I will talk about each and every single one of these phones, what their pros and cons are, and which one I recommend you to get if you are on the verge of buying. I will be rough with them in terms of review.
Let’s start with the newest ones:
Samsung Gear VR Performance With Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 coupled with Gear VR 2017 edition is one of the best VR mobile experiences yet. There isn’t much to say about that but to compare it with its direct competition S9+.
I would say that its strong suit is its pixel density. When resolution turns out to be as high as it is and other phones have the same pixel amount, finding out how densely they are packed with each other becomes a big factor.
Compared to S9+ that has 529 pixels per inch, S9 has 570. Not a huge difference on paper, but once you put on Gear VR, you’ll notice the change.
Another huge plus is that it is a lot lighter. S9+ weighs about 189 grams while S9 is at 163 grams.
When you turn your head in VR as constantly as a parrot who wants to view you in all angles, weight becomes a big factor. The more weight you carry around your head, the harder it is for your neck.
All in all, I’d say S9 is a pretty good pick, and if I had a choice between S9 and S9+, I’d pick Galaxy S9.
Samsung Gear VR Performance With Galaxy S9+
While it fails in pixels and ergonomics, it does have its strong sides.
Battery life is quite important for us VR users. It has a 3500mAH battery that is 500mAH more than on S9.
At home, it might not be a problem since you can charge it anywhere, but when you travel in or to places where there are no charging ports, it does become a component to consider.
Frankly, it is rare that you need to use it as much without pausing for breaks, but you can’t escape the fact that the more juice the merrier.
What makes S9+ different as soon as you hold in hands is its size. It’s marginally larger than S9. While it may steer you towards thinking that the bigger phone gives you a more immersive VR experience, it’s actually not the case. In fact, it becomes a tad bothersome putting in the phone inside the support Gear VR because of the measurements.
You’ll have to put in some work to fit it in and make it work with all the VR services in the beginning. It does become easier over time but it’s a bit of an issue for newcomers. So keep that in mind when you plan to put it in Gear VR and take it off constantly.
Samsung Gear VR Compatibility With Galaxy Note 8
Since the best phone that I’ve reviewed here was Galaxy S9 for Gear VR, I’ll be comparing this phone to that one.
First of all, it has a pretty good battery life. It’s at 3300mAH that surpasses S9 by a bit and gives it a decent push for a top pick.
Unfortunately, that’s where the pushing stops…
Keep in mind though that I am nitpicking here over the smallest details because the difference isn’t really that big. Still, here is where it falls a bit:
Right now, Note 8 is the heaviest of Galaxy phones, and that is not ideal for Gear VR usage. Oculus Rift weighs at around 470 grams, and Note 8 combo puts it at 540 grams. Carrying half a kilogram on your head might seem like a small number but over a period of time, you’ll feel it.
Are you feeling it now, Mr. Crabs?
In terms of PPI, it also falls a bit. Pixel density is a bit lower (521) compared to S9 (570). That means that the image quality won’t be as crisp as it could be. I am again, really nitpicking over the smallest of things and it shouldn’t really be a deal breaker. But if you want to know these things, here you go.
However, compared to older S7 and S7 Edge, you are going to enjoy the experience a lot. There is no stuttering at all and your phone doesn’t overheat. That’s mainly because the newer phones are better optimized for VR and it helps the experience a lot.
Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+ With Gear VR
I do not recommend these phones for VR.
Yes, they are more affordable than the alternative S-series phones that came out at that time, but they have disadvantages so big that it really screws us the whole point of having Gear VR support at all.
A-series phones are one of the first ones that actually breaks the S and Note domination in VR world… even though it falls a bit short in performance.
If we were to compare them, I’d say it’s a bit weaker than S7 but definitely better than S6. It may be good with older titles, but the newer ones will give it trouble.
On top of that, the pixel density is 20% worse compared to other phones, so you will definitely have trouble by seeing individual pixels on the screen. Even 1440p phones are barely manageable.
And on top of that top, it has quite a low storage space.
Because of these reasons, I would not recommend getting this phone purely for Gear VR
Samsung Galaxy S8 With Gear VR
Galaxy S8 and S9 are quite similar, but there are some differences when we look at it from Gear VR perspective.
First of all, S8 doesn’t have as good of a CPU and GPU, and that influences the download speed and overall performance with various apps.
Also, the Galaxy S8 doesn’t have the 256GB storage option that S9 has. It becomes quite an important point when you download a lot of 4K movies and various games.
Many years ago I saw that 64GB phones version were coming out and I couldn’t believe that I could fill all that space in my lifetime. Now it’s extremely easy to do so, and considering that we are moving from the desktop era to mobile/portable ones, I wouldn’t doubt the ability of people pumping out content that can fill 64GB within just a few downloads. Definitely a big boon for S9 compared to S8.
In terms of video quality when viewing through Gear VR, you won’t really notice a huge difference. They have the same resolution, exactly the same ‘pixels per inch’ amount, and the phone size. They are nearly identical in that regard. The only difference might come when extremely resource-heavy applications are being used. You might see less stuttering on Galaxy S9, although it’s extremely unlikely that you find that kind of application currently because snapdragon processors are beasts, and both S8 and S9 have them.
The plus of this phone is that you won’t be needing the latest Gear VR version. The 2017 version is still needed but the one that was released in September. SM-R324 Gear VR version can be perfectly capable of using S9, and they are cheaper than the newest version.
Samsung Gear VR With Galaxy S8+
Here with have another similar product to S series. Basically, they don’t have many differences, even when we compare them with S9’s. The only difference is in the small things. Like what?
Unlike S8, it has more memory and a better battery life. 128GB is still not as much as S9 has, but it’s a big improvement over regular S8. It’s also much bigger than the previous version. However, with that comes a cost.
Display quality isn’t as clear as with S8 due to how the pixels are arranged, and although it can’t be seen through regular phone usage, in Gear VR it becomes apparent. It’s also a tad heavier than S8, sitting at roughly 173 grams.
But it looks heavy as well. It is absolutely huge, especially with the new display ratio.
So as you can see, it has its own pros and cons. I would recommend you to decide yourself – Do you prefer a bigger battery life as well as more storage room, or go with better display quality and a lighter model that S8 has.
Samsung Galaxy s7 With Gear VR
Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S8 are actually very similar on paper. They are both extremely powerful, they have the exact same pixel amount, and the density of those pixels is almost identical.
So should I go with S7 because of the price difference?
Well, you could, but unfortunately, there are some differences compared to S8. The main difference is power consumption. Snapdragon processor that S8 rocks, is considerably more battery friendly in VR. According to tests, S7 also produces around 20% more heat, so if that’s a factor for you, you might want to go with the newer phone. But, it’s not really that big of a difference, and in VR it does not become an issue unless you strap the Gear VR on for a whole day.
The display quality is almost identical since there is only 7 PPI difference. The biggest difference is probably on the phone itself. If we compare them side by side, S8 is only slightly larger. But the screen is “YUGE” compared to S7. It’s because S7 has a dedicated home button whereas S8 removed it.
So what does it mean for GearVR users?
Well, you might see the edge of the screen. You might think that it’s a deal breaker but it’s actually not that bad. Gear VR doesn’t use the whole screen anyway and only a part of it. It just happens that it’s a bit tight around the edges. It won’t affect your virtual reality experience, and the field of view is roughly going to be the same.
All in all, if heat and power usage don’t concern you, then it’s a decent phone for Gear VR at this price point. It can play all Gear VR games at 60fps so you won’t have problems with performance either.
Samsung Gear VR Compatibility With Galaxy S7 Edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a bit better than Galaxy S7, and the biggest difference comes from battery and storage.
At 3600mAH battery, it means that it’s one of the best batteries compared to all the Samsun phones that are currently out there.
It also has a 126GB storage option, which is really nice for VR as games (and especially movies) require a lot of room. That way you don’t have to search and delete files that you don’t use and keep them all in one. It’s not as good as 256GB, but that will do for now.
As with all bigger phones, pixel density suffers a bit. S7 has better ‘pixels per inch’ ratio and that translates to a bit worse display quality in VR. Again, you won’t notice the difference in regular phone usage. I mean, I even had a hard time noticing a jump from 1080 to 1440p.
Still, even with that little disadvantage, I would recommend S7 Edge over S7 just because of storage and battery.
Samsung Gear VR Performance With Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, S Edge+
These phones are at an interesting place. They are not the best phone for VR usage as they are a bit outdated, which translates into having a few issues.
I can’t really go at them too much because, after all, they were the first ones to use Gear VR and it’s unfair to judge them.
What I would say is that the biggest problems lie within the power to run apps, the power usage, and the power emanation through heat.
You can’t even get an Oreo android update to it anymore (although there are talks that they “might” include it).
I wrote an article a few years ago on these galaxy phones. Check it out for more information if you are still interested in them. Otherwise, my personal recommendation would be to avoid these phones and save money for the newer Samsung Galaxy phones that I mentioned above.
My top recommendation at the moment is Galaxy S9. For usage with Gear VR, you really can’t get a phone better than that. An amazing performance, feel and isn’t power hungry.
Get Galaxy S9
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