With high-end VR systems priced at hundreds of dollars, it can be difficult to make the plunge before knowing what the experience is actually like. Luckily, it’s easy to find yourself a free demo of any VR major system out there. Here’s where you can try VR for yourself.

Windows “Mixed Reality” VR Headsets

image courtesy Microsoft

Windows VR Headsets have launched from a variety of manufacturers, and while they’re designed to work with lower-end systems with integrated graphics, and are decidedly the cheapest PC VR headset out there (starting at $350), pulling the trigger on what aims to be the most accessible PC VR system still may be hard to do without popping in first to see if the fit and finish is everything you’d hope it would be.

Find a Windows “Mixed Reality” Demo Location

Microsoft is hosting device demonstrations at Microsoft Stores in the US including headsets from Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo. The company says these vary by Microsoft Store location, so it’s best to call ahead to see if your local store is running demos. The company hasn’t published any information on international locations yet, although we’d expect the usual suspects in the UK (Currys PC World and GAME) and Media Markt/Saturn across the EU to offer demos. Again, we advise you to call ahead for demo slots. We’ll be updating this article as new information comes in.

HTC Vive

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The Vive is the ‘room-scale’ VR system created by HTC and Valve. With high performance VR motion controllers right in the box, the system offers a highly immersive experience that lets you physically walk around a room-sized space while immersed in virtual reality.

Find an HTC Vive Demo Location

HTC hosts a list of stores across the US and Europe where you can try the Vive for free. Use the link above to search for the nearest location to you. Note that some of these locations allow you to make reservations directly through the map; even if not, it’s probably a good idea to call and ask if they require a reservation or only offer demos at specific times during the day.

In the US, stores like Microsoft, Gamestop, and Micro Center host Vive setups offering public demos, while you can find the system in Europe in locations like Currys PC World, GAME, and Scan Computers. Most of the European Vive demo locations are concentrated in England, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany, but you’ll still be able to spot a few places in France, and even one in the Czech Republic.

SEE ALSO
HTC Vive Review: A Mesmerising VR Experience, if You Have the Space

Oculus Rift, Touch, and Gear VR

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As the other major desktop-class VR headset, the Rift is the closest competitor to the Vive, offering a sleek headset with built-in headphones. With the addition of Touch controller and third sensor it can also provide seated, standing and room-scale VR experiences equally well.

Find an Oculus Rift and Touch Demo Location

Oculus maintains a list of stores across the US and Europe where you can try the Rift, Touch, and Gear VR for free. Use the link above to search for the nearest location to you. Note that many of these locations allow you to make reservations directly through the map; even if not, it’s probably a good idea to call and ask if they require a reservation or only offer demos at specific times during the day.

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Some locations also have Samsung’s Gear VR headset on hand for you to try. To see what’s offered at each location, select your location on the map and then click the ‘Store Details’ dropdown under the store name to see which is available.

Oculus has a healthy smattering of demo locations across the US in many Best Buy and Microsoft stores. In Europe you’ll find the headset in stores like John Lewis, Currys, FNAC, GAME, and more, in locations across England, Germany, and France, and Scotland.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Rift Review: Prologue to a New Reality

PlayStation VR (PSVR)

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Sony is the first of the big three console makers to jump into virtual reality with the PSVR headset. It’s a less expensive option than the Rift or Vive, but still offers a compelling experience powered by the PS4 and it’s got an edge on ergonomics.

Find a PlayStation VR Demo Location

Sony keeps a list of stores across the US where you can try PSVR for free. Use the link above to search for the nearest location to you. The headset is available in hundreds of Best Buy and Gamestop stores, and Sony’s own flagship stores. Most stores will demo the system with the PlayStation Move controllers and regular PlayStation controller as well.

Every store on the map offering PSVR demos lists a specific set of dates and times when you can try the system. See the ‘VR Experience Hours’ section after clicking on a location. You may also want to ask if a store will take reservations within those hours so that you don’t end up waiting in a line.

SEE ALSO
PlayStation VR Review: Console VR Has Arrived

Google Daydream

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Google’s Daydream headset works in conjunction with ‘Daydream ready’ Android phones (like the Pixel) and apps to create a high-end mobile VR experience that rivals Samsung’s Gear VR. The system also includes a simple rotational motion controller that lets you interact more naturally with the virtual world. At $80 for the headset, Daydream is a great starting point for users new to VR.

Find a Daydream Demo Location

Google keeps a list of places across the US and Europe where you can try Daydream for free, including the Daydream controller. Use the link above to search for the nearest location to you. In the US you’ll find the headset in many Verizon stores, and we expect that Best Buy may soon begin demoing the headset as well. Across the UK, you’ll find the headset demoed in EE stores and Carphone Warehouse.

It’s probably a good idea to call the store you’re planning to visit to ensure that they have their demo stations available. You may also want to ask if they take reservations so that you might be able to dodge a line if the store is particularly busy.

SEE ALSO
Google Daydream Review: Casual VR Closes the Gap

Meetups

vrla meetup #1

Community VR groups are also a great way to check out VR headsets, hardware, and games, and to connect to a community of people interested in the technology. Many community VR groups use the Meetup platform to organize regular events dedicated to VR. You can find VR meetups all over the world. See the Meetup virtual reality topic page to find one close to you.

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  • Thibaud

    For people in france, head on demooz.com to find someone to let you test freely the device :)

  • RFC_VR

    London, UK.

    Vive and Daydream at Currys PC world on Tottenham court road. Gear vr2 in Samsung shop on Oxford Street. Psvr at game’s “belong” in West End. Oculus Rift at John Lewis on Oxford Street. Sandbox were in Truman Brewery, East London doing Vive demos.

    Many other independent outfits offering demo and paid play.

  • Guygasm

    I’m sure they’ll be demoing their Windows headsets with the super low min spec machines they are touting, right? /s

    • J.C.

      Heh. What blows my mind is that people complain about the cost of running a VR headset, then complaining that the games don’t look as good as traditional monitor-based games. Does no one understand that VR requires a mammoth amount of muscle to pull off a solid 90fps, rendered twice?

      Basically, people want Ferrari performance for the cost of a Corolla, and can’t contemplate why that’s ridiculous.

      Considering these MS headsets are higher resolution than the Vive/Rift, will they need more muscle to keep up? Or does the higher resolution lower the amount of SS required, ending up with better or at least equal performance?

      One of the places they have for demoing is about 5 minutes from my house, so I may swing by to see how they behave, out of curiosity.

    • Michael Davidson

      The idea of Windows Mixed Reality isn’t just about “gaming’, it’s about providing a new computing paradigm for productivity. As long as it provides a solid of enough experience at 60Hz (read GearVR, Daydream, etc.) then they have been successful. This is the kind of opening up of the technology that needs to happen in order for VR to reach critical mind-share with the average consumer.

  • justin

    Strange that the only place I see in WA state for Daydream VR is a closed yoga studio about 3 blocks from my house….