How to choose a VR headset. Advice from ByOwls developer
The team of ByOwls developers has been working on various VR products for many years. These can be multiplayer VR games like Rival Rides or tools for VR streaming like Virtual Plugin, etc. Therefore, we have a practical understanding of what VR headsets are, what they represent, and for what purposes one option or another will be the best.
The products we develop as part of VR projects are constantly tested on different headsets. In this article, we will analyze the current VR headsets, their strengths and weaknesses, and which headset will be the most optimal choice for your tasks.
What are the qualities that make a VR headset good?
When evaluating virtual reality headsets, we typically assess them based on several fundamental factors: ergonomics, immersion, and controls. However, experience is required to create a well-balanced product that remains comfortable even after extended use of 30 minutes or more.
In terms of immersion, it is achieved through high-resolution screens with fast refresh rates, ensuring sharp and smooth visuals. The field of view is also a crucial element as it determines how well VR screens can cover your field of vision. A limited field of view can make it feel as if you’re looking through binoculars, which diminishes the sense of “presence.” The top-tier VR headsets provide a wide field of view.
When it comes to controllers, the best options are those that fit naturally in your hands and offer precise tracking. The industry has largely embraced the design of Meta’s excellent touch controllers, but we are also witnessing exciting advancements like Valve’s finger-tracking gamepads.
The situation in the VR headset market
The top-notch VR headsets are finally making VR gaming a mainstream and viable form of entertainment. While VR has existed in various forms for some time, it has always struggled to gain widespread attention beyond being viewed as something for the future. However, the combination of advanced headset technology and more affordable prices is changing that perception. The exciting news is that 2023 is shaping up to be a great year for VR, with new releases from Meta, HTC Vive, Lynx, and PSVR 2.
Even if you’re not interested in Sony’s latest offering, you can still find some of the best VR headsets available in the $300 to $600 price range. Admittedly, premium devices can still reach the four-figure price range, but if you’re seeking cutting-edge technology, we believe the investment is worth it. It’s worth noting that if you already have one of the best gaming PCs, you may not need to spend as much.
What makes the best VR headsets truly remarkable is their integration into the gaming landscape. With the introduction of the PSVR 2 for the PS5 and a diverse range of options available for PC, VR gaming has reached new heights. The quality of VR games has evolved significantly, surpassing our expectations in terms of immersion, gameplay, and visual fidelity.
To assist you in navigating this often complex market, we have compiled a list of the best VR headsets currently available. Our guide is based on our hands-on experience, taking into account specifications and price points to identify platforms that offer the best value. Below, you will find our top recommendations for VR headsets, catering to various budgets and preferences.
Top VR Headsets for 2023
Meta Quest 2
Specifications Meta Quest 2
|Additional Equipment Needed?||No, standalone|
|Resolution||3664 x 1920|
|Field of View||100°|
Plus & cons
Eliminates the need for an expensive PC;
Supports Oculus Link tethering;
Offers an extensive library of games.
Requires linking to a Facebook account;
May still induce motion sickness.
The Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as the Oculus Quest 2) stands out as the top VR headset for most individuals. Its wireless design eliminates the need for a costly PC setup while providing freedom of movement. The headset is incredibly user-friendly and simple to set up. Compared to its predecessor, the original Quest, the Meta Quest 2 offers significant enhancements. With improved RAM and chip specifications, as well as a higher resolution display that is 50% sharper, it delivers a more responsive and immersive experience.
Developers have the flexibility to optimize their games to run at 90Hz, a crucial feature that enhances comfort and realism during gameplay. Additionally, the Meta Quest 2 is lighter than its predecessor, further improving the overall comfort. The inclusion of hand tracking, which was introduced to the original Quest through a firmware update but is built-in to the Quest 2, adds to the impressive features of the headset.
The Quest 2 offers the freedom to explore your surroundings without any limitations on tracking area, providing a remarkably flexible setup. This all-in-one self-contained unit is equipped with a powerful processor and ample RAM to handle today’s demanding games. As a result, there’s no need to invest in a high-end gaming PC to enjoy a seamless experience — it’s ready to go straight out of the box. The convenience and value of the Meta Quest 2 cannot be overstated, making it an exceptional choice for VR enthusiasts.
Specifications PSVR 2
|Availability||February 22, 2023|
|Additional Equipment Needed?||Yes, PS5|
|Resolution||2,000 x 2,040 per-eye|
|Display||OLED HDR 102 Hz|
|Field of View||110°|
Plus & cons
|Plus||An impressive set of premium VR features for the price;|
Utilizes an OLED 120Hz panel for vibrant visuals;
Exceptional controllers with precise input;
Accurate spatial tracking for an immersive experience;
Cinematic Mode enhances the viewing experience.
|Cons||High price point;|
Occasional image ghosting;
Subpar battery life for the controllers;
Headband could have a more premium feel.
The original PSVR had its fair share of limitations in 2016, but in 2023, most of these issues have been brilliantly addressed with the introduction of the PSVR 2. Sony has set an incredibly high standard for future console-based VR headsets, making it a highly recommended choice for PlayStation 5 owners.
However, it’s worth noting that the price may be a deterrent. Priced at $549, the PSVR 2 is even more expensive than the console itself, which may discourage a significant number of potential consumers. Nevertheless, investing in the PSVR 2 will reward you with one of the finest VR experiences available on the market.
With your investment, you gain access to a plethora of remarkable features that anchor you in VR experiences like never before. The haptic feedback present in the exceptional VR2 Sense controllers and the headband of the headset, along with subtle trigger resistance, feels exceptionally well-suited for this platform, surpassing even the DualSense controller. The OLED panel delivers stunning visuals, and the inclusion of robust eye-tracking and foveated rendering allows you to observe intricate details that will leave you in awe.
In conclusion, if you can comfortably accommodate the admittedly higher price, the PSVR 2 will unlock a treasure trove of new and immersive experiences without the need for a PC or a high-powered PC-based VR headset.
|Specifications Valve Index|
|Availability||Available through Valve’s Steam store|
|Additional Equipment Needed?||Yes, PC|
|Resolution||2880 x 1600|
|Field of View||130°|
|Compatible hardware||Quad-core processor+, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070+, USB 3.0, SteamVR tracking base stations, DisplayPort 1.2|
|Plus & cons|
|Plus||Significantly reduces the screen door effect;|
Offers a wide field of view;
Provides excellent controller tracking.
|Cons||Requires a high-end GPU;|
Comparatively expensive when compared to competitors;
Challenging to find in stock;
Only accessible through the Steam platform.
Let’s begin by highlighting a couple of key features of the Valve Index. Firstly, its finger-tracking system sets it apart from other VR headsets. Instead of relying on per-controller tracking, the Valve Index incorporates sensors for each individual finger through a touch-sensitive panel. Secondly, it boasts a 120Hz refresh rate, compensating for a slightly lower resolution by enabling smooth screen transitions without any flickering.
The Valve Index caters to those deeply immersed in the realm of PC gaming. It appeals to enthusiasts who already possess a powerful gaming PC and are eager to put it to the test.
With the vast expanse of the Steam platform supporting it, you’re unlikely to experience boredom in this virtual world. However, it’s important to note that not all Steam titles fully utilize the unique tracking capabilities of the Valve Index. Therefore, by opting for this purchase, you are future-proofing yourself rather than solely enjoying the cutting-edge technology available today.
HTC Vive Pro 2
|Specifications HTC Vive Pro 2|
|Additional Equipment Needed?||Yes, high-spec PC|
|Resolution||4896 x 2448|
|Field of View||120°|
|Connection||DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0|
|Compatible hardware||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 1500+, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 / AMD Radeon RX 5700+, 8GB RAM+, DisplayPort 1.4, USB 3.0|
|Plus & cons|
Boasts the highest resolution available in the market;
Offers a vast library of games.
Prone to overheating;
Requires numerous cables.
As the latest addition to the HTC Vive lineup, the Vive Pro 2 boasts an astonishing ‘5K’ resolution (2448×2448 pixels per eye), an expansive 120-degree field of view, and a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. When paired with a powerful gaming PC, the result is an incredibly clear and lifelike display that sets a new standard in consumer VR. After hours of rigorous testing, we were consistently amazed by the stunning visual quality this device offers.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that the HTC Vive Pro 2 does have its shortcomings. During testing, we observed that the screen can become warm during extended use, and the controllers have seen minimal updates since the release of the original Vive headset. Additionally, the setup process can be cumbersome with the requirement of external tracking stations and tethered cabling, especially when compared to more streamlined standalone devices like the Oculus Quest 2.
Nonetheless, if you prioritize the absolute best visual quality for your VR gaming sessions and have the financial means to invest in the headset and a high-end PC, the HTC Vive Pro 2 is a dream come true for enthusiasts.
HP Reverb G2
|Specifications HP Reverb G2|
|Additional Equipment Needed?||Yes, PC|
|Resolution||4320 x 2160|
|Field of View||114°|
|Connection||DisplayPort, USB 3.0|
|Compatible hardware||Intel Core i5, i7, Intel Xeon E3-1240 v5, AMD Ryzen 5+, DX12 capable graphics, DisplayPort 1.3, USB-C 3.0|
|Plus & cons|
More affordable compared to other high-end headsets;
90Hz refresh rate;
Simple and hassle-free setup process.
|Cons||Motion tracking lacks precision in certain aspects;|
Requires a capable gaming PC;
Places significant demands on your PC, exceeding minimum recommended specifications.
The HP Reverb G2 offers an excellent option for those seeking a more affordable alternative to the Valve Index or HTC Vive Pro, with a straightforward setup process. While it may not match the precision of pricier options, it still delivers a visually captivating VR gaming experience. In fact, the HP Reverb G2 surpasses visual expectations, providing an immersive experience without breaking the bank.
Furthermore, its compatibility with Steam VR opens up a vast library of games to explore and immerse yourself in. The high-resolution 2160 x 2160 per eye lens eliminate the screen door effect commonly found in other VR headsets, ensuring a seamless visual experience. With its impressive visuals and reasonable price, the HP Reverb G2 stands out.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that the headset has its flaws, primarily in the accuracy of its motion tracking. In intense and time-sensitive VR gaming scenarios, precise motion tracking becomes crucial for an optimal experience. This is an area where slightly more expensive models like the Valve Index excel, while the HP Reverb G2 falls slightly short.
To fully enjoy the high-quality gaming experience offered by the HP Reverb G2, you’ll need a capable PC to support it. Unfortunately, this also means dealing with multiple cables, which can potentially disrupt the immersive nature of the device, especially considering the absence of a wireless option. While its performance and setup are reflected in its affordable price tag, it’s worth considering these factors before making a purchase.
When it comes to choosing the best VR headset for you, your budget will likely play a significant role. If cost is your primary concern, below you’ll find a breakdown of the best VR headsets available in various price ranges. However, it’s important to note that there’s much more to consider if you’re looking at options above $600.
$399 – $429: Oculus Quest 2
$449 – $599: HP Reverb G2
$549 – $559: PSVR 2
$799 – $1399: HTC Vive Pro 2
$999 – $1434: Valve Index
In addition to the price, there are several features that differentiate budget, mid-range, and high-end headsets. These include screen resolution, panel type, field of view, and tracking capabilities.
Screen resolution plays a crucial role in determining the quality of a VR headset. Typically, the best VR headset is characterized by a higher-resolution display. This is essential for delivering a more immersive and visually appealing virtual reality experience. A high-resolution display helps eliminate the screen door effect, ensuring that your games appear sharp and detailed. If you’re investing more than $600 in a VR headset, it’s recommended to choose a model with a resolution exceeding 3664 x 1920 for optimal visual fidelity.
Field of view
When considering the best VR headsets, the field of view is an important factor to consider. Most high-quality VR headsets offer an average field of view of around 100 degrees, with slight variations of approximately 10 degrees. A larger field of view allows for a wider visual perspective, mimicking the natural human vision and enhancing the immersive experience. Particularly for gaming purposes, it is recommended to choose a VR headset with a field of view of at least 100-110 degrees to ensure an expansive and realistic visual environment.
As VR headsets continue to evolve, OLED displays are becoming increasingly prevalent due to their enhanced color contrast and vividness. If you’re keen on staying up to date with the latest advancements, it might be worth holding out for a VR headset equipped with an OLED panel. While many of the current top options still utilize LCD displays, the market is progressing toward wider OLED adoption. This technology ensures a more immersive visual experience, making it worth considering for those seeking the pinnacle of display quality in their VR headset.
In the realm of VR headsets, the tracking technology employed varies depending on the price range. Lower-cost headsets utilize onboard cameras to track their position and your movements within the virtual world. As you ascend the price ladder, more advanced devices often incorporate additional hardware, such as tracking bases, to enable room-scale tracking with enhanced precision. If your intention is casual entertainment, a headset with onboard tracking is perfectly suitable, providing an affordable solution. However, if you’re willing to invest more, opting for a system that can accurately track your entire play space is highly recommended. This elevated tracking capability adds a new level of immersion and interaction, making it well worth the extra expenditure for dedicated enthusiasts.