The best VR headsets

Your head movements are tracked in a three-dimensional world

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

The HTC Vive, is the Steam VR headset made in collaboration with Valve, the makers of legendary gaming series Half Life.
The HTC Vive plugs into PCs and work with Valve's mammoth gaming ecosystem. It packs in 70 sensors to offer 360 degree head-tracking as well as a 90Hz refresh rate; the stat that's key to keeping down latency, which is the technical term for the effect that causes motion sickness.

However, the key to the HTC Vive's success is the Lighthouse room tracking that enables you to move around with the headset on. It means mounting some sensors in your home, but the effect is next level.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is the headset that started the current hysteria. Developed by Palmer Luckey, funded via Kickstarter and snapped up by Facebook for a cool $2 billion, the Rift plugs into your computer's DVI and USB ports and tracks your head movements to provide 3D imagery on its stereo screens.

The consumer edition Rift uses a 2160 x 1200 resolution, working at 233 million pixels per second, with a 90Hz refresh rate. It's high tech stuff, which matches the HTC Vive for refresh rate, but lags behind PlayStation VR. However, given its access to the power of latest PCs, it will be pushing a lot more pixels than Sony's headset.

Sony PlayStation VR

Sony PlayStation VR

At last we have a launch date for the PlayStation VR headset: October 2016. The original prototype has a 5.7-inch OLED one which enables low persistence, which should mean less motion blur. The display's refresh rate has also been ramped up to 120Hz, making 120fps gaming a real possibility.

The reported latency issues of Morpheus Mk1 have been addressed, with a new 18ms reading, and tracking accuracy has been tweaked with a total of nine LEDs now aiding the positional awareness of the headset. With its low price, PlayStation VR has the chances to go big – even if by its own admission, the tech isn't up to the standards of its competitors.

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung Gear VR

The Gear VR is simply a case that uses a Samsung Galaxy smartphone as its processor and display. The handset simply slots in front of the lenses, into a Micro USB dock, and uses its Super AMOLED display as your screen. Slot in the phone, stick on the headset and you're into your virtual reality experience. The only catch is that you must use a Samsung handset.

We're not going to lie, the visuals are a little grainy. Like you're looking at your phone with a magnifying glass – which essentially you are. But there are huge benefits. It's already added a host of games plus a whole marketplace of VR video content called Milk VR, and in terms of content is one of the best platforms out there.

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard

Not to be outdone, Google announced its Cardboard virtual reality headset at I/O 2014 and unveiled version 2 at the 2015 conference. Popping a smartphone into a cardboard container and then strapping it to your head may sound like a joke, but it actually works and it could become a low-cost way to experience virtual reality.

After all, your smartphone contains all the necessary gyroscopic sensors and positioning systems to accurately track your head movements. Related is Durovis' Dive, which is essentially the same thing made of higher quality and more sweat-resistant materials.

Razer OSVR

Razer OSVR

Razer's OSVR isn't a rival to the likes of Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR. Instead, it's intended to make life easier for developers to make applications for VR hardware, without technical (software and hardware) limitations getting in their way.

Open source is the big buzzword, breaking down the limitations that hinder development even on Oculus Rift. We have already seen plenty of third parties getting involved to help develop new features, including gesture tracking with a Leap Motion faceplate. Previously on sale to developers, the general public can now order the dev kit direct through Razer, although the company is keen to stress that it's still not a consumer product and, as such, only has a 30 day warranty.

FOVE VR

FOVE VR

FOVE VR differs from the likes of Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR because it offers interactive eye-tracking. Inside the headset is an infrared sensor that monitors the wearer's eyes; offering both a new control method and an edge on its competitors when it comes to realism.

With FOVE, simulated depth-of-field is possible, due to the system knowing exactly what you're looking at, and as a result, the virtual should appear more real. It's also the ultimate VR lovechild, thanks to investment from Samsung Ventures, Fove claims it will use HTC's Lighthouse tech for full on room tracking. It's not the only deal that Fove and signed: it also makes use of the Wear VR software platform and is compatible with Unity, Unreal, and Cryengine game engines.

Zeiss VR One

Zeiss VR One

Like the Samsung Gear VR, the hardware power for this Zeiss branded headset comes from your smartphone. Unlike Sammy's effort, however, you're not tied to just one mobile with the Zeiss VR One; it will play ball with any iOS or Android handset between 4.7 and 5.2 inches.

It packs a media player for the likes of pictures and YouTube videos and an AR app for augmented experiences, while the open source Unity3D SDK (iOS and Android) means there's plenty of scope for development. What's more, with lens maker Zeiss doing the optics, VR One definitely has promise.

Avegant Glyph

Avegant Glyph

The majority of these headsets are large and heavy, but Avegant's Glyph is both sleeker and smaller than the pack. Its svelte size is due to its display technology: rather than using conventional smartphone-like screens to present imagery, it uses an array of micro mirrors to reflect an image directly into your retina.

The Glyph can be worn like a pair of headphones until you pull the screen down over your eyes, where you can enjoy 1280 x 720 for each eyeball. And while it's limited to a 45 degree field of view, the micro mirror array is said to reduce motion sickness and eye fatigue.

Freefly VR headset

Freefly VR headset

Freefly's VR headset looks dorkier than most, thanks to those 'wings', but who cares? It's now compatible with the 200+ Google Cardboard apps, plus it rocks 42mm lenses and a 120-degree field of view while faux leather helps to keep things comfortable. It fits any smartphone with a screen between 4.7in and 6.1in, which is admittedly less than an Archos headset but still covers most flagships in 2016.

As well as featuring head-tracking via your phone's accelerometer, one point of difference over the cheapest options is that Freefly comes with an odd little controller, named Glide, that you hold in one hand. It saves you the cost of buying a Bluetooth peripheral, though we've got to say we prefer a two-handed controller for gaming.