If you¨re a PC gamer, you¨ve probably observed the growing popularity of virtual reality, or VR, over the last few years. Far from a gimmicky fad, VR headset technology is rapidly evolving. Paired with a powerful computer, a VR headset can offer unmatched gaming experiences with astonishing visuals and lifelike sound.
VR sets for PCs usually consist of a headset and a pair of controllers. VR headsets track the user¨s eye movement using auto-focusing lenses to immerse them in a vivid 3D environment. The user¨s movement is tracked using either internal tracking in the headset or cameras or stations mounted around the playing area that can pick up sensors in the headset and controllers.
While some VR headsets are wireless and operate using a smartphone, VR headsets that run on gaming PCs are tethered to the computer. Systems keep users within the safety of their gaming area by displaying warnings or visible boundaries when the player approaches the edge. If the headset tether cable is too distracting or limiting to movement, it can be attached to the ceiling using a pulley system.
Some VR games and experiences are specific to certain headset brands, but most are available across all platforms. When shopping for games, be sure it is compatible with your headset since controller functionality can vary.
Wipe the headset’s soft padding clean after each use. Wipe down controllers occasionally to disinfect them, especially if you are playing with a group of people. Choose a place to store your VR headset and controllers safely, like with this mounting station or this sleek charging platform. Keep the screen and lenses clean and clear with a lens cleaning pen.
HTC Vive Cosmos Elite: available at Amazon
Our take: With impressive graphics, a clear LCD screen and responsive motion controllers, this VR system offers a comprehensive whole-room experience.
What we like: Play in up to 160 square feet thanks to external motion-tracking stations. Immersive 3D worlds are made possible with on-ear integrated headphones and 2880 by 1700 combined resolution. A wide variety of games and experiences are available from Steam and HTC’s VIVEPORT service.
What we dislike: It’s expensive and frequently requires a cord management system.
Oculus Quest 2 All-in-One Headset: available at Amazon
Our take: With its cable-free setup, powerful mobile processor and sharp graphics, the Quest 2 is one of the best affordable VR headsets available.
What we like: The headset and controllers are comfortable and setup is easy. While it doesn’t require a PC to run, connecting it to your computer lets you access a much larger library of games.
What we dislike: Its battery doesn’t last very long and it doesn’t offer as much processing power as a tethered headset utilizing a computer. Users must have a Facebook account and a phone with the Oculus app to use this headset.
HP Reverb G2 Virtual Reality Headset: available at HP
Our take: Developed in collaboration with gaming heavyweights Microsoft and Valve, this headset offers robust features at a lower cost than other comparable models.
What we like: The audio delivered by its near-field speakers is more realistic than what you get from headphones. The headset is light and comfortable.
What we dislike: It lacks external tracking, making the controller movement less precise than other models. Its field-of-view is more limited than other models. The Windows Mixed Reality app, its required interface software, has bugs and competes for resources with game software.
A good gaming computer and a VR headset are not the only things you need for a complete virtual reality experience. These add-ons can make your game session safer for both your and your belongings, so your game can be even more comfortable and immersive.
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KIWI VR Cable Management System: available at Amazon
Our take: Avoid tripping over cables by mounting your headset cables to the ceiling with this kit.
What we like: These smooth, quiet, retractable pulleys keep your headset cable out of the way of gameplay to reduce distractions and risk of injury.
What we dislike: Adhering these to your ceiling or walls might do some damage or strip paint when it’s time to remove them. If you’re worried about your paint, test the stick-on hooks in an inconspicuous area first.
Eyglo VR Face Silicone Cover for Oculus Quest 2: available at Amazon
Our take: For particularly active gaming sessions or just fastidious users, this soft silicone interchangeable face plate keeps your headset hygienic.
What we like: The flexible silicone holds the headset in place well and is easy to clean.
What we dislike: The fit is specific to the Oculus Quest 2, and the silicone is less breathable than the standard foam cover.
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VR Ninjas Virtual Reality Mat: available at Amazon
Our take: Avoid getting turned around during gameplay with a floor mat with positioning guides.
What we like: This round mat is made from foam for anti-fatigue comfort. It’s patterned to help you stay facing the right direction to prevent injury or damaged belongings.
What we dislike: Some users found their feet slipped on the mat, and the mat itself was too slippery even on carpeted floors. Some reported it leaving behind a slick residue on the floor, as well.
In first-person shooter game Superhot, time moves so you can evaluate your surroundings before taking on your enemies with whatever objects are on hand.
Popular RPG Skyrim in VR gives you a first-person perspective of beautiful (if not quite perfect) environments and pulse-pounding dragon battles.
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Rhythm game Beat Saber arms you with glowing swords that let you slash your way through songs, including an ever-growing library of user-created levels.
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Half-Life: Alyx delivers all the puzzles and scares that distinguish the Half-Life series in a gorgeously detailed VR game that takes place between Half-Life and Half-Life 2.
Laura Duerr is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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