7 best VR headsets 2019: from high-end PC gaming to strapping a phone to your face

Get the ultimate VR experience with T3's 20-minute buying guide

best VR headsets 2019

Virtual reality headsets aren't particularly stylish, as donning any of these models makes you look like you’ve been kicked through the discount aisle of PC World, but the best VR headsets can provide a sort of magical gaming experience that's almost indescribable.

Here we've picked out the very best VR headsets on the market right now, including models from Oculus, HTC and PlayStation. Just be ready to apologise for the strange "ooooh" and "ahhhh" noises you’ll make while drooling at the gorgeous worlds inside.

How to choose the best VR headset for you

Technology has finally caught up to what we first dreamt VR could be back in the 80s, allowing us to enjoy our favourite games, films and apps in brand new ways – and at prices that continue to tumble, making this a great time to be buying.

Whether it’s reaching out to select a button on a menu or riding on a rollercoaster while covered in Dorito shards on your living room sofa or ducking out of the way of a zombie’s bite, VR is technology that needs to be experienced to be believed.

The good news is that the VR market isn’t exactly swamped with headsets, so the problem isn't sifting through dozens and dozens of options. It's more about understanding the distinct strengths of each headset – knowing how and why PC-connected headsets will fully immerse you in worlds in a way that standalone models can't, for example.

To help save you some time, we've put together this guide to the best VR headsets on the market. It should clear up any confusion or questions you've got, so you can get straight to dazzling your friends (and yourself) with the latest in cutting-edge technology.

The best VR headsets 2019

Oculus Rift S

(Image credit: Oculus)

1. Oculus Rift S

The biggest name in VR tech is still the best all-round choice

Reasons to buy
+The best all-round VR headset, just about+The biggest range of games and apps
Reasons to avoid
-Needs a decent PC to work-Not a huge jump over the Oculus Rift

Ever since its original Kickstarter campaign, the Oculus Rift has been at the forefront of the VR revolution, and is largely responsible for shaping the scene. The Rift S is the latest and greatest headset from the Facebook-owned company, and if you want the best that VR has to offer in 2019, then this is it – from the specs on offer to the compatible games and apps.

With a 1,280 x 1,440 pixels-per-eye resolution on each of its two LCD screens, and a refresh rate of 80 Hz, plus built-in Insight Tracking to follow you around the room without any external sensors, plus the best graphics fidelity that Oculus can offer, it's a fantastic all-around package... just be aware that you need a fairly decent computer to power it.

HTC Vive Pro

(Image credit: HTC)

2. HTC Vive Pro

The best VR headset if you're serious about your virtual reality

Reasons to buy
+Some excellent VR experiences+Feels comfortable on the head
Reasons to avoid
-It's going to cost you-More involved than most headsets

There's no doubt the HTC Vive Pro produces some of the best virtual reality experiences it's possible to get on the planet right now, but there are caveats – the headset is expensive, you need a fairly decent PC to run it from, and it can be a little complicated to set up. If you already have a respectable computer system to hand, it's definitely worth considering.

You get some great graphical fidelity here, with a 1,440 x 1,600 pixel resolution on each of the two LCD screens, and the headset has been designed to be more comfortable to wear than the original HTC Vive. It can of course track you around the room, though you'll need separate sensors for this. It's undoubtedly an impressive bit of kit, but it's not for everyone.

Oculus Quest

(Image credit: Oculus)

3. Oculus Quest

The perfect blend between price and performance

Reasons to buy
+Tracks you around the room+Everything is in the box
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks the power of the Rift S-Almost as much as PC headsets

For an all-in-one virtual reality package, the Oculus Quest is very hard to beat: you get the convenience of a VR headset that isn't tethered to a PC, but you get more power and performance than you do from a typical standalone headset. That extends to tracking – the Oculus Quest can follow you all the way around a room, with no external sensors required.

In terms of the raw specs, the LCD screen for each eye offers a 1,440 x 1,600 pixel resolution and a 72 Hz refresh rate, which Oculus says gives you "better-than-HD" clarity in virtual worlds. Sure, it's not quite as powerful as the Oculus Rift S, but you don't need to attach it to your existing PC or buy a new PC just to get into the magical world of virtual reality.

HTC Vive

4. HTC Vive

Still a great VR experience, for less

Reasons to buy
+Stands up in terms of specs+Easy roaming with the headset on
Reasons to avoid
-Bettered by the Pro version-You need room to play and a PC

When it originally launched, the HTC Vive had two massive advantages over the first Oculus Rift: you could roam around while wearing it, and it also had proper 3D, motion-sensing controllers, while Oculus relied on an Xbox controller. However, those differences have now disappeared, so the HTC Vive isn't as appealing as it once was.

It's also been superseded by the Vive Pro, but that does mean you can pick up the HTC Vive for less now – if you want a top-quality, PC-powered experience but don't want to spend a huge amount of money, we'd get this headset on your shopping list. There's a great selection of games available, and the platform looks as though it has a bright future.

Sony PlayStation VR

5. Sony PlayStation VR

Sony's first steps into the immersive world of VR

Reasons to buy
+Very simple to set up+Brings select PlayStation games to life
Reasons to avoid
-Not as impressive as other VR headsets-Doesn't work with all PlayStation games

Imagine Resident Evil where the horrors are right there in front of you, clawing at your face with their disgusting, decaying hands; or Ace Combat where you can see the missiles whoosh past your ear, fizzing as they harmlessly sail into the blue skies. Imagine a dating sim where you can reach out and touch... okay, you've probably got the picture now.

The point is that the PlayStation VR headset is now well established, and developers have been busy unlocking the potential of PlayStation 4's powerful virtual reality headset. There have been some gimmicky uses for it, sure, but it's been carefully massaged into numerous games already, and it looks as though a follow-up might be on the way soon.

Oculus Go

(Image credit: Oculus)

6. Oculus Go

The best entry-level VR headset experience

Reasons to buy
+Get a taste of what VR's about+Very easy to set up and use
Reasons to avoid
-No tracking around a room-More limited choice of games

If you're after a cheap and entertaining way into VR, then the Oculus Go could well be it. Everything you need comes in the box – it's like one of those VR headsets you slip a phone into, only all the phone components are already built in. It's not the most powerful VR headset you're ever going to find, but it's nowhere near the most expensive either.

You get a 1,280 x 1,440 pixel resolution with the LCD screen for each eye, together with a 60 Hz refresh rate, so the Oculus Go is still capable of running some very immersive experiences. Games can only track the movement of your head though – you can't walk around the room and have the headset (or its apps) be able to track whereabouts you are.

Samsung Gear VR

7. Samsung Gear VR

The best VR headset if you own a Samsung phone

Reasons to buy
+Cheap, entry-level VR tech+Works with all recent Galaxy phones
Reasons to avoid
-Not as good as more expensive headsets-You need a Samsung phone

In partnership with Oculus, Samsung has carved out quite a niche for itself in the VR headset space with the Gear VR. If you already own a Galaxy smartphone from the last few years, you just plug it in and you're ready to go – the phone takes care of all the heavy lifting which means the actual headset and controller can be had relatively cheaply.

That strength is also a weakness though: if you don't already own a Samsung phone then you're unlikely to be interested in this. If you do take the plunge, the number of supported games and apps is decent, because it borrows from the Oculus platform – you just won't get anywhere near the graphical fidelity of something like the Oculus Rift S listed above.