The Samsung Gear VR has been around for over a year now, but previous offerings were only compatible with a single device and were always treated as beta products by Samsung. That all changes with the release of the new Gear VR, with the price drop to $99 bringing it into the mainstream just in time for the holidays. And while you still need a Samsung smartphone, the new hardware supports all 2015 flagships, including the Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ and Note 5.
Reviews started popping up from some outlets this morning, and most seem to have had relatively limited time with the device and are not terming their coverage as a true review yet. Nonetheless, the first impressions are interesting and should give those of you waiting for your pre-orders to arrive or wanting to snatch it up as soon as possible a good idea of what to expect.
Gear VR “Review” roundup
- Ben Popper on The Verge
- Ben Kuchera on Polygon
- Drew Olanoff on TechCrunch
- Brian X. Chen on New York Times
- Lewis Leong on IGN
- Geoffrey A. Fowler on The Wall Street Journal
- Peter Rubin on Wired
- Nate Ralph on CNET
What critics are saying about the Gear VR
- Comfort: “The Gear VR itself is light…0.62 pounds to be exact.” “But in my testing of the device over a week, the video strained my eyes and the extra weight on my head made my neck sore.” “The headset is now lighter and more comfortable than previous models. It feels good in the hand and very comfortable on the face.” “You can comfortably fit glasses inside, and there’s also a focus adjustment that makes the view more pleasurable for aging eyes. Yet there’s still some discomfort. Wearing anything on your face for an hour can get old.” “VR is funny that way. I didn’t find the headset too heavy, but its physical, visceral effects came at a cost. Each half-hour session left me with a slight headache and disorientation that bordered on nausea.”
- Battery/heat: “The two concerns that I had about the Gear VR in earlier versions, battery drain and overheating phones, have largely been mitigated. An hour of solid use hits my Note 5 for anywhere from 15-20 percent.” “Oh, and keep a charger nearby: VR will devastate your phone’s battery life.” “My test Galaxy S6 Edge Plus worked so hard when mounted, it could blow through its huge battery with an hour or two of intensive VR.” “Plan for between two to five hours of use,…There is a micro-USB port if you’d like to charge while you play,…You’re also going to notice that your phone gets very hot while playing, although the Gear VR will warn you if it gets too hot and may ask you to take a short break to let things cool down.”
- Controls: “The Gear VR adds a touchpad on the right side that’s equally useful for scrolling through movie titles and zapping alien spaceships, though it takes a little getting used to.” “All of the controls are easily accessible, but just separated enough to avoid unintentional button presses. You can also pair a Samsung or third-party Bluetooth controller with the phone, which comes in handy for some of games, particularly the old-school titles you can play in the Arcade app, stand-up cabinets and all.”
- Audio: “There’s a cut out for plugging in wired headphones, but you’re better off using wireless headphones.” “A bluetooth headset is a must: the audio pumping out of your phone’s speakers isn’t nearly as engrossing as having the enclosed aural experience you’ll get from a good set of headphones.”
- Content: “There are currently more than 100 games, apps, and “experiences” available in the store—many of them free—and Max Cohen, Oculus’ head of mobile, says that there are are least 40 more coming in the next couple of months.” “Oculus and Samsung made sure to populate the store with a staggering amount of curated content beyond interactive movie trailers and tech demos.” “My favorite VR experience thus far takes on a much slower pace: it’s Land’s End, an adventure game from the creators of Monument Valley. It’s gorgeous; sort of a lo-fi take on Myst, controlled with your head and eyes.” “Gear VR has a seemingly endless array of video apps, not to mention a pretty decent Netflix app, but the experience of Oculus Video has them all beat.” “The Steam version of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes has been a surprise viral hit, but in our opinion the best version can be found on Gear VR. You put on the headset, give your friends printed out directions on how to defuse the bombs you’re about to face and off you go.”
5 Word Wrap Up: “Samsung owners buy it now”
Overall the reviews are tremendously positive. To be sure, there are still areas for improvement and naturally, the Gear VR cannot stand against PC-powered VR devices like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but the most common conclusion across the reviews was that at $99 it is an easy recommendation for anyone that already owns a 2015 Samsung flagship phone and a great gateway to VR.