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 2
If you’re looking for a standalone VR headset on a budget, the Oculus Quest 2 is the one to go with. It’s super portable and easy to use — it does not have to be hooked up to a PC or console to work, technically making it one of the best mobile VR headsets.
Also read: The 10 best games for VR headsets
This is also the most advanced form of VR you will find on this list. The device isn’t just a glorified dock for your handset. It’s its own standalone device with advanced VR gaming and experiences. It also comes with a couple of controllers that will make the experience much more involved. The unit features a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 and 6GB of RAM. And if you want to play using your PC, you can also hook up to it using an Oculus Link cable.
To learn more, read our Oculus Quest 2 review at our sister site VR Source.
2. 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 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 newer Samsung handsets. 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 find it used or through a few retailers, though.
3. Mattel View-Master Deluxe
The Mattel View-Master Deluxe is a modern evolution of the classic reel toy from the ’80s. This Google Cardboard headset is built better than most of its kind. It also looks pretty cool and even features a headphone connection for better audio. What’s even better is that the price has dropped significantly.
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.
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. The device can pair with almost any phone. The Merge VR headset is also made from durable foam, making 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.
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? 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. The Toy-Con projects place the Switch and the Joy-Con controllers in different locations for a unique experience.
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.
New VR users will enjoy Cardboard viewers. They work with just about any handset, although the experience isn’t the best when using a low-resolution display. The device has to be placed inside the viewer. The Cardboard app will launch automatically if your phone has NFC. You can play 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 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 regularly, you’re better off opting for one of the more advanced choices.
The Samsung Gear VR is a good headset 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 soon to disappear off shelves, digital or otherwise.
To truly immerse yourself into the world of VR, a standalone headset is the way to go. The Oculus Quest 2 is the top-of-the-line pick here. What if you are a PC gamer? You can still use the Oculus Quest 2, but check out our list of the best VR headsets, which will give you a better idea of what the industry has to offer.