Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset
The Complete VR Guide for Beginners VR User: The best VR headset for you depends on your budget. The cheapest is the Oculus Quest 2. There are cheaper and older options, but honestly, the Quest 2 is such a great device for the price that you’ll probably regret going for anything else in the budget market.
It is a fully self-contained device. That means it’s got its own built-in battery pack, its own ‘computer’ inside it, AND it doesn’t need any external tracking devices. You can enjoy Quest 2 without ANYTHING else in the room with you, whatsoever. You don’t even need a computer to be able to play all sorts of games and experience them.
The battery generally lasts 2-3 hours. But you can buy battery packs if you’d like them to last longer. The built-in computer isn’t as fast as a desktop PC can be though, so if you have a powerful PC then you can link it up to the Quest 2, either using a cable or wirelessly via the Virtual Desktop program.
Either of these will allow you to run games with cutting-edge graphics like Half-Life Alyx. And even games supported on the Quest 2’s hardware will look better running from a proper PC. It’s just an excellent all-around budget device, with many features that more expensive VR headsets don’t support.
The Quest 2’s display is high-res and runs at a comfortable 90 Hz, too. And the VR controllers are good. To better line it up with your eyes for a clearer display, it supports a physical IPD adjustment with 3 different settings.
Due to the way the inside-out tracking works, you’ll want your room to be brightly lit and preferably with posters and other messes on the walls to help it to track your location. If you want to game in the dark then you’ll need infra-red lights, which this headset can also track.
The one big downside is that you require a Facebook account to use the Quest 2. And it has to be a proper account, not some throw-away with a fake name that you made just to be able to use your Quest 2 because that’s against the TOS and you could end up getting banned.
And if that happens, it will lock you out of using your headset, and you’ll lose all of the games on your account. As you can imagine, this has been a controversial topic. I’ve already mentioned a battery pack to improve how long you can use the Quest 2 wirelessly, but you might also want to invest in a replacement strap to substantially improve how comfortable this device is to use
Oculus produces their own ‘Elite Strap’, though there have been some reported issues with its build quality, so just know that there are other third-party replacements available that may be even better. And invest in some rechargeable AA batteries, since its 2 controllers use one each. The Quest 2 itself is charged using a USB-C port on the side of the device.
HP Reverb G2 VR Headset
Moving up the pricing tier, we get to the HP Reverb G2, which has been made in collaboration with Valve and Microsoft. In case you didn’t know, WMR headsets (Windows Mixed Reality Headsets) have traditionally been the cheapest and lowest-specced VR headsets that you can get.
But the HP Reverb G2 is like the ‘next generation of WMR, featuring improved tracking and higher specs; the audio and visuals are among the best you can get! It uses the same speakers as the Valve Index, which is widely regarded as the best audio for VR.
And visually, it uses high-quality lenses, and the display itself has brilliant color accuracy and is very high resolution. The controllers are still a bit sub-par compared with the Valve and Oculus offerings but are still an improvement when compared with the bulky first-gen WMR controllers.
They still require 2 AA batteries each, though. Like the Quest 2, it has inside-out tracking, which means that you won’t need base stations dotted about your room to use this product. But it means the tracking won’t be so good- it relies on cameras in the headset, and gyroscopes in the controllers to know where they are and where they’re pointing.
So, if you lower the controllers down to waist level and look up then they might become a bit jittery and inaccurate. While it’s still early days, tracking is apparently more of an issue with the G2 than with the Quest 2, despite both using the same tracking methods.
And you’ll need a dedicated PC to be able to use the G2 as there is no built-in computer. And it needs to be plugged in at all times. Using this over the Quest 2 will give you better audio and visuals, but the software might not be as polished, being a mixture of WMR and SteamVR.
SteamVR’s fine and is where I spend most of my time in VR. If you’re going to be using VR in a seated position, like for racing or flight simulations, then the G2 is a great choice, thanks to its high-quality, high-resolution visuals.
If you want the best tracking, the Valve Index is still a better choice. Which conveniently moves us onto the final, and most expensive headset: the Valve Index. The visuals aren’t quite as colorful or as high-res as the G2’s, but it’s more immersive thanks to the wider field of view, and the refresh rate of 144Hz is higher which will make motion feel more fluid.
The Index uses the same great audio as seen on the G2, and it comes with Knuckles controllers which feel more natural to use than the usual oculus-style ones. Unlike the Quest 2 and the G2, this one uses base stations for tracking.
These are a hassle to set up around your room, but once you’ve done it, you will get the most reliable tracking available for VR. So you’ll have to decide on whether you can be bothered with this aspect of the experience.
Others VR Guide
So those are the best headsets at each given price point. But there are other devices that may be better suited to you if you want something more specific.
If you care a lot about deep, dark blacks then you’ll want a VR headset that uses an OLED panel. The HTC Vive Pro is a good option for this- the display won’t be the sharpest, but the deep blacks will make for an immersive experience, and the device supports a wireless add-on if you want to go cables-free.
If you really want the highest field of view you can get then the Pimax Headsets are worth considering. The visuals on these will stretch into your peripheral vision more than with other devices, which does make the experience more immersive.
But just be warned that the rest of the device might not be up to the same high quality as seen in the other products in this video, so more so with these than with the others, be sure to look up reviews before you buy to ensure the headset comes with everything you want from it.
If you’re on a super-tight budget and simply can’t stretch to the Quest 2, then older WMR devices, as well as the Rift-S and original Quest are still options worth considering.
These have been discontinued now, but if you can get them cheaply enough then they’ll still allow you to get the full VR experience. Just know that you need a Facebook account for the Oculus products, and that out of the WMR devices, the Odyssey+ Windows Mixed Reality Headset is the best to get.
Hardware VR Guide
Once you’ve chosen the headset for you, you need to consider if your PC is fast enough to power it. The short and simple is the faster, the better. There is a general ‘baseline’ you should be aiming for and that’s a quad-core best CPU and a graphics card at least as powerful as the Radeon 480 / Geforce 1060.
VR Minimum spec:
- Quad-core CPU (Intel 7400, Ryzen 1500X)
- Dedicated GPU with 6 GB VRAM (Radeon 480 / Geforce 1060)
‘Baseline’ New VR Components:
(Though best bang-for-buck generally above these)
- Recent budget CPU (Intel i3 10100, Ryzen 3100)
- Dedicated GPU with 6 GB VRAM (5500XT 8 GB / Geforce 1660)
Modern ‘Recommended’ VR Setup:
- 6-core CPU (i5 10500, Ryzen 3600)
- Dedicated GPU with 6 GB VRAM (RX 5600XT / Geforce 2060)
But these are all components from several years ago. Now most modern parts you can buy in late 2021 will be far more powerful than those. And it’s smart to get something better than the minimum, since the faster and more consistent your system’s performance is, the better your VR experience will be.
Especially if you have a high refresh rate headset like the Valve Index or a high-resolution one like the Quest 2 or G2. These will generally require a bit more power to unlock their full potential. Though also remember the Quest 2 doesn’t need a PC if you’re happy with its built-in performance and supported applications.
It’s a little bit unfortunate that the budget PC component market has been stagnant for so long. It does mean you can buy a minimum-spec PC super cheap these days, especially on the second-hand market.
As far as new components go, any Intel 10000, or Ryzen 3000 series of processors will deliver a good experience. And for graphics cards, this is one of the worst times I’ve ever known to buy a budget GPU.
The newest generation of cards have just come out, but they’re only at the ultra-high-end and since they’re being sold out faster than can be restocked, they seem in no rush to launch cheaper cards for the budget market.
Below 200 dollars, your options are extremely limited, either not being particularly fast, or not having enough VRAM for VR. I would personally recommend buying second-hand for the best bang for your buck, but if you have to buy new then, to simplify: any Geforce 2000 series or newer will have plenty of power, as will a Radeon 5600 or above.
The 6000 series is just beginning to come out now, though only the 6800 is out at the moment and, as you’d expect given its price, is easily powerful enough to run VR. So that’s it for 2020! Have fun.