Virtual reality has always been one of the most elusive aspects of modern technology. We’ve had motion controllers that do a decent job of replicating things like tennis, and 3D TVs can make you feel like you’ve got snowballs flying at your face for a few minutes before your eyes hurt too much, but we’ve never really been able to tap into that true sense of immersion and presence of self that is required for actual virtual reality to work. That is, until now.
I’m not going to waste time in this review boring you with the technical details about the device – you can look that up in the product details on your online retailer of choice’s website – but I will instead focus on what you need to know from a practical gamer’s perspective. How does it feel when you wear it? Is it easy to control? Are there any good games on it worth downloading or paying for? And most importantly, should you buy it?
Well, the short answer to all of those questions is that the Samsung Gear VR is a beautiful device that I can hardly stop playing. Samsung and Oculus were smart when they designed this to be as consumer-friendly as possible because you don’t even really need to spend more than a minute or two in the instruction manual. Once you plug your phone into the front of the headset, it walks you through the entire setup process and even teaches you how to control everything.
The right side of the headset has a touchpad for swiping, a back button for navigation, and volume toggles. Those controls, the wonderful display, and the motion-detection technology are all you need to get going with some great VR experiences.
The Introduction to VR video, BluVR, some of the 360 photos, and the Battle for Avengers Tower are all great starting points for someone new to the device. Once you feel comfortable and don’t think you’re going to pass out, you can move on to some of the games like Smash Hit, the first Anshar Wars, and Temple Run VR – all of which can be played for free without a controller. Then once you get a compatible bluetooth controller and start dropping some cash on games, you can enjoy even more great stuff. And they’ve been doing a decent job of adding new games and experiences steadily over time.
As someone that requires glasses to get farther than two steps from my bed every day, the Samsung Gear VR is actually incredibly versatile. For games that don’t require reading a lot of text, I found that zooming the focus wheel all the way in was sufficient to enjoy most games and videos. If I absolutely needed to wear my glasses however, the headset was just roomy enough for me to wear them, although I wouldn’t recommend it if you can at all avoid it. Scratching your glasses or the high-quality and delicate Gear VR’s lenses are very real concerns.
The stock straps that come with the device could be better. The velcro isn’t the most resilient and they don’t do much in the way of improving the wearability of the headset. I have a comparatively large head, and it was difficult for me to get it to fit properly at times. And as someone that often gets a sweaty forehead, I can imagine the head padding being less than clean after a while.
If you’re intrigued about the idea of smartphone-powered virtual reality, then you should get one of these headsets. If you want to experience cutting-edge technology from the comfort of your home, then you should get one of these headsets. If you’re unsure about whether or not the Samsung Gear VR is for you, then you should still get one of these headsets and realize your reservations are misplaced. If you get motion sickness easily, dislike amazing things, or genuinely aren’t interested in a more immersive way of consuming passive and interactive media, then sure, maybe don’t get one. But even then, at least find someone that has one and give it a try.
With the release of the Samsung Gear VR headset, true virtual reality is not only a thing, but it’s widely available to the public – as long as you’ve got a compatible Samsung smartphone, of course. And it’s not a long list of compatible phones at this time, just the S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5. That’s it. But if you do have one of those phones, or are thinking about upgrading to one of those phones, then the Gear VR is an absolute no-brainer at only $100. Virtual reality is here, it’s beautiful, and it’s waiting for you to dive in head-first.