Samsung again became one of the fast movers in embracing a new technology and developing a compatible product at an attractive price. Well, as most of you guessed it right, the technology is virtual reality and the product is the Gear VR headset. This is a headset revealed by Samsung that was developed in collaboration with Oculus VR (the blue-eyed company of Mark Zuckerberg). This is a VR headset compatible with a selected few smartphones from the Galaxy series (Galaxy Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, S7, and S7 Edge). This is sold separately by Samsung and is being sold at anywhere between ₹ 7,500 (discounted price) to ₹ 8,200 (list price) and can be conveniently ordered by any of the major e-tailers like Flipkart or Amazon. The customer-ready version of the Gear-VR was released smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the innovator edition that was released a year earlier. The Galaxy smartphone acts as a processor and display for the VR headset and can be connected using the micro-USB port. Gear VR has the following specifications:
- Weight: 318g (without the smart phone)
- Dimensions: 9 x 116.4 x 92.6 mm
- Field of View: 96°
- PUI/Button: Touchpad, Back key, Volume Key, Focus adjustment wheel
- Sensors: Gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity
- Charging: Micro-USB
Pros of Gear VR
For just a few thousands of rupees and one of the above-mentioned Samsung smartphone, one can have an amazing VR experience that’ll let a person watch 360-degree movies and play hyper immersive and ultra realistic VR games making Gear VR one of the most affordable VR headsets with no better option at this point in time. From the beginning, Samsung or its partner Oculus never promised this headset to be very small and it sticks to this stand. Right from the earlier versions, it’s always been a big and chunky headset. But, through the iterations, the headset has definitely shed a lot of its mass that can be seen in both its volume and weight.
Samsung claims that it’s about 19% lighter than the earlier models, which I agree with completely. This headset is lot less cumbersome and easy to strap onto your head with a few Velcro straps that is expandable. The fit is pretty excellent even for a person like me who finds it really difficult to get a right helmet every time I’m out shopping for one. There is a good amount of padding around the eyes and the nose bridge making it very comfortable to wear even accommodating glasses. My glasses with thick frames also were accommodated with ease and not at all discomforting me. Its highly recommended to go without a glass if you have very little eye power and use the focus wheel provided instead.
It is very easy to setup the Gear VR and all it needs is a compatible Samsung galaxy device. Follow the following 2 simple steps to setup
- Dock the device into the micro USB dock on the Gear VR
- Lock it in place with the plastic holder and you are good to go
To accommodate the varying sizes of the compatible smartphones, the micro-USB dock slides horizontally. The controls are pretty simple and intuitive. The four-way directional touchpad is the backbone of all the controls. There is a back button above the touchpad and a volume control in the front. As the headset does not include an earpiece, it’s highly recommended to use high quality headphones. This would enhance your VR experience and make it more immersive. The final biggest advantage of Gear VR is the availability of rich and diverse content. This, according to me is the biggest game changer, as this will make all the difference.
Cons of Gear VR
The biggest drawback of the Gear VR is the lack of earpiece in the headset. The headset in my opinion makes a whole world of difference while enjoying VR experience. Samsung could have provided this with a small additional cost. This being just a better version of the Google cardboard should have been compatible with a wide range of smartphones as against the current situation where it is compatible with only a few phones. Hence, compatibility issue is the other big limitation of Gear VR. And “NEVER” do the mistake of confusing this with the upcoming Oculus Rift, which is supposedly lot more robust, and the experience when connected with the right PC is incomparable with Gear VR at any level. Gear takes a toll on the battery power retention of the smartphone. Hence, expect your battery to drain lot faster and needing frequent charging.
Testing the Gear VR
As claimed by Samsung and Oculus earlier, there are tons of games and apps available on the Oculus store and it seems to be only growing exponentially in the last one year. As soon as the phone’s docked, a VR content portal opens that can be used to launch the app or game or a movie.
The 360-degree viewing using the Gear VR was simply out of the world experience and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoyed watching a movie on the Netflix app and trust me it was very close to sitting in a theatre and enjoying the movie. The best experience was that of playing a game. I enjoyed playing the Deadhead VR game and Baskhead the most while I played a whole bunch of games.
I found that the display quality was not great on the Gear VR. As the phone is really close to one’s face, one can spot individual pixels easily. This resulted in videos looking pixelated and the games were not sharp and it was nowhere close to what I would have liked it to be. Using the VR headset for a long time had 2 important effects, I was nauseating and the battery was almost dead with the phone getting overheated intermittently.
Conclusion and Final thoughts
Gear VR is far superior compared to Google cardboard that almost costs nothing but it is no way comparable to the ultra advanced Oculus Rift that I had experienced in a promotional event. We need to wait and watch as to how it rates against the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. If you have a compatible smartphone then, Gear VR is an obvious choice but for its display quality.