When it comes to smartphone-based VR, there’s isn’t a lot to choose from. There’s Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and Samsung’s Gear VR. If you wanted high-quality mobile VR content, you would choose the latter two of the ones I mentioned.
I tested out the Gear VR with Controller alongside the Galaxy S9+ and it’s easily one of the best mobile VR headsets you can buy (as long as you have a compatible Samsung phone).
Design & Hardware
The Gear VR has a plastic design in a blackish/blue colour. The right side of the device has a touchpad with a Home and Back button. There’s also a USB-C port that allows for power, 3rd party controllers and USB-C drives that are OTG. There’s also an adjustable headstrap for added comfort.
To get started with the Gear VR, all you have to do is insert your Samsung smartphone into the correct connector (either USB-C or microUSB) and you’ll be taken through the setup process including pairing the controller over Bluetooth. When you connect your device to the headset, you can still can access the headphone jack to hook up some headphones for a more immersive experience. If your phone is running out of juice while you’re using the Gear VR, you can just connect the charge to the Gear VR’s USB-C port.
When using the Gear VR, the battery doesn’t drain that much but your phone will get warm when playing graphically intense games in VR.
The Gear VR works with Samsung devices that have either a microUSB or USB-C port and the headset comes with interchangeable phone connections to properly connect your phone to the headset. Some devices that are compatible include the Galaxy S9, S9+, Note8, S8, S8+, S7, S7 Edge, Note5, S6 Edge+, S6, S6 Edge, A8 and A8+.
The headset has a 101-degree field-of-view which allows you to see more of whatever content you’re viewing. The headset does allow you to adjust the distance between the lenses, so it’s better for your eyes. There’s also a gyro sensor and proximity sensor.
The controller for Gear VR has a touchpad, home key, volume rocker, back button and a trigger button on the bottom. The controller does come with a wriststrap but it is a pain to attach to the controller. You can use AAA batteries to power the Gear VR’s controller and the Gear VR headset itself is powered by your smartphone.
The Gear VR with Controller is available from a number of retailers in Canada for $199 CAD but you can find it for much less. That’s almost twice the price of Google’s Daydream View headset, which the Galaxy S9 & S9+ is compatible with. You can buy the Gear VR with Controller from Bestbuy.ca, Amazon.ca and Samsung’s website.
The Gear VR is powered by your Samsung smartphone. All the software is through the Gear VR app and Oculus app on your phone.
The interface for Gear VR with your phone is connected looks similar to how it would be on Oculus Rift but with some slight tweaks to make them optimized for Gear VR. You’ll find Oculus software like Oculus Rooms and Parties which allow you to connect with your friends.
The interface within Gear VR is fairly easy to navigate especially with the controller.
Samsung says there are 1000 apps and games available for Gear VR and counting. That might be true but it also doesn’t mean they’re all that great. Out of the apps and games I tested, I was able to try Coco VR, which puts you into the colourful world of the Pixar film, Temple Run VR, Intel True VR, Samsung #BeFearless, Disney Movies VR, Netflix for Gear VR, Tomb Raider VR: Lara’s Escape and Samsung Droid Repair Bay.
There’s a good selection of apps and games for Gear VR, many of which are also available for Daydream VR. But there are some apps like Coco VR, Temple Run VR, Disney Movies VR that are exclusive to Gear VR.
However, there are a lot that cost money but you’ll still be able to find a couple that are good and free to download.
Overall, the Gear VR with Controller was fun to use and works well if you have a compatible Samsung device. It is more expensive than other mobile VR headsets but there are a lot more high-quality apps and games available for it, some of which are exclusive to the platform.
- Comfortable to wear
- Interface is easy to use
- Good amount of content of the platform
- Wide field of view
- Supports a good amount of Samsung phones
- Larger and more expensive than Google Daydream View
- Controller is not rechargeable
- Some content can be expensive