Sim Racing is currently one of the few genres of games that works incredibly well with virtual reality headsets so it’s no surprise that more and more people are looking at getting into the virtual reality world.
It can be very daunting to make the leap though and whereas a few years ago the options for virtual reality headsets were somewhat slim, there are now a plethora of very good headsets available so the choice can be a tricky one!
If you’re not convinced if VR is for you, I wrote another article on VR in sim racing with some pros and cons around it. You can check it out here.
There is no ‘best’ virtual reality headset for sim racing as each headset will suit people differently, but I can highly recommend the Samsung Odyssey+ as being the best all-rounder that has many sim racers satisfied with.
One thing I will mention before we start is that, for sim racing, all you really need is the headset + any trackers that you might need for the headset. You don’t need the controllers and you can very often find much cheaper deals for just the headset.
When looking for a virtual reality headset for sim racing, some of the key features that you’ll want to check for include:
- Refresh Rate
- Adjustable IPD
The following headsets are ones that I’d recommend and cover a number of price ranges and needs.
In no particular order…
1. Samsung Odyssey+
Just a quick note about this product. This headset is very often on sale at on Amazon so if you can wait for a sale then I’d suggest you do.
The Samsung Odyssey+ is the first headset up because it is what I personally use on an (almost) daily basis and what I think is possibly the best VR headset for sim racing for most people.
There are really two major points that set this headset apart from the competition.
- The Cost
- The Resolution
Let’s have a chat about the resolution. At 2880×1600 (1440×1600 per eye) pixels you’re going to be getting one of the sharpest images-to-price ratios that you can get in a consumer VR headset. Obviously it isn’t going to be as sharp as a monitor, no VR headset will be, but the Samsung Odyssey+ is a step in the right direction.
The other major positive aspect of such a high pixel count is the minimized screen-door-effect. Yes, it’s still there but barely. You really really have to look for it in order to see it. When you’re racing you don’t see it at all which is fantastic.
One suggestion if you’re going to go with the Samsung Odyssey+ is to have a look at replacing the foam padding with the VRCover Samsung Odyssey Plus PU Foam Replacement. It’s one of the massive quality-of-life improvements and won’t set you back much at all (plus you get 2 in a pack). The standard padding on the Samsung Odyssey+ is my only gripe with it as it can be pretty uncomfortable after prolonged use.
Don’t stress about this being a Windows Mixed Reality headset either. For sim racing, Windows Mixed Reality provides us with some super affordable options, especially if you’re not planning on doing much aside from sim racing.
There isn’t a downside to Windows Mixed Reality that I’ve come across yet and I’ve played plenty of different VR games apart from sim racing. I’d highly recommend looking at them as an option.
I’ll be doing a complete in-depth review on the Samsung Odyssey+ in a later post to go into the finer pros and cons of the headset but for now, just know that this is my go-to virtual reality headset for sim racing.
2. HP Reverb
Another Windows Mixed Reality headset, the HP Reverb is a newer addition to the VR headset world that the Samsung Odyssey+ and brings with it an increased resolution, field-of-view, and price tag.
the HP Reverb brings with it a huge 4320 x 2160 resolution (2160 x 2160 per eye), an increase on even the Samsung Odyssey+ which means that the screen door effect on the HP Reverb is all but eliminated. If you’re after the clearest image that you’ll get in an affordable VR headset, then this is the one for you.
On top of having a larger resolution than most other headsets, it also offers a much large field-of-view at 114° it will really reduce the tunnel vision that is often complained about when people first start to use VR in sim racing for the first time. You’ll get increased peripheral vision which will obviously help out a lot when you’re in tight racing situations.
3. Vive Cosmos
The Vive Cosmos is the first non-Windows Mixed Reality headset that I’m going to add to the list.
As a relatively new addition to the Vive universe, the Vive Cosmos brings with it what we would expect from the new generation of VR headsets.
2880×1700 Resolution (1440×1700 per eye), 90Hz refresh rate, 110° field-of-view and adjustable IPD. Great resolution, the standard 90FPS capabilities, and the adjustable IPD means that you’ll be able to adjust it to your comfort.
Adjustable IPD is something that is often overlooked when looking for a good VR headset for sim racing, if you’re unsure about what IPD is you can find more about it here.
The headset is reportedly very comfortable, and the flip-up ability on the headset makes things very user-friendly if you need to use a keyboard, see your screen, or whatever else you need to do for a few moments.
The Cosmos represents pretty good value, despite the cost, and is a really good option if you don’t want to go down the Windows Mixed Reality route, or if they’re unavailable in your country.
4. Rift S
The Oculus Rift S brings an interesting option for sim racers who want to avoid the Windows Mixed Reality headsets, but also don’t want to spend over $500 on a headset.
The Rift S has a resolution of 2560×2400 (1280×1440 per eye) and an 80Hz refresh rate. Whilst it isn’t the 90Hz refresh rate that we are accustomed to when running headsets, users have reported that there is not a significant difference between the two when using these in-game.
The screens are also LED rather than OLED (or similar) meaning that the blacks will not be as black as you might have noticed in other headsets.
There are also no dedicated headphones either, but rather two external speakers placed near the ears. This might be an issue for some. Personally, I prefer built-in headphones when in VR as I like to have as much noise detail as possible so that I can use it when racing in tight quarters.
The field-of-view on the Rift S is 115° though so this means that you’re going to get some of the widest possible vision available. The tunnel vision that some headsets with smaller field-of-views have can be quite frustrating sometimes. I’d recommend that 110° is the smallest you go, so 115 is a really good point to be at.
5. Valve Index
Here we go, the most expensive of the five headsets that we’re covering in this article. The Valve Index. With a hefty price tag, is the Valve Index worth it?
Resolution again is 2880×1600 (1440×1600 per eye). 130° field-of-view, and 120Hz (with an experimental 144Hz mode). Yes, that’s up to 144Hz, meaning that you can run up to 144 frames-per-second and have an incredibly 130° field-of-view. Holy moly!
Being able to run your sims at 120 and potentially 144 frames per second is a talking point in itself. Whilst the other specs are pretty standard compared to the other headsets that we’ve looked at, the refresh rate and the field-of-view on the Valve Index really sets it apart.
The field-of-view is by far the largest that we’ve seen in this article with an increase of 15° over the next highest headset. This means that you’ll have an incredible amount of peripheral vision that you won’t see in many other headsets.
Is it worth the increased price difference though? If you’re serious about your sim racing and want the smoothest possible experience combined with an incredible field-of-view, then I’d say yes, it is, on the condition that you can actually run the thing.
With a higher refresh rate comes a higher resource cost in being able to achieve the maximum out of the headset. Have a look around to ensure that your PC is able to achieve the maximum framerate so that you don’t end up buying something that you can’t run.
Most virtual reality headsets will be an option for sim racing but there are definitely some that will be better than others.
The five that I’ve listed here in this article are some that I and many other sim racers think are good choices but I also encourage you to do your own research to make sure you get a headset that is right for you. Unlike monitors, there are a lot of comfort options to take into consideration that will change from person to person.
With that said, don’t take only technical specifications into account. You’ll want it to sit on your face without anything poking or prodding you and you’ll potentially want a headset with IDP adjustment so that you can make sure it’s comfortable to look at.
Overall, I still recommend the Samsung Odyssey+ as a great all-around virtual reality headset for sim racing without breaking the bank. It provides excellent value for money when is on sale and I would buy one again if I had to in a heartbeat.
If the price isn’t a factor for you, then I’d personally have a look at the Valve Index for the amazing refresh rate and field-of-view that it has to offer.
If you’re not 100% sure you want a VR headset, then maybe triple monitors or an ultrawide would be worth considering.