The best VR headsets of 2018

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Back in 2016, 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, things change and the VR landscape is certainly much busier than it was. So which headset would we recommend to you now? Well, the HTC Vive is still at the top of our list, but it’s no longer the only VR headset that’s worth investing in. Here are our picks for the best VR headset you can buy.

At a glance

Best VR headsets Category Our rating
HTC Vive Best VR headset overall 4 out of 5
HTC Vive Pro Best premium VR headset 3.5 out of 5
PlayStation VR Best console VR headset 4 out of 5
Oculus Go Best mobile VR headset 4 out of 5
Oculus Rift Best VR value headset 3 out of 5

HTC Vive

The best VR headset

HTC VIVE

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

Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a full VR experience without breaking the bank.

How much will it cost: $500

Why we picked the HTC Vive

Even with the Vive Pro out there, HTC and Valve’s original virtual reality headset is still the most complete and approachable VR experience available. It’s specifically built for room-scale experiences and its library of games is massive. Most importantly, it does it at an affordable price.

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 $500 price tag.

The tracked space starts at 5 x 6.5 feet, and reaches 16 x 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. 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.

You’ll need a reasonably capable PC to run it, but that’s far easier to come by today than it was during the GPU shortage.

Should you wait: The HTC Vive is getting a little long in the tooth, but that just means the platform is fully mature. With a recent price cut, now’s the time to buy the HTC Vive.

Our full review of the HTC Vive

HTC Vive Pro

The best premium VR

HTC Vive Pro review
Why you should buy this: You have a powerful gaming PC, and you want the highest quality VR experience out there.

Who’s it for: Anyone who already has a powerful VR PC, and doesn’t mind spending an arm or a leg.

How much will it cost: $800 for just the headset, $1,100 – $1,400 for the full setup.

Why we picked the HTC Vive Pro

The Vive Pro is the best but priciest VR headset on the market. The headset alone costs $800, and if you need the controllers and sensors — which you will if you don’t already own an HTC Vive — you’re looking at least $1,100 all-in. So what do you get for over a thousand dollars? An exceptional VR experience.

The Vive Pro improves on the original Vive in almost every arena — it’s more comfortable, it’s better balanced, but most importantly, it features two high-resolution displays that deliver unparalleled detail without that pesky screen-door effect.

The original Vive featured two 1,080 × 1,200 displays — one for each eye — for a max resolution of 2,160 × 1,200. The Vive Pro ramps up the resolution to a whopping 2,880 × 1,600 — or 1,400 × 1,600 per eye. Increasing resolution has the same effect as increasing the resolution for any PC game. Graphics look sharper and cleaner. The resolution bump also dramatically reduces the screen door effect.

As we mention in the review, the Vive Pro is the best VR headset on the market right now, but its pricing knocks it down a peg because the new features the Vive Pro offers don’t quite make up for the increased cost.

Should you wait: If you’re a VR veteran and you need the newest hardware available, the Vive Pro is it. Oculus’ offerings won’t be competing with the Vive Pro in the ultra-premium market for the foreseeable future, so if you have a spare $1,100, go for it.

Our full review of the Vive Pro

PlayStation VR

The best console VR

PlayStation VR
Why you should buy this: You have a PS4 Pro, and you want to play VR games like Moss.

Who’s it for: Those who already own a PS4 and want to experience VR without buying a whole PC for it.

How much will it cost: $300

Why we picked the Sony PlayStation VR

Since the launch of PlayStation VR in 2016, serious console gaming in VR has finally become a reality. Although significantly cheaper than the HTC Vive, the PSVR is a surprisingly effective headset. Its technical specifications demonstrate the difference in power between modern game consoles and desktop systems, but it features more subpixels on its OLED display than the ones used both main competitors which means better color reproduction.

If also offers great visuals and decent tracking with its camera system, but does fall behind in terms of controller input. Its Move Motion controllers are fine for broad strokes, but the older tracking technology can’t match the advanced systems offered by the Vive. Unfortunately, the PSVR also suffers from the screen door issue in the visuals even more so than the Rift or Vive.

The Sony PSVR has the hardware, competitive price, and the large user base to potentially become the first big mainstream VR solution for gaming, but purchasers should be aware that the Vive and the Rift still offer an overall better experience.

Should you wait: If you’ve recently upgraded to the PS4 Pro, and you’re not planning on picking up a gaming PC, the PSVR is an excellent addition to an excellent console.

Our full review of the PSVR

Oculus Go

The best mobile VR

Oculus Go Review

Why you should buy this: It offers a solid entry-level virtual reality experience at a great price.

Who’s it for: New VR users who don’t want to be tethered to anything.

How much will it cost: $200

Why we picked the Oculus Go

Most mobile virtual reality headsets need some form of smartphone of a specific brand, type, or size to act as screen and processor, but not the Oculus Go. It has all of that built-in and offers hours of completely untethered virtual reality for much less than the mainstream offerings on PC and console.

Its only real limitation is the three-degrees-of-freedom, which means it can’t track you moving forward and backwards or up and down, but it can track tilt and orientation, making it perfect for seated VR experiences. It’s a comfortable fit and well designed, giving you a lot for your money. While there are better headsets out there (like the Lenovo Mirage Solo), none of them offer this sort of functionality for just $200.

The Oculus Go may have its limitations, but it gives users a streamlined virtual reality experience that acts as a great jumping off point for VR newcomers.

Should you wait: If you’ve not tried VR before, the Oculus Go is a great place to start and is unlikely to be eclipsed at this price anytime soon.

Our full review of the Oculus Go

Oculus Rift

The best VR value

Oculus Touch review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Easily upgradeable in the future, cheapest PC solution.

Who’s it for: You want a premium VR headset at a discounted cost.

How much will it cost: $400

Why we picked the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift keeps getting more and more competitive, especially with its significant, permanent price drop. At just $400, it may not be dirt cheap, but it’s very inexpensive for a VR headset. Paired with a powerful computer, is every bit as capable from a technical perspective as the HTC Vive and offers decent roomscale tracking and some of the best motion controllers out there.

After more than two years of development, the Rift also has hundreds of compatible applications and games to enjoy, offering a wide array of experiences to VR users new and old. While there isn’t quite as much to play as on the HTC Vive and the hardware is getting a little long in the tooth, for just $400, there’s not a VR headset in the world that can offer such bang for buck.

Should you wait: The Oculus Rift just got a price cut, and it’s only going to get better. Now is a great time to buy.

Our full review of the Oculus Rift

Should you buy now, or wait?

There’s another question haunting this whole discussion, and it’s whether right now is the correct time to buy a premium VR headset at all. If you don’t already have a high-end gaming PC or PlayStation 4, the price is still rather high. Plan on spending $1,000 or more when all is said and done.

If that seems like a lot, there are also a host of Windows Mixed Reality headsets that are worth considering, but we haven’t been particularly impressed by any of these. The Dell Visor, the Samsung Odyssey were decent budget options, but not as robust as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or PSVR. So if you’re curious about the future of VR, or you’re not quite sold on the above options, it might not be a bad idea to wait.

But, if you’re ready to take the plunge, there are enough games and experiences out there that you’ll have plenty to do — as long as you go with one of the established headsets like the Vive, Rift, Oculus Go, or PSVR.

How we test

At this point, you might be wondering how we came to these conclusions. It’s a valid question, and one we try and be as transparent as possible about.

We start by learning everything we can about an HMD, often long before we have a chance to use it. Once we have it in our hands, we try to play as many titles as we can, and push the hardware into awkward situations to see how it responds.

After that, we put it in as many of our coworkers’ hands as possible. We give them free reign over the device, allowing them to choose demo titles and work with it freely. The less instruction we give, the more we see regular users finding hidden corner use cases that reveal the hardware’s mettle, and often points out issues like nausea and controller familiarity that wouldn’t be issues for reviewers.

Most importantly, we take the time to compare the headsets to other offerings on the market. That includes HMDs we’ve spent time with, and products that aren’t available yet, to determine whether each offering represents a good value.

Product Review

Oculus Touch buoys the Rift, but there's still work to be done

Oculus inspired the new generation of virtual reality headsets with its incredibly successful Kickstarter. Is the original the standard, or have its imitators surpassed it? Let's take a look at how the Rift stacks up.
Emerging Tech

Confused by too many e-cigarette options? We found the best of the best

From disposables to mechanical and box mods, here’s our list of the best e-cigarettes available on the market today to help you kick the cigarette habit.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Computing

What's the best laptop? We've reviewed a lot of them, and this is our answer

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. The laptops we've chosen for our best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while…
Emerging Tech

VR experience shows caregivers what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease

Los Angeles-based VR startup Embodied Labs has developed a virtual experience that puts users in the shoes of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia in the U.S.
Photography

Capture life in every direction with the best 360 cameras

While 360 cameras are still a new technology, that doesn't mean there's not a few that are worth a look. Whether you want to shoot from the middle or just need a simple, affordable option, here are the best 360 cameras on the market.
Photography

Insta360 Pro 2 shoots stabilized 8K VR video that you can watch on 4K headsets

The new Insta360 Pro 2 is the first pro-grade 360 camera to integrate stabilization -- but it also packs in a host of other features, including algorithms that allow the 8K videos to be viewed from 4K headsets and smartphones.
Computing

HTC’s new wireless adapter for the Vive arrives in September for $300

Sick of tripping over the HTC Vive’s cord when moving blindly across physical space? HTC’s new wireless adapter is here to help. But it costs $300 and requires you to install an add-in card. That is bad news for laptop owners.
Computing

Oculus ‘Santa Cruz’ VR headset may arrive in the first quarter of 2019

Oculus may introduce a mid-tier VR headset during the Oculus Connect 5 conference in September. This is an assumption based on a response regarding the “Santa Cruz” headset that sources now claim will arrive in 2019's first quarter.
Mobile

Google is making it easier for students to run lab tests in virtual reality

Google and Labster announced a partnership to bring more than 30 virtual science labs to Google Daydream, allowing students and others interested in science to spend time in a lab or out in the field.
Photography

Lensless cameras could turn windows into sensors, even pointed the ‘wrong’ way

A research group at the University of Utah is rethinking cameras for machines and not humans. The result? A lensless camera pointed at the edge of a piece of glass, instead of looking through the glass.
Computing

Apple acquires yet another startup as the release of its AR glasses draws near

Apple AR glasses may be closer to reality than we thought. Here is everything we know so far about the augmented reality system, including the rumored specifications of Apple's Project Mirrorshades.
Product Review

Embrace the dark side with Kylo Ren's lightsaber for 'Star Wars: Jedi Challenges'

Want to be a Jedi? Disney and Lenovo have teamed up to create an augmented reality headset that lets you wield a lightsaber. You can deflect blaster shots, play Holochess, fight or be Kylo Ren in ‘Star Wars: Jedi Challenges.’
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.