We're at the business end of our Buyers Guide to Half-Life: Alyx, where I get to recommend you the very best VR headsets and controllers to play what should be the very best VR game ever released.
In this list we all know it'll begin with Valve's own flagship Index headset, followed quickly by HTC's Vive offerings, and then the Oculus Rift. There are other headsets on the market, and if that's something you want to see added into this article then let me know in the comments below. For now, I'll stick to the major VR headsets.
The Best: Valve Index
You can't even buy the Valve Index right now as it is sold out, with its recent March 9 re-listing selling out in minutes. You can't buy the Valve Index right now, but if you want the very best -- then wait and buy the Valve Index when you can. You can find a find a sealed Valve Index for $1250 on eBay.
This isn't bad considering Valve itself sells the full Index package for $999 -- a $250 premium if you want the very best way of playing Half-Life: Alyx.
The flagship Valve Index headset uses an LCD panel with a combined resolution of 2880 x 1600, with a super-smooth 120Hz refresh mode (and even experimental 144Hz refresh mode). Valve uses its own Lighthouse tracking system, but has the Valve Index controllers (also known as the Knuckles Controllers). These controllers are the only way to get the finger tracking and ultimate immersion in Half-Life: Alyx.
If you wanted to buy it on Amazon right now then you can pay a premium, a huge premium -- with the Valve Index full kit available for $2884. I wouldn't recommend doing this for obvious reasons, but hey -- if you don't want to buy it from eBay with the associated risks there at times, some people are cashing in on the no-stock-frenzy of the Valve Index and Half-Life: Alyx right around the corner.
- Valve Index VR Full Kit - $2884 (Buy from Amazon)
Second Best: HTC Vive Cosmos Elite
Up next we have the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, something that is very new from HTC -- and available for a full kit for $899. For this price, you'll get the very best VR headset from HTC, with a pre-installed External Tracking Faceplate that is capable of 360-degree tracking in an entire room.
HTC includes the latest Lighthouse tracking sensors in the Vive Cosmos Elite package, with a high-end 2880 x 1700 resolution display (in total with both displays combined) with all-new LCD panels that minimize the screen door effect (SDE). There's a new flip-up design that lets you get out of virtual reality and back into the real-world without taking the entire headset off, a nice touch by HTC.
- HTC Vive Cosmos Elite VR System - $899 (Buy from Amazon)
Mainstream: Oculus Rift S
I feel kinda bad for even calling the Oculus Rift S the third-best, because all of the flagship VR headsets are now pretty kick ass compared to the first-gen Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Anyway, the new Oculus Rift S is available at a much cheaper entry point of $600 or so.
It has an improved display with upgraded optics that give VR users brighter colors and images, and less screen door (SDE) effects. There's included Oculus Touch controllers which in my opinion are not as good as the wands that comes with the HTC Vive Cosmos packages, but they're still kick ass for games -- especially Half-Life: Alyx.
Oculus now includes room-scale tracking with its Oculus Insight Tracking technology, which comes bundled with the upgraded Oculus Rift S package. This means you have room-scale tracking... but without the external sensors.
- Oculus Rift S VR Headset - $595 (Buy from Amazon)
Second Hand: Oculus Rift / HTC Vive
With all of the Valve Index headsets sold out, the new Oculus Rift S isn't the easiest to buy right now -- there's still some available, but they're getting harder to get, this also includes the HTC Vive Cosmos headsets. They're still available, but there is one more option: buying a second-hand VR headset.
You can get yourself a second-hand, first-gen Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headset on the cheap. You could put all of your money into the best graphics card you can buy, and save up a little to grab the enthusiast-level (and best experience for Half-Life: Alyx) with the Valve Index headset.
I couldn't get my hands-on a Valve Index headset before the launch of Half-Life: Alyx so I personally went with the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite package for now and will grab the Valve Index when I can. Buying an original Oculus Rift or HTC Vive is a viable option as you could get one for a few hundred dollars and still experience a great VR experience in Half-Life: Alyx.