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The 10 best tethered VR headsets of 2018

What’s the best PC VR headset?

Tethered virtual reality headsets, also known as desktop VR or PC VR headsets, require a constant connection to a powerful computer and often make use of external sensors or cameras to track the user’s position.

This helps provide users with high-quality immersion in a virtual environment but, in return, demands a certain amount of setup space (sometimes even a dedicated room) as well as a powerful PC configuration. We detail some of these technical considerations towards the end of this article.

Thanks to a growing public interest for VR and massive investment from giant tech companies, more and more tethered HMDs are available on the market. As it can be challenging to search through this booming market, our goal is to help users cut through the clutter and make well-informed purchases.

We have shortlisted the best PC virtual reality headsets by using our metascore (based on ratings indexed from trusted sources) and community feedback, providing fair and unbiased evaluations. Our list does inevitably include the usual suspects, such as the HTC VIVE and the Oculus Rift– two HMDs that are an iconic duo in the PC VR industry.

The best tethered virtual reality headsets in 2018

Tethered VR headsetMetascoreFOVCountryRelease yearPrice in USD (MSRP**)Buy
HTC VIVE4.4/5110°Taiwan2016$599
Sony PlayStation VR4.3/5100°Japan2016$299
HTC VIVE Pro4.1/5110°Taiwan2018$799
Oculus Rift4.1/5110°United States2016$399
Samsung Odyssey3.9/5110°South Korea2017$499
Dell Visor3.8/5110°United States2017$449
Acer Windows MR*3.6/5100°Taiwan2017$349
HP Windows MR*3.6/595°United States2017$449
Lenovo Explorer3.4/5110°China2017$449
Razer HDK23.3/5110°United States2016$399
This table represents our fair and unbiased selection of the best PC VR headsets available now on the market. These HMDs are ranked according to their metascore, indexed from reliable sources (TechRadar, Wareable, CNET, and Amazon).

*Windows MR: Windows Mixed Reality. Some headsets' names are simply "Windows Mixed Reality headset", which is the content platform they have been developed for.
**MSRP: manufacturer's suggested retail price. These prices are subject to change over time and from one country to another (taxes, import fees, etc.).

 

Methodology/disclaimer: we haven’t tested all of the headsets in this list, but we do take into account overall feedback from specialized, trusted sources as well as crowdsourced user reviews. For a comprehensive overview of the desktop VR headset market, it is possible to filter through all products currently available using our VR comparison engine.

How we selected the best PC VR headsets: the Aniwaa metascore

We prepared this list of the best tethered virtual reality headsets using the metascores available on Aniwaa. To calculate these metascores, we aggregate VR reviews and ratings from four trusted sources:

  • TechRadar
  • Wareable
  • CNET
  • Amazon

An average rating is then calculated for each VR HMD, resulting in a reliable mix of expert, crowdsourced, and in-house reviews.

Aniwaa metascore, a reliable rating

The Aniwaa metascore system.

Overview of the top 10 tethered VR headsets (PC VR)

The HTC VIVE is considered the best PC VR headset.

HTC VIVE

  • Metascore: 4.4/5
  • Platform(s): SteamVR, VIVEPORT
  • Country: Taiwan
  • VR headset price: $599 (see on Amazon)
The HTC VIVE, released in 2016, is one of the pioneer VR headsets for PC. It is without a doubt one of the best VR headsets of 2018 and offers a great price-to-performance ratio. The VIVE headset has it all: room scale, 6DoF controllers with haptic feedback, and comfort.

Pros:

  • Extensive and positive feedback from the VR community
  • Comes with VIVE Wand controllers and sensors (“lighthouses”)
  • Precise positional tracking

Cons:

  • VIVE Wand controllers don’t have finger tracking
  • Complex installation/setup

Find out more: HTC VIVE

The PSVR (Sony PlayStation VR) is the best console VR headset.

Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR)

  • Metascore: 4.3/5
  • Platform(s): PlayStation
  • Country: Japan
  • VR headset price: $299 (see on Amazon)
Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, commonly known as the PS VR headset, works with PS4 gaming consoles. Its 110° FOV OLED display is supported by quite a good refresh rate of 120 Hz, an important spec that may prevent VR motion sickness for some users. The PS VR headset doesn’t come with an external camera– which is necessary for positional tracking– or controllers. These items are available separately, although bundle purchases do exist. Pros:

  • Simple setup for users that already own a PS4
  • High refresh rate

Cons:

  • Hidden costs– camera and controllers sold separately (and PS4)
  • Positional tracking isn’t as good as with other headsets

Find out more: Sony PS VR

The HTC VIVE Pro is one of the best PC VR headsets.

HTC VIVE Pro

  • Metascore: 4.1/5
  • Platform(s): SteamVR, VIVEPORT
  • Country: Taiwan
  • VR headset price: $799 (see on Amazon)
The HTC VIVE Pro is among the most expensive HMDs on the market. In comparison with the HTC VIVE, the Pro offers a 78% increase in screen resolution, more comfort, and other additional features. One of the best options this headset has to offer is the HTC VIVE Wireless Adaptor, enabling users to benefit from the high-quality specifications PC VR has to offer, without the cables. It is also possible to use the VIVE Pro’s two front cameras to experience augmented reality.

Pros:

  • AR-enabled
  • Wireless adapter option

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with controllers or sensors
  • Requires a very powerful PC

Find out more: HTC VIVE Pro

The Oculus Rift is one of the best VR headsets for PC.

Oculus Rift

  • Metascore: 4.1/5
  • Platform(s): Oculus
  • Country: US
  • VR headset price: $399 (see on Amazon)
Oculus started out as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012. Today, the Oculus Rift is one of the top gaming VR headset contenders in the industry. We enjoyed playing with the Rift, although we did feel some pressure on the face and ended up with typical VR faces (our cheeks and foreheads were left with marks for a few hours).

Pros:

  • Comes with two 6DoF controllers and two sensors
  • Extensive and positive feedback from the VR community

Cons:

  • Screen-door effect
  • A lot of weight put on the face

Find out more: Oculus Rift

The Samsung Odyssey HMD is one of the best tethered virtual reality headsets.

Samsung Odyssey

  • Metascore: 3.9/5
  • Platform(s): Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR
  • Country: South Korea
  • VR headset price: $499 (see on Amazon)
The HMD Odyssey is a Windows Mixed Reality headset from Samsung, South Korea’s tech giant. To be clear, this headset is compatible with virtual reality, and not mixed reality (Windows’ Mixed Reality content platform name can be misleading). This VR headset is quick and easy to install, as it doesn’t require any external sensors or cameras to detect its position. The Odyssey boasts AMOLED displays, contrary to most of its Windows MR counterparts that feature LCD screens.

Pros:

  • Inside-out tracking without external sensors
  • Built-in microphones and headphones

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with controllers
  • No flip-up visor (vs. other Windows MR headsets)

Find out more: Samsung Odyssey

The Dell Visor Windows Mixed Reality headset is one of the best PC virtual reality HMDs.

Dell Visor

  • Metascore: 3.7/5
  • Platform(s): Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR
  • Country: US
  • VR headset price: $449 (see on Amazon)
The Dell Visor is another HMD that is part of the Windows Mixed Reality range. Most of these Windows MR headsets boast similar specs. This VR headset features a 110° FOV, a 90 Hz refresh rate, and optional controllers. Just as other Windows MR headsets, the Dell Visor doesn’t require any external sensors or cameras to provide 6DoF positional tracking.

Pros:

  • Inside-out tracking without external sensors
  • Flip-up visor to quickly switch between real and virtual environments

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with controllers
  • Software-only IPD adjustment

Find out more: Dell Visor

The Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset (Acer AH101) is one of the best PC VR HMDs.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality (AH101)

  • Metascore: 3.6/5
  • Platform(s): Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR
  • Country: Taiwan
  • VR headset price: $399 (see on Amazon)
In comparison with its two previous colleagues, the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset (Acer AH101) features a slightly narrower FOV of 100°. According to users, this 6DoF virtual reality headset is lightweight and well-balanced. Also, the Acer Windows MR HMD comes with two controllers.

Pros:

  • Inside-out tracking without external sensors
  • Flip-up visor to quickly switch between real and virtual environments

Cons:

  • Less room compared to other Windows MR headsets (ie. for eyeglasses)
  • Software-only IPD adjustment

Find out more: Acer AH101

The HP VR1000-100 (HP Windows Mixed Reality) is one of the best VR headsets.

HP Windows Mixed Reality (VR1000-100)

  • Metascore: 3.6/5
  • Platform(s): Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR
  • Country: US
  • VR headset price: $449 (see on Amazon)
The VR1000-100 is HP’s take on Windows Mixed Reality, providing a more limited 90° FOV than others (100° is achievable with Windows MR Ultra). This HP Windows MR headset features swappable cords to enable quick and easy setup. Some users have reported flickering display issues as well as USB chipset incompatibilities.

Pros:

  • Inside-out tracking without external sensors
  • Flip-up visor to quickly switch between real and virtual environments

Cons:

  • Not as comfortable as other PC VR headsets
  • Display issues
  • Software-only IPD adjustment

Find out more: HP VR1000-100

The Lenovo Explorer Windows Mixed Reality headset is one of the best PC virtual reality HMDs.

Lenovo Explorer

Metascore: 3.4/5
Platform(s): Windows Mixed Reality, SteamVR
Country: China
VR headset price: $449 (see on Amazon)

The Lenovo Explorer Windows Mixed Reality headset is lightweight and comfortable to wear, although its face padding is too thin and flimsy according to some users. Lenovo’s Windows MR HMD provides crisp images and a 110-degree FOV.

Pros:

  • Inside-out tracking without external sensors
  • Flip-up visor to quickly switch between real and virtual environments

Cons:

  • Thin face padding
  • Inferior build quality

Find out more: Lenovo Explorer

The Razer HDK2 (OSVR HDK2) is the best PC VR headset (open source VR headset).

Razer HDK2

  • Metascore: 3.3/5
  • Platform(s): OSVR, SteamVR
  • Country: US
  • VR headset price: $399 (see on Amazon)
The Razer HDK2, also referred to as the OSVR HDK2, is an open-source virtual reality headset. Razer is a gaming hardware brand that is well-known in the e-sports world. This HMD kit is mainly for developers and tinkerers, but it is also suitable for regular VR users. It’s possible to add a Leap Motion module to the HDK2 in order to obtain hand tracking.

Pros:

  • Open-source and modular design
  • Less demanding system requirements

Cons:

  • Uncomfortable design
  • Complex assembly

Find out more: Razer HDK2




Special mentions

As we base our list on community feedback and trusted ratings, some noteworthy virtual reality headsets haven’t made their way into our main selection. That’s why we’ve decided to provide additional insight into the VR headset market with special mentions for HMDs that are under the radar or that aren’t available to the masses just yet.

Pimax 8K virtual reality headset

The Pimax 8K is a promising Kickstarter project that is eagerly awaited by the VR community. Indeed, it will feature one of the highest resolutions available on the market with two 4K displays, and a 200° FOV very close to the maximum human field of view.

VR headsets for professionals: StarVR and VRHero 5K Plus

These two headsets, the StarVR and VRgineers VRHero 5K Plus, are premium virtual reality solutions that are geared towards professional use. They offer a wide field of view, high-quality displays, and advanced tracking systems.

PC VR: who is it for?

Generally speaking, desktop VR may be more convenient for those who already own a powerful PC (quality CPU, GPU, and RAM), and especially those who have enough room to walk around with their headset.

Tethered VR is suitable for a range of different users, from casual gamers (low-cost PC headsets) to professional users (premium VR headsets).

Applications for virtual reality include:

  • Entertainment and gaming
  • Education and training
  • Medical and healthcare
  • Social sciences and psychology
  • Digital marketing and sales
  • Engineering and design

Pros of tethered VR headsets

These are some of the advantages that PC VR offers in comparison with standalone or mobile VR:

  • High-quality VR immersion
  • Most desktop VR headsets feature positional tracking and 6DoF controllers
  • Good quantity and quality of VR content available on big content platforms

These pros are common to most VR headsets for PC, they do not apply for every single tethered VR headset.

Cons of tethered VR headsets

Just like other types of VR headsets, tethered VR has its limits:

  • VR headsets with external sensors or cameras require a lot of space (cleared living room or dedicated room)
  • Desktop VR requires powerful PCs that are generally very expensive
  • The cabled connection may limit the user’s freedom of movement, and often needs users to set up a special cable organizer

However, the trend is moving towards VR headsets that combine both PC power and wireless connectivity, such as the HTC VIVE Pro with its wireless adapter add-on. Therefore, in the future, most of the current disadvantages of PC VR will no longer be of concern.

How to choose the best tethered VR headset?

There are a few considerations when choosing a PC VR headset:

  • PC configuration: minimum CPU, GPU, and RAM computer specs are key elements to take into account.
  • Controllers: most high-end VR headsets come with 6DoF controllers that allow users to benefit from a more interactive experience than with simple point-and-click controllers (3DoF).
  • Display: some headset displays can present unpleasant effects (ghosting, pixelization, screen-door effect, etc.).
  • FOV (field of view): a wide FOV enables users to view their virtual environment as in real life– not only seeing what is in front of them, but also perceiving objects in the periphery.
  • Latency and refresh rate: high refresh rates and low latency are things to look out for when looking into desktop VR in order to avoid cybersickness (motion sickness symptoms).

Our VR headset buying guide dives deeper into technical considerations for choosing a PC HMD (also covers standalone VR headsets and smartphone VR headsets).

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