Prepare to step into another world, straight from your living room, with the latest virtual reality gear.
Allowing you to hear, see and interact with 3D computer-generated environments, virtual reality (VR) is an exciting new frontier for gaming and entertainment.
There’s a huge range of choice out there when it comes to sophistication and price points, though, from the $30 Google Cardboard to an $800 HTC Vive. So, the first thing to decide is what level of experience you’re after – do you just want to dip your toe in with one of the simpler models, or are you willing to shell out big money for the most cutting-edge immersion?
The other key consideration is what devices you already own. For instance, the Samsung Gear VR only works with an Android smartphone, whereas high-end headsets like Oculus Rift require a powerful laptop. And of course, Sony’s PSVR is designed specifically for the PS4 Pro and PlayStation Camera.
Here’s our pick of the best VR headsets on the market right now.
Sony PlayStation VR
Works with: PS4
Pros: PlayStation VR finally brings virtual reality to home consoles, and has done so with a stylish, intuitive headset. It features one of the best VR game libraries (including Batman: Arkham and Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing Mission) – many are compatible with your Dualshock controller, or invest in Move controllers for an enhanced experience. You can also watch movies in a 120HZ Cinematic mode and let people who aren’t wearing headsets watch your gaming action using the Social Screen.
Cons: Requires a PlayStation Camera (sold separately). Not as visually sharp as its key competitors and the single-camera tracking system occasionally feels lacking, especially when you turn sharply.
Lenovo’s Mirage Solo
Pros: Experience the Google Daydream platform without the need for an expensive flagship smartphone (all the Android components are already packed into the headset). Inside-out tracking sensors deliver impressive six-degrees of freedom (6DoF), which allows you to move about the VR environment with a freedom previously reserved for top-notch tethered headsets.
Cons: Pricier than other self-contained headsets, yet without the high-power specs of tethered varieties, the Mirage Solo occupies a sort of middle ground in the market. Rather bulky and heavy for a supposedly portable design. Fewer games and apps than its rivals (around 250 compared with Oculus Rift’s 1,000).
HTC Vive Pro
Works with: PC or Mac
Pros: Billed as the best consumer-level virtual reality headset money can buy, the second-generation HTC headset boasts 3D spatial sound through built-in headphones, and a 2880 x 1600 OLED display to show textures and shadows in never-seen-before detail. The evolved design is far comfier and lighter than its predecessor. Conversation Mode allows you to converse mid-game with people in the real world, while still hearing the virtual audio, and room-tracking alerts .
Cons: It’s probably the priciest option out there – and that’s with controllers and sensors sold separately. Requires some pretty serious hardware specifications for your PC, a lot of space and electrical outlets – though you can go wireless by buying an add-on adaptor. One for the most hardcore gamers, or those with very deep pockets.
Google Daydream View
Works with: Android
Pros: One step up from the basic Google Cardboard, the Daydream View is an affordable mobile headset that comes in various colors, with a pairable handheld remote to control the on-screen action. The platform’s library of apps has been fast expanding, offering a range of games plus content from the Netflix, HBO, YouTube and Hulu apps. The field of view has also been extended for a more immersive effect.
Cons: Your smartphone will need to be optimized for VR and meet certain specs for the content to work properly – Google’s recent Pixel 2 is one compatible handset. And playing on the Daydream platform drains your phone’s battery rapidly. Lacks integrated audio and voice command.
Works with: PC
Pros: The first big name in the current wave of VR, Oculus has become synonymous with the technology. This powerful, PC-tethered headset boasts Oculus Touch motion controllers, shaped to feel like you are using your hands rather than a clunky controller. Immersive OLED panels in the headset with 2160 x 1200 resolution deliver impressive visuals. It can work with an Xbox One controller and stream games through your Xbox via a PC.
Cons: You’ll need a powerful PC with four USB ports (three 3.0, one 2.0) to fully function with this device. Not possible to install games from the headset.
Pros: For VR newcomers, the Oculus Go is a great jumping off point. All the tech is built-in for a streamlined, untethered experience – no smartphone needed. Comfortable fit and well designed, some of the best functionality you’ll find for this price-point.
Cons: It can’t track you moving forward and backwards or up and down, so only lends itself to seated VR experiences.
Samsung Gear VR
Works with: Samsung smartphones, from the S6 and later
Pros: Innovative voice command and a straightforward interface. Comes with a Bluetooth controller equipped with both a touch pad and motion sensing, in addition to the touch pad built onto the headset itself. Compatible with several generations of Samsung’s phones; visuals are highly detailed and crisp visuals using the Galaxy S8. Inexpensive for VR.
Cons: You’re locked into Oculus’ mobile Gear VR software library, which comes up short on good virtual reality content.