One of the biggest hurdles when entering the world of VR is the cost. Unlike consoles, you have a number of headsets that will provide similar experiences. When you’re just starting out, it can be pretty overwhelming, and knowing what to look for is really tough. Do you want LED screens or OLED screens? What about controllers? There are over six different kinds of controllers out there, each with its own shape, haptic capabilities, and features.
I’ve been a VR enthusiast for almost a decade now, having tried the original Oculus beta headsets out when they were first released. Watching this medium grow has been astonishing, as I never thought it would be so advanced so fast. These days, I’m consuming VR at least 3-4 times a week and consider it to be some of the best gaming experiences that I’ve ever had.
Not only can you find amazing games in VR, but it can also help keep you in shape, as several games demand a physical output that just isn’t part of normal gaming. Getting people into VR is difficult though, because so many believe it to just be a gimmick without any real substance.
Let me tell you, that when you’re staring down from the top of a mountain in Skyrim and you call on your dragon and take flight over the entire continent, with epic music blasting in your headphones, you won’t be thinking “this is just a gimmick”.
Other doubts of VR come with the cost, the setup, the maintenance needed and the general upkeep of needing to wear a video game system on your head. I get it, but trust me, once you take the dive for the first time, you’ll realize how worth it VR really is.
In this guide, I’m going to explain the ins and outs of the VR sets that are best for beginners. Not included here will be the most expensive headsets, like the Pimax, as these are generally very expensive and aren’t recommended until you know you’re really into VR.
Bottom Line Up Front
The best entry level VR headsets is the Meta Quest 2. It’s the most affordable, and whether you have a gaming PC or not, you have a large library of games to choose from as well as several games that are exclusive to the platform itself.
- Great VR experience: This includes playability on a variety of different quality systems, graphics quality as well as controller and headset tracking, battery life, and overall comfort to the player.
- Easy Entry: For first-time VR players, we want to make things as simple as possible. Because of that, we won’t recommend headsets that involve lengthy setups such as lighthouse positioning or the installation of multiple software. The headsets on this list are pickup and play for the most part.
- Game library: You can have the best graphics in the world, but if no games support your headset, then it doesn’t matter much, does it? The headsets on this list will feature impressive gaming libraries with hundreds of hours of content to sift through.
- Availability: Some headsets are much tougher to find than others, and some have ceased to exist, such as the Oculus Rift S for example. All of these headsets on this list are relatively easy to find.
Meta Quest 2
We’ll start off with the Meta Quest 2 not only because of how popular it is but also because of how accessible it is. It’s the only commercial headset of its kind in the market, and for that alone, it has immense value. Let’s check out what makes it great for beginners.
The library of Meta Quest 2 started very modestly, and honestly, it was one of the weaker qualities of the system. Now? The library is simply huge. You’ve got everything from puzzle games to massive RPG games and everything in between.
If a big VR game is dropping, you can be sure that it’s going to be on the Meta Quest 2 or be headed there in the near future. Standouts include The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners and mainstay titles like Beat Saber and Superhot VR.
The huge feature of the Meta Quests 2’s library is that, if you have a gaming PC that can handle VR, you will be able to connect your Meta Quest 2 wirelessly or wired and access not only the entirety of Steam but you’ll also have access to all of the Oculus store and as a bonus, the Sidequest app, which provides hundreds of free and early access games not available anywhere else.
VR requires a certain level of comfort, and for those playing long sessions, it can get rough if your headset isn’t a great fit, and this can lead to neck strains and headaches after a while. You’ll be happy to know that the Meta Quest 2 is as light as it gets when it comes to VR headsets. It fits tightly but comfortably over your head, and the lack of any wires in the back gets rid of the constant pulling feeling that other headsets tend to suffer from.
The Meta Quest 2 controllers are some of the best on the market. Now, they are pretty small, but they are incredibly comfortable and have some of the best haptic feedback available in VR controllers. The vibration really adds to the immersion; whether it’s shooting a gun or slashing someone with a sword, the rumble feels appropriate.
The best part about them is the inside-out tracking, which means that you can have your controllers pretty much anywhere, and your headset will track them. You’ll also get outstanding battery life here as one double A battery will last you for months.
The graphics on display with the Meta Quest 2 are understandably the weakness of the headset, and that’s because it isn’t attached to any high-power graphics card; it’s just all happening in the headset itself. The visual is clear as can be, but the issue is that the rendering is on the weaker side, as well as the frame rate.
As far as the refresh rate goes, you will only get 72 Hz from the headset compared to 90+ for PC headsets, and this can lead to a little bit of a delay which, while on the flatscreen, doesn’t ruin the experience, in VR, it can be a bit to get used to.
If you have a gaming PC, though, once you connect to the PC, you get the graphics of the PC through your headset, which often looks outstanding. There is still one issue with the visuals, and that is the color. I can’t get a solid red out of this headset.
They all look faded, and black levels tend to suffer as well. The reason is it uses an LED screen which is very clear but suffers with depicting bright colors. It might not make a huge difference to some people, but for me, it definitely does.
As far as entry-level headsets go, whether you have a gaming PC or not, you should definitely consider the Meta Quest 2. It has good graphics and amazing gameplay and can be played wirelessly, which is something the majority of headsets can’t offer. The controllers are also great, and it’s a heavily supported headset that is updated constantly.
The PSVR was the big entry point to the VR world back in 2016, and today, it’s still one of the most popular ones out there. The entry point with the PSVR is a bit lofty, as it requires a PS4 or PS5 to play, but considering it’s the most popular gaming system of all time, it’s a safe bet that a lot of gamers would own it. Its second generation is upon us, which means the PSVR is going to be discounted like crazy coming up. Let’s see why you should get it.
PSVR was the talk of the town in the VR world when it first debuted, and that gave it a ton in the way of exclusive games. The library is impressive and includes many great games available on other VR platforms like Beat Saber and Skyrim VR, but it also has a ton of exclusive games that you can’t play anywhere else.
For example, Iron Man VR and Blood and Truth VR are not available anywhere else, and the same goes for Astrobot VR and tons more. The focus of Sony to provide a growing and fun library here is unmatched, and it’s only about to grow with the release of PSVR 2 in February of 2023.
The PSVR is a unique headset in how it’s put together. It has a forehead rest that other VR headsets don’t have, and it helps balance the headset in the center of your head instead of in the front or in the back. The back here is particularly troublesome because of the wires attached, and for some reason, the wires of the PSVR 2 feel heavier than just about any other VR headset I’ve experienced.
I love these controllers, but I don’t think this sentiment is shared by everyone. First off, there is no control stick, and that’s something that pretty much every VR controller has at this point. They’re also, somewhat comically, the PS moves from a decade ago. They didn’t actually design new controllers; they just used PS moves. These controllers are massive, and you have to move around by using actual buttons to move around.
You get used to it after a while, but it’s still a pain. The tracking is another issue because you’re at the mercy of the PS camera, which you can set up on top of your TV or maybe on a wall shelf if you get creative. This gives you roughly a 5×5 space to move around in, but it’s finicky and not always going to track your hands if you happen to reach behind your head at any point.
The graphics of the PSVR are among the worst you can find in the VR space, but if it’s all you have access to, there are still some positives. The colors here are actually great; the problem is that the screen door effect that is present in many VR headsets is egregious here. After you play long enough, you won’t notice it all that much, but it’s still a frustrating wall to the enjoyment.
The PSVR is the definition of entry-level VR. It’s got some big-time crowd-pleasing games like Skyrim and Hitman VR, but it also has some of the bigger multiplayer titles out there too. If you’re a stickler for graphics, this one might not do it for you, and if you don’t have a PS4 already, the entry fee can be pretty high cost-wise. If you have a PS4 and are interested in checking out what VR is all about, it’s definitely a good time to check out the PSVR.
HP Reverb G2
Windows Mixed Reality is a dying brand. It’s an unfortunate but honest truth, and it’s slowly losing its support system, but I won’t feel comfortable with this list without including its shining achievement.
The HP Reverb G2 is not only an amazing beginner headset, but it’s also one of the best headsets you can buy and often one of the most affordable. It’s got the perfect balance of everything you could want with a VR headset, and it remains criminally underrated, even though it’s been out for a few years now.
Here’s my case for the HP Reverb G2 being your go-to starter headset.
The HP Reverb G2 is a PCVR headset, which means that you will need a PC to use it. Once hooked up, you have the entirety of the Steam library available to you as well as the Oculus store and the HTV Vive library through the use of a third-party app called Revive. Steam is the largest VR library out there and contains most of the best VR games ever made, so you’ll be in heaven in terms of options here.
The HP Reverb G2 made a conscious effort to improve the model over the original, as one of the biggest complaints of that headset was the head pressure. Here, the headset is a bit lighter, but the important part is that the balance is completely different.
The original head its weight focused on the front of the headset, but with the G2, it feels much more focused on the middle to back of the headset. This should alleviate any pressure and allows for way longer play sessions without the worry of discomfort.
The controllers for Windows Mixed Reality are much maligned because they’re bigger and don’t have the same accessibility as something like the Oculus Touch controllers. Here’s the thing, though, if you have bigger hands, like me, you appreciate the bigger controller because it actually feels like you’re holding something in the VR world.
The same goes for the Reverb controllers. These are bulky, and instead of the simple two-button interface of the Oculus Touch, you have a pad that provides four different buttons. This allows for so much customization compared to most controllers.
The only issue is that sometimes games aren’t built to support Windows Mixed Reality, and you’ll have to either download a config provided by the community on Steam or set the bindings yourself, but these days, most games support this controller type.
The tracking is also fantastic, as it’s similar to the inside-out tracking that the Meta Quest 2 does.
This is the best visual available in VR right now. Yes, I include titans like the Valve Index in this as well. The HP Reverb 2 uses LED screens like many headsets, but the resolution here is simply outstanding. It completely removes the screen door effect from the VR experience nearly completely, which gives you unparalleled immersion in the games.
You also get some pretty vibrant color here, which is my big issue with the Valve Index, and that’s a huge win here, considering it’s often less than half the price of the Index. You will need a somewhat powerful gaming PC to get the best visuals out of this, so make sure your PC can handle it before making the dive.
I know that Windows Mixed Reality is on its way out, but why not take a chance at its crowning achievement? The HP reverb G2 is a masterclass in VR and won’t break the bank in the process.
If you can get over the somewhat unorthodox controller and less popular nature of Windows Mixed Reality, you will find yourself an expertly crafted headset that doesn’t require much setup and plays like a dream.
Samsung Odyssey Plus
Sticking to the Windows Mixed Reality trend, there is one more of their headsets that I have to mention. The Samsung Odyssey Plus is the most underrated headset out there, and unfortunately, it’s rather hard to find these days.
As I mentioned before, the platform is failing, but damn if they didn’t come out with two great headsets in their final hours. This headset was my official first PCVR headset, and it has grown very near and dear to me, so let me explain why it would make a fantastic first VR headset for you as well.
Just like the HP Reverb G2, the Samsung Odyssey has access to everything on Steam as well as the Oculus store and HTC Vive store through Revive. The Samsung Odyssey also has its own launching app called the Windows Mixed Reality Home. It’s similar to the Steam Cliff House and largely serves the same purpose.
You can even launch Steam from this platform if you want, and it basically is just an extra step. You can also choose to launch games from this platform too, and it allows you to place them in whatever order you’d like, offering a bit more customization than the cliff house allows.
The comfort of the Samsung Odyssey Plus is a bit hit or miss. It’s very comfortable on your face, but the headset’s weight is very forward-centric, so expect some occasional soreness during long sessions. I also advise that you replace the facial foam with a third-party replacement, as it retains sweat, and after a while, it can be pretty tough to clean and can eventually cause facial rashes.
Third-party facial foams allow you to clean them much easier and are generally pretty cheap, and come with multiple pieces. The wire in the back pulls a little bit, but it helps alleviate the frontal weight of the headset.
The controllers for the Samsung Odyssey Plus are slightly different than those of the HP Reverb G2. They have a more rounded shape at the bottom and are actually more comfortable in your hands because of it. There is a palpable weight to these controllers that aren’t available for most other headsets, which can lead to tired arms, but also adds to the immersion when swinging a sword or shooting a gun in the VR world.
The one negative here is the battery life. I use rechargeable batteries, and they barely last me a week if I’m playing every day. Non-rechargeable batteries will work better, but then you’re spending a ton of money on batteries which can be shockingly expensive.
These controllers use inside-out tracking and are pretty accurate as far as your hand placement in the VR world. There are occasional slip-ups when your hand goes behind your head, but other than that, the experience is pretty smooth.
This is where you get the bang for your buck. While the colors on the HP Reverb H2 are great, they are simply outmatched by the Samsung Odyssey Plus. I’ve tried every headset out there right now, and the only one that accurately displays bright colors and pure blacks is the Samsung Odyssey Plus.
It’s so vibrant and while you might not notice it on another headset, switching back and forth is pretty jarring. For games like No Man’s Sky or Elite Dangerous, which have you navigating space, this is the best headset you can find because space will actually look as dark and terrifying as it’s supposed to. You can find better resolution elsewhere, but the Samsung Odyssey Plus is one of the only headsets out there to use an OLED screen.
That’s the technology that powers the most crystal clear TVs and monitors out there these days, so expect a similar level of quality from these lenses as well. The screen door effect isn’t as diminished as it is with the HP Reverb G2, but it’s not noticeable enough to ruin your experience, and the crazy color you’re going to get from this headset will be enough to distract you from it anyway.
I’m a bit biased, but as far as PCVR headsets go, this is easily one of the best you can find. It’s tough to find these days due to the struggling nature of Windows Mixed Reality, but if you can manage to grab one, you’ll have one of the prettiest visuals in all of VR at your disposal. After trying this one, it will be genuinely tough to use other headsets, simply because the color and black levels will not be nearly as good due to the presence of the OLED screens.
My Top Picks
Meta Quest 2- It’s the only wireless VR headset that’s commercially available right now, and it’s the ability to become a full PCVR headset with either Airlink or a link cable that make it as versatile and accessible as it gets in the VR headset landscape. The controllers are among the most well-renowned in VR and have outstanding battery life.
HP Reverb G2- For those with strong graphics cards in their PC, the HP Reverb G2 is a fantastic experience that gives you access to thousands of VR games with some of the best resolution you can find right now. It also has unique controllers that give you a weighty feel to them that’s not available with most other VR controllers. It also can be combined with other VR controllers if you prefer the feel of others, so you’re not bound to just one type.
Question: If you wear glasses, can you play VR?
Answer: Yes, several headsets have provided enough space for glasses to fit comfortably within them. You can also purchase glasses spacers for most headsets that give you even more space and will prevent any possible scratches on the lenses of either your glasses or headset. You can also purchase third-person snap-on lenses that have your prescription on them, and this lets you play VR without your glasses while still having perfect vision in the headset.
Question: Are there wireless headsets other than the Meta Quest 2?
Answer: Yes, there are other wireless headsets available, but these are mostly focused on your iPhone or Android devices. In the near future, headsets such as the Valve Index will get wireless features, but for now, you are limited to the Meta Quest 2.
Question: What will the next released VR headset be?
Answer: That would be the PSVR 2. This much-hyped headset will release in February of 2023 and looks to be a contender for the next big headset to own. It will utilize OLED lenses and HDR and have up to a 120 Hz refresh rate. It has a handful of launch titles ready too, so this one is looking good in terms of living up to the hype.
Diving into VR for the first time can be an expensive and complicated experience, so I hoped this guide gave you some top notch choices to start your journey. All of the above headsets will lead to great VR experiences, so it just depends on the specific kind of VR experience you’re looking for. Regardless of your choice, the virtual world is going to be an unforgettable experience.