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The best VR headsets for 2024

Virtual reality is here, and there's never been a better time to snag a VR headset.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Virtual reality is interesting again. After a few years of stagnation, it’s worth considering an immersive VR headset. 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). Those who have an original Quest should consider upgrading, and while it’s not really feasible for most people, the Vision Pro provides 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 is the best VR headset for you.

Quick Overview
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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.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of the Meta Quest 3 VR headset

The long-awaited follow-up to the Quest 2 is an upgrade in every respect: It’s more comfortable to wear, it has higher quality screens and it has full-color mixed reality cameras, allowing you to see the real world alongside virtual elements. While it’s more expensive at $500, it’s also a far more capable headset than the Quest 2, with hardware and optics that will keep you happily immersed in VR for years.

The Quest 3 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip, which Meta says has double the graphics power of the Quest 2. That additional power is noticeable in games like Red Matter 2, which feature updated textures that deliver an experience closer to PC VR. The Quest 3’s new displays run at 2,064 by 2,208 pixels per eye, offering an even better experience than the PlayStation VR2. Its mixed reality cameras also let you easily see the real world, in case you need to quickly answer a text or Slack message. And they enable games that can be built around your room.

What makes the Quest 3 interesting is that it offers more than just solid VR: It also gives you a glimpse at what a mixed reality future could be. While it’s not as sharp or capable as Apple’s Vision Pro, that’s understandable. And just like previous Quest headsets, you can also plug it into a gaming PC for higher quality VR experiences.

Pros
  • Sharp new screens and lenses
  • More compact than Quest 2
  • Faster performance
  • Mixed reality cameras make it easier to see the real world
  • Adjustable for glasses
Cons
  • More expensive than before
  • Only 128GB of storage to start
  • No battery life improvements
$499 at Walmart
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$500 at Amazon$500 at QVC
Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of the Meta Quest 3 VR headset

With the Vision Pro, Apple is attempting to do for VR what the iPod did for media players, and what the iPhone did for smartphones. It’s a bold, $3,500 gamble to reshape the world of VR around Apple’s idea of “spatial computing.” It’s incredibly expensive, somewhat uncomfortable and surprisingly buggy, but the Vision Pro is the biggest leap forward we’ve seen in the stagnating VR industry in years. Most people shouldn’t buy it, but if you’re a developer or someone with money to burn and want the best immersive headset today, it’s truly in a league of its own.

Pros
  • Incredible Micro-OLED screens
  • Intuitive gesture controls
  • Convincing Spatial Audio
  • Immersive Video is astoundingly realistic
Cons
  • Incredibly expensive
  • visionOS is very buggy
  • Heavy compared to other headsets
  • External battery is annoying and doesn't last long
  • Not many native visionOS apps
$3,500 at Apple

Read our full review of the Meta Quest 2 VR headset

Over years since its release, the Meta Quest 2 remains the best budget VR option for the vast majority of consumers. It's a completely standalone headset, and it's comfortable to wear for long sessions. And now that it’s down to a new standard price of $250, it remains the best way to jump into VR without spending a ton of money.

Here’s what’s still good, though: there's a huge library of titles that you can experience anywhere, and it's bundled with Meta’s great motion controllers. You can also connect the Quest 2 to a gaming PC to stream more complex VR experiences.

The Quest 2 features fast-switching LCDs with a resolution 1832x1920 per eye,t It also has a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, which is impressive for something running entirely on mobile hardware. The Quest 2's field of view isn't the best — it's been measured at just around 90 degrees — but it's still enough to enjoy most VR experiences. You can also use different face pads to increase its field of view a bit. And if you want an even more comfortable fit, you can snag the Elite headstrap for $49 (or $129 with a built-in battery and case).

The Quest 2 may not offer the best VR experience, but it's certainly the most accessible headset on the market.

Pros
  • Higher resolution screens
  • More powerful hardware
  • Excellent standalone VR
  • Works well as a desktop VR headset
  • Price is a steal
Cons
  • Standalone games still limited by mobile hardware
  • 90Hz isn’t available at launch
  • Fit adjustment is a bit wonky
$198 at Amazon
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$199 at Walmart$200 at HSN
Photo By Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of the PlayStation VR2 headset

The PS VR2 is one of the best headset we’ve tested. It offers dual 2K OLED HDR screens, effectively giving you 4K quality. It’s one of the most comfortable headsets around. And it has some genuinely refreshing new features, like eye tracking and headset haptics. (Yes, it can literally rock your noggin.) Best of all, the PS VR2 delivers high-quality virtual reality without the need for a $1,000+ gaming PC – all you need is a PlayStation 5.

Now, our recommendation comes with a few caveats. At $550, the PS VR2 is more expensive than the PS5 itself. And it’s unclear how quickly its game library will fill up. The initial run has only a few exclusives, like Horizon VR and Gran Turismo 7, and we haven’t seen many new titles since then. But it’s still the easiest way to experience high-end VR, and it’s a major upgrade over the original PS VR.

Pros
  • Excellent OLED displays
  • Comfortable fit
  • Headset haptics feel immersive
  • Sense controllers are solid
Cons
  • Incredibly high launch price
  • Limited new titles
  • Long term development is suspect
$550 at Sony
Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of Valve Index VR kit

Valve's Index kit remains one of the best high-end solutions on the market that provides a truly immersive VR experience. For $999 you get the Index headset, Valve's finger tracking controllers and two SteamVR base stations. While we've seen higher-resolution headsets arrive in the last two years, it's still a very solid option, with a 1,440 by 1,600 pixel resolution, an eye-watering 144Hz refresh rate and a massive 130-degree field of view. I'd gladly lose a few pixels for the Index’s smoother and more expansive screen, which are still far beyond most other consumer headsets.

As a SteamVR product, the Index requires installing two sensors at opposite corners of your room. And of course, it's wired to your PC. But that clunkiness is worth it for the higher refresh rate and more accurate tracking. Sure, it's not as easy to use as the Quest 2, but at this price range, we assume you'll suffer a bit of inconvenience to get a truly high-quality VR experience.

Valve's finger tracking controllers are fantastic as well, with a convenient strap that locks them onto your hands. They make playing Half-Life: Alyx feel like a dream. It's unfortunate that other VR games haven't fully taken advantage of the finger tracking though.

Pros
  • 144Hz refresh rate with a 130-degree field of view
  • Excellent finger-tracking controllers
  • Stellar performance
Cons
  • Requires installing sensors in your room
  • Wired design
$999 at Steam
Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of the Bigscreen Beyond VR headset

Essentially an upgrade for the Index, the Beyond is a unique spin on a VR headset from Bigscreen, the developer of a popular app for watching video in VR. It looks more like an oversized pair of goggles than a massive VR headset. The $999 Beyond is the lightest VR option we’ve ever seen (it weighs a tad more than a deck of playing cards), and its Micro-OLED screens are sharp and offer near-perfect contrast. Unlike LCD screens, black can look genuinely black with the Beyond.

The downside, though, is that the Bigscreen Beyond is expensive. It’s $999 on its own if you’re just upgrading a Valve Index setup. If you’re starting from scratch, though, you’ll also need to buy two Steam VR base stations and a pair of Index controllers. That adds up to a whopping $1,578.

The Bigscreen Beyond also requires a custom face cushion, which is built from a 3D facescan when you place your order. Unfortunately, that makes it harder to share than other headsets. There’s also no room for glasses, since it’s so slim. You can buy prescription lens inserts from Bigscreen for an additional fee. And of course, you’ll have to live with a cable tethered to your PC, there’s none of the freedom of the cordless Meta Quest headsets.

For all of its complexity, though, the Bigscreen Beyond delivers the most immersive PC VR experience I’ve ever seen. Since it’s so light, you can easily wear it for hours. Together with its glorious screens, it’s the best option for VR enthusiasts who don’t mind dealing with cost and complexity for true immersion.

Pros
  • Incredibly light and comfortable
  • Sharp and bright Micro-OLED screens
  • Works alongside existing Valve Index accessories
Cons
  • Expensive
  • No built-in audio
  • Still exhibits artifacting like other VR headsets
$999 at Bigscreen

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.

FAQs

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.

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