All of a sudden, VR is interesting again. The Meta Quest 3 delivers excellent standalone virtual reality for $500, while Apple has thrown down the gauntlet with the Vision Pro, a $3,500 stab at combining VR and augmented reality (AR). After a few years of stagnation, it’s worth considering an immersive headset — and if you’re already a VR aficionado, it’s certainly time to move on from the original Quest. But for the Apple fanatics, or people who can easily afford it, the Vision Pro is a glimpse at where the entire category might be headed. We’ve tested and reviewed all of the big players in the VR game; this buyer’s guide will help you decide which headset is right for you.
Meta Quest 3
Best VR headset for most people
Apple Vision Pro
Best next-gen VR/AR headset
Meta Quest 2
Best cheap VR headset
PlayStation VR 2
Best console VR headset
HP Reverb G2
Best VR headset for PC under $600
Valve Index VR kit
Best PC VR headset for gamers
Best VR quality, no matter the cost
How we test VR headsets
I tend to judge VR headsets on a few basic criteria: Ergonomics, immersion and controls. It's not that hard to shove a mobile display into a plastic headset and strap some cheap elastic headbands onto it. But it takes skill to craft something that's well balanced and doesn't feel uncomfortable after 30 minutes.
My test for ergonomics is fairly simple: How long can I wear a headset until I start to feel discomfort? For the most ergonomic devices, like the Quest 3, that could easily be an hour or two. But heavier PC hardware often feels cumbersome after just 15 minutes — you won’t find headsets guilty of that in this guide.
Immersion, meanwhile, comes from having high resolution screens with fast refresh rates, so everything looks sharp and smooth. Field of view is also a major element, as it describes how well VR screens can cover what you see. Having a narrow field of view makes it feel like you’re looking through a pair of binoculars, and limits your sense of “presence,” or the idea that you’re actually transported to a virtual world.
A wide field of view, on the other hand, can make it seem like you’re actually flying over the globe in Google Earth. We look at a few popular games, like Superhot, Beat Saber and Pistol Whip, on every headset to judge how immersed we feel.
The best controllers fit naturally in your hands and offer accurate tracking. The industry has basically adopted the design of Meta’s excellent touch controllers, but we're also seeing intriguing leaps forward like Valve's finger tracking gamepads. We judge controllers based on how easy they are to hold, how they hold up to sweaty gameplay sessions and how easily headsets can track their position in space.
Other VR headsets we’ve tested
Meta Quest Pro
As great as the Meta Quest 3 is, the Quest 2 is still a very good entry-level VR headset, and it’s worth considering if it’s on sale below its current $250 list price. The Meta Quest Pro, on the the hand, is an expensive boondoggle best ignored.
HTC Vive Pro 2
Outside of Meta’s hardware, the HTC Vive Pro 2 remains a fantastic PC headset, but it’s far more expensive than the Valve Index, which is more comfortable and offers better audio.
How do VR headsets work?
At the most basic level, a VR headset is simply a high quality screen that you’re holding up to your face. For a wired headset, the actual work of rendering a game is done on either a PC or game console. For completely wireless devices, like the Meta Quest 3, that work is handled right on the headset. They rely on either external sensors, or sensors built into the headsets, to map your physical space. While you can use a traditional gamepad or keyboard and mouse in VR, they typically use motion tracking controllers to immerse you in their 3D environments.
What VR headset is best for full body tracking?
While we’re still waiting for a truly great haptic VR bodysuit to arrive, you can still achieve accurate body tracking with most Steam VR-compatible PC headsets. The Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2 both rely on room-tracking sensors that can map your body more effectively than the built-in sensors on competitors. You can also add HTC Vive Trackers to wrist and leg straps, as well as belts, for even better coverage. The Meta Quest 3 doesn’t have any easy body tracking solutions, but you can add Vive trackers when it’s plugged into your PC to mimic a Steam VR headset.
Only a few experiences, like VRChat, take advantage of full body tracking at the moment. Currently there aren’t any body tracking solutions for the PlayStation VR and VR2, but we’re intrigued by the company’s Mocopi body trackers, which were really announced in Japan.
What VR headsets are better than Oculus?
Oculus is the previous name for Meta’s VR hardware. Currently, Meta only supports the Quest 3, Quest 2 and Quest Pro, all of which are wireless headsets. As we explain above, PC VR headsets can generally achieve better quality virtual reality, since they rely on more powerful graphics hardware.
What VR headsets work with Xbox?
Currently, Microsoft’s Xbox consoles don’t support any VR headsets.