Samsung Gear VR Review
The Samsung Gear VR is an affordable and surprisingly impressive virtual reality solution. If you’re interested in getting involved with VR right now but you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a Rift or Vive, then this is a great ‘gateway’ into that world.
But is it a real contender in the VR space? Or is it just a ‘cheap alternative’? This review will dive in and attempt to answer that question…
The Basics of Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR is a wearable virtual reality headset that can immerse you in a variety of 3D worlds, or provide you with full-screen video and media.
If this sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’ve been following the progress of the Oculus Rift and HTV Vive. Unlike those two though, this device does not come with its own in-built display and does not work via the PC.
Instead, the Samsung Gear VR works via your smartphone. Simply take your device and clip it into place and some NFC wizardry will automatically load up the relevant app. This then splits the display into two halves which will be viewed through a pair of lenses and strapped to your face.
So the phone provides the screen and the processing power while the Gear VR provides the housing, the lenses and a means of interaction. That interaction by the way, comes in the form of a trackpad attached to the side of the device. That means you’ll be touching the side of your face, which is either cool or dorky… I can’t quite decide.
The device is definitely comfortable and light to wear though and you can conceivably lose yourself for a while before you’ll start to feel hot or cramped.
Samsung Gear VR Pros and Cons
The fact that your phone is providing the processing for your experience here of course means that it’s going to be a little less high-end than what you’d get with a Rift, Vive or (presumably) Sony’s Morpheus. Think of this as ‘VR lite’.
On the other hand though, this also presents some advantages. Specifically, the Samsung Gear VR is untethered. That means that you don’t need to boot up your computer and it means you won’t get tangled in cords if you spin around several times.
Don’t get too excited though – there’s positional tracking but no movement tracking so you won’t be able to run around in your virtual landscapes (some say this is coming in future thought).
I also can’t help but feel that Samsung missed a trick by not exposing the camera for augmented reality applications. There is a work around for this though, as you can remove the front panel.
The biggest limitation though? The lack of cross platform support. That’s right: the Galaxy Gear VR will only work with your Samsung devices and only the latest flagships (Note and upwards).
I’ve already explained that the Galaxy Gear VR isn’t quite in the same league as the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. Rather, it’s closest cousin is probably Google Cardboard.
And in regards to price, Cardboard has the Gear VR beat. This is a device that you can get for under $20 and then make yourself out of cardboard. It’s a very cheap way to experience VR but it’s also far inferior to the Gear VR in a number of ways.
The VR is much more immersive with a wider FOV (field of view) and lower latency tracking. After all, this is a device that was born from a collaboration between Samsung and Oculus themselves.
Moreover, the Gear VR gives you access to the ‘Oculus Store’ which contains a ton of excellent apps to try out. You can watch a sports game from ringside, or chill in a virtual living room to watch Netflix on a massive screen.
There are intense shooting games like Gunjack and there are social experiments like Altspace VR (which is actually cross platform). In other words, there’s a ton here to explore and we can expect the platform to be supported into the future.
Whereas Google Cardboard is a fun experiment, the Samsung Gear VR is a genuine VR platform that you can buy right now and start having fun with. It’s definitely a huge leap over Cardboard and a great ‘introduction’ into the world of virtual reality for an affordable price.