VR has been on the verge of exploding for years now and we’ve come a long way from when Oculus Rift was first kickstarted all the way back in 2012. The last year has seen a veritable explosion in the number of devices being developed for various purposes. So the real question is which devices are worth looking at and which should you ignore? Well to give you hand we’ve compiled a list of what we believe to be the best VR headsets in 2017.
Do you want a mobile or tethered device?
Before we dive into our favorite devices there is one question that you need to keep in mind and it’s an important one. Do you want Mobile or tethered headset? All VR headsets fall into one of these two categories.
Mobile headsets are essentially shells which house your smartphone. The lenses split your smartphone screen into two images and turn it into a VR device. While they are innovative and inexpensive, mobile headsets have a number of drawbacks in comparison with tethered devices. Phones aren’t designed for VR, so you’ll get worse picture than a dedicated headset and they are noticeably underpowered compared to tethered devices. However, the significantly lower price tag make mobile headsets a better entry model for somebody looking to dip their toes into the world of VR.
Tethered headsets are constrained by a cable which can make them a little unwieldy but they are specifically built to provide a top quality VR experience. This means that they will almost always provide a better experience than a mobile headset. This improved experience comes with a hefty price tag and you will generally need a pretty powerful PC to run your headset. A tethered headset is best for someone willing to make a real investment in their VR experience.
Our best VR headsets for 2017
We’ve included a healthy mixture of mobile and tethered headsets as well as headsets designed for both PC and console gaming. Rather than seeking the best VR headsets overall we’ve tried to find something that will fit everybody’s needs and price range.
The HTC Vive – The Complete Experience
The HTC Vive is one of the best VR headsets out there at the moment. Made in partnership with Valve it has access to the largest video game library in the world. The Vive takes the kitchen sink approach, shipping with two motion controllers and two base stations. One of the coolest features of the Vive is its ability to track a users movements around a room. This lets you actively engage with the virtual world around you, although it would probably be a good idea to clear the furniture out of the way first to avoid any unintended collisions. HTC’s partnership with SteamVR also means that the Vive works out of the box with any game available on Steam, even if it can’t access titles from the Rift store.
While the HTC Vive is definitely the most complete VR experience out there it comes with a price tag to match. It will set you back over $700 and that is before you consider the hardware you’ll need to invest in just to be able to run it.
The HTC Vive is undoubtedly the best VR headset on this list and it is for someone who already owns a powerful PC and has the money to spend on the most complete experience.
Sony Playstation VR – The best value for money, so long as you own a PS4
As the name would suggest, the Sony Playstation VR has been designed specifically to work with the playstation 4. It doesn’t have the same raw power that the Occulus Rift and HTC Vive boast but it does provide a polished experience and looks gorgeous. That being said, You’ll need some extras, such as the Playstation Camera and Playstation move bundle in order to use the device. There are also some problems with motion tracking in brightly lit rooms. That being said, the Playstation VR comes with a pretty solid library of games straight out of the box, so you won’t be starved for entertainment.
The Sony Playstation VR comes in at just under $500 for the launch bundle, which includes all the required accouterments. This makes it one of the best value for money tethered headsets available at the moment. Or it is as long as you happen to own a PS4.
The Sony Playstation VR is the best choice for somebody who already owns a PS4 and either doesn’t want to shell out on a HTC Vive or doesn’t have the hardware in place to handle the Oculus Rift.
Oculus Rift – The Classic headset that runs the middle road
The Oculus Rift is basically a synonym for VR. From a technical standpoint, the consumer models of the Oculus Rift are nearly identical to the HTC Vive, minus the full room motion sensors. It comes bundled with Oculus motion controllers which gives the Rift the same basic functionality of the Vive and Playstation VR. It also has access to the Oculus Store and Playstation VR, giving the Oculus Rift a pretty good variety of games to pick from. The only thing that is lacking is Room Motion tracking.
Like the HTC Vive you will need a pretty robust system in order to use the Oculus Rift effectively. That being said, at just under $600 for the whole system it is cheaper than the Vive, if you can live without the room motion sensor.
The Oculus Rift is one of the best VR headsets for someone who wants the full VR experience but doesn’t own a Playstation 4 and can’t shell out for the Vive.
Google Daydream View – The most complete smartphone VR headset experience
This is the next step up from the Google Cardboard concept. All you need to make it work is Google’s Daydream View and your smartphone. Like the Tethered headsets on this list the Daydream view comes with a separate controller.
It’s compatible with a number of phones with more on the way over the course of 2017. The headset’s distinctive fabric construction also helps to set it apart from over mobile VR headsets. Google’s Daydream view is only compatible with android phones, so those of you using iPhones will have to look elsewhere.
If you want to test the waters before jumping in there is also the innovative Google Cardboard concept, that can let you try out VR for less than $5.
The Google Daydream is good value, providing a solid VR experience for $79.99. If you’re interested in a good VR headset without completely breaking your bank, the Google Daydream View is for you.
FreeFly VR Beyond – Compatible with nearly everything
The big strength of the Freefly VR Beyond is it’s compatibility. While a device custom made for your phone will always be the best choice Freefly have done a great job of making a mobile VR headset that will work with almost anything and still provide a solid virtual reality experience. The beyond is the latest model and it comes with so called Crossfire controller buttons built into the headset, which technically eliminates the need for any bluetooth controller. That being said, the majority of apps on the store are viewers, so it could be considered overkill currently.
The FreeFly VR Beyond has access to a huge variety of apps and it is a great choice for somebody who wants a top notch VR experience but doesn’t own a phone supported by the Google Daydream View or Samsung Gear. The FreeFly beyond is available for $64.99 and will run on just about any smartphone regardless of operating system, unless it’s very large or very small.
There is a headset for everybody
The world of Virtual Reality is becoming better with each passing day and we’re likely to see some impressive innovations over the next year or two that will improve the experience even further. Until then, this is our list of the best VR headsets available right now, whatever it is you need. Let us know your favorite headset in the comments.