The best VR headsets of 2019

Luke Larsen

The best VR headset is the HTC Vive. It offers the best balance of image quality, design, and value. We’ve tested all the major VR headsets, putting them through the tests of performance, usability, and important features. Virtual reality may have a long way to go, but the Vive is the best the present moment has to offer.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some very solid alternatives, though, especially in different categories such as mobile or console headsets.

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 stand-alone 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.

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.

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.

The recently announced Oculus Rift S offers the most competition to the reign of the Vive, but we won’t know for sure until we test the headset out ourselves.

Read our full HTC Vive review

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.

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 with a drastically reduced screen-door effect.

The original Vive features 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 extends the effective visual range of the headset.

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. New options such as the Valve Index will soon be giving the Vive Pro even more of a challenge for the crown of best premium VR headset.

Read our full HTC Vive Pro review

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.

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.

Read our full Sony PSVR review

Oculus Go

The best stand-alone VR headset

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.

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 that sort of functionality for this sort of price.

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.

Read our full Oculus Go review

Oculus Rift

The best VR value

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.

Why we picked the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift keeps getting more and more competitive, especially with its significant, permanent price drop. 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 room-scale 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, but at this price, there’s not a VR headset in the world that can offer such bang for buck.

Read our full Oculus Rift review

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.