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If you’re into sim racing and haven’t tried it yet with a VR headset, you’re definitely missing out. When you pair a VR headset with your steering wheel, you’ll be immersed in the racing world like never before. We’ve listed the five best VR headsets for sim racing below, based on features, user reviews, and our own experience.
The Top-Rated VR Headsets for Sim Racing
|Top Pick||Samsung HMD Odyssey+||91%|
|Also Great||Oculus Rift S||87%|
|Luxury Pick||HTC Vive Pro||93%|
|Highest FOV||Pimax 5K XR||93%|
|Best for Hardcore Gamers||Valve Index||95%|
Top Pick: Samsung HMD Odyssey+
An ideal 110° field of view with excellent resolution, at a price that can’t be beaten.
We think the Samsung HMD Odyssey+ is the overall best VR headset for sim racing. When you use this headset when sim racing, you’ll be totally immersed into the racing world with stunningly crisp detail. The merged two 3.5 inch dual AMOLED screens with 3K display will give you a realistic all-around view of the track. This can give you the edge you need to quickly change lanes or maneuver your vehicle.
Samsung’s anti-screen door effect technology delivers twice the pixel count of the display resolution. This equates into you getting a high level of clear, crisp, and seamless sim racing adventure. The AKG-tuned headphones of the Odyssey+ will deliver real life race sounds coming at you from all directions. And you can chat with teammates using the built-in microphone.
The headset is lightweight, well-padded, and comfortable. Since the Samsung HMD Odyssey+ is made with a cooling fabric, you won’t get hot while wearing it. This is why it’s also one of our favorite VR headsets for Beat Saber and DCS.
Runner-Up: Lenovo Explorer
Slightly greater resolution, at the expense of field of view and affordability.
Many budget-minded sim racers use the Lenovo Explorer, which is one of our top picks for VR headsets under $200. While it’s a low cost headset, it doesn’t disappoint in terms of ease of use and resolution. It’s a legit plug and play headset with good quality visuals thanks to its dual 2.89” LCD displays with 1440 x 1440 resolution.
The Explorer is a Windows Mixed Reality headset that was made to be a natural extension of your computer. It connects to a PC with HDMI and USB connectors. You don’t need any external sensors to use this headset, which is a nice feature to have. It offers a 100 degree Field of View so you can see all your track surroundings.
The all-plastic Lenovo Explorer is a lightweight unit that feels comfortable to wear, once you’ve tweaked the adjustment dial on the back of the head strap. You can lift the goggles up and away from your eyes to take a breather, without having to remove the entire headset.
SInce the Explorer doesn’t come with an onboard audio device, you’ll have to use your own. Just plug into the included 3.5mm jack and you’re good to go. All-in-all the Lenovo Explorer really is one of the best VR headsets for sim racing, and it’s considerably more affordable than other comparable models.
Also Great: Oculus Rift S
Comfortable with ultra-clear lenses, for the most immersive racing experience.
The Rift S is Oculus’ most advanced PC-powered headset. This VR headset features next-generation lenses and a sharper display to deliver bright, vivid colors. The lens technology also cuts down on the screen door effect. Sim racers experience a smooth gaming experience with this state-of-the-art headset.
It’s time-consuming to navigate through the many steps required to download & install the software. However, once you get past all that, there’s nothing left to do but have fun. When you start sim racing with the Oculus Rift S, you’ll understand why many gamers use this headset.
There is audio built right into the Oculus Rift S, so you can enjoy hearing the roar of engines and the sound of rubber on asphalt, but it can be upgraded with an external headset. The ergonomically-designed headset fits comfortably and securely. No matter how engaged you are when sim racing, your headset will stay put.
The wide field of view is immensely satisfying. When you glance to the sides you can see your opponents trying to pass you. You’re also given a very realistic sense of speed and depth. You can push your sim driving skills to the extreme with the Rift S, which is what sim driving is supposed to be all about!
Luxury Pick: HTC Vive Pro
- High resolution (2800 x 1600) AMOLED screens
- Hi-Res headphones
- 3D spatial onboard audio
The HTC Vive Pro headset is a top performer for sim racing. It offers true-to-life precision racing capabilities with its high resolution screens. Sim racers love how the colors pop on the vehicles to bring the racetrack to life. The Vive Pro’s high resolution screens make it easy to read the info on your vehicle’s dash, including the small text, without having to strain or move closer.
There’s almost no screen door effect in the Vive Pro’s field of view. The only time you may notice pixels is when you look far out on the horizon, but it won’t spoil your driving experience. The weight of the headset is nicely distributed so it’s comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.
The field of view is par for the course when it comes to VR headsets. It could be bigger, but it is what it is. This is the only area many users feel HTC could have pushed its tech a bit further.
The sound coming from the built in 3D spatial onboard audio speakers is crystal clear, realistic and impressive. This VR headset has a lot going for it. The Vive Pro could even convert a die-hard triple screen user if he/she were to give it a try.
Highest FOV: Pimax 5K XR
- Ultra-wide field of view with dual Samsung OLD panels
- 5120 x 1440 Resolution (2560×1440 per eye) OLED Screens
- Ultra-lightweight ergonomic design
If you’re after a big FOV, the Pimax 5K XR might just be the best VR headset for your sim racing nees. It offers an ultra-wide 200 degree view with its OLED screens. The XR stands for eXtended Range. This means this virtual reality headset offers added dynamic color range and the near absolute blacks that are possible with OLED screens.
This headset isn’t for every sim racer. It’s an expensive unit that requires a lot of tweaking to get the settings perfect. If you happen to be a virtual reality newbie, this probably isn’t the VR headset for you. However, if you know your way around the VR world of headsets, and want to try something unique, the peripheral vision offered by the 5K Plus is worth every penny you spend.
The SK XR is large. It’s big because it has an ultra wide field of view. This makes sim racing amazing. You can easily see all around you, including vehicles coming up from behind. The dual Samsung OLED panels eliminate screen door effect and provide great contrast and color brightness.
The SK XR headset is ergonomically-designed. This allows you to stay immersed in racing for long periods of time. The headset is even roomy enough to allow the wearing of prescription glasses. In a nutshell, the beefy Pimax 5K XR is pricey but a good VR headset for sim racing. That is, if you have patience for setting it up and the budget to afford it.
Best for Hardcore Gamers: Valve Index
- Dual 1440×1600 LCD panels
- Practical field of view of 120°
- Built in sound and 3.5mm audio jack
The Valve Index is the company’s first attempt at an in-house VR headset and it’s fair to say that they knocked this one out of the park. As a follow-up to their joint-development of the HTC Vive line of headsets, the Index represents Valve’s vision come to life – an uncompromising VR headset that’s adaptable to any application, but designed with hardcore gamers in mind. Press and gamers alike have been impressed by this unit since it’s launch in 2019 and nothing in virtual reality has been able to match the overall feature set of this product since.
Like any great hardware manufacturer, Valve’s description of it’s own product and unique features reads quite esoterically and isn’t especially helpful for comparison shoppers – so allow us to break down the important bits for you and reconstruct the marketing copy into something more useful!
This thing is designed for hardcore gamers – with hardcore expectations – in mind. The number one complaint of hardcore gamers when going VR is refresh rate, which Valve addresses head-on here with a headset that outputs up to 144 Hz. They state that this feature is experimental and caveat that you’ll need powerful hardware for it, but sim racers are likely well-equipped in this regard. And the refresh rate isn’t just superfluous fluff – they even went so far as to opt for low-persistence RGB LCD pixels as opposed to LED for the very purpose of ensuring low motion blur due both to IRL movement and in-game frame blur.
There are oodles of additional thoughtful features to mention such as the advanced tracking stations and finger tracking controllers, but it’s suffice to say that Valve have truly outdone themselves with this headset, to the point where it is honestly hard to recommend anything else on this list to hardcore gamers who are willing to shell out the relatively high price for this headset. That is doubly true for the sim racer who wants to achieve the most realistic sense of speed imaginable in VR sim racing.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I buy a VR headset for sim racing?
If you want to fully immerse yourself in sim racing, then yes, you should buy a VR headset. As opposed to holding a gamepad when sim racing, a VR headset paired up with a steering wheel and pedals is far superior. You’ll have a true connection with your virtual vehicle that isn’t possible when using a standard controller.
- Does sim racing with a VR headset make you feel sick?
Some sim racers report having motion sickness from using VR headsets, so yes, it’s possible. That’s why it’s best to pace yourself and slowly build up the time you spend behind the wheel. If you're worried you won't be able to stomach the VR experience, consider opting for a triple monitor setup.
- Which VR headsets work for sim racing?
Any VR headset that works for gaming at large will work with sim racing. That being said, there are things that differentiate good racing headsets from bad racing headsets. Check the next section “What to Look for in a VR Headset” for an in-depth look at the factors that most dramatically impact the quality and usefulness of VR headsets in general as well as with regard to racing sims.
- Which VR headset has the highest resolution
The Pimax 8K X is currently the highest-res headset available to consumers, although it is rather hard to recommend to most gamers as virtually no one has access to PC hardware capable of pushing the hardware to it's limit. Realistically speaking, even 4K headsets are overkill at this point for most users – but they tend to represent a great value as GPU and games are catching up rapidly and you'll be ready when they hit mainstream.
What to Look for in a VR Headset for Sim Racing
Here are some of the most important things to look for in a VR headset for sim racing:
Perhaps the most vital consideration to make when looking for the best VR headset for sim racing whether the headset you’re looking at is conducive to a comfortable gaming experience. Sim racing, more so than your average VR experience, is physically taxing in ways that hard hard to quantify from outside of the sim racing experience.
However, if you’ve ever worn a VR headset before, you can probably follow the logic here: mainstream headsets weigh anywhere from just under one pound, to just under two pounds – and that isn’t taking into account the downward/outward pull from connected cables that can add considerable tension. All of that weight and being pulled in different directions – by the head, no less – contributes greatly to fatigue and discomfort that even the best vr headset has yet to fully overcome.
Now add-in the additional accoutrements associated with VR sim racing, such as force feedback wheels that use vibration motors, haptic feedback and powered pulley mechanisms that simulate terrain and driving conditions and actively work against you in order to simulate the driving experience in fine detail – and you have a recipe for discomfort both in the short-term and with regard to long-term hobby-grade gaming.
Not to put too fine a point of the whole “comfort” thing, but now consider that all of this will be exponentially compounded by your body being effectively grounded by your racing pedals, which will be mounted/affixed and will not move with you. This necessitates that you find a comfortable position and commit to it – otherwise you’re risking a chain reaction of maladaptation that will have your whole body asking you why you chose this hobby in the first place.
Now, let’s push past all of the pessimism and acknowledge the most important factor in all of this – the VR headset itself! To be entirely frank, no part of your setup matters as much as the headset itself. The comfort you feel with your chosen set when playing racing games is paramount, so get a set that you feel comfortable wearing for long periods of time. As a general rule, lighter is better – but less/lighter/more flexible cables is also a massive contributor. A comfortable chair is also extremely important, as is making sure you have everything adjusted to proper heights/distances for comfortable gaming sessions.
This may all sound unbelievably daunting, but think about what you’re trying to accomplish here: via Assetto Corsa or Project Cars or any other sim racing game of your choice, you’re aiming to be fully transported into a racing racing experience that transcends gaming and brings you as close to the real thing as you could possibly get without dedicating your life to racing. There is absolutely going to be a sacrifice of time and money on your part, but the payoff in the end will be that much more rewarding because of the investments you’re making even now – by reading this article!
Compatibility is another major consideration that shouldn’t be taken for granted when shopping for a sim racing headset. While high-end headsets such as the Valve Index or Rift S require high-end hardware to power them, others such as the Samsung Odyssey or HTC Vive are somewhat more flexible as an option. Make sure to take into consideration not only the processor and GPU requirements, but also the ports required to connect to and power your headset and associated hardware.
If your only bottleneck is ports, you don’t necessarily need to run out and buy a new PC or motherboard – chances are that a good USB hub or dock will solve your ailment. If GPU is your bottleneck, now is arguably the best time ever to buy a new GPU, as the latest generation is surprisingly cheap and the previous gens are being sold at absurdly low prices to make space for the current inventory. CPU markets are in a similar situation at the moment and you can grab a stellar 10th gen Intel or AMD Ryzen 3 series at an imminently reasonable price point.
Perhaps the least-discussed and most important point of consideration here is the room in which you intend to play! You’ll need to set up a tracking station in the room, and possibly other sensors depending on the headset and setup you choose to go with – these will necessitate a bare-minimum of 5 by 5 feet of unoccupied space you can dedicate to your VR racing.
Again, it would be disingenuous of anyone to imply that your VR setup is going to be the easiest setup of your life or that everyone has everything needed for a great experience right out of the box – but if you’ve read this far, it’s probably safe to assume you’re willing to put the work in!
The resolution of VR headsets has come a long way since the beginning, and it still has a long way to go in terms of meeting the desires of the most hardcore gamers because – let’s be honest – they’ve been spoiled by massive, high-resolution monitors for many years now! Dropping into VR means interacting with a different form of visual output entirely – one in which images are effectively doubled, necessitating a halving of resolution in order to maintain framerate expectations.
This effect is further exacerbated by the fact that the screens are so much closer to your eyes than conventional monitors would be, effectively lowering the DPI and by extension one’s perception of the resolution on display.
While that may sound like a deal-breaker for some, consider first that resolution isn’t as relevant to the naked eye as is DPI which is relative to your distance from the monitor. Many hardcore gamers are surprised the first time they strap into a high end VR set such as the Valve Index and don’t mind/can’t tell the difference in resolution from their QHD or WQHD monitors. Others will notice the difference but appreciate that the tradeoff is absolutely worth it for some experiences.
Of course, the Valve Index and some others will come at a dramatically higher price point than many others on the list, but core gamers have come to expect to pay more for higher quality experiences and shouldn’t be surprised by these price points.
All said, resolution is a non-issue for some and a primary selling point for others – if you find yourself in the latter camp, skip straight to the high-end stuff; if you find yourself agreeing to the former, save yourself a ton of money and go with one of the more mainstream sets such as the Odyssey or Oculus Rift.
Field of View
Field of View, also known as Field of Vision or FoV, refers to what may most easily be understood as your “vision cone”. FoV is the slice of the 360 degree pie that a display is able to project to you at any given time. Anyone who’s ever fiddled with an FoV slider in a PC game before will have a strong idea of what is being measured here, but it’s still important to consider the implications.
Your field of view dictates how much of a given seen is projected to you at once, and by extension how much is hidden from view. Some games do not benefit much, if at all, from fields of view exceeding the 90 to 110 degree FoV provided by most VR headsets. Racing games, however, benefit dramatically from increased FoV.
From a cockpit view, a bigger Field of View means more view of the periphery – a better view of cars overtaking you, cars you’re overtaking and so forth. Also consider that VR headsets track your head movements and as such, a wider FoV means less movement on your part in order to turn and see even more of the periphery or even what’s behind you.
More FoV in racing games translates directly to more immersion and an advantage over your opponents who have less awareness of what’s going on around them. Needless to say, you can absolutely have a wonderful experience when racing in VR with a standard FoV, but more is almost always better. Whether or not it’s worth more associated cost is entirely up to you, but it is recommended that you lean toward “yes, it is”.
Much like resolution, your need for high refresh rate is going to be largely predicated upon you pre-established expectations. If you’re a hardcore PC gamer who’s been at the forefront of hardware adoption for the last few years, you’ve been a part of a scene that is absolutely obsessed with framerates and performance; as such you’re going to have a hard time getting immersed in a low refresh rate as provided by many low end or mainstream VR headsets.
In fact, it’s virtually impossible to recommend that hardcore PC gamers opt for anything other than one of the best VR sets such as the Valve Index or Pimax 5K XR, which both offer a refresh rate of up to 144 Hz. That said, those who have managed to elude the call of the framerate sirens have much more flexibility here!
Casual gamers, or those who tend to play on consoles will likely be more than satisfied with a 60 HZ experience – however, it is generally advisable that you opt for a set that outputs in at least 90 HZ as that is rapidly becoming the new industry standard and doing so will ensure you have a great VR experience for years to come.
Sound is a secondary or even tertiary concern for some when it comes to VR gaming, but it’s something that needs to be discussed nonetheless; after all, VR is all about immersion, and it’s pretty hard to be convinced you’re inhabiting a world that doesn’t have great sound quality.
Virtually all of these sets will come with some sort of built-in audio solution, though none of those solutions are especially impressive and you’ll likely want to add a headset or in-ear monitors in order to shore up that weakness. This is where input capability comes into play, and it’s advised that you aim to get a headset that has 3 5mm input. Don’t let that be a deal-breaker though – some will instead have USB-C, for which you can buy an adapter at a very low cost.
All-in-all, don’t sweat the built-in audio, but do ensure that you can upgrade or at least bring along audio hardware that you already own!
While it may seem as if we’re taking a step in the wrong direction by placing price at the bottom of this list of considerations, but it’s hard to recommend placing price above the preceding. VR is a new and rapidly evolving segment of gaming, and hardware is the most important piece of the puzzle for consumers. Unlike monitors, graphics cards or even mice, there are not currently a lot of “diminishing returns” scenarios to consider with regard to VR sets.
Whereas the delta between the cheapest (recommendable) headsets and the bleeding-edge products is quite wide in terms of cost, one can’t rationally argue that the more expensive sets aren’t worth the extra money. To be fair, they may not be worth it for every person in every circumstance, but there is certainly a lot of value in a headset that will last longer, be compatible with more future games and hardware and provide a dramatically more realistic experience in the here and now.
This isn’t meant to say the lower-priced headsets on this list are a bad deal; to the contrary, they are all absolutely worth your time and consideration! The takeaway here should be that, if you find yourself thinking you’re better-off spending more on a better headset – you’re probably right!
Last Updated on November 23, 2020