After looking at practically every VR headset currently available, we bought the 17 most promising products to test out head-to-head in our quest to find the best of them all. We looked at all the different types of headsets, ranging from top-tier tethered models to budget smartphone options made out of cardboard. We rated and compared the visual immersiveness and level of interactions provided by each headset, as well as their comfort, ease of use, and the amount of work required to set them up out of the box. Take a look at our full review to see which wearable we thought were worthy of awards, which are the best value, and which are the most user-friendly.
The Best VR Headsets of 2019
$1,399 at Amazon
$399.00 at Amazon
|$499 List||$999 List||$400 List|
$399.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Exceptionally comfortable, incredibly immersive, tons of interactiveness||Exceptional image quality, super comfortable, very user-friendly||Highly interactive, incredibly immersive, comfortable||Very immersive, highly interactive||Great value, easy to use, highly immersive|
|Cons||Exorbitantly expensive||Tether can be finicky||Expensive, difficult setup process||Not the most comfortable, could be easier to set up||Can’t handle high-end games, could be more comfortable|
|Bottom Line||It’s the best of the best if money is truly no object||If you are searching for the absolute best VR headset around, you can’t go wrong with the Rift S||The Vive is a great all-around headset for the VR enthusiast||The Index has some great features for the VR enthusiast but probably isn’t the best headset for most people||If you are looking to start playing VR games on a budget and don’t already have a gaming PC, the Quest is a great choice|
|Rating Categories||HTC Vive Pro||Oculus Rift S||HTC Vive||Valve Index||Oculus Quest|
|Visual Immersiveness (20%)|
|User Friendliness (15%)|
|Ease Of Setup (10%)|
|Specs||HTC Vive Pro||Oculus Rift S||HTC Vive||Valve Index||Oculus Quest|
|Phones that fit||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Adjustable Lenses||Only side to side||Only side to side||Only side to side||Only side to side||Only side to side|
|Sound||Integrated||Integrated||Headphone Jack or PC||Integrated||Integrated|
|Available Controllers / Remotes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Field of View||110||110||110||130||101|
|Refresh Rate||90Hz||80Hz||90Hz||120Hz (Up to 144Hz in Experimental Mode]||72Hz|
|Room For Glasses?||Yes||Presses, even with glasses spacer||A little tight, but the Oculs Rift is tighter||Glasses get pressed against the face||Yes|
Best Overall VR Headset
Oculus Rift S
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
If Money is No Object
HTC Vive Pro
While the Vive Pro did receive one of the highest scores of the entire group, we wouldn't necessarily recommend to most people. It's comfortable, has integrated noise-canceling headphones, and a very impressive set of visual specifications.
However, it is significantly more expensive than the original Vive. The starter bundle with sensors and controllers retails at a price bordering on exorbitant, especially if you consider the hefty investment in a gaming PC powerful enough to run it. On top of that, it still is going to cost you quite a bit to buy just the headset alone — what you would do if you are just upgrading from the original Vive. It's a great option if you have a limitless budget, but is way more than most people will want to spend on VR. We found it quite hard to justify the huge price jump with what we felt were slight improvements, even with the built-in noise-canceling headphones — you can still save money and buy an exceptionally nice pair of headphones to use with original Vive.
Read review: HTC Vive Pro
Best Full-Featured Budget Headset
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
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
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
Best for Star Wars fans
Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges
If you are ready to join the Rebel Alliance or the Resistance to tackle the Empire or the First Order, then the Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is the product for you. This headset allows you to become a commander of the Republic's troops or wield a lightsaber against the Sith, providing a highly immersive and interactive experience for anyone who has ever wanted to inhabit part of the Star Wars universe. You can even play holochess — though you should probably let the Wookie win.
Unfortunately, you are restricted to the games and experiences specifically designed for this headset, meaning that the library of available options will always be significantly more limited than what is available on the other headsets. This headset is also on the pricey side for a mobile headset, making the limited library all the more painful. However, it is a ton of fun and is worth considering for the Star Wars fans out there, mainly because getting to fight with (virtual) lightsabers is awesome. Period.
Read review: Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges
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
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, Vive, 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.
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, the HTC Vive, and the Vive Pro each earned an impressive 9 out of 10 for their phenomenal performance when it comes to creating an interactive experience. Both the Vive and Vive Pro use a pair of Vive-specific handheld controllers specifically made for VR or you can also be used with a standard Xbox or PlayStation controller that is 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 in terms of ergonomics and comfort.
All three of these headsets are 6-DOF (Degrees of Freedom) headsets 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 and Vive Pro comes in, allowing you to easily move around the entire area covered by the sensors without restrictions.
These three 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, Vive Pro, or the Vive — even when we turned completely around and were facing away from the sensors. The Vive, 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 HTC models. 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.
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.
We did find that the PSVR has some limitations when it came 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 were also a non-trivial amount of instances where the controllers were unresponsive in our testing process.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo and the Oculus Go followed, each meriting a 6 out of 10 for the level of interactiveness that these headsets provide.
The Oculus Go 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 Lenovo Mirage is a 6-DOF motion tracking headset — a rarity for an untethered model without external sensors. However, we didn't feel this made it all that much more interactive, as it only works in a limited area (10-15 sq. ft. or so) before displaying an error message and this set of functionality is only supported by a handful of VR experiences at the moment.
The Acer AH101, the Star Wars: Jedi Challenger, and the HTC Vive Cosmos came next, both earning a 5 out of 10 for its average level of interactivity. The motion tracking controllers on the Acer are decent, but they weren't our favorite, with the touchpads being a little finicky to respond.
We also found the motion tracking to be somewhat flawed in our tests, with the controllers tending to jump around — much more than the PSVR.
The Star Wars headset relies on an external sensor orb, allowing you to move throughout the room — something the other mobile headsets lack. You use the lightsaber as a controller and it seems relatively responsive, though the motion tracking can get a bit laggy in the most intense lightsaber fights.
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 Canbor VR, Google Cardboard, the VR SHINECON, and the Merge VR all earning a 2 out of 10 for their relatively subpar performance in this metric.
The Canbor does have a handheld remote, but we found it to be significantly inferior to that of the Gear VR. It also had exceptionally limited functionality when paired with an iOS phone. It generally felt slow and unresponsive.
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.
Finishing out the back of the pack, the Bnext VR earned a 1 out of 10 for its overall abysmal performance when it came to Interactiveness. There aren't any buttons on the handset or a handheld controller. It allows you to look around from a stationary position but doesn't track any other motion.
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 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 HTC Vive, the PlayStation VR, the Samsung Gear VR, the Oculus Go, and the Lenovo Mirage Solo all earned an 8 out of 10 for the high-quality visual experience they provided. The HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR both 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, none of them let in enough light to be distracting. The HTC Vive has a resolution of 1080x1200 per eye, but the text just didn't seem as sharp and crisp. 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 standalone mobile headsets, the Oculus Go and the Lenovo Mirage, both 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.
The Mirage by Lenovo has very similar overall viewing quality to the Oculus Go, but it does have a slightly wider field of view — putting it about on par with the Vive. It has a screen with identical specs to the Go, measuring in at 5.5" with a resolution of 1280x1440 per eye. However, it does an even better job at blocking out ambient light, essentially keeping all of it out and we didn't experience any frustrating video lag when using it.
Following this top group, the Google Cardboard and the Acer AH101 came next, both earning 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.
The Acer has one of the highest resolutions out of any model that we tested at 1440 x 1440 per eye, but text still appears a little out of focus when it is near the periphery of the field of view. The field of view on this product is also a little narrower than the top headset, but the overall viewing quality is above average. The Aver also blocks most ambient light from entering the viewing area.
Next, the Lenovo Star Wars, 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 Star Wars headset is AR, so it purposefully lets in the ambient light to superimpose the content over your physical environment. The resolution depends on the phone, like the other mobile headsets, but we did find the narrow field of view to be a bit crippling, especially in the faster-paced lightsaber battles.
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.
Last — and certainly least — the Canbor was a solid disappointment. It lets in a fair amount of ambient light and its focal adjustment is an absolute pain to set — usually causing an unbearable amount of image distortion and giving multiple testers bad enough headaches that they had no desire to use the Canbor again. It does have a fairly wide viewing area but we couldn't get past the issues with the image.
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.
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.
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 head strap has plenty of padding — a significant improvement over its predecessor — and has more than enough face padding to wear it for long periods. However, the cable goes off on one side, rather than the back, causing a slightly asymmetrical weight distribution that can feel a little awkward.
Following the Gear VR, the Oculus Go, the HTC Vive, and the Mirage Solo all tied when it comes to comfort, each earning a 7 out of 10.
The Vive conforms to your face very well, but not quite as well as the Gear VR. It has about the same amount of ventilation as the Samsung Gear VR, but it has substantially less room to fit glasses into. You can wear glasses with this headset, but just barely. It has some ventilation, so you won't get excessively sweaty right off the bat, but you will start to sweat if you wear it for any significant amount of time.
The Oculus Go is also 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.
The Mirage has ample padding to prevent any discomfort and fits most faces just about as comfortably as the Oculus Go does. Unfortunately, the Mirage is significantly heavier than the Go, weighing a little over 40% more. It isn't enough to immediately make it uncomfortable but we did start to feel the extra bulk after marathon VR sessions. We also found that the Mirage doesn't have the best ventilation and can easily lead to a very sweaty face but does have sufficient room for glasses.
Next, the Merge VR, Acer AH101, the Vive Cosmos, and the PlayStation VR all earned a 6 out of 10 in our comfort test. The Merge VR, Acer, and the PlayStation VR felt more comfortable to wear, with the Merge VR constructed entirely of a squishy foam material, while the Acer, 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 , the Cosmos, and the Acer 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, the VR SHINECON, and Star Wars: Jedi Challenges all earned a 4 out of 10, while the Canbor again rounded out the bottom of the pack with a 3 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 Star Wars headset isn't terribly comfortable, feeling quite awkward and unbalanced to wear. It also doesn't have a ton of ventilation or space for spectacles.
The Canbor and the SHINECON is only a little more comfortable to wear than the Cardboard, but the CANBOR has absolutely no room whatsoever for glasses and only has mediocre breathability. 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.
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, the Vive Pro, and the Acer AH101-D8EY 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 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 headset and the Acer, the HTC Vive, the Vive Cosmos, the Mirage Solo, and the PlayStation VR all received an 8 out of 10 for their excellent performances. The Vive and the PSVR both have 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. However, we did find that the earbuds are more likely to be pulled out accidentally when using the Vive compared to the PlayStation VR.
The Mirage Solo doesn't have any built-in speakers, so you are forced to use a pair of earbuds if you want to add an audio component to your VR experience. It comes with a pair of mediocre earbuds, but you can always substitute your own if you want higher fidelity audio. Aside from that, this headset is incredibly user-friendly, making it almost impossible to accidentally press a button and takes almost no time to get set up each time you want to use it.
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.
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.
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.
The Star Wars: Jedi Challenges finished next in this metric, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its showing. The Star Wars headset requires to plug your phone in with one of the included cables and mounts in a plastic holder to install. However, you usually don't have to remove your case, earning this product a few extra points.
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.
Rounding out the back of the group, the Canbor VR and the Bnext VR performed relatively poorly, earning a 3 and a 2 out of 10 for their efforts, respectively. It's not too much effort to get headphones plugged in when using the Canbor VR, but it is a solid hassle to get them hooked up when using the Bnext. It isn't great to get the Canbor set up for use. The cover folds out with clamps to hold the phone in place, but it can very easily push buttons accidentally depending on the phone. However, it is far superior to the Bnext. This headset has a holder that slides out, which then clamps in. This also makes it almost impossible to not accidentally hit buttons.
However, you usually don't have to take the case off of your phone to use these headsets. We tested with a larger, rugged case and it worked fine.
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.
Claiming the top spot out of the entire group, the Lenovo earned a 10 out of 10 for being one of the easiest VR headsets to get set up, taking only a few minutes to get it going right out of the box. There isn't any additional hardware required to run this headset and the only hardware setup required is to plug in the optional earbuds and microSD card and you are all set. The software setup is similarly easy, only requiring you to connect to the wifi and pair the remote. Pairing the remote gave us a few issues, requiring us to try it a few times before we successfully got it to connect, but it still wasn't a huge hassle.
Coming in second place, the Oculus Go, the Quest, the Bnext, the Canbor, the SHINECON, the Google Cardboard, and the Merge VR all earning 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. The Canbor only requires you to add batteries to the remote and adjust the lenses and it is all set.
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, the Acer, the Jedi Challenges, and the Samsung Gear VR ranked next, all 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 Acer and the Jedi Challenges headsets also only take a minimal effort in terms of the hardware setup. You only need to plug the Acer into the HDMI and USB ports on your computer to get it ready to go and install the batteries in the Star Wars headsets to get this pair ready to go. The software setup on the Star Wars is the same as the other mobile apps, only requiring a simple app install. The Acer is one of the easiest tethered models to get the software configured, with helpful prompts guiding you through the process.
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, HTC Vive, 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.
At this point, we hope we have given you enough information that you feel comfortable picking out the perfect VR headset for your needs and budget, regardless if you are looking for the absolute best of the best, the most convenient and easy to use, or the best budget buy.
— Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman