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Sim Racing Product Guides » The Best VR Headsets For Sim Racing in 2023: Buyers Guide
VR is definitely going to be the next massive thing in sim racing. So let's run through the best options for a sim racing VR headset in 2023.
Our favourite VR headset for sim racing in 2023 is without a doubt the Oculus Quest 2. It features some of the most well-rounded features at a relatively low price point.
VR has come a long way since the first headsets a few years ago. We’re starting to see fully wireless VR headsets emerge on the market, the display technology has improved immensely, and more and more sim racing games are supporting a wide range of headsets.
The ability to look around the full cockpit of a car, and experience some of your favourite supercars as if you are really sitting in one is a fantastic proposition. VR headsets really put you in the driver’s seat.
It use to be that triple monitor setups or widescreen monitors were the go-to choices of serious sim racers. These displays allow for a super wide FOV, letting you see other racers approaching from each side. The main downside of such a widescreen monitor display is the amount of space they take up.
VR has come into the fray and has really up’d the ante.
Widescreen monitor setups are great. However, they don’t give you the immersion that a VR headset can when you’re screaming through Eau Rouge and Raidillon in a Formula 1 car.
VR puts you in the driver’s seat like never before. You can turn your head to see cars approaching from the side, you can look into the corner, just like real racing drivers do. And you can even look around your cockpit to experience your car like never before. If your seat is positioned too low in the car, you can even sit up straighter to look up and over the front of the car.
A good VR headset will also adjust the sound that you hear as you turn your head. 3D sound adjusts the volume of certain sounds as you look at them. Although you will need to invest in a good quality set of headphones to make the most of this feature.
VR allows you a more realistic and immersive driving experience. You have a much higher sense of speed, and all of the forces you feel through your wheel are amplified as your head bobs over bumps and elevation changes. We even noticed ourselves able to better control over-steer than without a VR headset on due to directional changes.
So let’s move on to which VR headsets are best for sim racing.
Best Overall VR Headset
The Oculus Quest 2 is the latest VR headset from Oculus, and at the time of writing is the only VR headset available to purchase. One of the huge selling points of the Quest 2 is its wireless features. These allow you to play a host of games on your Quest 2 without being wired to anything.
To play PC games and sim race with your Quest 2, you will need to connect your VR headset via a single USB-C cable to your PC. This sits to the side of your headset and runs down your back, allowing you to easily run it behind your sim racing seat and to your PC.
Update – Since the V29 release of the Oculus software, you can now connect your headset wirelessly via Airlink. This allows you to race completely wirelessly at a mighty 120Hz refresh rate.
The best part of the Oculus Quest 2 is that it is extremely easy to use and set up. This is often one of the barriers for sim racers picking up a VR system. You really do simply connect it to your PC, boot up the Oculus software and away you go.
Great Value VR Headset
The original Oculus Rift (CV1) is still a great choice for anyone looking for a VR headset for sim racing only. The new and improved Rift S has put the original on the shelf, with a raft of new upgrades. However, most of the upgraded elements are focused on the movement and sensor side of the technology.
This means, that if your only plan for VR gaming is to be sitting playing a sim racing game, then the original Rift is still a solid choice. The refresh rate and lens technology are superior to the upgraded Rift S. This will give you a smoother experience with bolder colours. However, the resolution is down slightly when compared to the newer model.
The main attraction for getting a Rift CV1 is its price. You can often find these models around the second-hand market for around half the price of the newer model. Meaning if you are looking to race VR games on a budget, the Rift CV1 could be a great option for you.
Brilliant Lens Resolution
Enter the best quality VR lenses on the market. The HP Reverb boasts stunning lens resolution with 2,160 x 2,160 pixels per eye. That is double that of the original Oculus Rift CV1. When you are looking straight down the track dead centre, the picture quality is amazing, and everything is super crisp. However to be able to run everything on a high graphics setting you do require a very beefy PC setup.
Things take a slight downturn when you start moving, as the picture suffers from blurring as you move your head around. It’s a little off-putting and induces motion sickness at an alarming rate when compared to other VR headsets.
The image also suffers from a slight shakiness when moving your head quickly. If you look quickly from left to right, you will see the internal gyro shaking a little as it catches up.
All in all, this makes the HP Reverb a strange VR headset, that you will either love or hate. For us, while testing it, we loved it some days and hated it on others. The picture does look absolutely stunning when not in motion, however as you are in motion (which is kind of the point of VR) things don’t look as pretty.
Great Value US VR Headset
The Odyssey + is Samsung’s revamp of the original Odyssey and comes with a few stand out features that put it in contention when looking at a VR headset for sim racing.
Let’s start with its best feature, the stunning display. The AMOLED lenses are far superior to the Rift S, and the refresh rate is also an improvement. Other than a few premium headsets, this is one of the best VR displays on the market in 2023. The software inside the Odyssey + also helps to reduce any fine grain which usually crops up in HMDs.
To go along with the great display, the Odyssey + also has built-in head tracking, meaning you won’t need to set up any external sensors. Great for those who are looking for a VR headset with a minimal footprint.
And last, but definitely not least, this VR headset is very good value for money. The main downside of this Samsung VR headset… You will struggle to buy it in Europe. Due to Samsung pulling a lot of their PC range from Europe a few years ago, this headset is mainly for the US market.
Good Value WMR Headset
The Lenovo is a nicely put together WMR headset, offering a decent display, internal tracking with no need for sensors, all for a great price.
The Lenovo Explorer won’t win any prizes in any category. Instead, it performs respectfully across all of them. The Lenovo is priced well, undercutting the HTC Vive by some way. This allows it to sit just underneath most of its competition, making it an interesting prospect for those wanting VR gaming on a budget.
Despite the screen resolution looking about on par with the competition, the two 2.89-inch lenses are on the smaller side. This sometimes breaks some of the immersion as you occasionally glimpse towards the edge of each lens.
Overall, the Lenovo Explorer is a decent budget VR headset that can just about compete with the big players. There are no glaring negatives about the Explorer, and it performs well across the board. Consider this if you are shopping for VR racing on a budget.
Great Performing VR Headset
The original HTC Vive was a market leader in the world of VR headsets. Along with Oculus, HTC paved the way and set the benchmark. Since then, both companies have released revised headsets, and many others have come onto the market. The Pro improves on the original formula across the board, including an improved AMOLED display.
The Vive Pro, although newer, doesn’t improve overly much compared to the increased price. It is very much a feeling of a big price for small gains. If you don’t want to spend quite so much, you could still opt for the original Vive. Although we would recommend going for the cheaper, and more up-to-date Rift S.
Pinnacle of VR Headsets
The Valve Index is the newest VR headset on this list and is easily the best VR headset you can buy in 2023, as long as money is no object. The Valve Index, along with Half-Life Alyx, was long-awaited. We knew about both for a while, and they both delivered when they arrived.
The 1,660p AMOLED display is easily the best display in any HMD on the market. Other HMDs such as the Odyssey + and the Vive Pro offer the same resolution, however, the Index also pairs this with a 120Hz refresh rate. This ensures that all action is extremely smooth, as well as looking stunning thanks to the resolution.
The Index’s controls boast finger tracking, which hasn’t been done before in the world of VR. This works very well in games such as Half-Life, however has no effect when sim racing. If you are looking for a sim racing VR headset, then you probably wouldn’t be looking at the Valve Index, unless you have money to spare.
Valve’s VR headset really is a market leader, however, a lot of the new technology isn’t relevant to sim racing. We would only recommend purchasing this HMD if you have the cash to burn. Otherwise, save a few hundred pounds or dollars and opt for the great Rift S.
Now we are in 2023, most sim racing games on PC feature VR support. From heavy hitters iRacing, through to fan favourites Project Cars 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione, most sim racers support VR.
The main omission when it comes to VR supported racing games is Codemasters’ F1 games. Many fans have requested it, yet we still haven’t had true VR support in any licensed Formula 1 game. You can still get your fix and drive Formula 1 cars in games such as rFactor and ACC. However, you can’t race as your favourite driver through a whole F1 season as of yet.
Our favourite VR supported sim racing games are;
If you are racing on a PC, then all racing wheels will be compatible with a VR headset. Both the VR headset and the racing wheel are treated as two separate devices and work completely independent of each other.
This means you can pair your favourite racing wheel with any of the HMDs above.
Personally, we do most of our racing, and all of the testings of these devices, with a Fanatec CSL DD wheel base. We find that Fanatec makes some of the best high-end force feedback racing wheels on the market. The CSL DD is Fanatec’s most budget-friendly direct drive racing wheel, making it a fantastic racing wheel for a mid-range budget.
VR technology is here to stay, and we are still really only in its infancy. When paired with a decent sim racing wheel, VR technology really comes into its own. Combining VR and sim racing allows for a truly immersive racing experience, and it’s one you can’t replicate with a flat display, no matter how good your monitor setup is. Ultimately VR is definitely an improvement over a monitor setup, even if you have a 4k setup.
As VR becomes more mainstream, it’ll become much more accessible, however, we are already spoilt for choice with a wide range of HMDs available to buy in 2023. Almost every mainstream sim racing game now supports VR, with the F1 series being the main exception. So now is a great time to jump in and try out VR sim racing.
The main thing you will need to ensure is that your PC can cope with the high-resolution outputs required. If you have a reasonably high-end PC, you should be able to use all of the headsets above without issue. Although you may need to run slightly lower graphic settings than you normally run.
If you currently don’t own a VR headset, we would recommend purchasing an Oculus Rift S. It offers the best performance across the board, for a reasonable mid-level price range. Give it a go, and let us know how you get on.
READ MORE – The best sim racing rigs for any budget!
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The main sim racing games do all support VR headsets. There are a few exceptions, such as the F1 game series which does not support VR peripherals yet.
A VR headset puts you directly in to the action of racing. You can look around the interior of your car, and you can look to see cars approaching you from the side.
Our vote for the best headset goes to the Oculus Rift S. Read our complete guide for the reasons why, where you can buy one and its nearest competitors.
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