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Best VR Headsets For 2020: Half-Life: Alyx Compatibility And More

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From Oculus Quest to Valve Index, here are the best virtual reality headsets to consider.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

With Half-Life: Alyx planned to release in March 2020, the future of VR gaming is the most exciting it's been in quite some time. The fact that Valve is making a big, AAA VR game is only eclipsed by the fact that Alyx will be the first entry in the Half-Life series since 2007. And because of that, interest in VR has spiked considerably. Black Friday saw a litany of VR deals, including an Oculus Quest bundle that caused the headset to sell out at nearly every single retailer, with back-orders finally starting to be fulfilled.

Yes, the all-in-one Oculus Quest is quite the popular VR headset, but it's not the only one out there. Each headset has unique qualities and accessories, and it can be an intimidating purchase if you're not already plugged into the VR community. That's why we're on the case to help you figure out which of the best VR headsets is right for you depending on your needs.

Whether you're looking for a VR headset you can play anywhere, the most high-end headset for your game room, or something in between, there are plenty of options to choose from. While the early days of VR had us choosing between the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, more companies have entered the space with their own headsets. Valve stepped out on its own with the Index, Samsung created a Windows Mixed Reality headset out of the Samsung HMD Odyssey+, and Sony released its PS4-only PlayStation VR.

Half-Life: Alyx is compatible with a wide array of headsets, so we've noted which of the best VR headsets are compatible with Valve's upcoming game. Please note that all pricing seen below indicates the product's standard list price and does not reflect any discounts or other price fluctuations.

Quick look: The best VR headsets for 2020


Best overall VR headset

Oculus Quest | $399 for 64GB; $499 for 128GB

Compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

Oculus Quest VR headset
Oculus Quest VR headset

Pros

  • Completely wireless VR experience
  • Capable of wired connection for PC VR
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Access to Oculus's store and exclusive apps
  • Experimental features illustrate exciting future

Cons

  • Experimental features aren't always stable

The Oculus Quest is a standalone virtual reality headset that houses everything you need for a great VR experience inside the headset itself. You don't need to connect it to a PC, insert a phone into it, or anything else. On top of that, you don't need to set up any sensors either, as it utilizes four cameras on the front of the headset for inside-out tracking. All you need to do is put on the headset, draw yourself a safe playing area, and start playing.

As for specs, the Oculus Quest's combined resolution comes in at 2880x1600 with a refresh rate of 72Hz and 2-3 hours of battery. The 72Hz is surprisingly low for a VR headset, but throughout all of my testing, it was never noticeable as being too slow. The Quest's battery life also felt adequate for the length of my sessions. As long as I charged the headset after every use, I was able to have an enjoyable session the next time I put it on.

The Quest's store includes some of VR's best games--and latest releases--and playing them wirelessly feels liberating. In a lot of ways, the Quest is what VR should have always been. Being able to turn around and move through your playing space without worrying where your headset's cable is makes the experience much more immersive. The downside, of course, is that the Quest's specs aren't as powerful as your typical VR-ready PC, which means it can't play some of the most demanding VR games on its own. However, there is a solution for that.

Oculus is working on a number of features. The first is called Link, which lets you connect your Quest to a PC with a high-quality USB-C cable. This makes it so you can use the Quest as if it were any other PC headset. It may only be in beta, but it's still impressive. I've tested it extensively, and I'm impressed with how good the experience is--it's nearly flawless and stacks up well against other PC VR headsets. There have been cases where actually starting up Oculus Link has been a little troublesome or I was disconnected from the video feed, however. Any blips like this were easily fixed, but they were blips that took me out of the experience nonetheless. Thankfully, since it is in beta and the rest of the experience is so good, there's reasonable hope these infrequent moments can be ironed out.

On top of that, Oculus is working on hand-tracking, which currently only works in select apps and the Quest's main menu. It's in beta and can be a little finicky when selecting menu options, but being able to see and use your real hands in VR feels futuristic and immersive in the best ways.

With Link, the Oculus Quest is an easy VR headset to recommend. There can't be enough said about how good the completely wireless experience is, and the fact that you can plug it into a PC and use it with Steam and Oculus's PC games makes it a lot more appealing. The specs aren't on par with some of its PC VR counterparts, but the freedom you gain from its versatility more than makes up for it.


Best budget PC VR headset

Oculus Rift S | $399

Compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

Oculus Rift S VR headset
Oculus Rift S VR headset

Pros

  • Sensor-free, inside-out tracking
  • Access to Oculus's store and exclusive games

Cons

  • No wireless option
  • Feels slightly unnecessary next to the Quest

The Oculus Rift S is the company's PC-powered headset, which means it can't be used wirelessly like the Quest. However, you still won't need to worry about sensors. Oculus has gone all-in on inside-out tracking, so all of its headsets are free to roam any space that has enough room--or that the Rift S's cable is long enough to reach.

The Rift S comes with its own Touch controllers and has access to the Oculus Store's apps, in addition to any other compatible game or app from any storefront on PC. This includes the vast majority of Steam VR games. The resolution comes in at 2560x1440 with a refresh rate of 80Hz.

The big question is, why would you go with the Rift S if the Quest can connect to a PC, do everything the Rift S can, and also live as a standalone headset? Well, the main reason is that the Quest's Oculus Link is still in beta and, while impressive, is not always the most stable experience, especially if you step outside of the Oculus ecosystem of apps. If you want a perfectly stable PC VR experience right now and access to the Oculus Store's apps, then the Oculus Rift S is a great choice.


Best high-end VR headset

Valve Index | $999

Compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

Valve Index VR headset
Valve Index VR headset

Pros

  • Up to 144Hz refresh rate
  • Widest field of view
  • Compatible with Vive controllers and base stations
  • Includes free copy of Half-Life: Alyx

Cons

  • No wireless option

The Valve Index is without a doubt the most high-end VR headset on the market. It doesn't increase the resolution past 2880x1600 on its LCD display, but the Index nails VR where it's most important: refresh rate and field of view. Boasting a max refresh rate of 144Hz and a field of view of 130-degrees, it makes for the best, smoothest-feeling experience in virtual reality. With the higher field of view, you can see more of the game at any one time, as opposed to the relative tunnel vision found in other headsets.

Another key aspect to the Valve Index is its unique controllers, which feature individual finger tracking. There aren't a lot of applications for this yet, but finger-tracking is a great way to make the VR experience more immersive--games like Boneworks use it well. And while it's absolutely usable in seated or stationary settings, it excels most with room-scale VR. Thus, gamers without a lot of space may find it hard to push the Index to its full potential.

The Valve Index also needs to be powered by a PC with a wired connection. At the moment, there is no option for wireless use, as the Vive Wireless Adapter--made for HTC's Vive headsets--is incompatible. However, the Valve Index is compatible with the HTC Vive's controllers and base stations, so Valve offers the Index headset on its own and in a kit. Additionally, the Valve Index's controllers and base stations are compatible with HTC's Vive headsets.

The Valve Index VR kit comes with the headset, controllers, and base stations. Every purchase of the Index kit, headset, and controllers comes with a complimentary copy of Half-Life: Alyx.

Valve Index accessories

  • Valve Index headset + controllers -- $749
    • Also compatible with Vive and Vive Pro base stations
  • Valve Index headset -- $499
    • Also compatible with Vive and Vive Pro controllers and base stations
  • Valve Index controllers -- $279
    • Also compatible with HTC Vive Pro and HTC Vive
  • Valve Index base station -- $149
    • Also compatible with Vive Pro

Best display

HTC Vive Pro | $1,199

Compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

HTC Vive Pro VR headset
HTC Vive Pro VR headset

Pros

  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • Capable of wireless VR with separate adapter
  • Compatible with Valve Index controllers

Cons

  • Very expensive

The HTC Vive Pro is another high-end VR headset, and while the Valve Index features a higher refresh rate and wider field of view, the Vive Pro boasts something no other headset does: an AMOLED display. This means you'll see brighter colours and better contrast than the Valve Index. The Vive Pro is more expensive than the Valve Index, so you'll need to decide if that outweighs the Index's high refresh rate and 130-degrees field of view.

One thing that's great about the Vive Pro is that the Index's unique hand controllers will work with it (and the original Vive), so you don't have to drop the cash to upgrade to the full Index kit--you can simply spend $279 to get the Index controllers. And if you want to go wire-free, HTC does feature a capable wireless adapter--though it is sold separately for $300.

Every purchase of a new HTC Vive headset comes with a six-month subscription to Viveport Infinity, which is a service that gives users access to a library of VR games and apps. Being able to test a bunch of different VR experiences before making any purchases is extremely valuable, especially if you're new to the technology. For example, it can be difficult to know how you'll be able to handle certain games and different types of locomotion. Some of the games featured in Viveport Infinity at this time include Superhot VR, I Expect You To Die, and Pistol Whip, the latter of which was one of GameSpot's best VR games of 2019.


Best modular VR headset

HTC Vive Cosmos | $699

Compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

HTC Vive Cosmos VR headset
HTC Vive Cosmos VR headset

Pros

  • Sensor-free, inside-out tracking
  • Capable of wireless VR with separate adapter
  • Headset flips up for easy removal
  • Removable faceplate allows for mods...

Cons

  • ...but there's only one mod for external tracking
  • Very expensive

The Vive Cosmos is HTC's answer to Oculus's line of VR headsets. Like the Quest and Rift S, it utilizes inside-out tracking, which means no sensors are necessary. However, it does feature greater specs than the Rift S, boasting a 2880x1700 resolution and 90Hz refresh rate--for reference, the Rift S features a 2560x1440 resolution and 80Hz refresh rate.

Another thing the Vive Cosmos has on the Rift S is its modular capability. Its front face-plate can be removed and replaced with different mods, though there is only one announced at this time: the External Tracking Faceplate, which lets you use the Vive's controllers and base stations with your Cosmos. And like the Vive Pro, the Cosmos can also make use of HTC's wireless adapter.

One of the greatest conveniences with the Cosmos is the ability to flip the head-mounted display upward, freeing your view for the real world. VR can be an isolating experience, so being able to easily flip it up when your phone starts ringing or someone knocks on your door is a feature that's easy to appreciate.

Unfortunately, the Cosmos comes at a much higher price than its closest competition, the Oculus Rift S. The Cosmos costs $699, $300 more than the Rift S's $399 price tag. That price includes a six-month subscription to Viveport Infinity.


Best Windows Mixed Reality VR headset

Samsung HMD Odyssey+ | $499

Compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

Samsung HMD Odyssey+ VR headset
Samsung HMD Odyssey+ VR headset

Pros

  • Sensor-free, inside-out tracking
  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • Often discounted

Cons

  • Can be uncomfortable to wear, especially for long sessions
  • Only recommendable when on sale

Windows Mixed Reality combines virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into one headset, though the vast majority of its applications are in VR. The best of the WMR headsets is definitely the Samsung HMD Odyssey+.

The HMD Odyssey+ features dual AMOLED displays, which produce vibrant colours. Additionally, it boasts a combined resolution of 2880x1600, 110-degree field of view, and refresh rate of up to 90Hz. Like the Rift S and Cosmos, it utilizes sensor-free, inside-out tracking and must be powered by a PC. It's compatible with the vast majority of Steam VR games, in addition to Microsoft's own Windows Mixed Reality software.

Unfortunately, it's not the most comfortable to wear, and the headset and controllers don't feel as well-made as the competition's hardware. It's a hard sell at the regular price, especially when the Oculus Rift S and Quest (64GB) can be picked up for cheaper. Thankfully, Samsung's HMD Odyssey+ is regularly discounted. We've seen it for as low as $230, which is an excellent deal for what you get. If your heart is set on the HMD Odyssey+ and you're patient, then it's worth picking up at that lower price.


Best console VR headset

PlayStation VR | starts at $300

Not compatible with Half-Life: Alyx

PlayStation VR headset
PlayStation VR headset

Pros

  • Great library of exclusive games
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Compatible with all PlayStation Cameras and PS5

Cons

  • Low resolution and pixel density causes screen-door effect
  • Tracking can be non-responsive at times

PlayStation VR is only compatible with the PS4 at the moment, though PlayStation 5 lead architect Mark Cerny confirmed to Wired that it will also work with the PS5. Nothing has been confirmed as of yet, but it's likely that Sony will release a new version of the PSVR headset specifically for use with the PS5 in the future.

As of now, PSVR is the lowest-end headset in terms of specs: 1920x1080 combined resolution, 90-120Hz refresh rate, and a 100-degree field of view. The low resolution and pixel density causes a significant screen-door effect--you see the black space between each pixel. It makes it look like you're viewing the game through a screen door. This can be frustrating for experienced VR users, but with no other VR headset on the PS4, it's an issue you just have to deal with. But where PSVR falls short in its specs, it makes up for in its exclusive games. These titles feature some of the best experiences in VR and are well worth playing if you own Sony's VR headset. The PlayStation Move controllers are required for some games--like Farpoint and Concrete Genie--but there are plenty of great titles that use the DualShock 4, including Astro Bot: Rescue Mission and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

The PSVR requires the PlayStation Camera for tracking, but thankfully it's included with the headset in most bundles. And if you already own a PlayStation Camera for the PS4, then you're ready to go no matter which version of it you have. The tracking isn't up to par with PC VR options, especially when turning your face away from the camera, though it does work fine in most situations. Thankfully, wearing the headset is extremely comfortable, which makes longer sessions much more manageable.

PSVR bundles

PSVR accessories

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