The best VR headsets for 2023

Virtual reality is finally crossing a threshold when everyone should be taking a closer look. Even Apple is joining in with its Vision Pro headset launching in 2024. As the number of VR headsets increases, getting the best one is important so you can truly appreciate what’s possible. The challenge is finding the system that’s right for you.

Prices range from a surprisingly affordable $300 standalone deviceto a $1,990 VR headset that requires a powerful gaming PC. Plenty of intriguing games are available for every VR system mentioned below, so the only considerations are how big your budget is and what type of hardware you already own.

Meta Quest 2 makes virtual reality affordable

Meta Quest 2

Best budget VR headset

Pros

  • Incredibly low price
  • Wireless and standalone design
  • 120Hz
  • 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye
  • Air Link to Windows PC

Cons

  • Mobile processor
  • 97-degree FOV

Meta’s Quest 2 is still a phenomenal value. Right out of the box, you get inside-out tracking in a standalone device, with no need to set up base stations or be tethered to a computer. The display resolution and refresh rate are in line with many VR headsets. Other manufacturers simply can’t compete with Meta Quest 2’s quality and features at such a low price.

Meta’s Quest 2 isn’t simply the budget choice, however. It has a huge library of standalone games, and can wirelessly connect to a PC so you can run SteamVR titles as well. With innovative features like built-in hand tracking and movement tracking for fitness, Meta’s budget headset maintains its position on the cutting edge of virtual reality even three years after launch.

The greatly improved and much more expensive Meta Quest Pro has been released, and we’ll talk about that headset below, but it doesn’t oust the Quest 2 from its long-held position as the best budget VR headset. If you don’t mind waiting until October, the $500 Quest 3 will be better in every way, but Meta will continue selling the Quest 2 as a low-cost option.

Meta Quest 2

Meta Quest 2

Best budget VR headset

playstation vr2 review with sense controllers

PlayStation VR2

The best VR headset for PS5 consoles

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Clear display
  • Excellent Sense controllers
  • Improved tracking and feedback
  • Competitive specs

Cons

  • Bulky wired design
  • Costs more than a PS5
  • Lacking games and direction

After seven long years, Sony decided interest in VR had risen, and technology had advanced sufficiently to justify a refresh of its aging PSVR accessory. The PlayStation VR2 is one of the most advanced headsets available but comes with some serious tradeoffs when compared to the Quest 2.

The PSVR2 requires a PlayStation 5 console, adding extra expense if you don’t already own one. The tether is much smaller and lighter than that of the PSVR, but can still feel restrictive. If you are coming from a PCVR system, that won’t be a concern.

The visuals rival the best PCVR systems, but the Fresnel lenses have a small sweet spot of clarity. At $550, the PlayStation VR2 is a great option for PlayStation 5 owners, adding high-powered VR with some great new titles. However, if you don’t already have a PS5, there are cheaper options available through other platforms.

Sony PlayStation VR2

PlayStation VR2

The best VR headset for PS5 consoles

meta quest pro review vr headset for work alan truly is writing using a with paiered keyboard and mouse

Tracey Truly

Meta Quest Pro

All-around best premium VR headset

Pros

  • Very comfortable & no face pressure
  • Top display clarity pancake lenses
  • Good contrast with mini-LEDs
  • Excellent controller tracking
  • Improved multitasking performance

Cons

  • Needs frequent charging or a power cord
  • Lacking top productivity apps

Meta’s productivity headset, the Quest Pro, arrived in October 2022 as the first standalone VR headset meant for work. It’s also one of the best gaming headsets since it includes most of the best features of the Quest 2, is compatible with the same games, and offers greatly improved display quality, higher performance, and excellent controller accuracy.

Using pancake lenses and mini-LED backlighting, the display is brighter and crisper across the entire lens, while offering better blacks. The field of view has been increased to 106 degrees horizontally. That’s not as wide as some competing headsets, but it’s enough to make a difference if you’ve noticed the edges of the scene when using the Quest 2.

The downside is the price of $1,000, which is more than triple that of the Quest 2. There are multiple reasons for the price increase, and it is still a bargain given the advanced technology packed into this all-in-one VR system. Its XR2+ chip offers 50% greater speed and enhanced 12GB memory boosts multitasking performance. The Quest Pro actually matches Apple’s $3,500 Vision Pro in some ways, offering hand-, eye-, and face-tracking, as well as spatial computing, without connecting to a computer.

As a work device, it ticks most of the boxes and can connect to a Mac or PC when you run across a task that the Quest Pro can’t handle. This is still a new concept, and it’s still rough around the edges, but it earned a place on our list of best VR headsets as the first standalone system with premium features designed for productivity.

Meta Quest Pro

Meta Quest Pro

All-around best premium VR headset

The HTC Vive XR Elite on a white table.

HTC Vive XR Elite

Alternate premium standalone

Pros

  • Slim, modern headset design
  • Color mixed reality view
  • Lighter than most standalones
  • Unique glasses mode

Cons

  • Still uses controllers with rings
  • Limited standalone library

HTC has a long history as a VR headset manufacturer and did a great job with the Vive XR Elite. This standalone headset is similar to the Meta Quest Pro in many ways. It has pancake lenses, a color passthrough camera, and inside-out tracking.

When the Quest Pro cost $1,500, the Vive XR Elite provides these features at a much lower cost. Since Meta cut a third off the price of its premium headset, HTC’s solution is reduced to an alternative if you really don’t like Meta. The Vive XR Elite lacks the Quest Pro’s big standalone gaming library, as well as its eye- and face-tracking technology.

tThe Vive XR Elite has some compelling features, including a unique glasses mode that allows you to replace the head strap and rear battery with earpieces, making it much lighter. In this case, you must connect to a PC to get power, but when sitting at a computer, it sounds like a nice option for work use.

HTC Vive XR Elite

HTC Vive XR Elite

Alternate premium standalone

Valve Index HMD release date store page leak june 2019 controller base station

Valve Index

Classic SteamVR headset

Pros

  • Fast 144Hz refresh rate
  • 130-degree wide FOV
  • Made by SteamVR developer Valve
  • Great Knuckles controllers

Cons

  • 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye
  • Requires a Windows PC with a discrete GPU

It should come as no surprise that the Valve Index is on our list as a classic pick for SteamVR since both are created by Valve. The Valve Index is aging, and the display resolution is lower than most, but it still hits the sweet spot for many users with a very solid design at a reasonable price for a versatile, PC-based VR system.

The display is sharp, with a wider-than-average 130-degree field of view and one of the best refresh rates at up to 144Hz. The Valve Index is on the heavy side, but it has a very comfortable head strap. The Index uses external base stations for tracking, which are more of a hassle to set up, but provide additional options for tracking accessories and specialized controllers.

This product was launched in 2019. Rumors suggest that a new, higher-resolution model is in development, but there have been no recent hints of a launch date. If you like the look of the Valve Index, it’s still a good PCVR headset, despite its age.

Using a Quest Pro connected to a PCVR system provides better clarity, but costs a bit more. The HTC Vive XR Elite also brings stiff competition.

Valve Index

Valve Index

Classic SteamVR headset

A man using the HP Reverb headset in his apartment.

HP

HP Reverb G2

Best for Windows Mixed Reality

Pros

  • Low-cost
  • Lightweight
  • Sharp 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye

Cons

  • Optics blur around the edges
  • Requires a Windows PC with a discrete GPU

HP is best known as a computer and printer manufacturer, but it’s also a solid choice for getting started with virtual reality. The Reverb G2 has a relatively low price, a high-resolution display, and a competitive field of view. It’s a great way to dip a toe into Windows Mixed Reality and is compatible with SteamVR.

The HP Reverb G2 does have some shortcomings. The display refresh rate is somewhat slow at 90Hz, and this could make fast movements become a little disorienting. While the central portion of the display is quite crisp, the edges are soft, so there are trade-offs at this low price compared to other PCVR systems.

HP Reverb G2 Virtual Reality Headset

HP Reverb G2

Best for Windows Mixed Reality

Alan Truly smiles in this closeup, while wearing the Varjo Aero VR headset.

Photo by Tracey Truly

Varjo Aero

The sharpest VR business headset available

Pros

  • The best display with 2880 x 2720 resolution
  • The headset is very comfortable
  • Eye-tracking with automatic fit adjustment

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Requires a Windows PC with a powerful GPU for best quality
  • Doesn’t come with controllers or base stations

The Varjo Aero is one of the best PCVR headsets available, with its amazing display quality and great comfort. The super sharp 2,880 x 2,720 resolution, clear optics, and mini-LED backlighting exceed every other device on available currently.

The only downside is the cost. At nearly $2,000 for the headset alone, it’s out of reach for most shoppers. By the time you add Steam VR controllers, base stations, and a powerful PC that’s worthy of pairing with the Varjo Aero, the cost skyrockets. Varjo designs for businesses and, like the Quest Pro, is meant for work use. You can, of course, play Steam VR games, also.

We went hands-on with the fantastic Varjo Aero and were impressed with the quality. If you already have a premium PCVR gaming system and want a top-quality headset to match, this might be the right VR headset for you.

Varjo Aero

Varjo Aero

The sharpest VR business headset available

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I buy a PCVR or a standalone VR headset?

If you are unsure of whether you should get a PCVR system or a standalone VR headset, the latter is usually the correct choice. A Quest 2 is a low-cost solution that provides good VR gaming and fitness. If you want a higher-quality option, the Quest Pro has improved displays while enjoying the same huge library of VR titles as its budget-priced sibling.

As all-in-one solutions, standalone headsets don’t require base stations and come complete with controllers, making it easy to get started. While not required, a standalone VR headset can connect to a Windows PC via a cable (sometimes wirelessly) to play more demanding SteamVR games.

If you already own a fast PC with a powerful GPU, you might want to step up to a Varjo Aero to enjoy the super-crisp visuals in virtual reality. For those interested in VR for work, the low-cost HP Reverb G2 might suffice.

What about Apple’s Vision Pro?

When Apple announced its first VR headset, the Vision Pro, it validated the industry. In some ways, it blows away the competition. Pitted against Meta’s Quest Pro, Apple’s headset shines, with a massive performance advantage and much better mixed reality. The Vision Pro’s display sharpness is crisper than Varjo’s Aero.

Despite these clear advantages, there’s an old saying: “content is king.” Apple won’t be able to compete with the huge library of games and apps available via PCVR and Meta’s Quest app store. Price is clearly a major barrier since the Vision Pro’s $3,500 cost is simply out of reach for most people.

The VR headsets in our list are the best available right now, but virtual reality technology is advancing rapidly. Be sure to check back in the coming months for news about several exciting, new VR headsets. We’re continuing to learn more about Apple’s incredibly powerful yet expensive Vision Pro. Meta’s mid-range Quest 3 is arriving in October, and several intriguing VR headsets are coming, including high-resolution systems like the Pimax Crystal, Shiftall MeganeX, and Bigscreen Beyond. That means our expectations for a top-quality VR headset could be completely rewritten within months.

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