Everyone loves movies, but it’s hard to lump together all the different experiences you can have when sitting down to watch one.
After all, a quiet date night at home with a rom-com and some microwave popcorn is a lot different than opening night at the theatre with your 3D glasses in your hand.
But – now there’s a new way to enjoy all your movies: and that is – completely immersed in your own VR headset.
And, let me tell you – you don’t want to miss this.
VR and Movies
So how exactly does it work?
It’s pretty simple and intuitive, come to mention it.
Playing movies on portable devices – from smartphones to tablets to laptops – is already very popular.
And with the growth of VR technology, the capabilities of these devices have been transferred into portable VR headsets that give you complete immersion.
Watching a movie in VR is a lot simpler than, say, playing your favorite RPG.
So long as your headset is connected to another device, the movie will play on your screen, while the sounds are transmitted via the headset’s speakers.
If you, like so many of us, love escaping into an exciting new world whenever you sit down to watch a movie, then, no doubt about it, VR is the way forward.
Today, we’re going to be ranking the top five best VR headsets for movies.
In this guide, we’ll be covering the special features that make each headset unique from the rest of the field, as well as what we liked about each mode, and what we didn’t.
Let’s get started!
There’s a lot to like about the Oculus Quest.
To start, it’s from a trusted brand… a very trusted brand.
Oculus is an absolute pioneer in the VR field – in the truest sense of the word.
They were the first to bring VR out of its relative experimental obscurity and into the mainstream consciousness.
Their original headset – the Oculus Rift – was released in 2016, and became the first headset to break into mainstream markets.
Almost all the VR headsets today owe their design to the popularity of the original Rift.
And while there’s been a lot of interesting design shifts over the years, more new versions of the rift are being released every year.
But let’s talk about the Quest.
Unlike the Rift, the Quest is completely wireless, which means you have a lot more freedom of movement than you would with the Rift. This might not seem super important while you’re plopped on the couch, watching a movie, but you may be surprised at the difference it makes.
Just think how many times you get up throughout a movie – going to the bathroom, grabbing a drink, taking care of your pets or your kids, grabbing food… having to wrangle a cord each time can get pretty tiring after a while.
The lack of wires also simplifies the entire setup process for this device.
This, combined with the free movement, means there’s no hassle for those who lead a more mobile lifestyle.
The Quest features pretty good resolution, particularly for a set that’s a lot lower on the price scale than some of the others on this list.
However, there were some minor gripes we have with the Quest.
Most noticeably was the fact that light can peek through a gap in the nose piece, meaning you should turn off your lights if you’re watching a movie.
And if you’re watching a movie in the middle of the day or if you’re in a room with a lot of ambient light?
You might be out of luck.
The speakers are also really loud, and can cause a drive-in movie effect.
Many folks think a good pair of headphones is better for immersion than the built-in sound system.
What we liked about the Quest:
- No wires/ freedom of movement
- Great resolution for its price
- Quick and easy setup
What we didn’t like:
- Speakers can be pretty loud – both for you and those nearby
- Light pollution through the nose piece
The Overall Takeaway:
The Quest is great!
It’s a VR experience that sits right in the middle of the expected market value, but provides some really strong features regardless.
While the light pollution through the nose piece is irritating, it isn’t a deal-breaker by any means: we watched movies in the dark before VR, so what’s the big deal?
Likewise, most of us have a decent pair of headphones, so again, no biggie.
On the other hand, this VR headset’s mobility is worth talking about.
Being able to move around while you’re using the Quest cuts down on interruptions during the movie.
Plus it means you don’t need an intense battle station setup as you would with the PC-based VR headsets.
Unlike the Oculus Quest, the Samsung Odyssey is a “tethered” headset, meaning it’s attached to your computer while you’re using it.
And as much as we gushed about the amazing freedom afforded with the Quest, the Odyssey showed us that tethering doesn’t always have to be painful.
The first thing I noticed while trying out this virtual reality headset was its surprisingly simple setup. Most of the time tethered virtual reality headsets come with tricky, complicated, or tedious setup.
This wasn’t the case at all.
The entire process took about ten minutes, and I imagine that’ll be even shorter once you get to know your system better.
I was instantly blown away by the high-resolution graphics when I first kicked back to watch a movie with this one. The resolution is incredibly crisp, and Samsung has (mostly) eliminated the screen door effect, leaving you completely immersed in your zone.
When trying to rank these VR headsets based on visual clarity alone, this system ranks right up there with the HTC Vive Pro.
And that’s a real compliment, given how much the Vive costs
Sound quality is also at a premium; the built-in speakers don’t cause much ambient noise for people nearby, nor do they result in any of that drive-in theatre effect I talked about with the Quest.
Though the Odyssey does come with some problems, most of them don’t impact the movie-viewing experience so much. The controllers are a bit less responsive than others out there, but they aren’t used much during a movie anyway.
The biggest problem with this system is its field of view, which can feel restricting at times.
It’s one of those things you don’t really notice at first, but can’t avoid seeing once you have.
And that can kill your immersion.
What I liked about the Odyssey:
- Amazing visual graphics
- Great sound
- Fairly affordable
What I didn’t like:
- Reduced field of view
- Controllers felt a little clunky
The Overall Takeaway:
The Odyssey is another excellent option for those who love catching a movie in the seclusion of their VR headset.
The movie-watching medium, in particular, helps show off this headset’s good features – its high-resolution graphics and crisp video quality – and it also covers up its less desirable ones – clunky tracking and controllers.
Best Cheap Headset – Google Daydream View
With the continuous technological advancements of VR headsets, some companies are taking the opposite approach.
There’s not too much to write about the Daydream; it is a simplified version of a VR headset that uses your smartphone as its screen.
Where the rest of these headsets ‘virtually connect’ to your device or computer, this one takes VR to its most simplified form in a standalone VR headset.
Naturally, this stripped-down approach comes with some huge benefits.
Setup time is negligible; you just slide your phone into the viewing area with the requisite apps installed, and you can have a pretty serviceable VR experience.
With the great picture quality of Google phones, pairing the two together is a match made in heaven!
With its minimalist approach, this VR headset also has an incredibly low price… the lowest on the entire list!
So for the casual VR user, some of the drawbacks of this scaled-down headset aren’t going to matter very much.
In that same vein, this headset is similar to the Odyssey in one way – it shines for watching movies. The biggest drawbacks of this device are the controls and its limited applications. But with movies being (mostly) hands-off and being fully available on mobile devices means you don’t notice most of these drawbacks.
At the end of the day, you aren’t going to have those same crystal-clear graphics of the Odyssey or Vive Pro. But you can still have a decently immersive experience at a fraction of the cost.
What I liked about the Google Daydream View:
- Low, low price point
- Functional VR experience for the price
- Simple setup and user interface
What I didn’t like:
- Video quality is limited by associated smartphone
- Controls are very rudimentary
- Requires a Google smartphone
The Overall Takeaway:
This is the first VR headset to be this divisive.
On the one hand, for a casual VR user who just wants to kick back and watch a few movies a week, this is a great experience at an incredibly affordable price. You’ll be much more immersed with the Daydream than if you were just watching a regular movie in the dark.
On the other hand for folks who’ve experienced the capabilities of a full VR headset, this one is not going to cut it.
The limitations in graphics, sound quality, and functionality are just too large to overlook.
Like the Google Daydream, the Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR) has its limitations.
But at the end of the day, its excellent quality and top-notch affordability keep it on our list.
I’ll start this one off with a negative, but only because it is very important to know this before you even consider buying this headset.
The PSVR requires a PlayStation, PS controllers, and everything else you would need to otherwise use a modern PlayStation console.
This VR headset is exclusively an add-on to the existing unit. There is some limited cross-compatibility with other systems, but you’ll want a PlayStation for any reasonable experience.
With all that said, the PSVR offers a pretty unique experience, and at a great price.
Right away, you’ll begin to realize that the “limitation” I mentioned can quickly become the biggest positive for this system. PlayStation has been around for quite a while, and they own some of the best gaming franchises in the entire world.
This level of infrastructure and tech experience really shines with their first foray into VR.
Their headset is comfortable, and the system is generally compatible with controllers that we already know and love. The whole thing feels like a well-polished final product, and it’s ready to play just minutes after you’ve unpacked it.
And since it’s a PS product, the headset comes loaded with starting features that will give you a taste of the VR experience right out of the box.
As for movies, the PSVR gives you a real theatre-feel – a certain limitless sense that completely avoids some of the visual field constraints of other headsets on the list.
But while PlayStation has lots of experience with release content, user interface, and approachability, they don’t have much experience with VR itself.
The controller tracking can be a little winky (we’ve already talked about why this isn’t that much of an issue). But the video quality is also a little lower than most VR-specific products, and the amount of wiring can keep you tangled up instead of enjoying the show.
What I liked about the PlayStation VR:
- Great price
- Lots of release content
- Excellent field of view
What I didn’t like:
- Poor controller tracking
- Lower image quality
The Overall Takeaway
Overall, this is a great system for people who’re already used to PS products and who want to make the leap into VR.
PlayStations are gaming consoles first and foremost, so this console is more geared in that direction than as a headset for watching movies.
However, poor controller tracking means movies are one of the best options for this system as well.
In other words… if you like PlayStations, you’ll probably love this one!
Our most expensive headset on the list, the Vive Pro does live up to its heft price tag.
VR is a pretty new field, with relatively few products competing against one another. Which means there isn’t much brand definition on the market.
This also means the prices pretty closely reflect the overall quality of each headset.
Ultimately, the Vive Pro is the best headset on the market.
If you’re looking at reviews for this headset, you’ll be hard pushed to find a bad one. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this VR headset. The moment I put it on, I knew I was in for something truly special.
This headset’s graphics are on another level, really overshadowing every other headset on this list – with the possible exception of the Samsung Odyssey.
But unlike the Odyssey, the designers of the Vive Pro put all their efforts into making sure there is no obstacle to your complete immersion.
This means no limitations in your field of view, no physical discomfort when wearing the headset, incredible audio quality, and a smooth control scheme.
At the moment, the Vive Pro is pushing the boundaries in VR technology, and using this headset is a real treat.
There are only two areas where you can criticize the headset, one of which I’ve alluded to already.
Its price is high.
Really, really steep.
For the average VR user, spending this amount on marginal improvements isn’t realistic, and it’ll be best suited for people who are already into VR and want to take their experience to the next level.
For people hoping to enjoy the occasional movie, the immersion is amazing and the experience will be better than any other unit.
But the price probably isn’t completely justified.
The unit also requires some pretty intensive setup, as well as a relatively advanced PC to connect with.
Both of these present more barriers to enjoying the Vive Pro, and mobility and ease of use suffer as a result.
What I liked about the HTC Vive Pro:
- Excellent graphics
- Great sound quality
- Great control scheme
What I didn’t like:
- High price point
- Difficult setup
The Overall Takeaway
If you already love VR and you have a little extra money in your pocket, the Vive Pro is going to be the best model for you.
Its movie-viewing experience is unmatched by any of the other headsets out there, and you can expect complete immersion.
However, the price and PC requirements mean it’s not a headset for the casual VR user. Only devoted fans are going to get the most from this particular system.
Honorable Mention: Goovis G2 Pro
It’s only fair we mention the Goovis, a system that’s specifically aimed at the movie-watching experience.
The Goovis is a newer headset on the market, and is marketed as a “4k Blu Ray Player”. So in that sense, it is specifically aimed at the optimal VR movie experience.
And in some ways, this system accomplishes that.
The headset’s internal theater screen is wide and 3D compatible, meaning you can enjoy your favorite 3D movies in a whole new way.
The video quality is crisp and well-lit, and it’s clear that Goovis have identified and decreased the screen door effect.
Audio quality is also reasonable, and it doesn’t interfere with your overall immersion.
However, there are many small (and irritating) issues with this headset.
The Goovis does not have a very good battery life, which is a huge problem when you’re sitting down to watch a movie. And the recharging takes far longer than you’d reasonably expect.
The user interface also comes with a host of different bugs and irritations, including trouble adjusting the screen size, instances of the unit turning itself off, and even heating up after some minor use.
What I liked about the Goovis G2 Pro:
- Good visual quality
- Decreased SDE
What I didn’t like:
- Many minor bugs and oversights in design
The Overall Takeaway:
In general, I do have trouble recommending this unit.
Goovis has done a good job identifying the important parts of the viewing experience – sounds and visuals – and both are good quality and add to the immersion.
However, in doing so, there have been a few key oversights and design bugs that can result in an uncomfortable and distracting experience when you put on the Goovis. So until they iron out some of these issues, you’d be better served with the Samsung or Oculus.
So there you have it!
After messing around with these five headsets – plus a few others that didn’t make the cut – I’ve come away with a few important pointers for you.
First, VR really is the new frontier.
It’s hard to take a step back, now that we’ve adopted the concept of VR into our everyday life.
But these headsets look like something out of a science fiction movie, and most of them work very well, considering how recently they hit the market.
I can’t wait to see how far the field will advance over the next decade!
And with the relatively new feel of the products, you can usually tell what kind of experience you’ll be getting based on the cost of the unit.
Pay a little more and you’ll remain immersed and comfortable throughout your entire movie!
But with all that said, you now know the best VR headsets on the market – from the Oculus Quest to the Vive Pro.
If you’ve been looking for a great headset to watch movies, there’s something here for you.
Now it’s on you: which one of these great VR headsets will you choose?