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Best VR headsets for PC 2020: Reviews and comparisons

Best VR headsets for PC 2020: Reviews and comparisons

  

Best VR headsets for PC 2020: Reviews and comparisons

When do we draw the line between “early adoption” and, uh, “regular adoption”? With virtual reality, maybe it’s right now. Years of sluggish sales had me convinced that virtual reality might disappear with nary a whimper, but then the hardware got better, the games got better, and suddenly people are talking about VR again. And hey, being essentially trapped in your house for weeks on end doesn’t hurt.

The hardware landscape has gotten a lot more confusing since the first-gen Oculus Rift and HTC Vive debuted in 2016. We have “tethered” and “untethered” headsets, different resolutions, different lenses—and what the hell is “MR” anyway?

We’re here to guide you in the right direction. Below you’ll find our recommendations, whether you’re a first-timer or an early adopter looking to upgrade. And if you’re looking to buy right now, you’re probably going to have to settle for whatever’s in stock. Headsets have been in short supply since the Half-Life: Alyx reveal in November. Still, let’s pretend all these headsets are in stock for the moment, at least. 

We’ll update this list periodically to accommodate new releases as well, though with the Valve Index and Oculus Quest less than a year old (at time of writing) it might be a while before we see better hardware worth buying.

Latest news

Windows Mixed Reality (MR) might actually have a fighting chance when HP’s Reverb G2 arrives in the fall. Until now Microsoft’s MR ecosystem has floundered with inferior hardware and a poor user experience, but with Valve providing support to HP’s G2 efforts, and the upcoming headset’s use of four cameras, the prospects for Windows MR seem a lot more promising. We look forward to reviewing the Reverb G2 when it arrives in the fall.

Best high-end VR headset

The Valve Index is the best all-around headset you can buy at the moment. Best optics, best audio, best comfort, best tracking, and (once you get used to them at least) best controllers. Best everything—except the price, which at $1,000 (for the headset, controllers, and base stations) is bound to make even the most enthusiastic adopter wince.

Its 2880×1600 resolution and 130-degree field of view mean you can see the digital world clearer than ever, and more of it. The Index also supports up to a 144Hz refresh rate, though you’ll need a monster of a PC to hit that frame rate consistently.

But it’s the less immediately noticeable features that make the Index stand out to me. The tracking is rock-solid, just like with the original HTC Vive. Valve still relies on base stations, which make the Index a pain to set up and dismantle, but ensure the system will almost never lose track of a controller or the headset. The audio is top-tier as well, replacing the old headphones method with two speakers that float over your ears, creating an ultra-realistic audio field that surrounds you instead of merely sounding like…well, headphones.

Last but not least, the Index Controllers (or “Knuckles”) are the most advanced on the market today. The controllers strap over the backs of your hands and sensors embedded in the grips help track each individual finger, allowing you to open and close your hands, squeeze cans until they’re crushed, or (most likely) flip enemies the ol’ middle finger. 

Nobody else allows you to do that. Maybe that’s worth the $1,000 cost of entry on its own.

Runner-up

Valve isn’t the only high-end headset in town. Though Valve is no longer partnered with HTC, the Vive Pro is still a solid alternative to the Index. It has the same 2880×1600 display and uses the same rock-solid Lighthouse tracking. The only real difference is that the Vive Pro uses headphones instead of speakers, and ships with the old Vive wands instead of the more futuristic Index Controllers. It also costs more than the Index ($1,200 vs. $1,000 for the whole system, sans PC), so there’s really no reason to opt for the Vive Pro instead—unless of course the Index remains in scarce supply.

Best future-proof VR headset

If you don’t want to plunk down $1,000 for the Valve Index (and I don’t blame you) then my next recommendation is the Oculus Quest. Why? Because it’s a VR headset you’ll actually use