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 in 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 2021

BrandProductRelease dateCountryPrice
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
SonyPlayStation VR2016Japan$ 299Buy
OculusRift2016United States$ 399Buy
AcerAH1012017Taiwan$ 399Buy
RazerHDK22016United States$ 399Buy
DellVisor2017United States$ 449Buy
HPVR1000-1002017United States$ 449Buy
LenovoExplorer2017China$ 449Buy
SamsungOdyssey2017South Korea$ 499Buy
HTCVIVE2016Taiwan$ 599Buy
HTCVIVE Pro2018Taiwan$ 799Buy

The products in the table are ranked by price (low to high).

TITRE:
ProductBrandRelease dateCountryFov horizontalPrice
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
PlayStation VRSony2016Japan100$ 299Buy on Amazon US
RiftOculus2016United States110$ 399Buy on Amazon US
AH101Acer2017Taiwan100$ 399Buy on Amazon UK
HDK2Razer2016United States110$ 399Buy on Amazon US
VisorDell2017United States110$ 449Buy on Amazon US
VR1000-100HP2017United States95$ 449Buy on Amazon US
ExplorerLenovo2017China110$ 449Buy on Amazon US
OdysseySamsung2017South Korea110$ 499Buy on Amazon US
VIVEHTC2016Taiwan110$ 599Buy on Amazon US
VIVE ProHTC2018Taiwan110$ 799Buy on Amazon US

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.

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

http://HTC%20VIVE
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By HTC
CountryTaiwan
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2016
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 599

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 on the market 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
http://Sony%20PlayStation%20VR%20(PSVR)
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Sony
CountryJapan
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal100
Release date2016
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 299

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
http://HTC%20VIVE%20Pro
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By HTC
CountryTaiwan
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2018
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 799

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
http://Oculus%20Rift
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Oculus
CountryUnited States
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2016
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 399

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
http://Samsung%20HMD%20Odyssey
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
CountrySouth Korea
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2017
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 499

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)
http://Dell%20Visor
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Dell
CountryUnited States
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2017
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 449

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
http://Acer%20Windows%20Mixed%20Reality%20headset
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Acer
CountryTaiwan
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal100
Release date2017
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 399

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
http://HP%20Windows%20Mixed%20Reality
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By HP
CountryUnited States
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal95
Release date2017
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 449

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 a 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

 

http://Lenovo%20Explorer
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Lenovo
CountryChina
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2017
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 449

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
http://Razer%20HDK2
Selection This product is featured in a buyer’s guide.
By Razer
CountryUnited States
CategoryTethered vr
FOV Horizontal110
Release date2016
Price
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
$ 399

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

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).