Best VR headset for Half-Life Alyx 2020

Our guide to the VR headsets compatible with Valve’s next game.

Valve returns to its most legendary franchise on March 23, 2020 with Half-Life Alyx, but you’ll need a VR headset to play this game when it comes out on PC. This page is designed to make choosing the best VR headset for Half-Life Alyx as simple as possible, giving you the information you need to find the headset that fits your needs at a price you can afford.

Just looking at all of the options available can be daunting, especially if you’re a newcomer to VR, with six SteamVR headsets that are officially compatible with Half-Life Alyx. Here are those six options, not including first-gen VR headsets that have disappeared from retail:

  • Valve Index
  • HTC Vive Pro
  • HTC Vive Cosmos
  • Oculus Rift S
  • Oculus Quest (w/ Link Cable)
  • Windows Mixed Reality

With different physical designs, screens, tracking solutions and price points, there’s plenty to discuss about each option. Thankfully, once you get to know a little about each of them you’ll quickly be able to narrow in on the right one for you. That makes choosing the best VR headset for Half-Life Alyx fairly straightforward – as long as you’re equipped with our recommendations.

So: here is our guide to the best VR headsets for Half-Life Alyx, including the specs and features you need to know about, plus the best prices we’ve found on every headset listed.

First, let’s look at a summary, presented in a convenient table form:

Headset Summary Best Price (Full system)
Valve Index The best VR headset for HL Alyx £459/$499 on Steam (HMD only)
£689/$749 on Steam
£919/$999 on Steam (w/ base stations)
HTC Vive Pro Another strong premium option £599/$599 on Vive (HMD only)
£899/$899 on Vive (w/ base stations)
HTC Vive Cosmos An inside-out tracking headset £699/$699 on Vive, £699 on Amazon
Oculus Rift S The best value VR headset £394/$399 on Amazon
Oculus Quest Comfy, but sacrifices fidelity £399/$399 (64GB) on Amazon
£499/$499 (128GB) on Amazon
Windows Mixed Reality Best budget option for Alyx £340/$310 on Amazon
£380/$230 on Microsoft

And for full details, scroll on or click on the headset you’re interested in to learn more and see the best deals we’ve found in time for the release of Half Life Alyx!

Valve Index: Specs, Info and Best Deals

2880×1600 LCD screen ● 130° field of view ● 120-144Hz ● Base Station tracking

The Valve Index is the best way to play Half-Life Alyx, as the game has been developed to take full advantage of the Index’s hardware. The 130-degree display has a combined resolution of 2880×1600 – with a true RGB subpixel arrangement that makes for a sharper image than usual AMOLED screens. The screen also has incredibly high refresh rate of 120 to 144Hz, making for a much smoother experience but requiring a faster PC in turn. The Index relies on base stations to operate, allowing for excellent tracking but requiring some setup, while the Knuckle controllers are the best available at the moment thanks to their per-digit tracking. Audio is a strong suit too, with the built-in speakers providing a convenient and immersive experience. All of that means the Valve Index is the VR headset to get for Half-Life Alyx. Expect stock of this headset to be hard to find, despite this being one of the most expensive options.

HTC Vive Pro: Specs, Info and Best Deals

vivepro

2880×1600 OLED screen ● 110° field of view ● 90Hz ● Base Station tracking

The Vive Pro is another hi-fidelity option, and the full system can be easier to find online than Valve’s Index. The AMOLED display is a bright point, with a resolution of 2880×1600, and the refresh rate of 90Hz is good too. However, the 110-degree field of view is slightly narrower than that of the Valve Index. Tracking is accomplished using base stations, which require setting up but can offer more accurate tracking. The Vive Pro’s controllers aren’t as advanced as that of the Vive Cosmos or Valve Index, but it is possible to buy Valve’s Valve Index controllers separately (£259/$279) to use with this system if you want that individual finger tracking.

HTC Vive Cosmos: Specs, Info and Best Deals

cosmos

2880×1700 OLED screen ● 110° field of view ● 90Hz ● Inside-out tracking

The Vive Cosmos is another high-res headset, and this one costs substantially less than the Valve Index as it doesn’t require external base stations for tracking. The Cosmos is slightly higher resolution than the Vive Pro at 2880×1700 and hits the same 90Hz refresh rate. The headset uses inside-out tracking, so it doesn’t require base stations to operate, but the system can lose track of the controllers if they’re too close to you. While the tracking is a step backwards in some respects, the physical design is demonstrably better than the earlier Vive Pro, with the option to flip up the goggles – handy if you want to drink some tea or make sure you aren’t about to kick your cat. The controllers here are decent, despite a lack of top sticks, but the Cosmos is fully compatible with the Valve Index controllers (£259/$279) if you want to upgrade.

Oculus Rift S: Specs, Info and Best Deals

rifts

2560×1440 LCD screen ● 90° field of view ● 80Hz ● Inside-out tracking

The Oculus Rift S is the most advanced PC-centric headset from Oculus, and is considerably cheaper than HTC or Valve’s options. That makes it the best value VR headset for Half-Life Alyx. However, other headsets do offer slightly better screens, as the Rift S uses a single 2560×1440 LCD display that operates at 80Hz. The Rift S does at use inside-out tracking that works well though, and the price includes two touch controllers which perform just fine in-game, despite lacking some of the more advanced options of the Valve Index controllers. Overall, the Rift S is a great budget option that doesn’t sacrifice too much in terms of visual fidelity, usability or performance.

Oculus Quest: Specs, Info and Best Deals

quest

2880×1600 OLED screen ● 90° field of view ● 72Hz ● Inside-out tracking

The Oculus Quest is intended as a standalone handset, hence the integrated storage, but it can also connect to a PC for use with games like Half-Life Alyx with the official lightweight fibre optic Oculus Link Cable (£89/$79) or another high-spec USB-C cable (£7/$19). The display is a bit better than the Rift S, at 2880×1600, but as it is an OLED screen with a Pentile subpixel arrangement you do lose out on some fine detail. In addition, the refresh rate of 72Hz is the lowest of the options available and connecting via USB means dealing with some compression artefacts, which are mainly noticeable in darker scenes. The Quest uses inside-out tracking, with no base stations required, and the tracking is more reliable than that of its contemporaries. The Quest comes with two controllers which work well for Half-Life Alyx, although they don’t possess as many buttons or the single finger tracking of the Valve Index controller. In terms of comfort, the Quest is a little front-heavy, but this can be fixed with relatively simple modifications. Audio is also not great, so you may want to use in-ear headphones. Overall, this is a great budget option if you can find it at a good price, despite some limitations.

Windows Mixed Reality: Specs, Info and Best Deals

mixed

2880×1440 LCD screen ● 105° field of view ● 90Hz ● Inside-out tracking

Finally, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are the cheapest way to play Half-Life Alyx. These are available from a range of manufacturers, such as HP, Microsoft and Lenovo, and can differ slightly in their specifications. Normally, you can expect a resolution of 2880×1440, at a refresh rate of 90Hz – pretty good! Tracking is performed without base stations, and controllers are included with each headset. Retail availability is spotty, but Microsoft’s store often has headsets in store for excellent prices. Right now, the best deal we’ve found is on the higher-end Samsung Odyssey+, which is $230 on Microsoft’s American store. The Odyssey+ includes a higher-res 2880×1600 AMOLED screen and 110° field of view.

With that, we reach the end of the PC VR headset deals and all-around best prices for the VR headsets that are compatible with Half-Life Alyx. We’ll keep this page up to date ensure we recommend the best deals for these headsets as they appear, so check back soon!

If you find a Half Life Alyx compatible VR headset at a better price than we’ve listed here – or if you’d like to know how these headsets compare in another way – then please let us know in the comments below! Should we be covering other options too, like the Pimax 5K or first-gen Oculus and Vive headsets? Get in touch. We’ll also be checking tweets to @wsjudd or @digitalfoundry.

In the meantime, why not read more about Half-Life Alyx in articles by Eurogamer? So far, we’ve covered our first look at Half-Life Alyx and also why Half-Life Alyx is a VR exclusive. You can also hear Digital Foundry’s John and Alex discuss the reveal in video form above.

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