5 affordable headsets to get you started with VR

Virtual reality doesn't have to be pricey

The buzz surrounding VR tech shows no signs of going away, especially as premium headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are now making their way into the hands of customers. However, the price of admission for those two headsets is pretty steep.

The Rift sells for £499/$599 (with no controllers) while the Vive will set you back £689/$799 (with controllers included), and on top of that you need to have a decent gaming PC to run everything. The good news is there are cheaper ways into the magical world of VR.

Now, these headsets aren't up to the standard of the Rift or the Vive - they're powered by phones rather than PCs, for a start, which means the games and graphics are more limited. They also don't offer the same head and body-tracking technology.

On the other hand, these devices work wirelessly, so you can move around and twist your head without catching cables, and you can get hold of them without having to remortgage your home. Read on for our picks for the best budget VR headsets on the market.

Samsung Gear VR

Gear VR

Perhaps the most well-known of the budget-level VR devices at this point, and built in partnership with Oculus, so you know the hardware and optics are going to be top-notch. The only major downside to consider is that you need to have a recent flagship Samsung smartphone to make use of the Gear VR.

Alternatively, if you do happen to have bought a Galaxy or Galaxy Edge in the last couple of years then adding the Gear VR to your collection is almost a no-brainer at this kind of price - there's plenty of content available and more to come. A small integrated touchpad is used as a controller. [Samsung, £95.99/$99]

Google Cardboard


The really budget choice, Google Cardboard was originally born as a set of instructions you could use to make your own VR headset to fit your phone. Now you can buy variations on the theme from a number of suppliers, including Google, but the basic idea remains the same (and you still do some assembly yourself).

These packs just stick to the basics: there's often only one button built-in, and many Cardboard-style packs don't come with a strap. However, if you want to view 360-degree videos and get a taste of what VR is all about using your smartphone (there are apps for Android and iOS), this is perfect. [Google, £15+/$15+]

Zeiss VR One

Zeiss VR One

The Zeiss VR One is a little bit like the Gear VR mentioned above but it works with most popular smartphones, so you don't have to rush out and buy a Galaxy S7 Edge at the same time. Instead, you just have to make sure you pick up a tray that fits your smartphone to slot into the front of the device.

You get a full 360-degree immersive experience from the Zeiss VR One, thanks to the excellent quality lenses, and you can wear the headset with glasses too. For a more interactive experience you can hook up a Bluetooth controller to take command of games and other VR apps. [Zeiss, £124.99+/$120+]



Give Google Cardboard a quick upgrade in materials and design and you get the Homido - a chunky head strap is one of the key improvements here. Like Cardboard, it works with just about any phone out there, so you can plug your existing Android handset or iPhone into the front of the device to get started.

The lenses can be adjusted to suit your eyes (or glasses) and the foam surround on the headset reduces your chances of VR fatigue. You can use Homido's own app with the device or go for something like the Cardboard app to get at the VR content and games of your choice. [Homido, €69.99 (£55/$80)]



Another headset that you can plug just about any smartphone into, the Freefly stands out because of its plush faux-leather padding and a bundled Bluetooth controller that means you've got one less accessory to worry about. Like the Zeiss VR One and Homido, it's basically a premium version of Google Cardboard.

It's lightweight, well built and comfortable to wear, and there's a ton of content available already from various sources. It's got a wide field of view too (120 degrees) which means you can take in more of the action as it unfolds, and you get a carry case and lens cloth included with your purchase. [Freefly, £49/$74.70]

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.