Samsung Gear VR Review

The age of virtual reality is upon us.  Leading the charge are HTC's Vive and Oculus Rift.  Samsung and Google have joined the party by partnering with the Gear VR and Cardboard, respectively.  Unlike HTC and Oculus, Samsung's and Google's approach rely on the smartphone to serve as the brains and the display.  They lack the processing power of a full computer but offer a wireless experience.

The 4 VR systems mentioned offer apps not capable with each other but with Samsung's Gear VR you could still run Cardboard apps on it (stay tuned for our How to Run Cardboard apps in Gear VR article).  Although Gear VR is powered by Oculus, not all apps made for Oculus will run on the Gear VR due to the limited power of a phone

The Gear VR includes the basics: the headset, plastic cover, 2 straps (around and over top of head), and get started guide.

Basically the Gear VR are goggles that offer a pair of magnifiers, gyroscopes, proximity sensor, touch pad, pass through volume control, and charger pass through.  The Gear VR only supports Samsung's latest Galaxy S devices (S6, S6 edge, S6 edge +, Note 5, S7, and S7 edge) and it's probably best it's limited to the high end devices as you'll find out.

The touch pad on the right provides no feedback.  You can tap anywhere on the touch pad to confirm selections.  It frequently interpreted my swipes as taps.  The back button is above and does provide feedback.  You can pair a Bluetooth controller to replace the touch pad functionality.

To start, plug in your phone at the front of the goggles and the phone detects its connected to the Gear VR and immediately asks you to install the Gear VR and Oculus apps.

The store offers a number of paid apps and a few free apps.  The Oculus photos are neat but most are 360 photos and aren't 3D but the 3D contest entries are really impressive.  The 360 videos are very low quality but it may depend on bandwidth.  I did enjoy the video with the Blue Angels.  You'll quickly realize having a 360 video is neat but your eyes can only focus on one thing at a time, you'll miss small things a video editor would help highlight, and you don't always get the best view.

A proximity sensor on the inside turns on/off the phone display and pauses VR apps.

Even with the highest PPI device, the Galaxy S6/S7 at 551PPI, it feels like looking through a screen door mesh when the phone's display is magnified. The battery also drains very quickly on the Gear VR with 30 minutes draining about 15% of power which obviously varies on what apps used.

At a MSRP of $99 USD (used ones going for about $60 USD on eBay) and Samsung giving these away with early S7 orders, the Gear VR is an affordable way into VR that offers comfort and an experience better than corregageted cardboard.  But with the lack of compelling apps or games the Gear VR comes across more as being very neat but not a must buy.

Manufacturer: Samsung
Country of Manufacture: Vietnam (may vary from device to device)
Samsung Gear VR Review Samsung Gear VR Review Reviewed by Eric on 3/11/2016 Rating: 5

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