VR has been the Next Big Thing for several years. And finally, it seems as if it might be getting there. At this moment, the very best VR headset is the Meta Quest 3. But that doesn't mean it's our absolute recommended choice right now.
Meta's newest VR headset, the Quest 3, has a lot going for it. There's a newer, faster Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 processor that has better graphics, a higher-res display, better lenses, redesigned controllers and it can do mixed reality, blending the virtual and real world with passthrough color cameras like Apple's upcoming Vision Pro headset (but for far less money).
But it's also $200 more expensive than the still-fine Quest 2 that's still available, and right now there aren't that many apps and games that are updated to make the most of the Quest 3's power. For that reason, the several-year-old self-contained Quest 2 still remains the most affordable and versatile VR headset you can buy. Right now, I'd recommend the Quest 3 for serious VR fans with the budget to spend, and the Quest 2 for anyone else.
Meta Quest 3
Best mixed reality VR headset for $500
CNET TAKE: Meta's upgraded VR sequel to the Quest 2 feels like a notable revamp, with improvements across the board: a slightly smaller design, better, clearer lenses, a higher-res display, smaller controllers with better haptics and higher-res color cameras that can mix the real world and the virtual together. This "mixed reality" is similar in spirit to what Apple's Vision Pro will do, but in a lower-res form for a lot less money.
The Quest 3 is likely to be the best VR headset in its price class for the next few years, but the software still hasn't caught up. For that reason, the Quest 2 is still probably good enough for most. Its excellent display quality and improved wireless connectivity could make it a good choice for PC VR gamers, though: It works as a connected PC headset just like other Quest models do.
Meta Quest 2
Best affordable VR headset
CNET TAKE: The Quest 2 is still the most affordable and versatile VR headset of the moment. It doesn't require a gaming console or PC (although you need to pair it with a phone to set it up).
Meta will support the Quest 2 with future software right now, but the Quest 3's more advanced processor will make it more future-proof. But for those who want an affordable option for families, the Quest 2 remains an excellent pick.
The Quest 2 reminds me of the Nintendo Switch for its versatility and fun, and it has a growing library of surprisingly effective fitness apps. The Quest 2 can also connect with a PC to run more advanced apps from Steam or Meta's own app library, using a single USB-C cable or wirelessly.
PlayStation VR 2
Best high-end console gaming VR headset
CNET TAKE: The PlayStation VR 2 is expensive ($550), and needs a PlayStation 5 to even work. It's tethered, not wireless. However, its HDR OLED display, graphics quality, built-in eye tracking and fantastic advanced controllers -- which have the same vibrations and adaptive force-feedback triggers as the PS5 DualSense controllers -- give this headset a premium feel that makes its best games perform at a different level. It could be a landing spot for top PC VR games, but right now it already has some exclusives like Gran Turismo 7, Resident Evil Village and Horizon: Call of the Mountain.
The PSVR 2 lacks any social metaverse-type software so far and feels more like a headset designed to just launch and play VR games. Many of the games for this headset are ports of titles you could get on devices like the Quest 2 instead. As more games roll out that are optimized for this hardware, however, the PSVR 2 could quickly stand out from the standalone VR pack. You might want to wait and see what happens, unless you're ready to jump in and trust Sony now.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Editor at Large Scott Stein and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.
©2023 CNET.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.