We’ve got our hands on the new Samsung Gear VR headset and put it to the test, so you don’t have to buy blind. Is it more than just a fad, or is it just another piece of useless junk to add to the pile of misfit gadgets?
Samsung VR Price: $99
If you want to experience VR on a phone, there are tonnes of deals that have the headset pre-packaged with a new Samsung device. That means there are lots of headsets available on the second-hand market if you want to get a cheap deal.
(Make sure to get the consumer edition if you decide to go for a second-hand model.)
From setup to first impressions, the latest virtual reality headset will be fully reviewed and give you a better idea of what is has to offer. It’s said that Samsung is fully invested in a VR future, and they plan to use the Gear headset as a way to get the technology into households for a discounted price.
(Disclaimer: We purchased the Samsung Gear VR headset to review. It was tested using an S7 edge.)
Setting up Samsung VR & First Impressions
To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the look of the headset, which was designed to be as light as possible. That’s one way to explain the cheapness of the product, which is apparent as soon as you set eyes on it. (To clarify, it looks cheap, but it doesn’t feel cheap.)
It isn’t really smooth to the touch, but aesthetically it works. Comfort was also a major factor, and my partner and I had no problems switching the headset between each other when it first arrived.
It’s also wireless, which means there’s no chance of getting tangled up while it’s in use.
It’s reasonably intuitive when you put it on, and the strap ensures that you’ve always got it on the right way up. It’s small enough to be taken outside in a backpack; it’s light and reasonably sturdy.
It’s easy to set up, and it linked with the S7 Edge instantly. You’ll have to charge both the device and the headset. There’s software to be downloaded and installed before you can try it out for the first time, too. (Nothing ever seems to work straight out of the box anymore.)
When you’re ready, it’ll take you to the hub, where you can start to get to grips with the technology.
Wearing the Samsung VR Headset
It’s unnerving to put it on for the first time, and I had no sense of where I was while I was getting used to the technology. I also felt instantly nauseous, but the feeling eventually went away after extended use.
Lots of people said that it’s an unnerving experience when you first put it on, but it was tougher than I expected when I started.
(I didn’t look anything like that.)
For me, the feeling of sickness was extreme when compared to others that tried out the headset, and I had to take it off the first time I tried it.
It made me clammy and cold, but that’s probably because I made the mistake of trying it standing up when there’s no need to use your feet to navigate. It took some time to get used to, but it was worth the effort. (Sitting down solved my problems, but be careful if you suffer from motion sickness.)
The lightness of the headset did pay off in the long run, as the weight was manageable on my neck, even after long periods. (That’s thanks to the head tracking, which works reasonably well.)
My eyes did start to feel the strain after a while, and I wouldn’t recommend extended use if your eyes aren’t the strongest. You can calibrate the app with the dial and buttons located on the side, and the screen quality is better than I expected.
The foam located on the inside of the product started wearing away after the first few days of use as it moulded to fit my head perfectly, and it should form to fit you after use. It’s a shame that it got a bit flaky and rough, but it ties in with the overall theme of cheapness regarding the build quality of the headset itself.
VR Headset Usability
Regarding use, the buttons are responsive and easy to reach on the headset, while apps and games load with little to no trouble. Graphically the menus and games (on the S7 Edge) were more than passable, and it was great to experience virtual reality on a mobile device.
You can connect headphones to enhance your experience, and it’s a lot better than using the speakers on your phone. It depends on your preference, but it’s great to have clarity.
The marketing spiel on the website says;
Your Samsung GALAXY smartphone can take you to another world with the Gear VR. It’s virtual reality, anytime, anywhere.
Within reason, that’s true, and it’s commendable that it works as well as it does. It’s probably not a good idea to use it while driving, but you could turn it on in the park or while travelling to be instantly transported to a different world.
After the novelty has worn off, it becomes a lot harder to find reasons to keep dusting off the box for use. It depends on what you plan to use it for, and there’s a reasonable number of apps you can download if you plan to get value for money.
There are quite a few apps in the store if you’re interested, but don’t expect there to be pages and pages of choices. (Many of the games are quite expensive because of the lack of competition and the new features on the show, and it’s debatable as to whether or not they’re worth the price.
There are numerous articles available online that have a list of the top ten apps available if you’re interested, and they’ll need to be updated as more are continually being released.
(For example, Hulu just released a compatible version of their app for the store, which is sure to be a hit.)
If you need more control while gaming, there’s an official pad you can buy separately. It might not be for everyone, but it’s a shame that it doesn’t come packaged with the headset. (Considering the price for a new headset, that’s fairly understandable.
It’s expected that a larger number of apps will soon begin to hit the store, although the list of peripherals that have been quietly forgotten by tech companies is longer than they would want you to believe.
Virtual Reality Technology
Deciding to work with Oculus on the technology was a great idea, and you can see just how good it was when it’s put to use.
Here’s a (slightly weird) video showing a demonstration of the Gear VR by Samsung:
It works by connecting your Samsung device to the headset, and you download apps from a dedicated store.
It’s probably better to allow Samsung to explain. Here’s a quote from Jason Lovell, who works at the company;
It’s incredibly easy, you simply get a compatible device like the Galaxy S6 or S7, slide the phone into the Gear VR headset, and it’ll automatically guide you through the install process.
Within five minutes you’ll have the Oculus Store on your phone, which acts as your portal to all the VR apps. Then you simply download one, click ‘run’ and the phone will ask you to insert the phone into Gear VR. Then you’re away.
The screen of the phone acts as the main hub, the phone itself will display the picture, but the Gear VR adds sensors which allow for head movement tracking, as well as the lenses which make the image stereoscopic to match how you see the real world. So whilst the phone brings the brains, the headset itself plays a big part. It’s all about being comfortable and light, whilst packing in the necessary technology.
Interesting stuff, and remarkably similar to my experiences getting it started. The technology works perfectly, and it’s great for such a small unit. Having a 360° view opens up a wide range of possibilities in terms of the apps, and it’s not as limited by the phone hardware as you might expect.
Samsung VR is proof that mobile technology is capable of handling larger tasks with ease.
It’s also fair to say that a few users have faced problems with the headset. We’ve listed some of the common issues in a separate article, but we faced no issues during use.
In the Future
The best thing is that it’s only going to get better.
In an interview with Pocket Lint Samsung’s UK vice president of IT and mobile Conor Pierce said;
I’m sure one day the competition will catch up, but I know we’ll be in a really strong position because we have support from Facebook and Oculus. And we know that a driver will be when people can create their own content, which is where the Gear 360 camera comes in.
When you really experience VR, you can’t help but want it. Like mobile phones and smartphones, when you get used to it, it becomes an everyday part of your life, I genuinely believe that Gear VR will become the future of how we engage with media. Whether that’s entertainment, whether it’s games, whether it’s education, or whether it’s business.
It’s clear to see just how strongly they believe in the future of virtual reality, and they seem to believe that they have a decent grasp of the full scope of what they can achieve.
The practical uses for portable virtual reality handsets are interesting to think about, and not just for entertainment reasons. It could potentially be used for a wide variety of tasks, and the headset itself is only going to improve.
They want to refine the product eventually down to sunglass level, which would be wearable, (though probably not the most stylish option).
If you have a compatible device, investing in one of these headsets will hardly break the bank. Oculus and Samsung have created a decent product, and it’s great as an entry level model.
If you’re worried that you might only use it once, it’s probably not worth what space it would take up while collecting dust. It’s up to you to decide, and it’s a great gadget to show off to your friend’s when they come over.
Virtual reality is just as good as you’d expect, and it’s even better when you remember that it’s running off your mobile device. If you have a compatible handset, why not pick up a cheap headset to go with it online?
It takes some getting used to, but it’s clear that virtual reality is viable going forward, and the headset is a winner.
Joy of Android Rating: 4.5/5