Sometimes a simple television screen or computer monitor is simply not enough to immerse you in the world of flight simulators. Sometimes you want to feel as though you’re truly in the game. Sometimes, you get the itch to experience it in Virtual Reality. We’ve compiled a list of the best VR headsets available in 2020 to pair with flight simulator games in order to give you an unparalleled experience. Before we move on to the list, there are a couple of caveats you should be aware of before you make any sort of purchase. The first, and perhaps most notable is that these peripherals can be quite expensive, so be sure to check that your flight simulator game is VR compatible before making any purchase, less you mistakenly throw away several hundreds of dollars if not more. The second regards performance. The more advanced the VR system, the more it will take a toll on your computer. Make sure that, if you buy some of the more powerful entries on our list, your computer has a powerful graphics card. Now that that’s done, let’s move to the list!
First Place: Pimax 8K+
With one of the highest fields of view on the entire market and incredible resolution to match, the Pimax 8K+ is an excellent choice.
Let’s start this review with a disclaimer. The Pimax 8K+ is not an easy machine. If you’re new to the world of virtual reality you will likely struggle to get the settings just right. Having said that, the Pimax is an absolute joy to pair with flight simulators. You’ll immediately notice that this system is quite large, and that’s due to the fact that it’s built to give the user the widest possible field of view. While this is perhaps less central to racing games, any pilot will tell you that seeing the entirety of the cabin and outside the cockpit will go miles in making your experience not only engrossing but also incredibly realistic.
It’s ergonomic, has incredible image quality (the “8K+” in its name is there for a reason), and will allow you to get the best possible view of the skies when you fly. We can wholeheartedly recommend this peripheral as long as you don’t mind a relatively steep price-tag and having to fiddle with settings a little bit. Is it expensive? Yes. Does it live up to the hype? Absolutely!
Runner-Up: HP Reverb
Excellent qualities go hand in hand with a great FOV. Coming at half the price as our first-place entry, the Reverb is a great choice for position number 2.
Admittedly the HP Reverb isn’t a cheap VR set, but quality comes at a price. Though the FOV isn’t as incredible as that of the Pimax 8KK+, it’s still above average (around 114°). Not only this, but it’s coupled with high-resolution LCD displays. Few VR headsets in the same weight class as the Reverb can keep up with the insanely good 2,160 × 2,160 pixel count. Images are sharp, textures and edges. The headset is pretty ergonomic too, which is always a plus for longer gaming sessions.
Other than the price, the other main negative aspect is the controllers. The reverb makes use of the same Windows controllers as all other VR headsets. As much as we like the headset, we don’t love the controllers. They are quite bulky yet still manage to feel flimsy. Tracking is thankfully quite good as long as it stays within your field of vision, but outside that forget it.
The Reverb remains a great choice, despite the issue of price and the subpar controllers. For those looking for a wonderful addition to the world of flight sims, this could be a solid choice.
Third Place: Valve Index
Valve’s excellent headset is not only great for shooting headcrabs in Half-Life Alyx, but it also works masterfully as a flight-sim headset.
Also an expensive pick: The Valve Index is a newcomer to the market, but has sent shockwaves throughout it. It doesn’t pack the same incredible stats as the Reverb, but it offers a more consistently positive experience. The FOV is the main exception, outclassing the Reverb outright, coming somewhere in-between 120-130°.
The graphics are quite good, fed to you by two 1440×1600 LCD Displays, and images still do look quite crisp.
The biggest, and genuinely noteworthy, improvement are the controllers. Even just ignoring the fact that the Index has backwards compatibility with HTC Vive and Vive pro controllers, the Index controllers are amazing. An array of 87 different sensors allow the controllers not only to track your hand position, finger position, motion, and pressure but faithfully recreate them in virtual reality. Not only will you feel like you’re looking at the game in first person, but the hand tracking is so realistic it’ll feel strange to reach for an object and not have it physically be there in the real world.
Of course, this all comes at a steep price, but if you intend to use your VR headset for more than simply playing flight sims, the Index is a great choice.
Fourth Place: Samsung Odyssey Plus
It feels strange to put such an incredible machine in fourth place, especially because the Odyssey Plus does everything so well.
This lightweight VR set should not be glanced over. It’s comfortable, ergonomic, easy to set-up, and will grant you near-total immersion when playing. The 110° FOV is quite good, allowing you to see relatively far around you. Not only that, but what you see will also be graphically quite nice, as Samsung makes use of two 3.5 inch dual AMOLED screens with 3K displays to draw you in. The anti-screening effect makes the resolution look even better than what it is, delivering crisp and clear images to you.
All in all, this is an excellent VR headset that comes at a very reasonable price. If you’re looking for a very high-quality product, but don’t feel like spending a fortune, then consider Samsung’s entry in the VR arena as a possible pick. Do consider also purchasing an add-on replacement foam if you’re looking for extra comfort.
Luxury Pick: XTAL VR
The amount of money required to purchase this titan is insane. That being said, it’s clear that the XTAL has no match in the VR world.
Unless you have money to quite literally throw around, then skip over this pick. If you do and don’t plan on putting it aside, then maybe the XTAL VR is for you.
The custom-built optics, patented lenses deliver a 5K OLED resolution to your eyes. A resolution that’s only matched by an insane FOV: a majestic 180°. That’s one and a half times what high-tier VR sets like the Index deliver. The auto-eye feature also makes is so that the XTAL follows your eyes so as to deliver personalized and high-quality images tailor-made for you.
What about the controllers? Well, you don’t need them. The XTAL’s embedded leap motion sensor allows you to interact with Virtual Reality using your bare hands with close to no latency. It’s natural, accurate, and smooth. And if you’re not feeling to use your hands, you can always make use of XTAL’s voice controls to navigate through menus.
It’s a fantastic piece of machinery, and it shows the potential that VR can achieve. It’s also incredibly inaccessible because of price. We don’t recommend investing in this peripheral unless you truly have a lot of money to spare.
Budget Pick: Oculus Rift S
The Oculus is how most of us came to hear of the VR. The Rift S is a great machine at a lower price compared to many of its competitors.
A lower price doesn’t mean low quality. The Oculus Rift S remains a leader in the VR world due to its high fidelity, the high 2560×1440 resolution, an ergonomic design, and great controllers. If you were paying attention you probably noticed an important stat was missing: FOV. This is where the Rift S falls a bit short. It states that it’s officially 115°, but some users have found it to be closer to 100°, sometimes even a bit less than that.
Nevertheless, the Rift S remains an excellent pick for anyone looking to enter the magical world of VR flight simulators. You’ll be wholly engrossed, it will feel like a completely new and alien experience (in the best of ways) and you’re going to be very happy with your purchase. Especially since it comes at slightly less than half the price of headsets such as the Index or Pimax 8k+.
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