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The Best VR Headsets of 2020

Thursday February 6, 2020
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After considering over 40 of the best VR headsets on the market, we bought the 12 most compelling models of 2020 for extensive side-by-side testing. We've looked at all the best mobile, standalone, and tethered headsets, comparing their interactiveness and visual immersiveness, as well as their overall user-friendliness. We also had avid video game enthusiasts try out each headset and give their opinion about gameplay and the immersiveness of the VR world created by each product. Keep reading to see which VR headset is the very best, which is the superior standalone model, and which bargain option is your best bet.

Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
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Best Overall VR Headset


Oculus Rift S


Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$400
List Price
See It

80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Interactiveness 7
  • Visual Immersiveness 9
  • Comfort 8
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Ease of Setup 8
Tethered or Mobile: Tethered | Field of View: 110°
Incredibly immersive
Very comfortable
Extremely user-friendly
Tether connection can be a little finicky

If you are looking for the best of the best when shopping for your new VR headset, we think it will be hard to go wrong with the Rift S. This headset provides an incredibly immersive experience with fantastic image quality. The VR content is highly interactive and the inside-out tracking system of this headset eliminates the need for any external sensors, making for a much more convenient and user-friendly experience. It has one of the fastest and simplest setup processes of the top-tier headsets and is comfortable enough to wear for marathon sessions, all while costing considerably less than some of the other premium products.

There are a few concessions with the Rift S but these will be overlooked by the vast majority of users. The refresh rate dropped slightly from some previous models and the inside-out tracking system will lose a controller position much more frequently than a headset with external sensors — especially when moving one behind your back. We also had to add some strain relief to the tether to ensure a solid connection. Despite these small flaws, we solidly think that the Rift S is the best you can get if you are looking for a top-tier VR experience and highly recommend it.

Read review: Oculus Rift S

Best If Money is No Object


HTC Vive Pro


Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$899
List Price
See It

83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Interactiveness 9
  • Visual Immersiveness 9
  • Comfort 8
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Ease of Setup 4
Tethered or Mobile: Tethered | Field of View: 110°
Highly interactive
Great visual immersiveness
Comfortable
Pricey
Hard to set up

The Vive Pro is undeniably an all-around amazing VR headset, earning it one of the best scores we have seen to date from any product in this category. However, this doesn't mean that it is the headset we would immediately recommend for most people. It has an exceptionally impressive level of interactivity and creates a rich visual environment for the user. It's solidly comfortable — even for marathon gaming sessions — and manages to wrap an overall astonishing performance in a very user-friendly package.

Unfortunately, the Vive Pro is also considerably more expensive than the vast majority of the other headsets on the market — much more than we think most people would be willing to pay, especially when you consider the additional cost of the high-end gaming PC that is required to run it if you don't already have it. This is a great headset if you are a true enthusiast and can afford it but we have found that you can spend a lot less and get essentially the same experience.

Read review: HTC Vive Pro

Best Full-Featured Budget Headset


Oculus Quest


Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$400
List Price
See It

75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Interactiveness 7
  • Visual Immersiveness 9
  • Comfort 5
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Ease of Setup 9
Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 101°
Great value
Hassle-free
Can't play high-end games
Could be more comfortable

The Oculus Quest is a completely standalone headset, completely forgoing a tether or an expensive gaming PC. It relies on a series of cameras to track your position, making it one of the few completely standalone headsets that not only tracks where you are looking but also lets you walk around and move throughout the play area. This makes the Quest one of the most user-friendly and easy to use VR headsets out there, all while holding its own with the top models when it comes to providing a highly immersive and interactive experience. It has excellent motion tracking both of your position and your hand movements using the Oculus Touch controllers and takes practically no time to set up.

However, we did think that the Quest could be a little more comfortable. It isn't our favorite to wear for marathon gaming sessions, as it is heavily weighted towards the front and several of our testers complained that it was dragging on their faces. It's difficult to strike a balance between getting the head strap tight enough that the Quest doesn't fall while still being comfortable to wear. This headset also can't play the top-tier games but if you are looking for a simple to use VR headset that has full 6-Degree of Freedom (DoF) motion tracking and doesn't cost a small fortune, the Quest is the perfect choice.

Read review: Oculus Quest

Best Low-End Headset


Oculus Go


The Oculus Go  a standalone VR headset.
Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$150
List Price
See It

74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Interactiveness 6
  • Visual Immersiveness 8
  • Comfort 7
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Ease of Setup 9
Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 101°
Incredibly easy to use
Highly interactive for a mobile headset
Very comfortable
Little more expensive than other mobile headsets
Visuals are slightly inferior to tethered models

The Oculus Go is one of our all-time favorite mobile or standalone headsets, earning it an Editors' Choice award. This VR headset is easily one of the most intuitive and user-friendly products of the entire group, providing an excellent VR experience without all of the hassles. You just need to power it up and put it on and you are all set. It has a quick and easy initial setup process and is quite comfortable to wear — even for extended periods. It is by far one of the most approachable options if you want to give VR a try and aren't the most tech-savvy and want something more than a simple smartphone-powered headset.

Unfortunately, the Go can't quite compete with the immersive viewing qualities provided by the top-tier products. The Go is also limited by its 3-Degree of Freedom tracking, so it can only detect where you are looking and not where you are in the room. It has a fairly tight fit on your face, which can make wearing it in conjunction with glasses a bit of a stretch but you can order prescription lenses to install if this poses a problem for you. In spite of these flaws, there isn't a better option if you want to play VR games without the hassle or large cost of other systems.

Read review: Oculus Go

Best on a Tight Budget


Google Cardboard


The Google Cardboard.
Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

$25.00
at Amazon
See It

47
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Interactiveness 2
  • Visual Immersiveness 6
  • Comfort 4
  • User Friendliness 7
  • Ease of Setup 9
Tethered or Mobile: Mobile | Field of View: 90°
Inexpensive
Very easy setup
Uncomfortable
Lacks adjustability

If you want to try out VR and spend the least amount of money possible, then the Google Cardboard is the obvious choice. This headset is simply a cardboard frame for your smartphone and some lenses but provides a surprisingly good viewing experience given its minimalistic design. It has a single button that you can press to tap the touchscreen on your phone.

This product can't compete with the top-tier models, that cost hundreds of times more. Cardboard is not the most comfortable material to hold against your face and there isn't a strap to secure the Cardboard to your head, so it can be quite tiring to hold it in place the entire time you are using it. The single-button interface also limits the amount of interaction with your virtual environment, making the Cardboard more of a VR viewer. Despite these not insignificant flaws, the Cardboard makes it a great option for someone who isn't necessarily a tech expert but wants to give VR a try without breaking the bank. This all combines to earn the Google Cardboard the Best Buy award.

Read review: Google Cardboard


VR headsets ready for testing.
VR headsets ready for testing.

Why You Should Trust Us?


Here at TechGearLab, we bought all of the VR systems in this review at retail prices — just like you would — and won't ever accept any free or sample products from manufacturers so you can be sure that our reviews are completely unbiased. Our lead tester, Austin Palmer, has been playing video games for nearly 3 decades. He has played many generations, if not all, of the major platforms even some of the more obscure including the Nintendo Virtual Boy and the Tiger Electronics R-Zone that somewhat resemble VR headsets. Austin is also very adept at PC gaming, always engaging in the most difficult end game content available, consistently reaching leaderboards, or completing games 100%.

We set up a dedicated room just for our VR testing and have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours testing and playing games with the different VR systems. We specifically graded each headset in 25 different side-by-side tests to determine the scores and had a panel of judges try out each headset to get a better opinion of how the lenses worked for different people and how each headset fit different faces.

Related: How We Tested VR Headsets


Analysis and Test Results


We grouped our tests into five weighted testing metrics — Visual Immersiveness, Comfort, User Friendliness, Ease of Setup, and Interactiveness, as well as discussing the value of each headset when you compare their cost to their performance.

Related: Buying Advice for VR Headsets

Value


When it comes to VR headsets, there are a few different classes of headsets, covering an enormous spread of prices. Tethered headsets, like the Vive Pro, Oculus Rift S, and Valve Index, are typically the most expensive models. These headsets alone are pricey, usually costing the most of the group, and this price can easily be doubled when you take into account the cost of the powerful PC required to run these products. However, these are much better than mobile models in terms of interactiveness and visual immersiveness. The Quest splits the difference, costing about half as much as the top tethered models and doesn't require any additional hardware, making it a much more attractive budget buy than the tethered options. If you are looking to save even more, then the Oculus Go is the best you can get when it comes to mobile headsets, being very easy to use and highly interactive and usually costs about half as much as the Quest.

If you are determined to try out VR, then the Google Cardboard is the way to go. This is the cheapest way to try out VR, essentially being a cardboard box with lenses that holds your smartphone.

In the zone.
In the zone.

Interactiveness


Our Interactiveness metric is the most significant of our testing process, responsible for 35% of the final score for each VR headset. In this rating metric, we focused on how easy and intuitive each product makes it to interact with your virtual environment. Specifically, we looked at the interface of each headset, the accuracy of the motion tracking — both of the headset and the hand controllers, if the headset had any — and if there are any limitations on where you can use each product, such as limited sensor coverage or the length of the tether.


Tying for the highest score of the group, the Valve Index and the Vive Pro each earned an impressive 9 out of 10 for their phenomenal performance when it comes to creating an interactive experience. The Vive Pro uses a pair of Vive-specific handheld controllers specifically made for VR or you can also use a standard Xbox or PlayStation controller hooked up to the computer. These controllers are very ergonomic and comfortable to hold — one of our favorite designs of the group. The Index uses a very similar set of motion controllers, the Valve Knuckles, which we think matched the Vive Pro in terms of ergonomics and comfort.

The Valve Knuckles convey your movements extraordinarily well.
The Valve Knuckles convey your movements extraordinarily well.

These headsets are both 6-DOF (Degrees of Freedom) and their stock sensor configurations can easily cover an area larger than you can reach with the tether. This is where the wireless adapter for the Vive Pro comes in, allowing you to easily move around the entire area covered by the sensors without restrictions.

The wireless adapter for the Vive and the Vive Pro can make it quite a bit easier and more user-friendly to use.
The wireless adapter for the Vive and the Vive Pro can make it quite a bit easier and more user-friendly to use.

These headsets all rely on outside-in tracking, using a series of external sensors — either mounted on the wall or a tripod. We had almost no issues with these sensors losing track of our position when using either the Index or the Vive Pro — even when we turned completely around and were facing away from the sensors. The Vive Pro and the Index also all are exceptionally accurate when it comes to the position of the hand controllers.

Next, the Oculus Rift S, the Oculus Quest, and the PlayStation VR (PSVR) all scored a 7 out of 10 for their interactiveness. The Quest and the Rift S both utilize and inside-out tracking system, supplanting the need for any external sensors. This also means that you have an exceptionally large play area at your disposal, especially with the Quest, as it doesn't have a tether to hold you back.

Both of these headsets use the Oculus Touch controllers, which are great but didn't seem quite as natural to hold as the Valve Knuckles or Vive Controllers. The motion tracking accuracy for the hand controllers is pretty good but the Oculus headsets did seem to lose their position a bit more than the Valve or Vive Pro. We also had a few issues with the Rift S losing the connection and blacking out the screen if there was any pressure put on the tether but this was easily remedied with some strategically placed cable ties.

The Rift S provides an exceptionally interactive experience that is easy to get lost in.
The Rift S provides an exceptionally interactive experience that is easy to get lost in.

It is also exceptionally easy to interact with the PSVR headset using the PlayStation Move controller system, even though there are no buttons or touchpads on the headset itself.

The PlayStation camera uses the lights on the visor and controllers to track you in VR.
The PlayStation camera uses the lights on the visor and controllers to track you in VR.

We did find that the PSVR has some limitations when it comes to sensor coverage, only adequately covering a space about 7' in front of the camera. Stepping any further back would cause the screen to blackout — something a few of our testers encountered when backing up rapidly from a shark in one of the underwater VR experiences. This model also had the most limited motion tracking of all of the tethered headsets, struggling to track you if you turned around while using the Move controllers.

We also found it to be a little finicky when tracking the position of the Move controllers, with the controllers slightly shifting position throughout the game. There was also a non-trivial amount of instances where the controllers were unresponsive in our testing process.

The Oculus Go followed, meriting a 6 out of 10 for the level of interactiveness that it provided. It did exceptionally well in our motion tracking tests and we found that we had to center the remote and rest it much less frequently than other mobile headsets. There are also a handful of buttons on the remote control, allowing you further ways to interact with your virtual environment. However, you are limited to a stationary position, like all 3-DoF mobile headsets.

The Go has a simple and easy to use remote.
The Go has a simple and easy to use remote.

The HTC Vive Cosmos came next, earning a 5 out of 10 for its average level of interactivity. Of all the top-tier headsets in terms of price, the Vive Cosmos scored the worst in our interactiveness metric. The Cosmos does have dual hand controllers and is only limited by the length of the tether but we weren't very impressed with the accuracy of the motion tracking. The headset just seems finicky when it comes to general position tracking and takes much longer to recover than we would have liked when you take it off and on. The horizon angle would be off and we found the screen to be a bit jittery — practically to the point of inducing nausea.


The controllers we tested also didn't seem to be very good at picking up small movements and were slow to register different movements when playing a fast-paced game. We also had lots of problems with the headset complaining about the level of ambient light in the room, first finding it too bright and then it would be too dark. We didn't have this issue with any of the other headsets.

The Samsung Gear VR provided a subpar level of interaction, earning it a 4 out of 10. The Gear VR has a handheld remote with a directional touchpad and both home and back buttons on the headset itself. The Gear VR is a 3-DoF headset, meaning you can look all around you, but they are intended for you to be sitting down or standing in a stationary position. It does an acceptable job at tracking the position of the handheld remote, though you did need to reset the controller center direction occasionally to align with the direction you are facing, as they both would tend to drift the longer the headset was in use. This is an extremely quick process, done by simply holding down a button until the direction re-centered.

The bulk of the mobile headsets came next, with the Google Cardboard, the VR SHINECON, and the Merge VR all earning a 2 out of 10 for their relatively subpar performance in this metric.

Neither the Cardboard, SHINECON, or the Merge have a handheld remote, instead of having one or two buttons on the top of the device that will interact with the touchscreen on your phone when pressed. These headsets are all limited to 3-DoF tracking, so they don't monitor your position in the room, only the direction you are looking in.

Earning a 1 out of 10 for its dismal performance, the Bnext VR possessed a disappointingly low level of interactiveness. You don't have any interface options or motion tracking, so this headset is basically a VR video viewer and that's it.

The PlayStation camera has some trouble tracking if it is too dark in the room.
The PlayStation camera has some trouble tracking if it is too dark in the room.

Visual Immersiveness


Our second metric focused on how realistic of a virtual environment each of these headsets can create for you, which is responsible for 20% of the total score for each product. To determine scores when it came to visual immersiveness, we looked at the overall viewing quality, field of view, and the image sharpness, as well as how well each headset blocked out ambient light.


The Rift S, the Vive Pro, the Valve Index, the Vive Cosmos, and the Oculus Quest all tied for the top score in our Visual Immersiveness metric, each receiving a 9 out of 10 for their superb image quality. The Rift S, the Vive Pro, the Index, and the Quest all do a great job of blocking light from leaking in, either keeping the interior completely dark or letting in just a sliver of light depending on the shape of your nose. However, none of our judges ever found this to be enough to degrade the VR experience.

Unfortunately, we couldn't say the same about the Cosmos. It was great at blocking out light for most of our testers but let in enough for a few of them that they found it to be distracting.

The Cosmos does provide a very immersive experience.
The Cosmos does provide a very immersive experience.

The Vive Pro, the Valve Index, and the Oculus Quest all have a resolution of 1440x1600 pixels per eye, though the Index uses LCD panels that supposedly give you clearer images due to their subpixels than OLED displays. The Rift S has a slightly lower resolution of 1280x1440 per eye, while the Cosmos has a slightly higher resolution of 1440x1700. These differences are very hard to discern when wearing the headset and we think each of these products has top-notch overall viewing quality. The Index has the widest field of view of this group, followed by the Vive Pro, Cosmos, and the Rift S, which are about the same. The Quest has the narrowest viewable area of this quartet.


The PlayStation VR, the Samsung Gear VR, and the Oculus Go all earned an 8 out of 10 for the high-quality visual experience they provided. The PlayStation VR blocked the majority of the light but suffered from a slight light leak around the bridge of the nose, depending on the shape of your nose. However, it doesn't let in enough light to be distracting. The PlayStation VR has a reduced resolution of 960x1080 per eye, but we found it slightly easier to read text than the Vive.

We found the image quality of the Gear VR to be very impressive but just slightly less than some of the tethered headset. The resolution of the display of this mobile headset depends on what mobile phone is used. We found the viewing quality to be fantastic when using a Samsung S8 or Google Pixel XL phone — even holding its own against some of the significantly more expensive products. The Gear VR completely blocked all of the light from the room from entering the headset for the majority of our testers.

The Oculus Go trailed slightly behind the tethered models as well when it came to their visual immersiveness. We found the image quality on the Oculus Go to be slightly sharper than the Gear VR, but the overall viewing quality is about the same. These headsets all have a similar field of view. However, the Go lets in quite a bit more ambient light, especially when worn with glasses, which dropped its overall score down by a point.

You can put this VR headset on and "Go".
You can put this VR headset on and "Go".

Following this top group, the Google Cardboard earned a 6 out of 10 for its above-average showing in our Visual Immersiveness metric. The Cardboard lets in significantly more light than almost any other product* — understandable, since this headset is made from rigid cardboard, rather than a more form-fitting, softer material. The field of view is slightly less than the Gear VR, with similar sharpness and viewing quality when using the Pixel XL.

Next, the Bnext, the SHINECON, and the Merge VR all earned a 5 out of 10 for their somewhat mediocre performance when it came to being visually immersive. The Bnext let an abundance of light in, while the Merge did a fantastic job of blocking light, only rivaled by the Samsung Gear VR. The Bnext had the widest field of view out of this group of two, followed by the Merge.

The Merge had alright viewing quality, with the image being slightly zoomed in and the text is shown with some sort of small distortion. The Bnext was much worse, showing even more distortion.

The SHINECON had a wide field of view and alright viewing quality, but we routinely struggled to get an image in focus with the way it holds the smartphone, making it hard to read the text as there was plenty of distortion.

The Samsung Gear is comfortable enough to sleep in.
The Samsung Gear is comfortable enough to sleep in.

Comfort


Ranking next in our review, our Comfort rating metric accounts for 20% of the total score. While all of the headsets will feel slightly awkward and foreign at first, this feeling dissipates rapidly with the more comfortable headsets, while others never cease to feel foreign on your face. They would be fine for a short experience or two, but would severely detract from the virtual reality experience if worn for long periods. To determine scores for this metric, we compared how each headset felt on your face, whether or not it made your face sweaty, and if there is sufficient room to wear glasses.


Earning the top score out of all of the headsets that we tested, the Samsung Gear VR is by far our favorite when it comes to comfort. The Gear VR is quite comfortable to wear — even for long periods, with a cushion that prevents any pressure points on your face. It also had more than enough room to wear over a pair of glasses and an adequate amount of ventilation to keep the optics from fogging up.

First time experiencing VR.
First time experiencing VR.

The Vive Pro and the Rift S came next, both meriting an 8 out of 10. The Vive Pro has more than enough space for most styles of glasses and does by far the best job at keeping your face from getting sweaty of the tethered models. It also has tons of padding and none of our judges noted any uncomfortable pressure points when wearing it, even when they had it on for extended periods.

You can move the integrated headphones out of the way when putting the headset on.
You can move the integrated headphones out of the way when putting the headset on.

The Rift S is similarly spacious when it comes to wearing spectacles, with the added feature of a visor that slides to make it easier to put on while wearing glasses. Most people didn't get overly sweaty while wearing this headset and it doesn't seem to get as warm as the original Rift or the Oculus Quest.

The display on the Rift S does an excellent job of immersing you in your VR experience.
The display on the Rift S does an excellent job of immersing you in your VR experience.

We found the Rift S to have more than enough padding to still be comfortable and not create pressure points during marathon VR sessions. Unfortunately, the cable goes off to one side of the headset instead of the rear, which gives it a very awkward and asymmetric feel that we weren't fans of.

The Oculus Go followed, receiving a 7 out of 10. It is very comfortable to wear and matches the contours of your face quite well. However, it is quite cramped to wear with glasses, even when using the included spacers. We also found the image sharpness degraded slightly when using this space, appearing less sharp than before. There is also an option to purchase prescription lenses for this headset — a somewhat unique trait — if you require glasses. Unfortunately, we also found that the Go doesn't have the best ventilation, meaning you are definitely in for a very sweaty face after wearing this headset for extended periods.

Next, the Merge VR, the Vive Cosmos, and the PlayStation VR all earned a 6 out of 10 in our comfort test. The Merge VR and the PlayStation VR felt more comfortable to wear, with the Merge VR constructed entirely of squishy foam material, while the Vive Cosmos, and the PlayStation VR all have a form-fitting cushion that makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods.

The PlayStation VR has sufficient room for glasses to be worn, but the Merge and the Cosmos are quite cramped when worn with glasses, especially those with larger frames.

The Valve Index, the Oculus Quest, and the Bnext are all about average in terms of comfort, each earning a 5 out of 10. These three headsets all have a fairly snug fit that can make it uncomfortable to wear glasses and can cause you to find your face fairly sweaty after extended periods of use. The Quest comes with a glasses spacer but we didn't think it did all that much to alleviate the problem. The Index and the Quest also are very front-heavy, with several of our testers complaining that it felt like these headsets were dragging on the front of their places and applying an uncomfortable amount of pressure. The head strap on the Index does have plenty of padding but the padding on the strap of the Quest seems to be slightly lacking.

Next, the Google Cardboard and the VR SHINECON both earned a 4 out of 10. The Google Cardboard is by far the least comfortable out of all the headsets to wear on your face but has plenty of room for glasses and more than enough ventilation to keep the lenses from fogging up.

The Cardboard is equipped with a button to interact with menus on-screen.
The Cardboard is equipped with a button to interact with menus on-screen.

The SHINECON is only a little more comfortable to wear than the Cardboard. You might be able to wear glasses with the SHINECON, but they are going to be pushed up against your face in a most uncomfortable way.

Some headsets can be a little tight getting on  especially if you wear glasses.
Some headsets can be a little tight getting on, especially if you wear glasses.

User Friendliness


Accounting for 15% of the total score, this metric evaluates and assesses the overall experience for the user while using the headset. We compared the audio system of each headset, whether it was built-in or if you are meant to connect external headphones, how much work it took to get the headset ready to use, whether or not you were prone to hitting buttons inadvertently, and for the mobile VR platforms, whether or not you need to remove the case from your phone before use.


Taking home the top scores out of the entire group, the Oculus Rift S, the Quest, the Go, and the Vive Pro each earned a 9 out of 10 for being exceptionally convenient and hassle-free to use.

The Quest and the Go by Oculus are some of the most user-friendly and easy to use headsets that we have seen, both being completely standalone products. They both have integrated speakers, as well as the option to plug in a pair of headphones for improved sound quality and to prevent in-game sounds from disturbing anyone or ambient noise leaking in. All you need to do to use either of these headsets is power them up and put them one. You do need to spend an additional minute or two defining the playable area by creating a "Guardian" with the Quest if you haven't used it in that location before but this process only takes a minute or two. The Go is completely independent of any other hardware, eliminating the need to spend any time making sure it is connected properly.

The Go is extremely user friendly.
The Go is extremely user friendly.

The Rift S is roughly the same as the other Oculus headsets and is ready to go as soon as it is powered up and put on, though you do need to plug in the tether each time if you don't leave it plugged in all the time. It also gives you the option of using headphones or the integrated speakers and we never accidentally hit controls on either of these three headsets. The Vive Pro and the Valve Index also both have integrated headphones built-in, circumventing the need to attach an external pair. This pair is also exceptionally easy to use once the initial setup has been completed, only requiring you to don them in view of the sensors. However, we weren't huge fans of the head strap system on the Index. The adjustment knob is on the small side and it takes a little bit of effort to get all the straps adjusted so the image is in focus and the headset is situated comfortably on your head.

The Index lacks any controls on the headset, eliminating the possibility of accidental presses. The Vive Pro does have volume adjustment keys on the headset itself, but they are well out of the way and quite hard to hit accidentally.

Ranking behind the Oculus headsets, the Vive Cosmos and the PlayStation VR both got an 8 out of 10 for their excellent performances. The PSVR has an audio port to plug in external headphones if you want the full VR experience but also will play sound through the computer or TV speakers if headphones are not connected.

The Cosmos has integrated headphones, so it is even easier to set up than the others when you want to play or you can also remove them to substitute your own pair if you like. However, this only applies to its audio. We found it to be a little more effort to get the Cosmos adjusted properly on your face, struggling to get it both comfortable and in focus.

It can take a little bit of time to get the Cosmos adjusted comfortably.
It can take a little bit of time to get the Cosmos adjusted comfortably.

Next, the Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and the Merge VR all earned a 7 out of 10 for their user-friendliness. It is extremely easy to access the audio connector to plug in headphones when using the Gear VR or Cardboard, with it only being slightly more difficult with the Merge. However, it is a little easier to install your phone in the Merge VR than the Cardboard or the Gear VR, only requiring you to slide your phone in from the top rather than folding out the front cover.

You can adjust the lens width on either side of the Merge  and use it as a button to interact with the display.
You can adjust the lens width on either side of the Merge, and use it as a button to interact with the display.

It is a little more work to set up the Gear VR each time. Instead of simply sliding your smartphone in, there are a pair of clamps that hold the phone in and a USB-C connector that you need to attach before you can use the VR system. However, we were big fans of the focal adjustment abilities of the Gear VR, which made it one of the easiest of the mobile headsets to get focused.

There isn't an opportunity to inadvertently hit buttons on the phone the way it is supported, but there are a very limited number of phone cases that would work with this headset, meaning that you most likely need to remove the case from your phone before using the Gear VR. Your phone fits very snugly in the Google Cardboard, so you may have to remove your case to fit it in, with the Merge being even more cramped.

Next, the VR SHINECON earned a 5 out of 10. It has integrated headphones, but it is an absolute pain to get your phone in the correct alignment whenever you want to use it and the locking mechanism doesn't fully engage unless you take your case off.

There are no markings to make sure your phone is a good position.
There are no markings to make sure your phone is a good position.

Rounding out the back of the group, the Bnext VR performed relatively poorly, earning a 2 out of 10 for its results, respectively. It's a hassle to get earbuds hooked up to your phone when using the Bnext. This headset has a holder that slides out, which then clamps in. It is a pain to use but makes it almost impossible to not accidentally hit buttons.

The initial setup and installation process can be a bit time-consuming.
The initial setup and installation process can be a bit time-consuming.

Ease of Setup


Finishing out our review, we compared the difficulty of the initial setup for each VR system. This metric accounts for the residual 10% of the overall score and is based on how much effort it took to set up the hardware for each system and install the software, as well as what the hardware requirements are to properly run each headset.


The Oculus Go, the Quest, the Bnext, the SHINECON, the Google Cardboard, and the Merge VR all earned a 9 out of 10 for their supremely easy initial setup.

In terms of hardware setup, the Google Cardboard, Bnext, SHINECON, and the Merge are essentially ready to go right out of the box. You need to adjust the lenses on the Bnext and Merge and that is about it. The Cardboard has no lens adjustment, so it is ready to go as soon as you pull it out of the box.
This model is ready to go out of the box.
This model is ready to go out of the box.

The Oculus Go is also ready to go right out of the box, only requiring you to add a wrist strap to the remote before you are ready to go. You simply need to download the app on the phone, follow the directions, and pick your games before you are all set!

It is extremely easy to get all of the software for these mobile smartphone VR headsets set up, as you only have to download the correct app from wherever you typically get apps. They are also compatible with pretty much every modern smartphone so no need to worry about buying additional hardware.

The Quest is similar to the Go, only requiring you to install the batteries in the remotes to get going and doesn't require any additional hardware besides your smartphone to connect it to your Oculus account. The only software setup required is installing this app on your phone and creating your virtual Guardian to keep from running into a wall when walking around with the Quest on.

The Oculus Rift S and the Samsung Gear VR ranked next, both earning an 8 out of 10 for their performance. The Gear VR took a little more work, requiring you to put batteries in the remote and attach the head and remote strap. The software install for both of these headsets is a little more time-consuming, with the Gear VR leading you through a series of prompts to download a handful of apps. It wasn't hard, but it did take a little bit of time. The Gear VR is limited to working with only a handful of Samsung phones. You can see a full list on their website and they are adding new phones all the time, but if you haven't bought a top of the line smartphone relatively recently, you are most likely out of luck.

The Rift S is pretty much ready to go right out of the box after you put batteries in but it did require a little bit of time to get the software up and running. You need to download the Oculus software and create an account first, which will then guide you through configuring and updating the firmware — if necessary — once you plug in the Rift S. However, you do need a decently powerful gaming PC to run this headset.

Moving on to the remainder of the tethered headsets, the PlayStation VR is the easiest of the three to set up for the first time, earning a 7 out of 10. This model only took about 10 minutes to set up, requiring us to make sure the PlayStation camera was pointed in the correct direction and plug a handful of cable in. This model prompts you through the setup process and offers a quick tutorial on how to use it. This model does have limited compatibility, only working with a PS4 and a PlayStation Camera, while the PS Move controllers are necessary for some games.

The Valve Index and the Vive Pro are by far the most difficult to set up of all the headsets we tested, predominantly due to the need to install external sensors. The sensors need to be mounted on the wall or on top of two tripods. There is also quite a bit of time involved to set up the software and configure these products. All in all, this was a much more intensive setup process than the others and would probably be quite a struggle for users who aren't terribly tech-savvy.

The HTC Vive Cosmos is also one of the more difficult headsets to set up, even though it doesn't rely on external sensors for motion tracking. While there isn't too much in the way of setting up hardware or software, the Cosmos proved to be very finicky when it came to scanning the room. It does this to prevent you from running into obstacles during play but we overall struggled to get the Cosmos to cooperate. It would either complain about the level of light and usually didn't set the floor correctly. It did occasionally do this process quickly but it was very inconsistent in our tests and most of the time took much longer than we would have liked. This headset also requires a similarly powerful PC as the other tethered headsets.

Conclusion


Hopefully, you have found this to be an informative and helpful analysis of the best VR products currently available and you are ready to make your next headset purchase, whether you want a high-end VR powerhouse, a user-friendly beginner model, or a bargain option that will actually leave you some money left over to buy some games!

Austin Palmer and David Wise