Good / The Samsung Gear VR is the best mobile VR experience you can find to date–bar none. It’s comfortable, sleek, and the newest edition is smarter and more intuitive to use than generation 1.
Bad / The Samsung Gear VR feels a bit pricey, and it’s not a revolution of technology–just the finest version of what we have today regarding Mobile VR.
Verdict / If you want to experience VR on a budget, the Samsung Gear VR is a good option–but it uses are limited, and it won’t give close to what you’d experience on the HTC Vive or PlayStation VR.
Samsung Gear VR Review
Mobile VR is one of the first ways people experience VR since it’s much easier to bring over to a friends house or your family on the holidays. Whether you experience it as an additional perk of buying a Samsung product, or you just see a $30 knockoff at the airport gadget stand–it can’t be denied that Mobile VR is a bit more approachable for the casual consumer.
After all, there’s a low cost entry fee for Mobile VR compared to the big boys ($100 compared to $799 HTC Vive) and it’s easy just to pop in a phone, and pop it out–or at least, relatively so (cheaper mobile VR products can be a pain in the ass to insert your phone in and out).
The only thing you’ll need for the Samsung Gear VR is a Samsung supported device (Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge).
The first Samsung Gear VR debuted 2015 with a $99 price tag, but now in 2016 there is a new $99 Samsung Gear VR with new improvements like a sleeker design, better controls, better field of view, and a new design that is supposed to be more comfortable. If you want to try the less expensive version–the first edition, it’s now available for $59.99.
The Samsung Gear VR is different from other VR headsets since it uses your phone. However, it’s not too different in the fundamental technology compared to something simpler like the Google Cardboard. If I were to paint a negatively realistic picture of the value of the Samsung Gear VR, it would be that you are paying $99 for a wearable phone holder, strap, and two lenses that are packaged and designed to be comfortable.
The reality is that your phone does most of the work since it’s the display. The phone displays two separate images to each lens on the headset, and when you look through it, the phone uses its built-in gyroscope to emulate the movement of your head, which gives you the ability to view 360-degree photos, videos, and VR-like experiences through supported apps and games.
Overall, though, the $99 is worth it in a lot of ways, since other cheaper knock off brands are just so uncomfortable that you can barely use them. The Samsung Gear VR also has conveniences like a built-in touchpad that lets you control your phone, a good seal to prevent light, adjustable focuses, precise head tracking, and compatibility with the Oculus mobile platform. If you want the best mobile VR experience, the Samsung Gear VR is one of the only options.
You can either get no features or product at all with something like the Google Cardboard which is just cardboard and plastic lens–or something like the Samsung Gear VR which gives a similar VR experience in a different form.
This form that can last longer due to the straps, comfort–and perhaps look better due to a better light seal. Another bonus is you don’t have to hold it to your head!
The Samsung Gear VR isn’t a complicated device, but it’s an improvement on the last model since it’s relatively comfortable and the experience can be decent for mobile VR. It’s a fun trick to get others to experience VR, but since it’s just using your phone, the pixel density and limited apps and experiences might not be revolutionary.
However, the market for Mobile VR is expanding, and I expect there to be some more worthwhile experiences on the app store soon, and it can be fun to watch videos on it for short periods of time.