The 7 Best VR Headsets for Steam in 2021 (SteamVR)

Are you looking to play the best gaming titles, like Half-Life Alyx, on your VR gaming headset?

You’d need a SteamVR-compatible headset to play those exclusive titles.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of headsets to go around that fall under this category.

From high-end virtual reality and Windows Mixed Reality VR machines to affordable, beginner-friendly headsets—many systems are equipped to meet your unique demands.

In this list, we’ll cover the best of the bunch, from the Valve Index to the Oculus Quest 2.

Let’s browse through the best Steam compatible VR headsets!

Best VR Headsets For Steam At A Glance

  1. Valve Index (Editor’s Choice)
  2. Oculus Rift S (Best Value)
  3. HP Reverb G2 (Premium Choice)
  4. Pimax 5K Super
  5. HTC Vive Pro 2
  6. Windows Mixed Reality headsetSamsung Odyssey+
  7. Oculus Quest 2 (Honorable Mention)

1. Valve Index (Editor’s Choice / Best Professional and Business Use)

Do you have a high-end i7 CPU and a GeForce RTX 3080 (or a GTX 970 as the bare minimum) or equivalent? Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?

If you have the cash laying around to upgrade your arsenal, try the Valve Index VR headset for Steam.

The Valve Index is the cream of the crop in the VR headset universe. It’s quite expensive—but you can’t beg for luxury. This VR powerhouse comes with superiority on almost every front.

This VR headset has all the specs you’ll need for a first class gaming experience, which is no surprise for a high-end first-generation VR headset. Sophisticated tracking, a 1440 x 1600 display resolution for each eye, a refresh rate of up to 144 Hz, and a wide 130-degrees field of view are some of the features you get with this PC VR headset.

While the specs look promising, what does it all mean? Some absolutely banging and smooth gameplay. Even on the most demanding titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator, Medal of Honor, or No Man’s Sky. 

The other great thing about the Valve Index is how thoughtfully engineered the hardware is. This VR headset uses SteamVR Tracking 2.0, which essentially uses external sensors placed in your room to track your hand and body movements. Unlike lower-end headsets, the Valve Index offers full-body tracking for maximum freedom.

With this tracking system, the Valve Index is arguably one of the best VR units for Steam games. It excels in playing first person shooter games like Pavlov VR, where competitive and fast-paced action can make or break the round.

And don’t get me started on the controllers. They’re fantastic too.

They have 87 different sensors, which makes this headset’s controllers one of the most receptive in the market right now. They also come with a reasonable 7-hour battery life—which is more than enough for a heavy day of gaming on this VR headset before it’d need another recharge.

Why we liked this product:

  • Excellent well-rounded specs for heavy gamers
  • Clean and smooth display resolution
  • High refresh rates
  • Great controllers and SteamVR tracking

What we didn’t like:

  • Outdated; at the mercy of another next-gen VR headset that’ll come cheaper
  • Complicated set up with tracking that’s at the mercy of your room’s interior
  • To run at max frames (144 Hz), you’ll need an equally powerful graphics card (RTX 2070)

2. Oculus Rift S (Best Value)

If you’ve had enough of tight-fitting VR headsets that leave your head feeling constrained and woozy by the end of a session, then the Oculus Rift S might be worth looking into.

Unlike the Valve Index, the Oculus Rift S is a virtual reality headset that’s relatively more affordable. It won’t cost you more than $300 in most stores.

On top of its comfort, this virtual reality headset’s main specs aren’t half-bad either. The Oculus Rift S’s virtual reality gaming features 2560 x 1440 display resolution, a workable 100-degree field of view, and an 80 Hz refresh rate. 

Clearly, these specs fall short of the level of the Valve Index, but for about a quarter of the price—its value can meet a certain crowd. The display resolution, in particular, also grants you improved optics, capable of delivering powerful and vivid colors while reducing the “screen door” effect (where the fine lines separating pixels become visible to the user).

The refresh rate slightly edges out compared to the Quest, but it’s not that big of a difference. That said, comparing the comfort between the two is where the Rift S truly shines.

To give an example, the Quest lineup usually focuses the bulk of the weight on the front-facing part of the headset. The OG Quest is lighter, but the uneven heaviness can be distracting when playing games. 

Here, the Rift S does things differently. Although this headset is slightly heavier, the mass distribution is also better distributed across all sides of the virtual reality system. This is thanks to the ergonomic design, where your head’s protection and security have undergone extra thoughtful consideration

To run VR games on this device, you’ll need to have this device tethered to a PC. The recommended specs are a CPU of i3-6100 or higher, and a graphics card of GTX 1060 or higher. 

If you already play Steam games on your PC—you may already have enough power to get this virtual gaming headset up and running.

Why we liked this product:

  • Great value for its price
  • Good refresh rate
  • 2560×1440 resolution for both eyes
  • It uses inside out tracking instead of external tracking
  • Easy to setup

What we didn’t like:

  • Lower resolution compared to the Quest
  • It’s a wired device, hinders movement
  • Need Facebook account to login

3. HP Reverb G2 (Premium Choice)

Do you intend to use your VR gaming headset that works for Steam primarily for flight and race simulator-type games

If yes, look no further. The HP Reverb G2 specializes in that type of gameplay to a T.

Made by the same minds who’ve worked with Valve and Microsoft—this virtual reality headset has a lot going for it.

The HP Reverb G2 comes with a wide variety of use cases. It can be used for training, gaming, watching movies, simulations—you name it.

This is largely attributed to the phenomenal display resolution that the HP Reverb G2 possesses. Its display type is an LCD at 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye. That sight is as crystal clear and as vivid as you can get in virtual reality right now.

But that’s not all. The folks who engineered this virtual reality headset know that the visual output isn’t everything. The auditory component plays a vital role as well.

And, pleased to say, they’ve absolutely crushed it in that department as well. Valve collaborated with HP to create an excellent and rich auditory experience with spectacular over the ears speakers.

Unlike cheaper quality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 and Rift S, the audio emanating from the speakers of this virtual reality console sounds deep, whole, and immersive. You can even feel the bass from the speakers—whereas in other cases, it’ll come across as fuzzy and low-quality muffled sounds.

Aside from the audiovisual experience, the rest of the features and performance from this virtual reality headset aren’t bad either. You’ll get a 90 Hz refresh rate, a wide 114-degree range field of view, and an adjustable IPD of between 60 to 68 mm. These specs may not be numero uno in the market, but they’re pretty damn good and serviceable for the average consumer.

It’s not all great for the HP Reverb G2, however. The Reverb G2, despite having clear upgrades in many departments compared to its predecessor, has failed to improve the tracking capabilities of this system. A tad bit underwhelming, but it’s still a decent mid-range VR headset overall.

Why we liked this product:

  • Excellent display resolution
  • Ergonomic headset
  • Immersive and bassy over the ear speakers
  • Serviceable refresh rate and field of view

What we didn’t like:

  • Not utilizing better tracking or inside out tracking
  • Controllers could be improved
  • High-ish price

4. Pimax 5K Super

A great contender for the best VR Steam headset is the Pimax 5K Super.

It’s another high-end machine that matches the likes of the Valve Index. What makes it unique, however, is that no current VR headset has a field of view that matches that of the Pimax 5K Super. With this headset, you can see anywhere from between 150 to 200-degree angles on the Steam games you play. 

So if you play games like Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’ll get to see an incredibly wide angle as you navigate through the skies with your aircraft.

That’s not all there is to it. The Pimax 5K Super also features an outstanding resolution of 2560 x 1440 per eye with Fresnel lens technology. You won’t ever have to worry about squinting to see faraway objects on your screen—it’s all vividly laid out for you with this virtual reality machine.

The headset also boasts comfort with a highly customizable IPD range of 55 to 75 mm. The refresh rates also max out at 180 Hz—a terrific feat, essentially doubling the numbers other VR headsets would hit. 

And that’s not all we have to praise about this headset. The tracking technology has been engineered by SteamVR, which sports superior gyro-based technology that makes movement smoother to track. 

Sharp visuals, great refresh rate, and ultrawide field of view options may make it seem like this is one of the best VR headsets you can find anywhere, full stop. 

But, hold on, there are still some minor drawbacks worth mentioning.

Despite the numerous options to optimize your gameplay, you can’t maximize your refresh rate and field of view at the same time.

If you play at the max refresh rate of 150 Hz, you’re capped at a 150-degrees field of view. If you play at a max FOV at 200 degrees, you’d get capped at a 90 Hz refresh rate. 

Although those numbers are still pretty good, there’s still a future for more updates to improve gameplay for users to play at the best settings. Should they have the CPU and GPU for that, of course.

I guess these innovations will just come in time; there’s still very much a bright future for virtual reality headsets. But regardless, the Pimax 5K Super is a powerhouse system to play SteamVR games in, even at its current state.

Why we liked this product:

  • Top-notch display resolution
  • Ultrawide FOV
  • Fast and smooth refresh rates
  • Comfortable

What we didn’t like:

  • Expensive
  • Can’t experience benefits all at once

5. HTC Vive Pro 2

The HTC Vive Pro 2 is the most recently released device on this list, and it’s also one of the more expensive ones.

Just like the Pimax 5K—the Vive Pro 2 has a spectacular 5K display resolution at 2448 x 2448 per eye. This is arguably one of the best resolution displays you can get.

The innovations on display technology have gotten to the point that advancing this resolution to better benchmarks will only have very subtle improvements, to the point that it may even be negligible up to a certain point.

The refresh rate and field of view figures house some solid specs too, at 120 Hz and 120-degrees respectively. The Vive Pro 2 minimized the screen door effect, which is a huge step up too. 

Compared to mid-range and the Valve Index, the HTC Vive Pro 2 reigns supreme, positioning itself with specs that make it worthy to be called a next-gen console.

Hardware could be improved. The Valve Index has smarter controllers, and the process of setting up could be made easier. The headset overall does have comfortable padding to make it more relaxing to wear, but it heats up quite a bit after some time. It’s also a bit on the weightier side, but it’s evenly distributed.

Overall, it’s a powerful VR headset if you have the PC specs to run it smoothly. Once more games get released in the system and SteamVR, I’d recommend this as a solid contender. But for now, I’d suggest you hold out until a better and cheaper system comes along, or the quality of the VR titles improve drastically to make it worth the price.

Why we liked this product:

  • Very well-rounded specs
  • A fantastic resolution, good field of view, good refresh rates
  • Comfortable headset

What we didn’t like:

  • Expensive among other VR headsets
  • Heats up during extended periods of play
  • The controller could be improved
  • Gameplay in stores aren’t that plenty yet

6. Windows Mixed Reality headset – Samsung Odyssey+

There are many Windows Mixed Reality headsets in the VR landscape, some better than others. 

These headsets generally work so that they’d be compatible with the Windows 10 operating system. It’s cheaper than high-end VR headsets like the Valve Index and Reverb G2, but it can still do the job of delivering an augmented experience.

And the great thing is—as this catalog of VR headsets is all PC-powered, they’re all compatible with Steam.

If you don’t want to hinder yourself with a wired headset, the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset is a pretty solid option that’s still available in stores.

You can also opt for the Lenovo Explorer, but they’ve been discontinued so it might be difficult looking for them out in the wild.

One of the better WMR VR headsets available is the Samsung Odyssey. It features a 90 Hz refresh rate, a 6DOF free movement camera, a 110-degree field of view, and 1440 x 1600 display resolution per eye.

Overall, these WMR headsets do a great job in playing VR games. They aren’t easy to find, however, so you may have to go the extra mile to snag one of the better ones online.

Why we liked this product:

  • Good specs
  • SteamVR compatible
  • Plenty models available

What we didn’t like:

  • Hard to find
  • Many are discontinued and unsupported

7. Oculus Quest 2 (Honorable Mention)

Unlike most VR headsets, the Oculus Quest 2 doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. It’s incredibly fit for value, and it’s easy to set up and completely wireless to boot.

The Oculus Quest 2’s specs feature an 1832 x 1920 display resolution per eye, a 90 Hz refresh rate, and an estimated 100-degree field of view. Nothing too fancy, but for the Oculus Quest 2’s price, this is a great headset to start your journey if you’re not looking to splurge on the high-end stuff right away.

Important note: this is naturally a standalone, untethered headset with no PC-powered capabilities. That is unless you connect your device with a PC with the Oculus Link

This accessory will allow you to play PC-exclusive games with a graphical upgrade, should your PC host some great specs as well. That includes Steam and SteamVR as a natural extension.

Why we liked this product:

  • Easy to set up
  • Affordable
  • Great for beginners
  • Great bang for your buck

What we didn’t like:

  • Requires Facebook login
  • Limited battery life (untethered)
  • Needs accessory to play PC games
  • Low IPD customizability

How to use VR on Steam?

Before you can use Steam and play Steam games, you would need to download the SteamVR app first. The app doesn’t require payment to download, but the VR games you’ll add to it may require an additional fee.

Bear in mind, SteamVR only runs on PC-powered VR headsets. Here’s the step by step guide on launching SteamVR on your VR headset:

  • On your VR headset, launch the Steam app.
  • Search for the SteamVR app in the search bar. Install it.
  • Plug in your VR-compatible headset. Then, wait for the SteamVR prompt to appear.
  • Once it’s up and running, search for your desired game through SteamVR’s search bar.
  • Found a game? Install and purchase it like you would with a normal Steam game.

Best Steam Games

Beat Saber

Beat Saber continues to top the charts as one of the most exhilarating and fun VR games to date. 

How it works: Hack and slice through moving projectiles using hand movements with your controllers to the beat of adrenaline electronic music. 

It’s also a VR-exclusive title, so the only time you can play this game is with a headset strapped on.

Superhot

An innovative take on the first-person shooter genre, Superhot is a game where time moves only when you move. 

Delicately balance your movement as you shoot, slice, and maneuver past levels while avoiding slow-motion bullets.

Half Life 2 Alyx

There aren’t many VR titles that focus on the storytelling and lore-building aspect—but Half Life 2 Alyx does that phenomenally. 

Fight against the Combine, a vicious alien race, in this world that’s set between the settings of the acclaimed titles Half-Life and Half-Life 2.

Half Life Alyx is a SteamVR exclusive.