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
google-cardboard-io Mattel View-Master VR 1 HTC-Re-Vive-watermark samsung gear vr for s6 google-daydream-view-vr-headset-dsc01500
Price: $10
Buy it
Price: $14
Buy It
HTC Vive
Price: $799
Buy it
Samsung Gear VR
Price: $59
Buy it
Daydream View
Price: $79
Buy it

Most Affordable: Google Cardboard


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Google Cardboard is a funny story — it’s actually a piece of cardboard. We didn’t even believe that it was real when Google first announced it as a giveaway item at Google I/O! But what you get when you assemble that sheet of cardboard is a VR headset that you can slip any old smartphone into.

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

Mattel View-Master VR hero

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Remember the View-Master? It was one of the early affordable experiences that could take you to another world. The contemporary version of the View-Master, though, is an actual VR headset! It looks just like a View-Master, and even takes on the original’s card-based reel system to take you on virtual trips or view interesting material in 360 degrees. The best part is that it doubles as a Cardboard headset, so you can view other VR content — like 360-degree YouTube videos or VR games — all the same. A great value for $14.

Best For Galaxy Owners: Samsung Gear VR

Samsung Gear VR video games DSC08527

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While our previously discussed option wholly applies to owners of Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners, there’s a special option available for those who own Samsung’s best phones.

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

htc re vive

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Graduating to full-on VR? The HTC Vive is what you want. This PC-focused VR system offers the most advanced consumer-ready experience out there. (Even businesses use it for very important work.) HTC’s use of motion sensors, spatial awareness, and advanced head tracking software makes for highly immersive games and multimedia content.

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.

Runner-Up: Oculus Rift

oculus touch

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Oculus was one of the original players behind this new surge for consumer VR, and they rightfully have a lot of clout of their own. HTC came and stole a ton of their thunder out of nowhere, but that doesn’t mean the $599 Oculus Rift isn’t worth considering. It’s every bit as good as the HTC Vive (with a smaller price tag as a nice bonus), and with a heavy Microsoft partnership underway it’s probably worth going with Oculus if you’re all in on Xbox and Windows 10.

Best for Console: PS VR for the PS4


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This category is a bit weird because there really aren’t any other consoles on the market which can offer a VR experience right now. That leaves PS VR as the only mid-tier VR experience if your loved one can’t shell out for the more premium options mentioned above.

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


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Not all VR headsets are made for all variations of the human head, but there’s one headset which seems to have cracked the code to fit the most people. That’s the Daydream View by Google. Thanks to its flexible, breathable fabric and a very soft head strap which doesn’t pull on your hair, the Daydream View can probably be worn all day without a fuss (although we wouldn’t recommend that). It also looks really nice, and comes with a price tag of just $79, so score!

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!