Despite all-in-one VR headsets leading the market in sales, tethered PC VR headsets are pushing the technology forward. By moving the processing from a small head-mounted display to a powerful PC or gaming console, and using base stations for flawless outside-in tracking, breathtaking visuals and unforgettable VR experiences can be achieved.
But the question remains, which PC VR headset is the best to buy in 2023? So we thought to highlight the best of them into categories you can jump to.
So let’s get to it.
|Direct SteamVR access||The headset was launched in 2019|
|Quality tracking base stations||Needs Base Stations|
|Good-sounding over-the-ear speakers||Fresnel lenses|
|Immersive field of view|
|Good weight distribution and comfort|
|Great controllers with finger tracking|
|Possibility for 144Hz refresh rate|
Valve Index achieves a premium VR gaming experience from state-of-the-art specs, an immersive 130 degrees field of view, and an ultrasmooth 120-144Hz refresh rate. The latter is ideal for shooters and fast-paced action.
The Valve Index is chock full of impressive hardware, making its price tag lofty. So while it is the best overall PC VR headset, it is a premium one.
However, alleviating the cost is the Index’s direct pairing with the best VR games platform: SteamVR.
Further, while the Valve Index is on the heavier end, the VR headset’s quality materials, exceptional weight balance, and strap design make the headset comfortable even after long VR gaming sessions.
Lastly, in 2023, many SteamVR games have taken advantage of the Index controllers’ unique finger tracking. This means you can signal a thumbs-up in Pavlov or interact more immersively with the world in Half-Life: Alyx. Honestly, the only reason to hold off on the Valve Index is if you are patient enough for the Valve Index 2.
|Resolution||1440 x 1600 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||110 degrees|
|Price for kit||€1.079|
|5K display||More expensive than Valve Index|
|High pixels per degree per eye||Heavy|
|Widest IPD range|
The close runner-up to be the best PC VR headset is the HTC Vive Pro 2. This HMD features similar specs as the Valve Index, such as a crisp display experience and action-appropriate 120Hz refresh rate in a captivating 120 degrees FoV.
The reason why the Valve Index inched ahead of the HTC Vive Pro 2 is because of its 300 euros higher price tag.
When that is said, HTC Vive Pro 2’s visual performance is twice the quality of the Valve Index, making VR games feel more immersive on the HTC Vive Pro 2.
Lastly, the Vive Pro 2 also means you get access to the Viveport ecosystem and the lucrative content subscription: Viveport Infinity. A neat monthly membership that gives you access to VR games, entertainment, and other content.
So if you have the extra cash, we recommend HTC Vive Pro 2.
|Resolution||2448 x 2448 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||120 degrees|
|Price for kit||€1.395|
|An ultra-high resolution||Expensive|
|Reliable eye tracking||Narrower FoV than Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2|
|No need for Varjo Subscription||Requires powerful gaming PC|
|Can be used with a gaming laptop|
Speaking of money, if it is absolutely no issue and you want the best PC VR headset prosumers can buy, Varjo Aero is for you. Varjo is the virtuoso in virtual reality hardware, and their VR headsets show it. Hands down, Varjo Aero has the best visual immersion with 25 PPD per eye, reliable 200Hz eye tracking for dynamic foveated rendering, and dual MiniLED LCDs.
With such an impressive spec sheet, a steep cost follows with €1.990. However, with the Aero, you don’t require the Varjo monthly subscription. So despite the narrower field of view compared to Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2, its eyesight-level resolution more than makes up for it.
|Display||Dual MiniLED LCD|
|Resolution||2880 x 2720 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||115 degrees|
|Price for kit||€1.990|
|Optimized for the PlayStation 5||Locked into the PlayStation ecosystem|
|Dynamic haptics in the headset||No mods|
|Excellent Sense controllers||Fresnel lenses|
|Eye tracking for dynamic foveated rendering||Less FoV than Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2|
|PlayStation-exclusive VR games|
|Inside out tracking|
|Dual OLED displays with HDR|
PlayStation VR2 or PSVR2 was extremely close to being crowned ‘the best tethered VR headset’. While it is still unreleased, PSVR2 is set to deliver a quality VR gaming experience while removing the worry about specs and an expensive gaming PC. All you need is a PlayStation 5. PS VR2 comes out on 22 February 2023.
In most cases, when asked what VR gaming headset to recommend, I ask if they own a PlayStation 5.
The reasons are simple, Sony Entertainment Studios’ dedication to VR gaming means access to exclusive VR games you won’t see on PC VR platforms like Viveport, Oculus Home, or SteamVR.
Secondly, the built-in Tobii eye tracking means dynamic foveated rendering will push the technology to popularity, making more VR games adopt it.
And finally, Sony’s experience and patents in dynamic haptics will be transferred to the Playstation VR2 Sense Controllers and the headset itself. Having tried it, it is mindblowing, as you can feel different textures in your hands or a strong breeze over your head. It is truly something to behold.
|Display||Dual OLED with HDR|
|Resolution||2000 x 2040 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||110 degrees diagonal|
|Optimized for the PlayStation 4||Dated hardware|
|Better clarity from Aspherical lenses||Limited visual experience|
|OLED display engine||Requires PlayStation Camera base station|
|120Hz refresh rate||Mediocre controller|
If you are eager or don’t own a PlayStation 5, then PlayStation VR (PSVR) is a commendable alternative in console VR gaming. That’s if you can find one from a reseller.
PlayStation VR set the bar for console VR and became one of the VR headsets to propel the novel technology into the homes of everyday people. Even today, the console VR headset is a commendable entry into VR gaming due to the many VR games optimized for the headset’s hardware.
Speaking of hardware, while most of its specs are dated, PlayStation VR was forward-thinking in using the aspherical lens rather than fresnel optics, producing a clearer visual experience with fewer artifacts like the screen door effect. Further, the 120Hz refresh rate is a big plus in providing a better immersive experience in VR shooters.
|Resolution||960 x 1080 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||96 degrees|
|Price||Discontinued, find a reseller|
|A great resolution for the price||Not OLED or MicroLED displays|
|Windows Mixed Reality and SteamVR access||Mediocre FoV|
|No base stations needed|
The best PC VR headset that doesn’t require base stations for tracking is the HP Reverb G2 V2 due to its value and availability. Namely, the 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye is an outstanding deal for only €577, including controllers.
HP took the feedback received from its predecessor to heart and crafted a compelling PC VR headset ideal for newcomers to PC VR gaming. Noticeably, Reverb G2’s double-canted fresnel lenses from Valve produce much better visual clarity for the 4K display to perform in its full glory.
Lastly, the inside-out tracking is upgraded to four optical tracking cameras, which is plenty to deliver a solid 6DoF experience. In short, for its low asking price, the HP Reverb G2 is an excellent entry into PC VR gaming through SteamVR.
|Resolution||2160 x 2160 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||114 degrees|
|Price for kit||€577|
|Fully encompassing 150 to 170 degrees FoV!||Requires powerful PC|
|The highest resolution in consumer VR||90Hz refresh rate|
|No visual artifacts||Big, heavy, and clunky|
|25,6 PPD per eye||Expensive|
|Unique customized low persistence liquid (CLPL) dual displays||Flimsy build quality|
|Great IPD range|
If you want the best visual experience, bar none, the Pimax Vision 8K X is your PC VR headset. This headset with 3840×2160 pixels per eye is the closest VR experience resembling looking out your window.
But it doesn’t stop there. The 159 degrees FoV means you are fully encompassed by your VR games. Fun fact, the natural FoV for the human eye is 135 degrees, making the Vision 8K X fully encompassing. Yet, with the superior resolution comes the downside of enlivening this many pixels. The refresh rate of 90Hz in VR gaming should be higher, especially related to the high asking price. Interestingly, this could have been alleviated with eye tracking, as dynamic foveated rendering would work wonders for this headset, but that is hindsight and it might not be possible with Pimax’s own customized low-persistence liquid display.
Nevertheless, once you enter the HMD, past the heavy and bulky exterior, the VR gaming experiences are elevated to new heights with the Pimax Vision 8K X.
|Display||Dual Customized low persistence liquid(CLPL)|
|Resolution||3840 x2160 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||160 degrees|
|Breakneck 180Hz refresh rate!||FoV is low when the high refresh rate is activated|
|Unique customized low persistence liquid (CLPL) display||Expensive|
|Fully encompassing 150 to 200 degrees FoV!||Fresnel|
|Great display quality||Big, heavy, and clunky|
|Customizability with PiTool Software|
Pimax is known for its obscene resolution, and Pimax Vision 5K Super certainly fits the bill. But what stands out for this PC VR headset is its breakneck refresh rate of 180Hz, making the response time in action VR games run like butter in up to 200 degrees FoV!
What enables this ultra-high refresh rate is the Pimax-designed display technology: customized low-persistence liquid (CLPL).
Sadly, the Pimax Vision 5K Super PC VR headset falls short when high resolutions are enabled as the field of view plummets. Further, the use of standard fresnel lenses is dated as the industry has moved towards improved pancake optics.
Nevertheless, if your wallet is rich with cash and not willing to invest in the 8K PC VR headset, the Pimax Vision 5K Super is excellent to take your VR gaming up a notch.
|Display||Dual Customized low persistence liquid(CLPL)|
|Resolution||2560 x 1440 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||150 degrees|
|Less expensive than Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2||90Hz refresh rate|
|Viveport and SteamVR||FoV could be wider|
|Dual AMOLED displays with PenTile Diamond subpixel layout|
|Good weight and comfort|
A great and more affordable alternative to the HTC Vive Pro 2 is its predecessor HTC Vive Pro. Yes, it has a lower refresh rate and visual quality, but the dual AMOLED displays make up for it.
|Resolution||2880 x 1600 pixels per eye|
|Field of View||110 degrees|
|Price for kit||€1.125|
Jakob Pii is the Head Writer for VR Expert and currently lives in the UK. He started his career in VR gaming in 2015 and has stayed in XR since, from exposure therapy in VR to 360-degree video documentaries. He is fascinated by how emerging technologies change how we live, play and work.