headset was created in 1968 and weighed so much it had to be mounted from a ceiling. Due to its appearance, it was nicknamed “The Sword of Damocles.”

The places you’ll virtually go

A virtual reality headset will let you tap into a near-limitless world of simulations and adventures. These are the most common types of experiences on a VR headset:

  • First-person action games put you right in the middle of the excitement — whether that’s behind the wheel in a virtual racing game, or with an elite squad of commandos. If you think traditional console games are intense, VR games up the stakes, and deliver heart-pounding adventures in real time.

  • Crafting apps, including the ultra-popular Minecraft, have been so successful on VR platforms they’ve become their own category. Whether you’re into casually building your own virtual empire or designing objects that can be 3D-printed in the real world, there’s a VR app for that.

  • Virtual tours allow you to browse locations from all over the world, throughout history. Users can take a stroll through Ancient Rome, downtown New York City, or even their favorite museum.

  • Multi-device co-op games take on a new twist with a VR headset. In these games, the player with the headset must use what they see and work with other players who are using their own devices. Classics like “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” are great for parties or gatherings — just so long as everyone gets a turn!


Did You Know?
If you’re using a wireless VR headset with your smartphone, charge your phone first. Virtual reality apps are known for draining phone batteries relatively quickly.

Virtual comfort

While most people focus on the virtual reality features of VR headsets, at the end of the day, they’re still headsets, which means you’ll need to find one that fits your head comfortably.

One of the key factors in VR headset comfort is the headset strap material.

  • Fabric straps are generally more elastic, and typically more comfortable overall. However, fabric straps will absorb sweat over time and can be a challenge to clean.

  • Plastic, rubberized straps are more durable and simple to clean. Many VR headsets with plastic straps have extra comfort features, like padding near the forehead area.

Did You Know?
Most VR headsets weigh about one pound. If you’re buying a wireless VR headset for use with a phone, remember that the listed weight does not include the weight added by your smartphone.


Before buying a VR headset, consider these tips:

  • If you’re showing virtual reality to a friend or loved one, give them plenty of physical space if it’s their first time. Most first-time users move around quite a bit as they get used to VR, so keep anything fragile out of their path.

  • Most VR headsets include one or more hand-held controllers for navigating virtual environments. Before starting a VR session, learn what each button on the controller does.

  • Virtual reality sickness can be very real: some people get symptoms of motion sickness while using VR headsets, even when there is no motion. If you experience any of these symptoms while using a VR headset, discontinue use immediately and consult a physician.

  • Some wireless VR headset phone units are meant to work only with specific smartphone models. Before buying a wireless VR headset, confirm that your phone is supported.

  • If your headset has any padding or soft surfaces, periodically clean or deodorize the soft parts to keep them smelling fresh.

  • Most VR headsets don’t come with protective cases. Pick up a case for all of your VR gear to keep your investment safe, and ensure enjoyment for years to come.

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While most modern VR headsets can be used either sitting or standing, the first consumer headsets could only be used when sitting.


Q. Can I wear a VR headset if I already wear glasses?
Yes, although your mileage may vary, depending on the VR headset you buy. Many, but not all, virtual reality headsets allow you to adjust the viewing depth to accommodate eyeglasses. Do a few quick searches before you buy — typically, other users will post complaints or warnings if a particular pair does not work well with normal glasses.

Q. Will a wireless VR headset work with my iPhone?
Most, but not all, wireless VR phone headsets work with Apple iPhones. Apple doesn’t make their own VR headset, but many apps for third-party, wireless VR headsets are available in their App Store.

Q. Where can I buy virtual reality apps?
Wireless VR headsets rely on smartphone apps that can be purchased in the Google Play Store (for Android devices) or the App Store (for iOS devices). Tethered VR headsets typically run proprietary apps and games built specifically for unique hardware; for example, the Sony Playstation VR only works with games from the Playstation Store, the Oculus Rift utilizes “experiences” from their online store, and so on.

Q. Are virtual reality games multiplayer?
While most VR games are single player, a growing number of games include multiplayer options. Be sure to read the fine print — some multiplayer games are designed for one player to be at a computer while the other wears the VR headset, while others support multi-headset functionality.

Q. How long can I play a VR game?
Every user has their own threshold for how long they can keep gaming without a break. With virtual reality headsets, breaks are especially important. Regular pauses can prevent you from getting headaches or feeling dizzy, cramped, or even dehydrated. While some people claim to prefer marathon, all-day, uninterrupted VR sessions, your best bet is to prioritize your health: take breaks when you need to, drink water frequently, and get up and stretch regularly.

"Exploring a virtual reality environment is like taking a vacation in the privacy of your own home — you can “visit” locations all over the world or even go on a spacewalk!"
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