There’s never been a better time to jump into virtual reality.
You made a wise decision if you waited for VR hardware to advance. Since the release of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vivi six years ago, headset technology has advanced significantly. Since it has been available for two years, the Meta Quest 2 has established itself as a highly competent portable VR experience. Additionally, high-end PC headsets are becoming more affordable if you’re looking for a more immersive experience (and the new PS VR 2 is something to look forward to). There are a lot of VR experiences to try out, even though the overall VR market hasn’t evolved all that much since last year (apart from the fairly underwhelming Meta Quest Pro).
So what makes a good VR headset?
I typically evaluate virtual reality headsets based on three fundamental standards: controls, immersion, and ergonomics. Placing a mobile device inside a plastic headset and attaching some cheap elastic headbands to it is not difficult. But to create something that is well-balanced and doesn’t leave you feeling uneasy after 30 minutes needs skill.
High resolution screens with quick refresh rates are what create immersion since they make everything appear clear and slick. Another important factor is field of view, which indicates how effectively your perspective is covered by VR screens. Low field of view reduces “presence” by giving the impression that you are looking through a pair of binoculars. However, Google Earth’s expansive range of view can give the impression that you are actually flying over the planet.
And when it comes to controllers, the best choices offer precise tracking and naturally fit in your hands. Although the industry has largely followed the fantastic touch controller design from Meta, there have been some interesting advancements, such as the finger tracking gamepads from Valve.
The Meta Quest 2 is still the top VR headset for the vast majority of customers more than two years after its release. It is entirely cordless and is cozy to wear for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, Meta had to raise the price of the Quest 2 this year by $100, making it a $400 headset as a result of supply chain constraints and a deteriorating economic environment. It’s still a fantastic device, but oddly enough, it’s now less of a bargain than it was the year before.
But here’s what’s still good: it comes with Meta’s excellent motion controllers and a sizable library of games that you can play anywhere. Additionally, the Quest 2 can stream more complicated VR experiences when connected to a gaming PC.
The Quest 2 has fast-switching LCDs with the greatest resolution we’ve seen from Meta—1832×1920 per eye. For something that runs solely on mobile hardware, it also sports a flawless 90Hz refresh rate, which is astounding. Although the field of view on the Quest 2 isn’t the best (it’s been estimated to be just about 90 degrees), it’s still sufficient to enjoy the majority of VR experiences. Additionally, you can use various face pads to slightly widen its field of view. Additionally, the Elite head-trip is available for $49 (or $129 with a built-in battery and casing) if you want an even more snug fit.
To make the headset more comfortable, Meta has recalled the foam inserts from the original model and is now selling silicone covers. Although we didn’t encounter any problems when doing our study or using the service over the previous year, there have been enough complaints for Facebook to take action. In addition, the base $399 Quest 2 has 128GB of storage, which is twice as much as the previous model and gives you more room to install VR games and apps.
The Quest 2 is undoubtedly the most affordable VR headset on the market, even though it may not provide the best overall VR experience. (At least until we observe a possible follow-up in the upcoming year.)
Best PC VR headset under $600: HP Reverb G2
HP’s $599 Reverb G2 is for you if you don’t care about wireless VR and want to spend a little extra on a premium PC headset. With some of the best features from the more expensive Index headset, like near-field speakers, it was created in collaboration with Valve. With 2,160 by 2,160 pixels per eye, a refresh rate of 90 Hz, and a relatively large field of view of 114 degrees, the Reverb G2 also features sharp panels.
Additionally, it is the first Windows Mixed Reality headset to feature four sensors, which contributes to better VR tracking, particularly in action-packed games. In addition, HP deserves praise for creating a tethered VR headset with plush padding around the eyepiece and rear strap that is incredibly comfortable.
Although not my favorite, the Reverb G2’s motion controllers are still a significant improvement over HP’s prior design. It may also be upgraded to work with Valve’s finger-tracking controllers, but that would need obtaining Steam VR sensors and requiring a lot more setup. Even so, it’s convenient to have an upgrading path.
Best PC VR headset for gamers: Valve Index
One of the best premium VR products available is still Valve’s Index kit. You can purchase the Index headset, finger tracking controllers from Valve, and two Steam VR base stations for $999. Although higher-resolution headsets have become available in the previous two years, this one is still a very good choice because to its 1,440 by 1,600 pixel resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, and enormous 130-degree field of view. I wouldn’t mind giving up a few pixels for a smoother, larger screen that is still far superior to any other consumer headset.
The Index is a Steam VR product, therefore you must set up two sensors in different corners of your space. Naturally, it is wired to your computer. The increased refresh rate and more precise tracking make up for the chunkiness, though. Sure, it’s not as simple to use as the Quest 2, but for the price, we figure you’re willing to put up with a little annoyance in exchange for a truly top-notch VR gaming experience.
The excellent finger tracking controllers from Valve have a handy strap that secures them to your hands. They give Half-Life: Alix the impression of being a dream. It’s terrible that other VR games haven’t utilized finger tracking to its full potential.
Best VR quality, no matter the cost: HTC Vive Pro 2
The most attractive PC VR I’ve seen is the HTC Vivi Pro 2. It offers a remarkable 5K screen with a reliable 120Hz refresh rate. Nevertheless, be aware that the complete package, which includes the headset, two Steam VR sensors, and wand controllers, costs $1,399. In addition, you can upgrade from the Valve Index or the original Vive Pro by purchasing the headset separately for $799.
You receive a well-balanced, incredibly comfy VR headset for the price. The Pro 2 is undeniable proof that Valve has virtually mastered the art of producing top-tier hardware. The huge wand controllers, which are identical to those that came with the 2016 HTC Vive, leave me less impressed. They do the job, but the Oculus Touch Controllers are far more ergonomic.
I’m mainly recommending the Pro 2 here based on the astounding quality of the headset.
The finger-tracking controllers from Valve and the Steam VR base stations may be better purchased separately by true VR enthusiasts. By doing so, you can guarantee that playing Pistol Whip will be the best it can be for you.
What about the PS VR 2?
Sony’s PlayStation VR was a huge hit when it first came out, but ever since the PlayStation 5 was unveiled, it has all but been forgotten. The PS VR 2, a fully redesigned gadget from Sony, has a 120Hz refresh rate support, built-in tracking, much improved resolution, a bigger field of view, and other improvements. Additionally, it comes with brand-new haptic feedback controllers, allowing you to finally get rid of your outdated PS Move wands. Although we haven’t yet experienced the PS VR 2, you can anticipate to pay $550 when it launches on February 22, 2023 (more than a PS5!).