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. Regardless, if you're a PC gamer, a solid gaming PC-connected Headset offers the most versatile collection of software for an immersive VR experience and lets you use that headset for creative and business tools.
Note that a more powerful VR system will still be largely tethered to a desktop or laptop and a PC Headset may require external sensors, so they may not be the best option for everyone. Sarah Too/CNET Good: Self-contained and wireless; great touch controllers; comfortable design for gaming; doubles as PC 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. The standalone Headset has self-contained motion tracking and a full-motion six degrees of freedom (aka 6DoF) VR controller that is the same as the ones on the PC-required Oculus Rift, plus a surprisingly great high-resolution display and built-in speakers.
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.
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. 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.
It allows for wireless “room-scale” VR, meaning you can walk around your play space freely, and it has a lot of games and experiences to choose from. If you have a powerful gaming PC and want the bestir has to offer, the Valve Index offers higher quality graphics, a more comfortable headset and super advanced controllers with built-in finger and pressure tracking for a more realistic experience.
Unlike the Quest, though, the Index isn't wireless, requiring you to hook the headset up to a PC for all games, which can feel slightly more limiting as you move around the room. 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 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.
The PlayStation VR (read our review) gives PS4 owners a way to dive deeper into games than ever. 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 Headset. 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.
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.
If you already have a beefy gaming PC in your house, and it’s in a room large enough for room-scale VR, grab a Steamer headset. 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. Going wireless makes tripping one less thing to worry about, but it also adds the constraints of battery life.