Let’s face it: Virtual reality is here to stay. From treating PTSD in veterans across the globe to helping architects remodel cityscapes and whisking tourists away to unbelievable virtual vacations, VR technology is quickly reinventing and reshaping our world – whether we like it or not.
Needless to say, applications for the technology are steadily growing. In 2015, virtual reality technology earned more than $2 billion for companies worldwide, with that number set to increase to more than $5 billion in revenue in just two short years -- by 2018.
One of the biggest markets for emerging VR technology is gaming (obviously). From Microsoft to Google to Sony, technology and gaming giants, as well as several indie powerhouses, are jumping on the paradigm-shifting bandwagon – and holding on tight.
Earlier this year, GameSkinny found out how gamers really feel about VR gaming (spoiler alert: They're really liking it).
So what does that mean for you, fearless consumer? It means that virtual reality technology, and specifically virtual reality gaming, is only going to (keep) getting better in the months and years to come. Like a fine wine, most technology only gets better with age, which means if you have yet to buy one of the many virtual reality headsets currently on the market, you’re in luck. Not only are prices waning, but capabilities and experiences are getting better – and there’s more and more software coming into the market to support the cost of one of these bad boys, too.
Essential reading: Tips for Building a VR Ready PC
So without further ado, let’s strap in and take a look at the 7 best virtual reality headsets you can buy right now with your hard-earned cash, and still have some left over to buy some snazzy virtual reality games, too!
Rating: 4/5 (39 reviews)
Buy it on: Newegg
Developed by Valve, the makers of Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress, and manufactured by hardware giant HTC, the HTC Vive is a VR headset meant for near-total immersion. In other words, like the Oculus Rift (which we'll get to shortly), the Vive is built for serious virtual reality gaming.
Since its unveiling in 2015, the Vive has won more than 22 awards for everything from innovation to design. What's more, it won Wareable's inaugural VR Headset of the Year Award just a few weeks ago, meaning its performance and design have a lot of people talking.
Who's the HTC Vive For?
This one's for the serious virtual reality aficionado. Setting up the Vive can be tricky as it's a whole-room affair. Using more than 70 sensors to generate it's truly immersive virtual reality experience, the Vive is best played in an area that's at the very least 5 feet by 6.5 feet. That's not to mention that the light towers (the devices that track your real-world movements in a virtual space) cannot be more than 16ft apart -- and need to be at least 6ft in the air, pointing down into the play space ...
Still with us?
Ok, good. Because the trade-off is truly incredible. The HTC Vive is one of the absolute best VR headsets on the market today. It's the only VR headset to let you go full-room-scale and punch, kick and duck about a virtual space right out of the box. And the rendering capabilities of this bad boy are just off the charts.
So if you're serious about VR gaming (and diving into more than 200 games and virtual reality experiences), this is going to be a headset you're definitely going to want to check out.
Rating: 4/5 (3 reviews)
Price: $599.99 (for the headset); $789 (for the headset and controllers)
Buy it on: Newegg
Alright. So we're coming down in price (sort of), but we're not coming down in badassery. At the end of the day, the Oculus Rift is another amazingly cutting edge piece of virtual reality technology.
Developed and manufactured by the geniuses over at Oculus VR, the Oculus just went on sale to the public back in the summer. And although it supports about half the number of games that the HTC Vive does (more than 250 to 106), the Oculus Rift is much easier to set up than the Vive; sports more ergonomically sound controllers; has better, crisper sound; has a greater field of view; and has a much sleeker overall design.
Who's the Oculus Rift For?
If you're keen on getting a relatively high-end virtual reality gaming experience -- without all the hassle of set-up -- you're going to want to seriously consider the quickly growing Oculus Rift.
What's more, with solid developer support and a recent acquisition by tech and social media giant Facebook, the future for the Rift doesn't look to just be a flash in the pan.
Rating: 4.6/5 (469 reviews)
Price: $399.99 (headset); $459.98 (with PlayStation camera)
Buy it on: BestBuy
At a decent price-point, the PlayStation VR is one of the (very) few consumer-centric virtual reality headsets that gives gamers a relatively high-end virtual reality gaming experience for an affordable price. In other words: While the PlayStation VR is cheaper than the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, it still packs one hell of a punch.
One thing that sets the PlayStation VR apart from the previous two entries on our list is that it was pointedly made with gaming in mind, specifically the plug-and-play culture that surrounds console gaming. As such, the PSVR is one of the easiest-to-set-up headsets on this list.
Essential reading: PS VR Bundle Review: A Whole New (Virtual) World
What's more, it's also one of the most comfortable virtual reality devices on the market today. Looking like something straight out of Star Wars, the PSVR is ergonomically friendly in almost every possible way. From the way it shifts weight to the back of the head to the easy one-button release, the PSVR is leagues above the competition in comfort.
And the best part? This sucker's got one of the absolute best content developers in the gaming world behind it. Already, Sony has some truly amazing games and experiences out on the PSVR.
The downside is that the PSVR doesn't have the same resolution or field of view that the Vive and Rift offer. However, it's a small price to pay for saving about $300.
Note: If you're planning on buying a PSVR, make sure you already have or plan to buy a PlayStation camera. The PSVR requires the camera to operate.
Who's the PSVR For?
If you're a console elitist, or have a console and are looking to get a damn good virtual reality headset for a reasonable price, you can't go wrong with the PSVR -- or it's content lineup.
Buy it on: Newegg
This headset is a bit different than the others we’ve showcased on this list so far. Why? Well, the Razer OSVR HDK 2 is an open-source VR headset. That means it’s super game-developer friendly.
And one the very best things about this headset is that its display is on-par with that of the Oculus and Vive, something that developer Razer is very proud of, as the company is aggressively pushing the open source virtual reality movement in hopes to empower game developers across the board, both large and small.
The newest version of the headset, the HDK 2 improves on the original’s design in many ways, including adding a second screen (one for both of your eyes) and boosting the frame frequency to 90 FPS from 60 FPS.
Essential reading: How Game Developers Can Win in the Virtual Reality Market
However, if you’re looking for a VR headset that’s comfortable, you probably want to look somewhere else, because while the HDK 2 is highly customizable, its current features make donning the headset an obtuse affair.
Who’s the Razer OSVR HDK 2 For?
At its heart, the Razer OSVR HDK 2 is for the game dev community. Whether you’re a game dev noob or a seasoned veteran, this headset, while certainly not as powerful as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, is a great entry point to the technology.
With a relatively low price and sporting such easy-to-use development tools (games and apps developed for the HDK 2 can also be ported to other VR platforms, making the HDK a great device to get your feet wet), the Razer OSVR HDK 2 can get you up and running in considerably less time than its cohorts.
What’s more, if you’re just an average-Joe gamer, this headset is worth checking out, too, especially at its current price point. Many of the games found in the Vive's content catalog can be found for the HDK2, too.
Rating: 3.8/5 (74 reviews)
Buy it on: Best Buy
Another budget model for mobile devices, this virtual reality headset offers a 100-degree field of view, and, unlike the Samsung Gear VR, is compatible with iPhones (the latest version of the headset is compatible with iPhone 6S Plus and older).
But what really sets the Homido V2 apart from the Samsung Gear VR is that it's more lightweight, can be played on smaller mobile screens (a 4.0" minimum screen width vs the Gear's 5.1" minimum screen width), has Inter Pupil Distance controls, and is almost $50 cheaper than the Gear VR -- with negligible differences in graphical prowess.
The downside? The Homido V2 doesn't sport some of the flashier bells and whistles (at least not of this writing) that the Gear VR does, like USB-Type C functionality and a standard control system. What's more, it doesn't have the catalog of games and apps that the Gear VR does -- although that seems to be changing as more developers embrace the hardware.
Who's the Homido V2 For?
As it stands, the Homido is a great VR headset if you're looking to get your feet wet in the virtual reality space. Really, it's no more than a glorified phone-holder with lenses right now. But the company is steady at work to change that, as a slew of new peripherals is set to hit the system in the very near future.
But, if you're looking for a more tech-savvy headset, pay a bit extra and pick up the Samsung Gear VR.
Oddly, very few specifications for the Homido V2 can be found. However, here's what we were able to dig up:
Rating: 3.8/5 (138 reviews)
Buy it on: Google Store
No virtual reality headset list would be complete without taking a (real) look at Google Cardboard. Sure, on the outside it may not look like much, and it might have a small (and more physical) barrier to entry in that you actually have to "build" the darn thing, but hear me out: You'll want to know why Google Cardboard could be the perfect entry point for anyone wanting to try out virtual reality.
Google has a pretty stellar offering of apps that let you experience virtual reality right from your phone for about the price a decent afternoon meal. From Youtube to InMind to Star Wars VR and Google street view, Google Cardboard is an awesome little gadget(?) that gives you a lot in return -- for cheap. Most of the games come in under $5.
And wouldn't you know, this thing actually works fairly well for what you're paying to get it -- the field of view isn't bad and it's not terribly uncomfortable.
Problem is: Google Cardboard doesn't have a lot of games right now. Mainly, the VR experiences are apps and well, experiences.
Now, there are games like Proton Pulse, Wizard Academy VR, End Space VR and Hardcode that are smashing fun, but the number of out-right games on the device(?) comes in at a small handful.
And, we shouldn't have to say (just look at the picture above), but Google Cardboard has ZERO bells and whistles. It's as minimalist as you can possibly make your VR-game.
Who's Google Cardboard For?
ANYONE curious about VR that also has some cash to burn. There are some truly amazing things you can do with Google Cardboard; you're just not going to get anything like the Oculus or PSVR here. This is foot-in-the-door only. Only the casual of the casual VR enthusiast need apply.
There's no question about it. The virtual reality revolution has begun. 2016 was a watershed year for the industry -- and it's only going to get bigger and better in the coming years.
And it won't just be headsets that will be taking into video game worlds. From increasingly state-of-the-art haptic controllers to the evolution of haptic VR rigs like the Virtuix Omni (pictured above) and the crazily futuristic Teslasuit (which provides real-time full-body feedback for VR environments), we'll soon be entering what Ready Player One calls, The Oasis. And boy, will it taste oh, so good.
Which VR headset are you planning on picking up? Do you already have one? Or did we leave one of the list? Let us know in the comments below!