Mobile VR has fallen to the wayside recently. Just a few years ago, inserting your smartphone into a headset was a great and relatively cheap way to enjoy virtual reality. Yet, even major manufacturers like Google and Samsung seem to have abandoned their smartphone VR ventures. This leads us to the question of what your options are today. Fortunately, there still are some great headsets on the market, while standalone VR has filled much of the gap left by mobile VR. From cheap cardboard solutions to high-tech standalone headsets, here are your best mobile VR options.
The best mobile VR headsets:
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new mobile VR headsets launch.
1. Oculus Quest
The Oculus Quest set the golden standard of standalone VR when it came out last year. It provides a truly untethered experience without any additional sensors, wires, and most importantly, without a PC or console.
This “pick up and play” headset is not only portable, but powerful. It sports an impressive 2,880 x 1,600 resolution and roomscale tracking with six degrees of freedom. Unlike its Oculus GO predecessor, the Oculus Quest also comes with two wand-style Touch controllers. They transport your gestures seamlessly into any game, allowing you to immerse yourself completely. This is further enhanced by the positional audio provided by Oculus Quest.
The weight distribution of the standalone VR headset is also quite good, so you can enjoy playing your favorites for hours at a time. The only thing stopping you is the battery. Unfortunately, like the Oculus GO before it, the Oculus Quest lasts between two and three hours before needing to be charged. Nevertheless, it’s a small price to pay for the best untethered VR experience on the market.
2. Oculus Go
If you’re looking for a standalone VR headset on a budget, the Oculus Go is the one to go with. It’s super portable as well as easy to use — it does not have to be hooked up to a PC or console to work. Partially made of a breathable fabric, this headset is comfortable to wear for hours on end.
The Oculus Go is powered by the Snapdragon 821 chipset and sports a display with a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution (538ppi). It has spatial audio built-in as well as an integrated microphone and comes with a wireless controller. The battery should be good for around two hours of gaming or up to 2.5 hours of media streaming.
The headset works with more than 1,000 games and applications, so you won’t get bored with it easily.
3. Samsung Gear VR
Samsung’s Gear VR is one of the few true mobile VR headsets still around today. All you need to do to enjoy over 600 games and a ton of 360-videos is insert your smartphone into the device.
The mobile VR headset features a turning wheel that’s used to adjust the distance between the phone and display lenses, while the touchpad, volume controls, and home/back buttons are found on the right side. There’s also a companion controller included in the box that comes in handy when playing VR games.
The problem with the Gear VR is that it only works with Samsung smartphones, making it useless for those who have a device made by a different manufacturer. The headset is compatible with quite a few handsets including the Galaxy S10 series, the Galaxy Note 9, and most Samsung flagships released prior. However, it is not compatible with the Galaxy Note 10 series or the S20 series. It looks like Samsung is giving up on virtual reality for now, as it’s not even selling the Gear VR anymore — you can still get it from other retailers, though.
4. Merge VR
These mobile VR goggles are the perfect virtual reality device for kids. The Merge VR headset is light, durable and super easy to use.
Just like other mobile VR headsets, all you need to do is insert your smartphone into the slot and dive in. The good news is that Merge VR is compatible with a wide variety of smartphones from 123mm to 158mm in size. This means that almost any phone can be paired, save for the biggest phablets. The Merge VR headset is also made from durable foam, which makes it lighter than most mobile VR headsets, at 340 grams. The material is kid-proof in other ways too — it can be cleaned easily, and it will withstand shock, as well as daily wear and tear.
However, the Merge VR headset does not come with a controller. It is operated with two built-in spring-loaded buttons. This means you won’t find any complicated VR games in its library. Nevertheless, there is plenty of entertaining as well as educational content provided by Merge Miniverse. Add the affordable $39.99 price tag, and the Merge headset is easily one of the best mobile VR headsets for kids you can find.
5. Nintendo Labo VR Kit
Nintendo’s Labo Kits are among the most inventive console add-ons to come out in recent years. These cardboard creations combine DIY with gaming for impressive and creative results. The Nintendo Labo VR Kit is no different.
How does it work? Just like Google Cardboard, the Labo VR Kit allows you to create your own VR headset from cardboard, in which you then insert your Nintendo Switch. The difference is that Nintendo’s cardboard can take many shapes and forms. You can create simple VR goggles, but also a Toy-Con blaster, a bird, a camera, and more. All of the Toy-Con projects place the Switch and the Joy-Con controllers in different locations for a unique experience.
Better yet, the Labo VR Kit is now compatible with a number of great Nintendo titles like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Super Smash Bros., The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and others. It might not be the best comfortable or immersive VR experience, but it’s definitely the most creative one.
6. Google Cardboard
The easiest and cheapest way to immerse yourself into the world of mobile VR is by getting your hands on a cardboard viewer from Google or a different company. These things are made of, well, cardboard, and start at just a few bucks. You can also build one yourself if you’re crafty and want to save money.
Cardboard viewers are far from ideal and aimed at those new to VR. They work with just about any handset, although the experience isn’t the best when using one with a low-resolution display. The device has to be placed inside the viewer and if it has an NFC chip, the Cardboard app will launch automatically. You can play a few games, visit different places around the globe with Google Maps, and watch 360-degree videos on YouTube, among other things.
These viewers aren’t very comfortable and don’t have head straps, so you’ll have to hold one up to your face at all times. The official Google Cardboard will set you back $15, while its clones start at $6 and go all the way up to $40. You can check them all out on Google’s website via the button below.
Which mobile VR headset is right for me?
Google Cardboard might be for you if you just want to try out mobile VR to see what exactly it has to offer. But if you see yourself playing VR games and watching 360-degree videos on a regular basis, you’re better off opting for one of the other options.
The Samsung Gear VR is a good choice if you own a compatible Samsung smartphone and don’t want to spend too much money. However, you might need to hurry if you plan on purchasing it. The headset is bound to disappear off shelves, digital or otherwise, soon.
To truly immerse yourself into the world of VR, a standalone headset that doesn’t need a phone to work is the way to go. The Oculus Quest is the top-of-the-line pick here, but if you want to save some money, you can’t go wrong with the Oculus Go either. If you own a PlayStation, nevertheless, the PSVR headset is a must-buy thanks to its amazing game library.
What if you are a PC gamer? Then, you check out our list of the best VR headsets, which will give you a better idea on what your choices are.