Editors' top picks Subscribe to CNET Now for the day's most interesting reviews, news stories and videos. Sony may have a more advanced version of PlayStation VR that could emerge in another year or two, once the PS5 has had a chance to stand on its own for a while.
Dominic Allison, Sony's head of PlayStation R&D told me last year that a new PSV was never on tap to debut at the same time as the PS5. That headset, whenever it arrives, could come with new controllers, a higher-resolution display, built-in tracking, and maybe it could be wireless (or at least require far fewer cables than the current version).
Dan Ackerman/CNET Sony's new subtly vibrating Danseuse PS5 controller has all sorts of haptic effects and force feedback on the triggers that sound perfect for VR. The Danseuse lacks the motion-sensing that a lot of PSV games need, and only works as a stationary controller.
For everything else you'll need to use a PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller instead, or a pair of the ancient PlayStation Move wands (which were originally built for the PS3) with light-up balls on top, which work with certain games for more full-motion controls. The PlayStation 4 Pro bumped up the quality and resolution of PSV graphics, making games look crisper and better on the headset.
Even stranger, it seems that PS5 games that have been updated with new graphics also lose their VR component. For now, if you're interested in VR, it doesn't seem like a good time to buy a PSV unless you're ready to live with a lot of limitations.
But you still have to decide whether you want a headset that plugs into your PC or console, or choose a standalone option like Oculus Quest when playing a VR game. At the moment, the new Oculus Quest 2 is the best, most affordable option for VR, but it requires a Facebook account to work.
Companies such as Qualcomm (which makes the chips inside most self-contained VR headsets, including the new Quest 2) are building new chips that point to a wave of better standalone headsets at lower prices -- including ones that plug into your phone. The PlayStation5, while it works with PSV, needs older controllers and adapters and doesn't have many graphics-enhanced VR games yet.
Sarah Too/CNET Good: Self-contained and wireless; great touch controllers; comfortable design for gaming; doubles as PC VR headset. At $300 with nothing else needed, the Oculus Quest 2 delivers virtual reality games and an immersive VR experience anywhere.
It's faster, smaller, cheaper and more comfortable to wear than the original Quest, but you have to log in to Facebook in order to use it. The Quest 2 reminds me of the Nintendo Switch for its versatility and fun, plus it takes mere seconds to start up and fits really well over glasses.
Its more limited mobile processor still plays games such as Beat Saber, Moss and Superior VR extremely well, and it can even connect with a PC if you want to, using a single USB-C cable. Sarah Too/CNET Good : Amazing futuristic controllers; high-quality headset; works with Five hardware.
Valve's new headset might be the most interesting PC virtual reality experience this year, just for its fancy new controllers. Not many apps make the most of them yet, but Valve's hardware is mix-and-match compatible with the HTC Five, which also is built on the Steam VR platform.
It's not as self-contained as Oculus' Rift S, which can track the room with in-headset cameras, or the HTC Five Cosmos. Sarah Too/CNET Good: Plenty of games; lower price; works with many PS4 controllers like the DualShock and Move.
Bad: Resolution isn't cutting-edge; Sony hasn't yet made great VR controllers that match the competition. Sony's three-plus-year-old PSV headset is still the only head-mounted display for gaming consoles and its screen still offers a surprisingly immersive experience.
HP The good: Really sharp high-res display, great audio, comfortable design The 2,160×2,160-per-eye resolution and 114-degree field of view are the best at this price range, and the lightweight, comfy headset also has fantastic drop-down speakers designed by Valve.
It's technically a Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality headset that prefers to launch into Microsoft's native Windows 10 VR ecosystem, but it bridges with Steam VR and works with those games and apps, too. Angela Lang/CNET Good : Modular face plates for extra features; built-in tracking; flip-up visor, works with Steam VR.
The Cosmos has self-contained tracking like the Oculus Quest 2 and Reverb G2 and also has stoppable face plates that will add more cameras for mixed reality and external sensor tracking (for larger holodeck-type experiences). You can mix and match Five and Valve Index accessories with it, but we prefer the Reverb G2 and Valve Index over Cosmos right now. Get editors' top picks of the day's most interesting reviews, news stories and videos.
They offer more and more immersive ways to explore new worlds, letting you move freely and get a real sense of scale in your games. With advanced tracking and 6DoF (six degrees of freedom), your movements are accurately translated into the game world, letting you feel like you're truly there (for better or worse). Quality VR headsets can be seriously demanding though, with some packing so many pixels and such a fast refresh rate that you'd need a beastly gaming PC to run them.
We've rounded up our top picks of the bunch, so you can find a quality VR headset that'll offer the life-like gaming experience you're looking for. See It Platform: Standalone, PC Resolution (per-eye): 1,832 × 1,920 Refresh rate: 90Hz Field of view: 100-degrees Tracking: 6DoF Weight: 1.1 poundsThere's a new VR champ on the block, and it's the Oculus Quest 2 (read our review).
This new headset upgrades just about every aspect of the original Oculus Quest that had previously held our top spot. Many of the bestir games have come out on PSV. The PSV has a 960 × 1,080 per-eye resolution but does offer a 120Hz refresh rate to keep experiences smooth.
The headset itself is one piece of the puzzle, as there's also a separate camera and motion controllers that can unlock even more immersive gameplay. There's even a free adapter available for the PlayStation Camera, showing a commendable commitment by Sony to continue supporting its VR headset.
Platform: PC Resolution (per-eye): 1,280 × 1,440 Refresh rate: 80Hz Field of view: 110-degrees Tracking: 6DoF Weight: 1.2 pounds Oculus Rift made a splash as the first consumer VR headset for PCs, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift S is a welcome refresh. Like the Oculus Quest, it only costs $400, and while it requires a fairly capable gaming PC to play, that’s still a lot more affordable than the Valve Index.
That increased sharpness exceeds even the Valve Index and helps cut down on the screen-door effect, albeit not eliminating it outright. The display uses small LCD panels that run at 90Hz for the smooth playback required in VR. The headset offers a comfortable, halo-style headband that makes it easy to wear and take off momentarily.
But, what really helps set the Five Cosmos apart is its continued support for HTC's official Wireless Adapter, which delivers a high-fidelity, low-lantency stream of your VR content, so you can go truly tetherless. It's effectively possible to switch which version of the Cosmos you're using by swapping out the face plate, controllers, and any tracking base station, making this a wildly versatile headset.
The crisp resolution and high refresh rate will make for clear visuals if you have a machine that can handle running games that fast. For reference, two 1440p displays is 88% of the way to 4K in terms of pixel count, and there's not a lot of hardware out there running games in 4K at even 60fps.
See It Platform: PC Resolution (per-eye): 2,160 × 2,160 Refresh rate: 90Hz Field of view: 114-degrees Tracking: 6DoF Weight: 1.1 poundsDespite not getting a lot of attention, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are still a thing, and the HP Reverb Professional Edition is arguably the best out there right now. It offers significantly a higher resolution picture of 2,160 × 2,160 per-eye, which translates to noticeably better graphics in-game. There are some setbacks with this headset though as tracking and controllers aren’t as good as the Rift or Five.
The HP Reverb Professional Edition asks for a kingly $680, so most people will probably go with one of the more affordable, gaming-focused options above. However, if resolution is king, and you have the graphics card to drive it, the Reverb offers some of the sharpest picture quality you’ll find right now.
The new model has improved controls that aren't the clunky Windows Mixed Reality controllers of yesteryear, and it includes integrated headphones for precise audio with a slightly changed design over the previous model. These upgrades to the HP Reverb G2 are solid, especially when considering that the headset features one of the sharpest displays on the market. That makes for a full image that packs more pixels than 4K and runs at 90Hz, so it'll take a serious gaming PC to power.
Other headsets, like the Oculus Go or the smartphone-based Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View, support fewer degrees of freedom, only tracking the swivel and tilt of your head rather than following you as you move around. Other systems, like the HTC Five and Valve Index, require you to place a few base stations around the room to track your movements.
The bestir headsets usually require a wire connected to your PC, while standalone solutions allow you to roam freely. Being wired up isn’t the worst thing in the world by any means, especially if you’re only going to play in one room anyway, and you'll see the best resolution and image quality possible.
The flexible headband sits snugly over your forehead, and it's clear Sony has put plenty of thought into its overall design. A small button on the underside of the display allows the spring-loaded front display to retract in and out, giving you clearance to loop the headband over your head, and a button on the rear of the headband lets you stretch its two internal rubber straps to pull it all the way down over your eyes.
You'll want to make sure the headset's small volume controller is within easy reach, as you'll need this to use its inline microphone and plug in a pair of headphones. You can still listen to what's being pumped out of your TV speakers, but I'd recommend using headphones if you really want to feel truly present in your virtual world.
That resolution is quite a bit lower than the 2,160 × 1,200 screens in the HTC Five and Oculus Rift, but the PSV has a higher maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. Most PSV games available right now run at a regular 60Hz, but Sony's clever software trickery boosts this to 120Hz to make it appear smoother.
Using its own so-called “reprojection” technique, this involves taking the last outputted image at 60Hz and creating a new one at 120Hz based on the user's latest head movement. This is different to regular frame interpolation, according to Sony, as it doesn’t introduce any extra lag between the images presented onscreen.
It's noticeably smoother than the Five's 90Hz refresh rate and Sony's claimed ultra-low latency figure of just 0.018 seconds means I rarely suffered any bouts of nausea or motion sickness. This might offend VR purists who want total immersion, but even though it does cause some light bleed, it didn't adversely affect my playing experience.
After all, there's still nothing quite like being surrounded by one of RIGS hulking mechanic robots or flying a spaceship in EVE: Valkyrie's full 360-degree dogfights, and for most people, I'm confident, that in itself will be enough. Resolution quibbles aside, the PSV is a fantastic VR headset that has a great line-up of games and is excellent value for money.
It's easy to set up and exceedingly simple to use, and the fact you can plug just it into an existing PS4, PS4 Slim or the PS4 Pro only makes it more attractive.