I finally came back from my friend’s house, the only guy who owns a Galaxy S6 in my Skype list. Have to admit, his phone is a lot better than mine. No noticeable lagspikes, and works like a charm. But testing the phone out is not the reason I visited him for the first time in 6 months.
Gear VR has a lot of great features, but all of them are limited to only the newest Samsung phones, phones that I do not own and are not in my “VR stash”.
Since this site focuses solely on virtual reality, this Gear VR review is going to be extremely long, detailed, and not fluffy.
Let’s start with what I hated… just kidding, let’s start with the basics.
What, How and Why Use Gear VR?
Simply said, it’s an entertainment device. It is made with a specific goal in mind – to entertain people and make them experience virtual reality while on the go. With Gear VR, you can play games, watch movies, and do all sorts of stuff with your phone in 3D, while your head movement is tracked in virtual world.
It was released few weeks ago by Samsung and Oculus, and is already considered a best seller by every retailer on the market.
It works as a headset that you strap around your head, just like ski goggles. Find a compatible Samsung phone, open the front cover of the Gear VR, push your phone inside till you hear a click, and close the cover.
After it’s inside, Gear VR will tell you to download all the necessary VR applications to your phone.
History of Gear VR
First consumer Gear VR version is designed in a way to only support the latest Samsung Galaxy phones like Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge.
Why only Samsung phones you might ask?
Apparently Samsung has a longer history with Head Mounted Display’s as we might have thought. In 2005, Samsung patented the HMD idea, but they could not develop anything useful due to lack of proper technology to create HMD devices. They did, however, proceed to research the topic internally.
When Oculus started to get popular, they saw an opportunity to meld their years of research with what Oculus started. That led to collaboration between these two, and in September 2014, they revealed their first Gear VR (Developer Kit). It was designed to only support Samsung Note 4.
Although anyone could have bought it, it was made mainly for game developers to get a proper feel for it, and give feedback for future improvements.
Then, few months later in March 2015, 2nd Innovator edition was released, with some minor changes to FOV (slightly lower), sharper visual quality, and an additional fan to remove the fogging, which
by the way, happens after wearing it for a long period of time. But, the biggest change with that one was, it started to support newer phones like Samsung S6 and S6 Edge.
And now here we are, the complete Gear VR finally released, and even before the major VR dominators like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are out. Consumer Gear VR is designed for Note 5, S6, S6 edge and for S6 edge+. If you bought a phone like Note 4 a year ago, it’s bad news for you.
Exterior Design of Gear VR
Exterior design for the Gear VR has gone through some crucial changes, all to make user experience more comfortable for longer use, and the navigation inside the headset as simple as possible.
Probably the most noticeable change is that the newest Gear VR is marketed without the top strap. Previous one was always shown with the strap, but this one is designed to be comfortable without one. However, after opening the Gear VR box, you will find one just in case.
Personally, I found Gear VR fits my head better without it, as it’s just like ski goggles – put it on your head in 3 seconds and you are good to go. When testing the previous innovator editions, I found the strap to be a bit less comfortable. It should be said that it’s still a matter of preference. I couldn’t imagine people like Bob Ross rocking the top strap with full comfort. Take it off, and you look like someone decided to trim your head at the center with an electric clipper.
Luckily, since there is an additional strap, you can try out both of them. Some have said there is too much weight on your nose without it, but I found it perfect for long usage.
Second noticeable difference is its trackpad and the back button placement. For example, back button on the right side above the trackpad is always moving closer to the front area with each version of Gear VR. The trackpad, on the other side, has gone through even bigger changes.
The first Gear VR trackpad had just a flat surface. Designers of Gear VR understood that it’s too hard for fingers to find the center if you can’t see the surface, so they integrated a small nub at the center of the trackpad with a second innovator edition. Although completely usable in my opinion, they made it even more obvious on this Gear VR by making the trackpad surface look like a starfish. Starfish that only has 4 legs. I found this trackpad to be the best of 3 for my fingers, making the navigation in the user interface completely practical for different uses.
Weight for this VR device has been lowered. On official pages it says it’s 19% lighter from previous model, which is always a plus, but honestly, I never found weight to be as big of an issue anyway.
Volume buttons are still on top, and are easily reachable to make your phone louder or quieter. More about the sound quality on the next page.
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