Virtual reality has long been one of the most engaging and cool forms of entertainment out there. What better way to escape your world than to step into another by simply slipping on a headset? It’s great stuff.
But it hasn’t always been easily accessible, nor has it been very cheap. Well, those days are over, and there are numerous options for getting started in VR no matter what your budget is. From affordable VR to the top-of-the-line, here are the best Virtual Reality Headsets of 2016.
Best By Category
|Best Cheap||Best Value||Best Overall||Best for Galaxy||Best for Comfort|
|Samsung Gear VR
Most Affordable: Google Cardboard
Compatible with almost any Android or iOS phone in the past few years, Google Cardboard enables you to enjoy a wealth of VR content on the smartphone you already use. There are games, video apps, and educational experiences that can transform the way you explore new cultures, stories, and fun.
Granted, it won’t deliver the most immersive VR experience you’re going to find, and its limited controls means games won’t be quite as engaging as more fleshed out offerings, but that’s not what you’re after with Google Cardboard. If your budget is low — and we’re talking in the as little as $10 in some cases — this is a very nice starting point.
Pro Tip: Google Cardboard comes in many shapes and sizes. The most basic (and affordable) units aren’t pretty and do require some assembly, but there are pre-built Cardboard headsets which use premium materials like plastic and take on more attractive looks, too. Be sure to explore the full gamut of Cardboard headsets available to you before pulling the trigger, but here are a few we recommend:
Best Google Cardboard Alternatives
Best Value: View-Master VR Starter Pack
Best For Galaxy Owners: Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR is a bit pricier than most options with an MSRP of $99, but it adds more premium features like an ocular dial to fine tune the headset’s clarity for your own eyes, as well as a built-in premium head strap, a side-mounted controller, audio output, and the ability to have Samsung’s Oculus Home VR app launch automatically upon inserting your phone. And yes, Oculus Home does mean Samsung has a partnership with one of the biggest players in VR right now, so the content flows quite regularly.
Be sure to check with your gift recipient, though, as this headset only supports the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, and Galaxy Note 5.
Best All Around: HTC Vive
The barrier of entry here — $799 — is quite obviously high thanks not only to its own price tag but due to the hardware you’ll need to pair it with. If you know your recipient is a hardcore gamer and has a modern PC that can handle VR, great! If not, you probably want to pass on this one unless you’re willing to spend hundreds more for the whole kit-and-kaboodle.
Another area of consideration is, well, their area — can they move enough furniture to create a boxful playground? They’ll need space (and lots of it) to get the most out of the HTC Vive. If you can tick all these boxes without worrying about breaking the bank, you’ll be the coolest gifter ever this Christmas.
Best Quality: Oculus Rift
Best for Console: PS VR for the PS4
The PS VR currently enjoys a basket of VR titles, including Job Simulator, Batman VR, and more. Sony uses their own unique light-tracking technology for motion tracking, and it works just as well as anything else you can buy right now.
At $399 for the headset package itself, it’s already pretty expensive even for those who have the console to match. And if they don’t, at least another $299 is required as it’s only compatible with PS4 consoles. Still, it’s less expensive than buying a top-tier gaming PC and one of the more advanced headsets, and at the end of the day it does VR pretty well.
Most Comfortable: Daydream View
Daydream is Google’s new VR platform that uses enhanced controls (like a dedicated remote controller) and powerful smartphone hardware to take you to another world. To ensure a consistent experience for all users, Google has minimum hardware requirements for phones which can be considered Daydream-compatible, and for now that list only includes the Pixel, Pixel XL, and (following its most recent update) the Moto Z, with more bound to follow. Check with your recipient to see if they have one of those!
Giveaway: View-Master Starter Pack
The View-Master is a classic shoutout to the old school model with enough nostalgia-inducing elements to take you back to your glory days of childhood, complete with View-Master Reel Cards to deliver premium VR experiences. The best part is that you can use it like any standard Google Cardboard headset, too, so there is no shortage of fun to be had.
All you need to do to enter is hit the button above and follow the directions listed. We’re selecting 3 winners out of a possible 500 to receive the View-Master Starter Pack, so cross your fingers and do your lucky dance.
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