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The best VR headsets, according to a tech expert

For gaming and fitness, VR offers an experience unlike anything else on the market.
VR headsets
Headsets like the Meta Quest 2 and the Valve Index are above most of the competition.Best Buy; Amazon

Despite Meta’s huge investment (and investment losses) into the “metaverse,” VR is still much more niche than the marketing makes it seem. Of the more than 215 million games across the U.S., only about 7% of them said that a VR device was their preferred device for playing games. In 2022, VR headset sales fell 2% year over year.

SKIP AHEAD Best VR headsets | Frequently asked questions about VR headsets

While VR might not be your next social platform (yet), it is excellent at delivering unique gaming and exercise experiences. “At the end of the day, VR is still primarily for gaming and exercise right now,” said Avi Greengart, president and lead analyst at Techsponential, a tech market research and advisory service.

To help you get past the marketing buzz and tech specs, we spoke with Greengart about the best VR headsets on the market today.

How to shop for a VR headset

There are a handful of VR headsets on the market today, with many big tech companies like Apple developing brand-new headsets, said Greengart. While shopping for a VR headset, the most important thing to consider is what you are trying to do in VR. “You have to have at least some idea of what you're gonna use it for,” said Greengart. Do you plan on using your VR headset standing up, sitting down, or both? Which room in the house do you plan to put it in? Does that room have a lot of open floor space? These are all important questions to consider, as they will help decide which VR headset is best for you.

Best VR headsets

The best VR headset on the market largely depends on what you are trying to do in VR. All of the most popular headsets excel in wildly different ways, making the decision more about what you want than what the hardware offers. To pick the best VR headsets, we focused on expert-recommended options from veteran tech brands. We prioritized headsets with stable performance and a history of software support.

Best Overall: Meta

If you are in the U.S., the easiest recommendation for VR is still Meta’s Quest 2, said Greengart. Of all the VR headsets on the market, it is one of the easiest to use. “It is completely self contained, you don’t need a PC or game console to use it. You can use it standing, sitting down, in small spaces — it’s very portable,” said Greengart. You can run software solely through the Quest 2, or pair it with a PC via wireless Quest Air Link or a wired USB-C cable, making it a particularly versatile headset.

Greengart said the key to the Quest 2’s success is its reasonable price and huge library of software. Greengart particularly recommended “Beat Saber,” a rhythm game that mixes exercise elements to create a very fun experience.

The Quest 2 is more affordable than many other top-rated VR headsets. It comes with a VR headset, charger and two battery-powered touch controllers.

Best for PC: Valve

Valve’s Index VR headset is a great choice if you are looking to play lots of PC games. It must be plugged into a high-powered gaming laptop or PC to be used. Graphically intense games like “Half Life: Alyx” were designed with the Valve Index in mind.

The Index has a lot of powerful peripherals to pair with the headset. Particularly impressive are its controllers, which can individually detect each one of your fingers. This is unique in the VR space and allows for some immersive gameplay experiences. It also pairs with two “base stations,” which create a very precise play space with very accurate motion tracking.

Valve’s Index can be bought piecemeal, but we recommend purchasing the full Valve Index VR Kit, which includes everything you need to fully enjoy the system.

Best for PlayStation: PSVR 2

If you own a PS5, the new PSVR 2 is one of the best VR headsets to buy. It must be plugged into a PS5 to be used. Reviewers have noted that the PSVR 2 is extremely adjustable and very comfortable. Like the best gaming monitors, it features a high refresh rate 4K HDR screen. Built into the headset are advanced features like eye-tracking, something missing from most other VR headsets.

The PSVR 2 is exclusively for playing video games, and according to reviewers, titles like “Horizon: Call of the Mountain” and “The Last Clockwinder” are great games to start with.

The PSVR 2 includes a VR headset, two VR2 Sense controllers, a charger and wired earbuds.

Frequently asked questions about VR headsets

Does VR cause motion sickness?

Motion sickness is absolutely an issue in VR, according to nearly everyone (Greengart, myself, most reviewers and most users). If you get motion sickness from riding in a vehicle or playing first-person video games, there is a good chance VR will impact you the same way.

Luckily, VR technology has improved over time, with many ways to help mitigate motion sickness. “For people who are particularly sensitive to motion sickness, try increasing the refresh rate,” said Greengart. Refresh rate is essentially “how often images are hitting your eyes and how quickly those images are updated,” he said.. Really, anything you can do to lower latency in VR will help with motion sickness, as a smoother experience will better recreate real-world movement and motion.

Is VR only for gaming?

Greengart commented that, while there have been strides to make VR a more robust space, it is still best for gaming and gamified fitness activity. He mentioned games like “Beat Saber” and exercise programs like “Supernatural” as standout titles that offer an experience that cannot easily be recreated outside of VR.

Which is better: wired or wireless?

Headsets like the Quest 2 can be used wired or wirelessly, while headsets like the Valve Index and PSVR 2 can only be used via wired connection. Wireless is generally easier and simpler to use, according to Greengart. But users may want to plug in, or at the very least pair wirelessly, with a powerful PC to leverage its computer power. This is especially useful for playing graphically demanding games like “Half Life: Alyx” and “Microsoft Flight Simulator.”

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Avi Greengart is the president and lead analyst of Techsponential, a tech market research and advisory service.

Correction: Meta’s Quest 2 can play many additional VR games by plugging into a PC or connecting through its wireless Air Link feature. An earlier version of this story mischaracterized this capability.

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