If you are looking to buy a new VR headset, or simply upgrade your old one, without spending a fortune, then this guide is for you. Below you will find some of the best VR headsets under $500 that promise to elevate your VR experience.
The Top-Rated VR Headsets
|Editor's Pick||VR Headset||Score|
|Top Pick||Oculus Quest 2||90%|
|Runner Up||Oculus Rift S||88%|
|Budget Pick||Oculus Go||79%|
|Luxury Pick||HTC Vive Cosmos Elite||93%|
|Best for PS4||Sony PlayStation||83%|
Also see: The Best VR Headsets Under $300
Top Pick: Oculus Quest 2
- Next-level Hardware - Make every move count with a blazing-fast processor and our highest-resolution display
- All-In-One Gaming - With backward compatibility, you can explore new titles and old favorites in the expansive Quest content library
- Immersive Entertainment - Get the best seat in the house to live concerts, groundbreaking films, exclusive events and more
- Quest 2 requires your Facebook account to log in, making it easy to meet up with friends in VR and discover communities around the world
- Easy Setup - Just open the box, set up with the smartphone app and jump into VR. No PC or console needed. Requires wireless internet access and the Oculus app (free download) to set up device
The Oculus Quest 2’s new design is striking with an all white color scheme and a new faceplate construction that blocks more ambient light for increased immersion. The elastic straps are very comfortable and easy to adjust, and there is also a spacing system for users with glasses. The headset is very lightweight, allowing for many hours of comfortable gaming.
The Quest 2 comes with the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 mobile chip along with 6GB of RAM. These specs provide increased power for better game performance. Oculus has opted for a fast-switch LCD panel in place of the old OLED panel and has increased the individual resolution to 1832 x 1920 pixels. Also, with the improved specs, the Quest 2 will eventually output up to 90 Hz for a fluid and immersive VR experience.
While being a wireless autonomous VR headset you can still connect it to your PC with the Oculus Link for access to a lot more VR games. The improved inside-out tracking technology with six degrees of freedom allows for precise movement without the need for an external base. Also, the new Quest supports better finger and hand tracking for improved immersion. The major drawback of the Oculus Quest is that you need a Facebook account to use it, which might deter some users from it.
Runner Up: Oculus Rift S
- Top VR gaming library: Blast, slash and soar your way through the top library in VR gaming. Oculus Rift S lets you play hundreds of games and exclusives already available in the Oculus store, with so much more to come.
- Improved optics: Stare down the competition with next-generation lenses and a sharper display. Improved optics deliver bright, vivid colors and reduced “screen-door” effect.
- Ergonomic design: Keep your head in the game thanks to a Halo headband redesigned with speed in mind. Rift S stays securely and comfortably in place with a quick twist of the fit wheel, so it can take-or double take-your fastest reactions.
- Oculus touch controllers: Arm yourself with our updated Oculus touch controllers. Your slashes, throws and grab appear in VR with intuitive, realistic precision, transporting your hands and gestures right into the game.
- Oculus insight tracking: take a step forward with Oculus insight. It translates your movements into VR No matter which way you're facing and provides room-scale tracking without external sensors.
The Oculus Rift S has a sleek all black design and is lightweight and very comfortable to use. You just put it on and adjust the “Halo” head strap to your fit. The firm fit of the Rift S prevents light bleeding but can make you hot during long sessions. The headset also features speakers that provide decent audio quality, provided you are in a quiet room.
The Rift S features a single, fast-switch LCD screen with an increased resolution of 1280 x 1440 in each eye for a total of 2560 x 1440 pixels. Additionally, it has a reduced refresh rate of 80Hz due to the ASW system, which provides a smoother overall gaming experience, regardless of your PC specs. The reduced refresh rate can cause some motion sickness, though.
The Oculus Rift S is tethered to your PC via a long cable, giving you access to a huge library of games, while also providing ample space to move. The new inside-out tracking technology with six degrees of freedom ensures accurate tracking without the need for a long setup process. This setup process is also aided by the Virtual Passthrough technology allowing you to see the surrounding room via the cameras of the headset.
Budget Pick: Oculus Go
- Personal Viewing: The littlest, big screen. Crystal clear optics and state-of-the-art 3D graphics make your headset feel more like a personal theater
- Viewing with Friends: Watch with friends. Meet up in VR with friends and fans from around the world to catch live sports, concerts, or just your favorite TV show
- Portable & Easy to Use: Ready when you are. Experience portable, all-in-one VR. That means no PC, phone, wires or hassles
- Controller: Effortless control. Whether it's navigating to your favorite shows or to a far-off land, the intuitive controller makes getting there a cinch
- Built-In Audio: Surrounded by sound. Spatial audio drivers are built right into the headset, providing dramatic, immersive sound without the need for bulky or tangled headphones. Oculus Go also features a 3.5 millimeter audio jack
The Oculus Go is an entry level standalone headset and serves as an introduction to the world of VR. It has a simplistic design and is quite lightweight, making it very comfortable. It comes with a built-in audio system with great 3D audio representation, and a controller for basic navigation and casual gaming.
The Oculus Go is powered by an overclocked version of the Snapdragon 821 processor. This seems weak on paper, but you should have no problem when watching videos or playing casual games. It also comes with an LCD display 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye. Unfortunately, it only comes with a 60 Hz refresh rate, so it is not recommended for fast-paced scenarios as it can cause motion sickness.
The Oculus Go has a very easy setup process that requires a smartphone for the first use. Its gaming performance is limited by the three degrees of freedom both on the headset and controller, as it can’t track you moving around the room. Ultimately, though, the Oculus Go is designed to be an affordable gateway into VR, and performs well for content consumption and some light gaming.
Luxury Pick: HTC Vive Cosmos Elite
- Lighthouse tracking - base station 1.0 provides up to 160 sq. Feet of play space for those that demand the best in Vive VR gaming.
- Crystal-clear graphics - see the virtual world through a 2880 x 1700 combined Pixel resolution. All-new LCD panels reduce the distance between Pixels, minimizing the screen-door effect.
- Flip-up design - go easily between reality and virtual reality with the flip-up design, without disrupting your VR journey.
- Vive port - Get the most out of VR with Infinity. Enjoy unlimited access to hundreds of VR games, apps, and videos.
- Vive reality system - Vive reality system lets you navigate seamlessly between virtual experiences. Discover new content, launch titles from your library, play a video, or browse the web.
The HTC Vive Cosmos Elite is an ideal upgrade for older Vive users. It has a sturdy and easy to adjust headband, a well-balanced weight and adequate padding resulting in a very comfortable headset overall. It also comes with a flip-up visor, so you can easily see the outside world, and integrated headphones with excellent 3D audio reproduction.
The Cosmos Elite comes with a dual LCD screen with 1440 x 1700 pixels for each eye, and an impressive field of view of 110 degrees. The headset also supports a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth and immersive gameplay.
The Vive Cosmos Elite utilizes its External Faceplate for tracking. This makes it compatible with the Base Stations of the original Vive. This method of tracking can be cumbersome to set up, and some people might not be able to properly set up the bases in their room, but the superior tracking accuracy more than makes up for it.
Best For PS4: Sony PlayStation
- Contains: PlayStation VR headset, Processor unit, PlayStation VR headset connection cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, Stereo headphones, AC power cord, AC adaptor, PlayStation VR Demo Disc
- Games Come First - With gamers in mind, PlayStation delivers a new world of unexpected gaming experiences through PlayStation VR
- Just Plug and Play - Getting into PlayStation VR couldn't be easier. Just plug the PlayStation VR headset and your PlayStation Camera into your PlayStation 4 system. Sold separately
- Advanced VR Display - Seamless visuals keep you connected to the virtual world through an expansive 5.7” OLED 1080p display running at up to 120 frames per second
- 3D Audio Technology - 3D Audio with PlayStation VR means that you'll be able to pinpoint sounds above, below, and all around you
The Sony PlayStation has been in the market for a few years as an affordable option for PS4 users to get into the world of VR gaming. It has a solid build and hefty weight and although it’s comfortable, the fit is not as tight, which results in a little light leakage. There are no built-in speakers, but you can plug in your headphones using the 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The PSVR is equipped with an OLED screen with a resolution of 960 x 1080 pixels per eye. On paper, the resolution is lower than its competitors, but this allows the headset to run VR games at an impressive 120 Hz for superior smoothness and fluidity.
The PlayStation VR uses an external camera to track the lights on the headset and the controllers or Dualshock controller. This, combined with internal motion sensors, provides precise tracking while keeping cost down. Just make sure to play in a well lit room, so the camera doesn’t have any issues with tracking.
What To Look For In a VR Headset
If you are brand new to the VR headset market, you need to keep a few things in mind so you can pick the best one for your needs.
Wireless vs Tethered
The first thing you need to look for is whether your headset will be wireless or connect to your PC or console. If you don’t mind the cables and own a powerful PC, then you can get access to a much larger game library, better latency, and of course better graphic capabilities. However, if you want to be able to take your VR headset anywhere or for more casual gaming, then a wireless headset is a great choice, and is usually more affordable.
This is one of the most important aspects of a VR headset. In general, OLED displays offer superior quality to traditional LCD panels, but take into consideration the number of pixels in each eye. A higher resolution LCD screen will be more crisp than a lower quality OLED one. Another important spec of a display is the refresh rate. You need at least 90 Hz for a smooth gameplay experience, because lower refresh rates can cause motion sickness for some users.
You obviously want a comfortable and lightweight headset, as you want to be able to use it for many hours without the need for constant breaks. Generally, wireless headsets tend to be front-heavy as the front houses all the components needed to run games such as the CPU, GPU, etc. This disproportionate weight can be remedied with better straps for better head support. Also, any bonus comfort features such as added space for users with glasses are always appreciated.
Last Updated on January 23, 2021 by Thomas Bush