The best virtual reality headsets you can buy

The best virtual reality headsets you can buy

Virtual reality has been a long time coming, but now it is easier than ever to get an immersive experience and take your first VR steps at home.

There are a whole host of VR headsets available, from powerful, high-end ones like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift to mobile experiences like the Samsung Gear VR, the new Google Daydream View, or the do-it-yourself Google Cardboard.

But which one should you choose? There’s a lot of variety in the technology, from the headsets you can buy, to the apps you can play and the platforms that support them. Some simply need a smartphone to plug in, others use video games consoles or PC software to play.

Here is everything you need to know about the best VR headsets out there:

One of the most immersive virtual reality experiences you can get, the HTC Vive works with PC, but you will need a computer or laptop with a powerful enough graphics card to play. HTC’s headset has been built to work with Valve, the gaming company that runs the Steam online game store. Like the Oculus it has a 2160 x 1200 OLED display for a brilliant picture.

Most games cost in the region of £15 to £35, compared with many free or cheap virtual reality games that can be bought for mobile devices. With a recent price cut the Vive is looking more affordable at under £600, but it is still expensive. It has some great games available such as Doom, Fallout 4 and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality. You can read the Telegraph’s full review of the HTC Vive here.

Facebook-owned Oculus Rift offers some of the best experiences in virtual reality and has become synonymous with the technology. Oculus has some great apps in its store, from the fast-paced Robo Recall shooter, space flights in Eve Valkyrie and terrifying horror experiences in Resident Evil: Biohazard. The headset itself has immersive OLED panels with 2160 x 1200 resolution for massive immersion.

You can now pick up the Oculus with handheld touch controllers, which are shaped to feel like you are actually using your hands rather than a clunky controller. It has also had a permanent price drop to below £400, meaning now might be the best time to pick up a VR headset for less. It can work with an Xbox One controller and you stream games through your Xbox via a PC.

A long-awaited virtual reality headset from Sony arrived last year, bringing virtual reality to home consoles. It’s one of the easiest virtual reality headsets for serious gamers. Most of the games for the PSVR can be played using your Dualshock controller, but to get more out of the experience you can pick up some Move controllers. You will also need to buy a Playstation Camera to work the headset.

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PSVR certainly has one of the coolest appearances of any of the virtual reality kits. Some of the great games you can play on it include FarPoint, Resident Evil: Biohazard and Batman Arkham VR. The starter pack is available from Amazon for £299, including the game VR Worlds. Read the full review here.

Google’s Daydream was one of the most hotly anticipated virtual reality headsets last year. It works with the Google Pixel and several other Android smartphones. Users can play a range of games with the Daydream app, which is only compatible with some smartphones, and Bluetooth controllers.

Daydream now has a range of great apps available, making it an even better buy for an all-round mobile virtual reality experience. It doesn’t have access to some of the great virtual reality experiences that are available on the Oculus Store, but does have exclusives such as Youtube VR. The Daydream is currently priced at £69 from Carphone Warehouse.

Gear VR has been around since 2015 but remains one of the best ways to get a virtual reality experience on mobile, providing you have a Samsung device. Unlike most other virtual reality apps for Android, Gear VR uses apps made for Oculus Rift. There are some fantastic games available on the Platform such as Minecraft and Eve Gunjack. Samsung’s high quality QHD screens offer a more immersive experience for their apps.

It costs around £20 more to add a handheld controller. The headset is now compatible with several generations of Samsung’s phones, from the S6 and later, offering plenty of ways for users to get a virtual reality hit. 

Google’s Cardboard headset is the cheapest, simplest way to experience virtual reality. It really looks like something you could knock up on Blue Peter. Just lock your smartphone into the cardboard case and download the Google Cardboard app to get started.

The set up is pretty basic and it has a small magnetic switch on the side which can be used to perform simple actions within games or adventures. The Cardboard is ideal if you want to treat your children to their first virtual reality experience without overspending. Some great apps include Google Arts and Culture or Within VR, which has a range of videos and documentaries.

When picking a headset you will want to decide whether you want it for serious gaming or casual virtual reality experiences.

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If you just want a device that can run through some 360-degree videos or simple interactive adventures then Google’s Cardboard headset (yes, it’s actually made of cardboard) is a cheapest option.

For simple games that would not look out of place on a mobile phone you could turn to Google’s Daydream VR View or Samsung’s Gear VR, or one of a number of third party virtual reality headsets that can work with your iOS or Android smartphone.

Alternatively, for a high-end experience you could splash out on an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which both have PC level gaming ability and a range of advanced games to enjoy.

When buying a virtual reality headset you should consider what technology you already own. If you like the look of the Samsung Gear VR, but own an iPhone, you will not be able to use it. Similarly, if you want to use the Oculus Rift but don’t have a decent laptop that is ready for virtual reality gaming you may need to buy one.

You may need extra controllers to complete your experience and play some of the more advanced titles that are available. The Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream now come with small point-and-click controllers for navigating through apps and playing games.

With the PSVR, you can play using your Dualshock PS4 controller, or you can splash out and pick up the VR Aim Controller, which can be used with games like Farpoint, although right now not much else.

For the Oculus Rift, you can buy Oculus Touch Controllers. Rather than using a handset, these operate in a more similar to real life hand movements, giving the feeling that the virtual hands are actually your own.

You can get a budget Google Cardboard virtual reality headset – or a very similar device on Amazon – for just £15. Google and Samsung’s mobile headsets are more advanced, rounded and comfortable and also cost less than £100.

For a more powerful virtual reality set up, the PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift both cost several hundred pounds, while you will probably want to look into picking up a few extras such as handsets.

The HTC Vive is the most expensive on this list, coming in at more than £750 – and you will need a powerful PC set up to play the headset as well.

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