So, you are a Steam user and would possibly like to dive into the VR world. However, you are unsure which VR headsets actually work with SteamVR and which one you should choose. Do not worry, help is on the way!
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Quick Tips For Best Steam Compatible VR Headsets
Top Pick – Oculus Rift S (Amazon)
An affordable high-quality VR headset that offers excellent value for a Steam gamer looking for their first dive into the VR world.
Best High-End VR Experience – Valve Index (Valve)
Spectacular visuals and innovative finger tracking controllers make this the go-to headset if money is not a problem and you simply want the best VR experience that money can buy.
Excellent Alternative to Consider – Oculus Quest (Amazon)
Oculus Quest by its nature is a standalone VR headset – it does not need a PC or a console to function. However, with the November 2019 software update, it is additionally possible to use the Quest as a PC-tethered headset (and therefore also play Steam games). The Quest was already excellent on its own and now it got even better!
PS! Be sure to also check out the Oculus Quest 2 (link to Amazon) which is the successor to the original Quest and also supports Oculus Link technology.
[Updated: December 2019] When deciding on which VR headset to buy, most of the time it is a good idea to look at actual data of what others are doing. According to Steam’s Hardware & Software Survey conducted in November 2019, the most popular VR headsets used by Steam gamers are the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift S, Valve Index and variations of Windows Mixed Reality.
Although Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been the most popular headsets among Steam users for quite some time now (both released in 2016), the truth is that they are slowly becoming outdated. It`s just the way it is with technology – what was once excellent, will be replaced by new and improved products.
For that reason, I personally would not buy either of them, unless I could find a bargain deal. Instead, I would make the choice between the Oculus Rift S and the Valve Index. However, I did include all the other most popular VR headsets that Steam gamers use in this article, so that you could make your own decision.
|Price||Resolution||Field Of View||Screen Refresh Rate|
|Current Top Pick:|
Oculus Rift S
|Check Price (Amazon)|
Check Price (Oculus)
|1,280 × 1,440 (per eye)||–||80Hz|
|Best High-End Pick:|
|Check Price (Steam)||1440 x 1600 (per eye)||~130°||120Hz (max 144Hz)|
|Alternative To Consider:|
|Check Price (Amazon)|
Check Price (Oculus)
|1440 x 1600 (per eye)||–||72Hz |
|HTC Vive||Check Price (Amazon)||1,080 x 1,200 (one eye)||110°||90Hz|
|Oculus Rift||Check Price (Amazon)||1,080 x 1,200 (per eye)||110°||90Hz|
|Samsung HMD Odyssey+||Check Price (Amazon)||1,440 x 1,600 (per eye)||110°||90Hz|
Oculus Rift S – Top Overall Pick for a Steam Compatible VR Headset
Released on the 21st of May 2019, Oculus Rift S is the successor of the original Rift headset. Although many argue that it is not a true successor with significant upgrades, I believe it is currently the go-to choice for a Steam VR compatible headset that offers most value for your money.
A significant improvement over the previous model is inside out tracking – cameras built into the headset which track your position and movement. It works great, is very easy and fast to set up and removes a set of wires previously required for external tracking.
The headset also offers an improved resolution at 1280×1440 (per eye) and you can definitely feel the image being crisper and the overall experience more immersive than compared to the original Rift.
I personally also did not notice the difference in lowered screen refresh rate (from 90 to 80 Hz). Yes, in theory, a reduced screen refresh makes the overall experience “less smooth” and in the VR world might also cause dizziness. However, in reality, I could not feel the difference (maybe just a hint of it, if I specifically looked for it)
Many of the Original Rift users have also complained about the changes made in the audio department. Instead of the over-ear integrated earphones, the Rift S now comes with integrated speakers that provide spatial audio while letting you hear sounds from your surroundings. In all honesty, although the speakers lack bass, the sound is actually quite good. Should it not be sufficient to you personally, there is always the possibility to plug in your own headphones into the 3.5mm audio jack.
On the plus sides – the price for the headset is very reasonable (starting from 399$ at the time of writing). Most probably you will not be able to find the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift for the same price even when buying a used one.
The Halo headstraps make the headset comfortable to wear and easy to adjust and there is a lengthy 5m cable to connect the headset to your PC.
I believe that if you own a reasonable gaming PC (be sure to check if it is compatible with the headset) and want a very decent introduction into the VR world, the Oculus Rift S is currently the headset to go for!
TL;DR Pros and Cons of Oculus Rift S
+ No external tracking stations
+ Great visuals
+ Backward compatible with original Rift
+ Easy and quick to set up
+ Reasonable price
+ Comfortable Straps
– In-built audio lacks bass
– Built-in tracking with cameras add some weight to the device
– Lowered screen refresh rate (80 Hz)
Valve Index – High-End Steam VR Headset for the Enthusiast
The Valve Index VR headset, released on June 28, 2019, is hands down the best headset on this list. The innovative knuckle controllers, crisp visuals with high FOV, comfortable straps, excellent audio and many other features make this the go-to headset for those after high-end VR experiences. That being said, the 1000$+ price tag (at the time of writing) will most probably limit the Valve Index from reaching the larger mainstream masses. But let does go a bit more into detail here.
The Valve Index features dual LCD displays with a 1440 x 1600 resolution per eye. The visuals are crisp and detailed throughout your view (unlike many other headsets where the edges tend to get blurry). With a 120Hz screen refresh rate (max 144Hz if your GPU can handle it) you can expect a smooth and fluid gaming experience that arouses your senses.
Another significant advantage of the Valve Index is an improved field of view (FOV) compared to most other VR headsets. This means that your experience in VR will be more similar to your own eyes in real life and the screen door effect (SDE) is virtually gone. The actual FOV for the Valve Index depends on how close you can get the lenses to your pupils, so make sure to adjust the placement of lenses prior to gaming for best experience.
Valve has also rethought and innovated the controllers for this device. Instead of holding the controllers and pushing buttons for interaction, the Index controllers are attached to your hand and use 87 sensors for finger tracking. In essence, this means that all you real-life hand and finger movement is mimicked in the VR world. So if you want to grab and throw something in a game, you do it exactly the way you would do it in the real world. This really is a significant improvement in making the overall VR experience even more realistic than before.
Continuing on positive notes, the straps of the headset are well cushioned and easy to adjust. The weight of the headset is distributed nicely around your head and face and you can enjoy VR for multiple hours without getting uncomfortable.
On the negative side, the Valve Index relies on two external base stations for movement tracking. Finding a high ground place for the stations and doing the initial setup is cumbersome, compared to for example the Rift S and its inside out camera tracking. Like the Rift S and most other PC tethered VR headsets, there is also wire tripping along as you play. Compared to the wireless freedom you get from the Oculus Quest for example, this is an area for future improvement.
Lastly and most importantly, the price. Spitting out 1000$+ for a gaming headset is not likely something everyone is willing to do. However, if you are an avid gaming and VR fan and you are after the best VR experience money can buy – the Valve Index headset is for you!
Oculus Quest – Standalone VR Headset that can also work with Steam
The Oculus Quest was released on June 21, 2019 along with the Rift S. While the latter requires a gaming PC to operate and feed content to headset, the Quest can function on its own. Inside the headset you will find an android-operated computing system, powered by a mobile Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor doing all the magic.
The Oculus Quest features two OLED displays, both with an individual resolution of 1440 × 1600 and a refresh rate of 72 Hz. The image quality and smoothness will fall behind when compared to PC-tethered VR headsets but they are plenty good for an enjoyable gaming experience.
The headset has quite a lot to offer and the biggest advantage is the fact that it can operate as a standalone device. No PC and no tripping wires – just pull on the headset, draw up you playing area and you are ready to enjoy VR experiences in only a couple of minutes.
What if you want to bring the headset along to your friend’s house or when going travelling abroad? No problem! I have even occasionally enjoyed some VR action on an open field near my summer house with cows mooing in the background (although playing outside is not officially recommended by Oculus, due to the possibility of sun rays harming the lenses!)
Starting from November 2019, it is additionally possible to use the Quest as a PC-tethered device via Oculus Link software. For that, you need to first make sure that your PC is compatible and you also need to buy a separate USB 3 cable (the cable in the original package is USB 2 and will not work for that purpose). The PC connectivity is currently still in BETA status and there might be some glitches, but in general, it works well and will definitely continue to be improved even further.
Would I recommend the Quest, if your intent is primarily to use it as a PC-tethered device to play Steam games? No. In that case, go for the Rift S or Valve Index.
Would I recommend the Quest, if you are the kind of person who values visuals and top-notch graphics over the general playability and fun factor? No. Again, go for the native PC-tethered headsets.
Would I recommend the device for anybody wanting their first impressive introduction to VR? Possibility to play anywhere as a standalone device but also connect to your PC and let it do all the hard work when needed? People, who value the playability of games more than the graphics? Hell yes! Hours of fun await you!
The most used VR headset on Steam, Oculus Rift was also my introduction to the VR world quite a number of years ago (though granted not through owning my own device, seeing how I’m rationing my last pack of ramen to last a week) and remains a fan-favourite to this day.
Coming in at a less steeper price then the HTC Vive, you can get your own Oculus from Amazon. Much like the other VR headsets, the Oculus comes with additional gadgets, such as two Oculus sensors ($59 a pop individually), two touch controllers ($99 for two usually), all the required connecting cables and seven free VR apps.
The recommended and minimum specifications to run Oculus Rift are as follows:
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater
- Alternative Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater
- CPU: Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater
- Memory: 8GB+ RAM
- Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
- OS: Windows 10 operating system
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater
- Alternative Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 960 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater
- CPU: Intel i3-6100 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater
- Memory: 8GB+ RAM
- Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- USB Ports: 1x USB 3.0 port, plus 2x USB 2.0 ports
- OS: Windows 10 operating system
While it’s less demanding in terms of CPU than the HTC Vive, it does require more RAM (as opposed to the 4GB of the Vive) and operates only on Windows 10. As with the Vive, you can also download and run the compatibility tool found on the Oculus website to see if your PC can handle it.
Now, the oculus scores a 4.2 / 5 on Amazon at the time of writing. Slightly higher score than the HTC Vive, but has a 3 to 1 positive/negative review split, which is still quite considerable.
The main issue reported with the Oculus is the problem of wires. The ones that you receive with your headgear are fairly short, and you run into a problem of always getting tangled when playing standing up, and also run the risk of simply pulling your PC over. It is recommended that you purchase extensions for all the connection cables for safe play.
As with the Vive, the Oculus also receives a large amount of complaints about the lack of good customer service from the Oculus team, although it isn’t quite as bad. That said, when getting an Oculus, be ready to do a lot of troubleshooting, for it can solve a lot of problems for you without having to write support who will ask you to troubleshoot your device anyway.
Unlike the Vive, the Oculus doesn’t really support glasses. There is not enough space to play comfortably with them, and if you do attempt the fit you run a risk of your lenses breaking, so I’d advise against it.
Another parallel with the Vive is that Oculus users report a lot of face sweat. Many of them suggest playing with a fan on in the room, since the device itself can heat up when playing high performance titles. Nothing dangerous, mind, just uncomfortable.
The resolution of the stretched image isn’t great either. It doesn’t affect the look of games, but the VR Windows desktop is hard to use due to the blurriness.
On the side of more positive aspects, the Oculus is a very light headset and easier to play VR games in while standing up than, for example, the Vive. That, and the touch controllers have a lot more positive feedback than the Vive’s controllers, being often touted as the best VR controllers on the market. The addition of joysticks makes them stand out and allows them to be more intuitive when playing games.
TL;DR Pros and Cons of Oculus Rift
+ Easy to set up
+ Fantastic controllers
+ Incredibly immersive
– Gets hot in there, so play with a fan on
– No glasses support
– Shoddy customer service
– Short cables, you’ll probably need to buy extensions for comfortable play.
The second most used VR headset on Steam is the HTC Vive, one of those brands that pops into most people’s heads when the topic of virtual reality comes up. The system scores 3.7 / 5 stars on Amazon at the time of writing, having left some people with mixed feelings, which I will delve into later. The headset will cost you around 500$ and you purchase it from the HTC America Online Store for example. Package includes the headset, two wireless controllers, two base stations, a link box, earbuds, Vive accessories, a safety guide and a warranty card.
Alternatively you can also chance to buy your Vive set from Amazon and free shipping with Amazon Prime. With your Vive purchase you will also get a free two-month trial of Viveport Subscription.
For those not in the know, Viveport is like a rental service where you pay a monthly subscription fee to play five free VR games in the Viveport library every month. If you like the games you also have the option to purchase them, and Viveport Subscription members get steep discounts on many games in the store. So if you’re not entirely sure if you want to commit to a full priced game, this kind of rental option may be for you. In addition, Viveport also supports the Oculus Rift, but more on the Oculus later.
Now keep in mind that the Vive won’t run on just any old potato, and while I’m sure most PC gamers interested in the Vive already own a competent machine to run it on, I will still mention some specs of a “Vive ready” PC as they call it.
Regarding the graphics cards, they have a nifty complete list of them to help you decide if your PC is Vive ready or not or help with deciding which one to invest in.
However if this all sounds like gibberish to you (and I don’t blame you), the main product page of HTC Vive also offers to test your computer for you and tell you if you have to invest in a better PC for your VR experience or not. I do.
Anyway , let’s now move on to some of the positives the Amazon reviews have brought up for this baby.
The general consensus seems to be that the Vive headset itself is incredibly immersive, intuitive and easy to pick up. It can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and show you notifications and messages, so if you have an important meeting to catch you can still immerse yourself into the VR world without a fear of losing the track of time. Of course reviews have mentioned that it is not ideal for reading messages and e-mails, but in all honesty, that is not what Vive was built for anyway.
The Vive has up to 15 x 15 room-scale stage and a system to warn you about play area boundaries so you can play safe and now worry about breaking your tech or your decorations.
Speaking of breaking things you can’t see, Vive is perfectly playable for those who need glasses to see! Not something every system can boast about.
While there has been doubt about the games available for VR, since most of them seem to be demo-type or simply short 1-2 hour titles, it is prudent to mention that there are lots of big AAA titles coming up for VR, such as Fallout 4. I’m personally hoping for Oblivion in VR – staring at all those uncanny faces is better horror game material than the Resi 2 remake.
Now for some downsides, and yes there are some as with any product.
First of all, true multiplayer is a huge investment as you’d have to have a separate Vive headset lying around for your friend to use. It’s a big investment and it seems like Vive is geared for a more solo experience anyway.
The Vive image is, obviously, stretched and thus has low resolution. Add in some face sweat that, obviously, forms when you wear the thing for a good hour and you have a pretty headache-inducing situation.
The biggest issue for the Vive though seems to be customer support. Many one-star reviews, while they enjoyed the product, either never got it back from repairs or have yet to hear back from the customer support. It seems that the HTC Vive has a leaning for breaking more often than not and the HTC support simply can’t stay on top of things, even if they do offer you that warranty card. The inability to deliver on their promises is a huge drawback for the Vive and should be taken into account.
TL;DR Pros and Cons of HTC Vive:
+ Easy to set up
+ Incredibly immersive
+ Connects to your phone via Bluetooth
+ Glasses support
+ A warning system for play area boundaries
– Lots of investment if you want true multiplayer
– Lots of face sweat, too
– Low resolution due to stretched image
– Product support is terrible, doesn’t deliver on promises and in one case didn’t return the headset when it was shipped off for repairs.
– Breaks fairly frequently – you have to be fairly tech savvy to diagnose the issues
– High spec requirements
Samsung HMD Odyssey+
The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ is a one of the various headsets that functions with Windows Mixed Reality. I’ll be focusing on this one because it’s the most popular of the bunch, having been compared to the Vive and the Rift.
You can find out more information and the latest price of Odyssey from Amazon or the Microsoft store, however the latter is only available in the US and Canada, which has prompted dissatisfaction from the European market. When purchasing the Odyssey, you’ll get the headset, two controllers, a cleaning cloth and 4 AA batteries, so unlike the Oculus and Vive it doesn’t come with additional VR apps or games.
You can see the system requirements to run Samsung HMD Odyssey headset at the following link.
The Odyssey+ currently has a 3.9/5 rating on Amazon, which is quite on par with the other headsets listed in this article. One might say, it touts the best VR image quality that puts even the Oculus and Vive to shame with a brighter screen and colors that pop more. Users would be content exchanging their headsets for the Odyssey+, however a large issue arises in ergonomics. The headset is simply uncomfortable to wear, it weighs a lot and starts putting pressure on the user’s nose after a while, making you take breaks more often than you would with the lightweight Oculus. Similarly to it, the Odyssey+ also has short cables and it’s recommended that you purchase extensions when using it.
The consensus is that the Odyssey+ is amazing for watching movies in VR, but lags behind on its gaming potential. If you’re interested (and rich enough) to purchase a VR set for movies alone, then the Odyssey+ is definitely an option to go for.
Out of the bunch, the Odyssey+ has the least intuitive controllers, definitely not holding a candle to the Oculus’. Like the Oculus, however, it also doesn’t support glasses – honestly, does only Vive recognize that everyone who spends their time gaming is essentially a blind bat? However, regarding visibility, the Odyssey+ does have a camera that you can switch on if you need to navigate your room with your headset on.
TL;DR Pros and Cons of Samsung Odyssey+
+ amazing image quality
+ virtually no SDE
+ 4-minute set-up
+ great for watching movies in VR
– short cables
– uncomfortable to wear + no glasses support
– comes without free games / VR apps, unlike the Vive and Oculus
So those are the most used VR systems for gaming on Steam.
As of the beginning of 2020, I believe that Oculus Rift S is the most affordable quality VR headset to play Steam games suitable for most customers. The Rift S is easy to set up, offers decent visuals and is comfortable to wear. If you have a compatible PC and are looking for your first VR headset to play Steam VR games – this is it!
For the true gaming enthusiasts and professionals, who are after the very best VR experience money can buy, Valve Index is your choice.
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