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The 5 Best VR Headsets of 2021

The best VR headsets transport you out of the mundane world we find ourselves normally surrounded by and into spectacular landscapes, alien worlds, and fantastical realms that were only previously accessible through giant leaps of imagination. After an initial explosion of interest, virtual reality adoption has slowed a little in recent months, but it continues to steadily drive sales and innovation, and every time there’s a big step forward technologically there’s an attendant spike in coverage.

If you’ve never gotten your hands on a virtual reality headset before, you may be very confused at to where to begin shopping around. The most important factor you should consider before diving is in a headset’s library. PlayStation VR, for instance, doesn’t have the massive number of titles that some of the PC HMDs offer, but it does have some of the most incredible exclusives available anywhere. You always want to think about your play space, and whether you have room to set up sensors, or if multiple cables are feasible.

1 Best Overall: Valve Index VR Kit

Best Overall: Valve Index VR Kit

Two base stations provide a 10 x 10 gaming field, although these are only modest improvements over the HTC Vive versions, with which the Index is also compatible.
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2 Best for PS4 Users: Sony PlayStation VR

Best for PS4 Users: Sony PlayStation VR

One thing to keep in mind is that this does require a PS4 for operation, as opposed to just strapping your smartphone in like the cheaper VR headsets, but with the gameplay quality, you’ll be glad you invested in the system.
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3 Best Wireless: Oculus Quest 2

Best Wireless: Oculus Quest 2

The Oculus Quest 2 accomplishes a frankly incredible feat: it’s more powerful than the original standalone VR headset, yet also $100 less expensive.
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4 Best Resolution: HP Reverb G2

Best Resolution: HP Reverb G2

The HP Reverb G2 is a mid-range Windows Mixed Reality VR headset that offers high resolution, a 90Hz refresh rate, and a host of competitive features.
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5 Best Mid-Range: Oculus Rift S

Best Mid-Range: Oculus Rift S

With the Oculus Rift S, you get to make your own reality. The PC-powered VR gaming system requires no external sensors and boasts sharper graphics and more powerful responses.
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How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate HMDs based on design, performance, display type and resolution, FOV, SDE, and features. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases, including spaces of various size, and note whether or not they require a high-end PC to deliver satisfactory frame rates across their libraries. Our testers also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Meredith Popolo is an experienced tech journalist who specializes in PC hardware, peripherals, and accessories, and a number of other corners of the consumer technology landscape. Originally from New York, she now resides in Stockholm, Sweden.

Emily Ramirez is a tech writer and narrative designer who’s extensively covered AR, VR, and XR trends, and specializes in wearable technology and audio and visual equipment.

Andrew Hayward has been covering the tech industry for more than 14 years now, and developed expertise in wearable technology, smartphones, and gaming. His work has appeared in a number of top tech publications.

Zach Sweat is a tech writer, photographer, and editor, who specializes in gaming, mobile tech, and consumer electronics. He earned a dual degree in multimedia journalism and photography from the University of North Florida.

Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, covering consumer technology, gaming hardware, and more.

The Ultimate Virtual Reality Headset Buying Guide

Virtual reality is here to stay, and the impressive variety of virtual reality headsets on the market means that it isn’t just for hardcore gamers with money to burn anymore. You’ve probably at least heard of the big players, including Facebook’s Oculus, HTC’s Vive, and maybe Valve’s Index, but dozens of others have their own take on the technology, including mobile virtual reality headsets that are designed to work with your smartphone.

If you’ve never tried virtual reality before, it’s worth giving the technology a shot at least once. Some people experience uncomfortable motion sickness, but the technology is game-changing for just about everyone else. The combination of a stereoscopic display and motion tracking combine to help transport you into a virtual world in a way that you’ve never experienced before.


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