The Best Steam VR compatible Headsets

best steam vr headsets 2021

Which Headset to Buy?

I REALLY recommend getting the Oculus Quest 2 (now called Meta Quest 2) especially if you’re a beginner to VR.

It’s cheap and affordable to most people. It’s constantly getting improved with each update (which happens faster than any other headset), and it’s the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of features.

Don’t let the price fool you though – it’s not far off from the thousand dollar headsets!

Brief Summary of Each Headset:

Windows Mixed Reality: Very cheap, bad resolution, quite uncomfortable.

Oculus Quest 1: Very cheap, but we only recommend this if you’re on a super tight budget and can find a used one for sale. It’s basically the Quest 2, but much lower resolution, less powerful hardware specs, lower refresh rate and gets fewer updates.

Oculus (Meta) Quest 2: Cheap, high resolution and wireless. It’s quite uncomfortable unless you buy some comfort mods (highly recommended) and has passable audio. Meta Quest 2 review.

Oculus Rift S: Cheap, bad resolution, comfortable. Again, we only recommend this if you’re on a tight budget and can find a used one for sale.

HP Reverb G2: Mid-range, very high resolution, but has some minor but noticeable tracking issues. Headset also heats up easily unlike the others. This one’s primarily good if you plan on watching movies in VR for it’s incredible resolution, but an okay option for SteamVR.

Valve Index: Expensive, high resolution, great comfort, high field of view, and refresh rate. Also it’s microphone and audio quality is better than other headsets. Requires an ultra powerful computer to run (on high settings). Supports full body tracking for games like VRChat.

HTC Vive Pro 2: Very expensive, ultra high resolution and has wireless capabilities if you buy their adapter (costs around $500). It is a slight improvement to the Valve Index in visual fidelity, but has very poor audio and mic quality. Very comfortable headset. Also supports full body tracking for games like VRChat.

Pimax 8K X: Very expensive. Ultra high field of view and resolution. One of the most immersive VR headsets. Supports full body tracking for games like VRChat.

It depends on your budget

If you’re on an ultra tight budget: Try looking for a cheap Oculus 1, Oculus Rift or Windows Mixed Reality headset that’s on sale or in used condition. The Windows Mixed Reality ones have different names, but the ones you wanna look for are: HP Reverb, Lenovo Explorer and Samsung Odyssey+ (which is more expensive, but an upgrade from the others). These headsets a bit hard to find nowadays because they’re always sold out, but if you can find one, try and grab it.

However, most people should be able to afford the Quest 2:

My #1 recommendation: Oculus Quest 2. It’s compatible with SteamVR and you can play every Steam game on there, but you have to understand a few things:

Since the Quest 2 is a standalone headset (meaning you don’t need a PC to play it), in order to play Steam games, you’ll either need Air Link (which streams your desktop to your Quest and lets you play games wirelessly) OR you’ll need an Oculus Link cable which connects your headset into your PC – basically turning it into a PC VR headset like the other ones mentioned here.

Both options are really good, but with Air Link you’ll need a 5G router that’s within 10 meters of your play space (ideally 5m). For Oculus Link, you’ll need a cable that costs upwards from $20 up to $80.

Make sure you also buy at least 2 comfort mods for best experience, as the headset itself is quite uncomfortable (although some people don’t mind). I highly recommend the comfort mods, but you can just order the headset first and see how it feels (if you don’t mind waiting for the comfort mods). The comfort mods should cost you ~$30-$70.

And if you’re deciding between whether to get the 128 GB version or the 256 GB version, I explain which one is best for you here. In short: 128 GB should be more than enough for most people.

Best High-end option: Want wireless capabilities? Get the HTC Vive Pro 2. Otherwise go for the Pimax 8K X – it’s the most immersive headset all around.

If you don’t have at least an i7 processor and RTX 2070 graphics card, then I recommend you go with the Quest 2 instead.

Best VR Headsets for Steam

In-Depth Breakdown

SteamVR headset breakdown

Category Best Pick Rating
Recommended Oculus Quest 2 4.0
Best High End Pimax 8K X 5.0
Most Comfortable HTC Vive Pro 2 4.4

Best Overall: Oculus Quest 2

The most ‘bang for your buck’ headset and my first recommendation to beginners new to VR.

Visuals: Visuals are one of the most important things when it comes to VR, as it impacts your immersion more than other senses.

In terms of visual fidelity, the Quest 2 is one of the best headsets on the market.

It’s resolution is 3664 x 1920 (1832×1920 per eye) and there is almost no screen-door-effect (meaning you can’t see the individual pixels, which the older headsets suffer from).

The default refresh rate is 90 Hz and can go up to 120 Hz – this allows for smoothness of motion and can help reduce motion sickness.

The only downside to the Quest 2 is the field of view which is at 90 degrees (diagonally). This is where the thousand dollar headsets shine over the Quest 2 – they usually have much larger field of view (or FOV) with the Valve Index at 130° diagonally and the HTC Vive Pro even bigger at 120° horizontally.

Field of view can have a great impact on your immersion levels, but is it worth the extra cost? That’s up to you to decide. Me personally – I still use the Quest 2 on a daily basis, so for such a cheap price, it’s what I recommend at a starting point for beginners.

Comfort: Comfort is the second most important thing when it comes to choosing a VR headset.

You want the headset to be comfortable enough to where you can use the headset for at least an hour straight (some might want 3+ hours)

Unfortunately for a such a great headset, it has some horrible comfort issues.

For me, I couldn’t use the headset for more than 15 minutes without taking it off. It was that uncomfortable.

Now, comfort is subjective and I know some people who can wear this headset for hours straight.

With that said, I still highly recommend you buy at least two comfort mods if you’re going to get the Quest 2. I recommend the Elite Strap (or Halo strap) combined with the VRCover replacement facial interface. For $50-$100, it can make your VR experience so much better.

I went from being able to wear the headset for 15 minutes to wearing it the whole day. The difference is night and day.

Tracking: How accurately a headset tracks your hand movements is crucial to a VR headset. Luckily today, all the headsets on this list can track your hand movements down to the millimetre. So you don’t have to worry about things going wrong.

The headset itself has 4 cameras installed on it – these pick up infrared lights which are emitted from your controller to see where they are. This type of tracking is called inside-out tracking and doesn’t require you to install any sensors on your walls. You just put on the headset and play!

There’s nothing else to say about the tracking other than it works just as intended and you won’t have any issues! If you care about the absolute most accurate tracking down to the millimetre, then Lighthouse tracking is a bit more accurate (Valve Index, HTC Vive Pro and Pimax headsets use this). However, this requires sensors to be set up on your wall and is extra effort + cost.

Wireless: Unlike most other headsets, the Quest 2 is a standalone headset that doesn’t require connecting to a PC to play. HOWEVER, if you want to play SteamVR games, then you’ll still need a VR-capable PC, but it can still be played wirelessly.

Without a PC, you’ll only be able to play games on the Oculus Quest store. If a game is not listed there, it means you can’t play it without a PC.

As stated before:

In order to play Steam games on the Oculus Quest, you’ll either need Air Link (which lets you stream your PC to your Quest and play games wirelessly) OR you’ll need an Oculus Link cable which connects your headset into your PC and allows you to play PC VR games.

Both options are really good, but with Air Link you’ll need good internet speeds and a 5G router that’s within 5 meters of your play space.

Wireless is highly important for immersion and can prevent accidents involving wires. Imagine swinging around your arms (playing Beat Saber) whilst a cable is dangling from your headset. Easy to go wrong right? Not only that, but you’ll end up being cautious and it can ruin your immersion abit. That’s where the Quest 2 shines – even over the thousand dollar headsets. It has wireless and it’s one of the reasons why I still use this headset daily.

The battery life for the headset is about 2 hours, which can be increased with a battery pack. You can also charge the headset whilst playing, or if you’re plugging it into your computer to play Steam games, you won’t run out of battery life.

Controller battery life is insanely long – they last for months (compared to the old Quest which lasts for a week).

Overall Impression: I love the Oculus Quest 2 and use it on a daily basis. It’s incredible that such a cheap headset can be nearly on par with the thousand dollar headsets AND be standalone/wireless.

Best High End Option: Pimax 8K X

You wanna talk about a headset with crazy specs? This is it.

It’s mostly for the hardcore VR enthusiasts, but I know there are people out there who can’t settle for anything but the best. Well here you go – this is the best headset money can buy and will immerse you like no other.

Visuals: 7680×2160 resolution (basically two 4K displays) and 200 degree FOV. This is basically the same field of view as the human vision!

Although the resolution seems extremely high, it feels on par with the other high-end thousand dollar headsets, because the pixels need to be more spread apart to have a wider field of view, but that’s still really good!

The field of view is insane and I can’t express how much more immersive it is.

After trying the Pimax 8K X, it’s very hard to go back to any other headset, because it feels like you’re looking into a small box with the smaller FOV.

The default refresh rate is 75 Hz, but can go up to 90 Hz. There’s also an option to go up to 114 Hz if you lower the resolution which can be useful in games like Beat Saber where resolution isn’t important but refresh rate is.

The one downside to the visuals is – whilst the centre of the image is really clear, the image is distorted on the peripherals. Human vision is like that too, so it wasn’t a big deal for me. I’d rather have a distorted scene than black bars on the sides… but it is something to note if you’re considering this headset.

Comfort: This is one of the biggest and heaviest headsets out there – so you’d expect it to be uncomfortable, but it’s actually not! The weight is distributed very evenly by the strap and the facial interface foam feels very good on your face. Overall, I’d say the comfort is much much better than the Quest 2 without comfort mods, but slightly worse with the mods. I can still wear this for hours with no problem.

My only qualm with this headset is the size of the headset is so big – that I sometimes hit my controllers on it, but it’s not hard to get used to.

Tracking: This headset uses Steam Lighthouse tracking which is the absolute best on the market. Keep in mind, you’ll have to buy the base station and controllers separately and the base stations are needed to be set up on your walls.

Wires: This headset has no wireless option and requires more cables than other headsets: It needs 2 USB ports and 1 display port on your computer. So keep that in mind.

Also consider getting a pulley cable management system for this headset.

Overall impression: It’s costly, but this is the most immersive headset on the market and it’s hard to go back to other headsets after using this. The only reason why I use my Quest 2 daily is because it has wireless, but whenever I want the most immersive experience possible (like playing Half-Life: Alyx), I immediately switch to this headset.

Most Comfortable: HTC Vive Pro 2

Is comfort your thing? How about a high end headset that supports wireless? Well, then the HTC Vive Pro 2 is your best friend.

Visuals: This headset gets the silver medal for visual fidelity – it only falls short of the Pimax 8K X, but still boasts superior resolution and FOV compared to other headsets.

It’s resolution is 4896 x 2448 and the field of view is 120 degrees horizontally.

The resolution is very impressive – the pixel density may be the best on the market. The field of view is great as well, but keep in mind that it does feel like looking through a letter box, since other headsets have a greater vertical to horizontal field of view ratio. I personally didn’t mind it and would prefer this over the Quest 2 and Valve Index (but not over the Pimax).

The refresh rate is up to 120 Hz – higher than the Pimax, but on par with the Quest 2 and Valve Index.

Comfort: The original HTC Vive Pro was known for it’s good comfort and the design for this headset is nearly identical.

The weight is distributed evenly and it has a cushion for the back of the head as well as the front. It’s overall the most comfortable headset I’ve worn – moreso than the Quest 2 even with comfort mods.

If comfort is your thing and you want to spend long hours in VR, this is the headset for you.

Tracking: Same as the Valve Index and Pimax headsets, it uses Lighthouse tracking (which I talked about above in the Pimax section).

Wireless: The default headset is NOT wireless, but you can buy the wireless adapter (costs around $500) to make this headset wireless. This is the only high end headset that’s capable of wireless, so it may attract some of you.

Overall Impression: The most comfortable headset and I wish other manufacturers can learn a thing or two from HTC. Overall, I still prefer the Pimax, but the HTC Vive Pro 2 comes very close and having the option to play wireless on a high end headset might be interesting to some of you.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What about other headsets?

Most headsets are outdated. You might’ve read a guide that recommended the Oculus Rift S for instance – that guide was probably written 3-4 years ago. A bunch of new headsets have come out since then, and are much better.

What about the Valve Index?

The Valve Index was the best headset for it’s time, but other headsets have come out that are overall better. Still, the Valve Index has the highest refresh rate (144 Hz) and has the best audio/mic quality out of all the headsets, but I don’t think that alone is worth it over the Pimax or HTC Vive Pro 2.

What computer do I need to run VR?

Each VR headset is different and will require different specs. You can also lower the refresh rate on some headsets to accommodate for some PCs. Check out our guide to building a computer for VR to learn about the specs needed to run VR.

Is it worth spending the extra money on the High End Headsets as opposed to the Quest 2?

It depends. You’re essentially paying extra for:

  • Better comfort
  • Better immersion due to better audio, higher FOV and refresh rate
  • Slightly better tracking (for competitive multiplayer games)
  • Cooler controllers
  • But lack of wireless

So you decide if that’s worth paying the extra cost for.

How big of a difference does Field of View (FOV) make?

A lot. A higher field of view gives better immersion. The 30° field of view difference between the Valve Index and the Quest is very significant, but is by no means a deal breaker.

Summary

For most people, the best headset for playing Steam VR games is the Oculus Quest 2. If you want the absolute best money can buy, it’s the Pimax 8K X.