Which Is The Best VR Headset For Gamers?
Ever since the Oculus Rift came along and brought in a massive amount of Kickstarter support, the VR industry has moved into a fairly stable position in the gaming world: not mainstream, exactly, but selling with enough consistency to justify continued investment in development.
Because of this, it’s a good time to enter the world of VR gaming. Prices are coming down (slowly but surely), and new contenders keep coming along to change the game. But if you’re going to invest in a VR headset specifically for gaming, what should you choose? Let’s take a look at the options based on how much you’re looking to spend:
Budget option: almost any WMR headset
Not all gamers have exorbitant amounts of money to spend, but VR can be surprisingly inexpensive if you choose something from the lineup of Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) headsets. Designed to work well with Steam VR, these headsets are relatively cheap, but they’re also significantly more capable than you might imagine.
Because the pricing varies, go for whichever one happens to be cheapest when you’re looking. For instance, Acer’s model can currently be found for under $300, but you can get a far better deal if you wait for a holiday sale and shop around (or even buy second-hand from eBay). You’ll need a reasonable PC, so if you don’t have one, you have two options:
- If you have a PS4, get a PSVR It’ll limit the games you can play (there are far more options on PC), but it’s excellent value (particularly on sale).
- If you have neither a PC powerful enough for VR or a PS4, get an Oculus Quest. That way, you can play games like Beat Saber without needing to connect any devices.
Overall pick: Oculus Rift S
If you have a solid mid-range gaming PC and the budget to match, I suggest going with the Oculus Rift S. For around $400, it offers solid inside-out tracking (no external sensors required), a comfortable fit, excellent screens, and access to the Rift ecosystem.
At this point, most people won’t need anything more advanced than this. The Vive Pro is powerful but cumbersome and expensive — and if you’re going to majorly ramp up the budget, I suggest holding out for one of the last headsets we’re going to look at:
Luxury choice: Pimax 5K XR (or Valve Index)
The luxury area of the VR market is a little tricky to navigate because there are a lot of experimental devices with half-baked support. That said, if you have a monster of a gaming machine and simply must get the best possible experience, I suggest doing one of the following:
- Get a Pimax 5K XR and wait for official controllers to be released. Though there’s a Pimax 8K, the 5K XR is a better option because it has OLED screens — and with a resolution of 2560×1440 for each eye, it’s hardly short on pixel density. The FOV of 200° is class-leading (at least, in current consumer-targeted devices), making it an outstanding device for gaming. The obstacles include the price (around $1000 for the headset alone) and the current lack of motion controllers.
- Order a full Valve Index The Index can’t match the raw specs of the Pimax headset, but it’s very capable, and the whole kit (headset, base stations, and controllers) is hugely appealing. The knuckle controllers are perfect for shooting games like Superhot VR. Combine that with the ultimate Steam VR compatibility (Steam being a Valve program) and you have a package that’s expensive but compelling.
Personally, I’d go with the Pimax 5K XR. That FOV boost (200° far exceeding the 120° of the Index) is a huge deal, and if your PC can pump out the frames quickly enough, you’ll have a superlative experience. Imagine the immersion of feeling as though you’re inside whatever digital world you’re visiting — battling dragons in Skyrim, exploring the universe in Elite Dangerous, or even hitting it big in a virtual casino. Just stick to games you can play in VR with a gamepad until official motion controllers hit the market.
So, what’s the best VR headset for gamers? It depends on what you mean by best. Even though I didn’t have too much to say about it, the Oculus Rift S is the best overall choice — but it isn’t the best for quality. If money means nothing to you, the Pimax 5K XR provides supreme gaming quality exceeding that of its 8K sibling.