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The best VR headset you can buy

Ready to take the plunge into VR? These are the only headsets worth buying

Six months ago, the world of consumer virtual reality changed forever with the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets. While both were solid options in their own rights, our favorite was the HTC Vive. With room-scale experiences, bundled motion controllers, and a pretty decent starting line up of launch titles, it provided a fulfilling experience right out of the box. When the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were in the Digital Trends office, almost everyone preferred the latter, from first-time gamers to veterans.

But time, as with everything, changes things and the VR landscape is certainly much busier than it was earlier this year. So which headset would we recommend to you now?

It should come as no surprise that the HTC Vive is still our pick for computer-powered VR headsets. However its roomscale focus isn’t necessarily for everyone. Oculus’ Rift has an expanded library of games now and with Touch controllers just around the corner, it’s certainly worth considering.

Other potential claimants to the throne of the VR king have also arisen, so let’s take another look at why we think the Vive is the best out there, and what the competition offers in the hotly contested virtual reality gaming scene at the tail end of 2016.

Our pick

HTC VIVE

Why you should buy this: It’s the best virtual reality system available.

Who’s it for: Those happy to pay that bit extra for the full package right now.

How much will it cost: $800

Why we picked the HTC Vive

HTC and Valve’s virtual reality headset is, at least at the moment, the most complete and engaging VR experience available. It’s specifically built for room-scale experiences and now, six months on from release, its library of games is well over 300, all of which capitalize on the the SteamVR platform’s power and openness in various ways.

The device also backs up that software support with powerful, well constructed hardware. The twin OLED displays tout a combined pixel resolution of 2,160 x 1,200, with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 720p camera for tracking and obstacle detection. The headset also includes a pair of motion controllers, two lighthouse trackers, and a pair of earbuds to go along with its $800 price tag.

Room-scale experiences are the HTC Vive’s biggest draw, though. The space starts at 5 by 6 and a half feet, and reaches 16 by 16 feet with the two bundled sensors. You can walk around freely in the space, and even crouch down and lean around corners for a closer look at what’s around you. It’s incredibly immersive, and it also sidesteps many of the issues early headsets had with motion sickness.

Motion controllers also contribute to the Vive’s lead over the Oculus Rift. Although Oculus Touch controllers are set to arrive before the end of 2016, but they only support front-facing use, and their price is still an unknown.

For now, with the HTC’s Vive’s ability to reach out, grab, touch, and manipulate objects in a game, it makes a huge difference in regards to immersion — one that a traditional gamepad simply can’t match. The Vive’s motion controllers are incredibly intuitive as well, equipped with just a few buttons and powerful clicking touchpad that allows for precise movement and settings.

If there’s one thing that’s holding computer-based VR headsets back, it’s the price. That doesn’t just mean the $800 price tag affixed to the headset, but also the $600 or more you’ll need for a capable system. Both the Rift and Vive require at least an Intel Core i5-4590 or greater, along with a GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 (GTX 1060 and RX 480 in the current generation) for fully operational VR.

Should you wait: The HTC Vive isn’t even halfway through its lifecycle and the competition still hasn’t caught up. Buy now.

Our full review

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