The 10 Best Virtual Reality Headsets to Buy in 2018

Experience a whole new world with these top headsets

Virtual reality is gaining popularity quickly, but the market is still relatively new, so it can be hard to know what to look for when buying a headset. To help, we've compiled a list of the top seven best VR headsets that will work for just about anyone looking for a piece of augmented reality. Whether you want a VR headset that works with your smartphone and won't cost you more than $30 or if you want the most powerful system on the market, you're sure to find something on this list that will make you happy.

Best Overall: HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is the cream of the crop when it comes to VR headsets. It features an OLED display with a 2160 x 1200 resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. It features precision tracking with 32 headset sensors and 360-degree motion tracking, so every subtle movement is picked up from the machine. Its stunning visual presents a 110-degree field of view, enough to cover even your peripheral vision.

The HTC Vive is unique in its own right due to its included two handheld controllers. Both of which each have 24 sensors for pinpointed accuracy and motion tracking. They also contain dual stage triggers and multi-function track pads with an HD haptic feedback that create a responsive and interactive virtual reality experience. These controllers, with their one-to-one tracking, ultimately mirror your hand movements.

Many Amazon users have stated the HTC Vive is bar none to every other existing virtual reality headset on the market. The included Steam Store software interface has more than 60 VR videogames on it (with more to come) that all function well with the included controllers. More critical reviewers mentioned the steep price, heavy 15-pound weight, and the need for compatible computer hardware with a mid-level graphics card.

Best for Power: Oculus Rift + Touch

The most powerful granddaddy of them all that reawakens the rise of VR is the Oculus Rift. Out of every headset on the list, this one is the most powerful to date in screen resolution and capability.

The Oculus Rift features an OLED display with a 2160 x 1200 screen resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. The unit provides a 110-degree field of view, with a 5 x 11 feet tracking area. Inside the headset is an integrated audio system suitable for VR, giving users the experience of sound that provides both space and depth, ultimately fooling all the senses.

The headset comes with two Oculus Touch controllers that let you interact with the virtual world. Of course, the device does come with its own independent remote for navigation through menus and volume controls as well. The headset is said to be comfortable, and fully customizable so as to contort and adapt to the user’s head.

The most unattractive part is the price point and need for a compatible PC (you will need a Windows PC with a NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti/AMD Radeon RX 470 graphics card and 8 GB+ RAM in order to use the system).

Best Value: Pansonite VR Headset

Many of the VR headsets out there are name-brand, with a name-brand price to match. But when you get right down to it, a VR headset really just needs to do well at holding your phone, blocking out your surroundings, and staying comfortable on your head. This Pansonite – an Amazon best-seller – does all of that for a really affordable price.

This is the latest version from the brand, and the research they’ve done and the lengths they’ve gone to are immense. First, the lenses: they’ve put together a remarkably clear resin composite material that ensures both a crystal clear image and has less potential for vertigo while using the headset. They’ve equipped the face cups with a soft, breathable faux-leather that lets you wear the headset for long periods without sacrificing comfort. They’ve taken that comfort to the straps as well, constructing them out of a soft, lightweight material that alleviates some pressure on the eye sockets without adding any undue weight onto your neck holding them up.

Finally, the adjustment mechanism that lets you optimize the distance from your eyes and the height aligning with your pupils is a simple, button-based function that makes it easy to optimize the experience while you’re wearing the headset for almost any application. It fits most standard Android devices, though be sure to check the list just to make sure your phone is compatible.

Best New Release: Oculus Go

Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2014, and four years later they've released their first ground-up VR headset. It comes with a notable innovation: the new Oculus Go is entirely standalone, meaning it doesn’t require an expensive gaming laptop or console to operate. Just don the sleek, gray headset, adjust the straps and jump into an immersive VR experience on a premium-feeling device. With this headset, Oculus is ushering in a new era of VR for everyone, not just those on the vanguard of tech development. And while the VR hardware is not quite as powerful as the Oculus Rift, it does deliver a fairly high-end experience. The headset also comes with an Oculus Go controller, which is sort of like a point-and-click remote that, while not as immersive as the Oculus Touch, is intuitive and works for games or experiences like watching a concert. At launch, the Go is compatible with more than 1,000 apps, streaming services, games, and 360-degree experiences, a number that is guaranteed to grow as time goes on.

Best for Samsung Smartphones: Samsung Gear VR W/Controller

If you own a Samsung phone released in the past two years, the Samsung Gear is one of the best VR sets that you can buy. In fact, even if you own an incompatible phone, this accessory might inspire you to convert. 

Compared to other smartphone headsets, this might seem big, but its size is also an advantage. Inside, its optics can be adjusted using the top-mounted dial, giving you a more comfortable picture. And it’s pretty breathable considering you’re strapped in tightly. This updated Gear comes with a motion controller, which is a small remote that pairs easily with your smartphone and adds new levels of interactivity. It has a circular touchpad on the front and a single trigger on the back. The headset also has a USB-C port on the bottom for charging purposes. Perhaps most important for any VR system is its content library, and the Samsung Gear has solid but growing shelves, so you’ll never get bored of diving into new realities.

Best Budget: Canbor VR Headset

Ready to experience the magic of VR, but need to watch your spending? At the time of our review, you could snap up this Canbor VR Headset for under $30. These lightweight glasses have an adjustable head strap and an anti-blue light PMMA lens for clearer 3D visual effects. Most people will be able to adjust the settings of the headset so that wearing glasses or contact lenses isn’t necessary, making it a much more comfortable experience for the many people who wear prescription lenses. The Canbor VR Headset works with most Apple or Android smartphones, including the iPhone X or the Samsung Note 8 – simply adjust the phone holder to snugly fit your phone. 

Best for Eyes & Comfort: Sarlar 3D VR

One of the biggest issues a VR user can face is a serious strain on their eyes and neck. If you can’t get your hands off VR, but want to go easy on your eyes and neck, the Sarlar’s 3D VR Glasses are the one for you. They are listed as the No. 1 best seller on Amazon for 3D Viewing Glasses.

Sarlar’s 3D VR glasses’ design is engineered to assure comfort and provide no pressure against your eyelid. Its strap and viewing enclosure relieves friction and strain against your nose bridge and allows for enough breathing space. A soft sponge foam casing pads and lines the viewing rim of the headset to give users’ faces a gentle fitted feeling.

The VR headset is compatible with smartphones running iOS and Android operating systems as long as they’re measured in range of 4.0 to 6.5 inches. Virtually any user will be able to slot in their smartphone; an iPhone 6 Plus is a tight fit, but still manageable. It weighs only 9.3 ounces and measures 7 x 4.6 x 5 inches.

Some Amazon users have noted that this is a good entry-level VR headset with the company doing a phenomenal job for an ergonomic design meant for human comfort – the elastic band isn’t too tight around the head, and everything stays in place. Other more critical reviews noted that YouTube doesn’t seem to be compatible and that general VR content seems lacking.

Best for Durability & Controller Input: Merge VR

Many VR headsets come with a single input button on the side of the unit, which doesn’t give much touch interaction for some users. The Merge VR is comfortable, stylish and offers innovative dual touch inputs that are compatible with most VR apps.

While some other VR headsets offer Bluetooth connectivity for a dedicated controller at an extra price, Merge gives users the ability to navigate and control directly from the headset itself. On top of the device are both left and right buttons that allow you to perform multiple actions at once, such as steering left and right or running and jumping.

Merge VR is made of a durable and soft flexible lightweight foam. It’s soft enough to be comfortable on the face, but tough enough to handle against drops. Its purple design makes it one of the most stylish VR headsets on the market today.

Though it’s recommended to be used with newer smartphone models like the iPhone 6, Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, and LG G4, it’s compatible with most iOS and Android devices from at least 2014. Merge VR comes with Merge Start, an app discovery portal that curates a collection of all your compatible data for the device. Apps range from games and 360 videos to tourism and educational software.

Best from Google: Google Daydream View

The google Daydream View is no joke when it comes to phone-ready VR options in terms of build quality and features. The device is designed for almost every current flagship Android phone, but you’ll get the best use out of it if you’re already a Pixel user, which is why we’ve designated it for Google fans on this list. First, let’s talk design – it’s constructed out of soft, mesh-like, breathable fabric to give your head and face proper ventilation during use, and you can buy it in three different colors (charcoal, fog or coral). They’ve designed the head straps to fit comfortable and securely over eyeglasses and you can even remove the top strap for a more customized fit configuration. The accompanying remote can even slide safely into a loop on the back of one of the straps – a simple and elegant solution to constantly losing the remote in the couch cushions.

In terms of functionality, it does not disappoint. Sure it immerses the user in an experience that’s optimized via Google software on Android phones, but there’s an amazing feature that lets you stream what you're seeing on to an app-enabled TV, so you can take other people on the same journey you’re embarking on.

The headset is supported by the full suite of VR-ready options on the Play Store, and Google touts that this unlocks hundreds of thousands of immersive videos.

Runner-Up, Best Value: Noon Pro Virtual Reality Headset

The new Noon Pro Virtual Reality headset is only available at Best Buy. All you need is this headset and your smartphone to jump into the immersive world of VR. Built-in, stereo-quality headphones enhance the realism of the experience, and the remote feature lets you access your own video library, social media or video by streaming from your personal computer or smartphone without even having to take off the headset. You can connect up to three devices on the same home network. The NOON VR headset uses head tracking-based controls, so you don't have to worry about a separate controller; simply tap the cover to pull up the menu screen, then use your eyes to make selections. Thanks to the handy universal device tray, any smartphone with a screen size between 4.7 and 5.7 inches is supported. At just 8.8 ounces, the ergonomically designed headset fits comfortably without feeling heavy even with extended use. Anti-blue light lenses reduce eyestrain, and the focus dial produces sharp image quality for even those who need corrective lenses between -6.2 and +4 diopter, so many people won’t need glasses or contacts to use the headset. 

Disclosure

At Lifewire, our Expert writers are committed to researching and writing thoughtful and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your life and your family. If you like what we do, you can support us through our chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn more about our review process.