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Samsung Gear VR Review

6.7

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Samsung Gear VR Review

Introduction


Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
Samsung Gear VR Review
How does one of the most popular people on the planet walk through a hall filled with thousands of journalists without getting noticed? This might seem unthinkable, yet this is exactly what happened at the world’s largest mobile tech forum, MWC 2016.

The reason is virtual reality, and in particular, the Samsung Gear VR, a $100 headset that works with Samsung phones and redefines the meaning of 'immersive' in the context of a mobile gadget.

And yes, the image of all the journalists sitting quietly and obediently watching a Samsung promo, while Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg walks by unnoticed is definitely Orwellian. But there is another reason everyone was willing to put their virtual headsets on right away: it was because the experience was different and exciting.

The Gear VR was first launched alongside the Galaxy Note 4 way back in late 2014, but the initial versions were clearly labeled “Innovator Edition”, made for the early adopters and only compatible with a single phone. These days, the Gear VR is lighter and smaller, and Samsung is giving it away for free with the new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, so we thought that now is the right time to go back to it and review it properly. Let’s see what it’s all about.

*Gear VR is only compatible with the following Samsung phones:
Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge, Note 5, Note 4, Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+

Design, weight and fit


If you have seen the Samsung Gear VR with its fairly large white plastic body, you won’t be surprised to hear that it reminds of ski goggles strapped to your face. Still, Samsung has worked on reducing the weight throughout the generations and the current Gear VR feels fairly lightweight and comfortable. You have a couple of elastic velcro straps on the side and one on the top. We lost the top one and still felt plenty comfortable wearing the Gear VR with just the side straps on.

With large soft foam padding, the Gear VR never feels like it’s pressing too hard to your face or nose bridge, and is actually comfortable to wear. On a personal note, as someone who wears glasses, I wasn’t able to comfortably use it with the glasses on, but there is some adjustment to the focus and it compensates for my otherwise not so great vision, so I did not find this to be a big disadvantage. Still, if your vision is in bad shape and you can’t go outside without glasses on, the Gear VR might not be the most comfortable option, so we recommend that you first try it in a store before buying.

Just like earlier versions, the Gear VR is not a standalone gadget: you need to dock your Samsung phone in the microUSB plug up front. The headset will automatically detect when your phone is connected and switch it to the VR mode, which shows a split screen view of virtual reality content. At the same time, the Gear VR itself is not just a box (like Google Cardboard): it has an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a proximity sensor that are there to reduce screen latency and provide a better experience.

If you are wondering how do different sized phones such as the S7 Edge and S7 fit in one and the same headset, the answer is simple: there is a small A/B switch that allows you to move the docking a bit to adjust for your smartphone size.



46 Comments
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posted on 22 Mar 2016, 07:42 3

1. Zack_2014 (Posts: 361; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)


PIxelated :(

We need 8K on a phone.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 07:49 2

3. xondk (Posts: 1132; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)


Pixelation is not really an issue to me, actually resolution is fine, and last I checked with a sgs6 or better phone and 2560x1440 screen is actually something that is marginally better in resolution/screen door effect then rift, not sure about vive, 4k resolution should be fine really, but driving that is heavy.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 14:10

40. xperian (Posts: 273; Member since: 10 Apr 2014)


It's not better resolution than rift in reality since it has pentile matrix.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 14:17 1

41. xperian (Posts: 273; Member since: 10 Apr 2014)


We don't need higher resolutions on phones, 1440 is already overkill and virtual reality is just a gimmick. 1080 gives you better performance and battery life without sacrifices in visual quality.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 17:29

42. xondk (Posts: 1132; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)


Well true, though we all know 4k displays will come around anyway, at least now there will be an actual advantage to them, though I don't know about their refresh rate.

That also said on pentile, I think that one is tricky to compare I mean it makes aliasing quite easier to handle or at least that is my experience. But yeah, might not be enough of an advantage when it comes to VR, and amoled still has that black issue.

posted on 06 Apr 2016, 19:09

44. chebner (Posts: 205; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


No, what you need is an 8k VR device. Phones don't need to be more than 1920x1080.

Why suffer terrible battery life on a phone because you want high res for VR?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 07:49 2

2. Damo. (Posts: 10; Member since: 22 Feb 2016)


I noticed the same, it's a cool tech per se but it's far too pixelated and hurt my eyes after around 15-20 minutes because I'm not used to this pixelated stuff - I would definitely buy the next gen I guess.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:04 9

5. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


The next-gen gear VR won't fix the pixelation. A 4k phone probably will, which is a bad idea.

Instead, VR headset should have the screen built in.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:07

7. Damo. (Posts: 10; Member since: 22 Feb 2016)


Thx for the clarification - so what would you recommend Samsung?

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:12 2

10. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


For a proper VR experience, oculus or vive will be better. For cheap. get the cardboard.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:18 1

11. NoToFanboys (Posts: 1015; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)


Why not run at 1080p at normal use and 4K at VR? Similar to Sony's implementation on the Z5 Premium, except with VR.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:34 1

14. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


The screen will still be 4k and will drain battery like a 4k screen. Rendering 1080p at 4k will only save power on processor.

And how do you render 4k content? Even rendering QHD is a major strain. See how he talks the S6 overheated.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 09:36 1

19. NoToFanboys (Posts: 1015; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)


Leave that to the distant future.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 10:35 5

25. Macready (Posts: 811; Member since: 08 Dec 2014)


No, this is not true. Power usage is largely dependent on the rendered resolution and screen size, for a given screen technology, not so much the native screen resolution. That's because for DPI's up to around 800 for AMOLED, the fill factor is pretty constant.

You'll find that a recent 720P AMOLED screen, draws similar amounts of power to a 1440P one of the same size, when the latter is set to 720P, despite a factor 4 difference in the amount of pixels. Samsung has had the 4K screens ready for a while, but the 2 main reasons holding them back are cost and GPU power (which directly affects the battery life too of course).

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 02:16

35. MrElectrifyer (Posts: 1887; Member since: 21 Oct 2014)


Thanks for the information, have any sources to back you claims?

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 03:53

38. Chris.P (Posts: 520; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)


I got to try 4K VR at MWC with the Z5 Premium and the Zeiss VR One. It's better than Gear VR + a 2K Samsung phone, but still -very- far from what we're used to nowadays.

In any case, resolution is just part of the problem. Having to constantly fiddle with focus, along with that dizzying effect when looking around, add to an uncomfortable experience, at least with what I've tried so far (haven't tried Vive/Oculus). I also experienced that still mysterious VR sickness, which felt a bit like what you feel when trying to read a book when riding shotgun. In other words, not nice.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 06:26

39. tyrionTheWise (unregistered)


The main issue is the frame rate and response time. LCDs like z5 premium have extremely poor response times leading to the issue.

That's why oculus and vive look so much better than gear VR or Zeiss VR, despite using only 1080p screen. They use a 90 Hz OLED panel and have the power to back it up.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 07:58 13

4. gaming64 (Posts: 233; Member since: 22 Mar 2016)


The only purpose I see in VR is experiencing 3D rollercoaster ride simulators and watch 360 degree porn.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:25

12. Ruturaj (Posts: 1139; Member since: 16 Oct 2014)


180 degree's are good as well.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 16:02

30. bur60 (Posts: 821; Member since: 07 Jul 2014)


I preordered the S7 with gear vr for the latter.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:06 1

6. GreenMan (Posts: 754; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)


Any word on the amount of radiation?

This thing seems like it generates a ton...!!!

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:11 19

8. gaming64 (Posts: 233; Member since: 22 Mar 2016)


You seem to worry too much about radiation when you're already getting radiation just from having your eyes 6 inches away from the screen.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:31 5

13. aahmed215 (Posts: 163; Member since: 18 Jun 2012)


You put your phone in your pocket for hours and put it against your head when on a call. So I wouldn't be worrying about additional radiation.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:11 13

9. wando77 (Posts: 795; Member since: 23 Aug 2012)


Watching movies in the cinema mode is amazing. It's worth a hundred dollars just for that

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:35 1

15. donrox (Posts: 121; Member since: 18 Jul 2014)


PA you did a review with a "Battery Life" section to tell us "We didn’t measure exact screen on time, while using the Gear VR, but it’s really eating up your battery really fast".

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 08:41

16. thegeneral7010 (Posts: 315; Member since: 10 Dec 2014)


Does the new s7 gear VR works also with note 4????

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 09:12 1

17. devoTECH (Posts: 11; Member since: 11 Mar 2016)


Samsung released its first VR with the Note 4.

This 3rd edition VR model works with the S6 and every Samsung flagship since.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 09:46

21. thegeneral7010 (Posts: 315; Member since: 10 Dec 2014)


U sure about that???

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 10:06 1

24. true1984 (Posts: 822; Member since: 23 May 2012)


it says it on samsung's website

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 06:31

37. devoTECH (Posts: 11; Member since: 11 Mar 2016)


Definitely. Here's it's model number: 60-3358-05-XP.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 09:16 5

18. Brewhead (Posts: 4; Member since: 30 Jan 2012)


Downloading content over wifi did not take hours for me. The initial download of the Gear VR software on my Note 5 took 5 minutes.

You can also download content through the Oculus store app on your phone while not connected to the Gear VR. The downloads did not take a long time.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 09:41

20. natypes (Posts: 1038; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)


"At the same time, the Gear VR itself is not just a box (like Google Cardboard): it has an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a proximity sensor that are there to reduce screen latency and provide a better experience."

Ahhh, I see. This is what I couldn't get answered in the comments from the story last week.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 09:48

22. flavius22 (Posts: 121; Member since: 23 Aug 2015)


For this price this rating seems at least ilegit to me, even from Iphonearena

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 10:00

23. santoss2013 (Posts: 57; Member since: 16 Jan 2015)


In this article I see that Gear VR work with Note 4...If they review Gear VR maybe will give us, Note 4 users, an update to tell us if there are a NEW VERSION of Gear VR what STILL WORKS with Note 4 ! So @PhoneArena, @Victor H. ??? Please ....

posted on 07 Apr 2016, 17:44 1

45. Coguar (Posts: 6; Member since: 14 Dec 2015)


maybe can work, but there is danger to brake gear VR door ...

posted on 08 Apr 2016, 08:22

46. santoss2013 (Posts: 57; Member since: 16 Jan 2015)


thx for reply ;)

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:55 1

26. bubbadoes (Posts: 813; Member since: 03 May 2012)


seems too high for Review, but befitting--which is probably a clear indicator of why Samsung is giving them away along with the S7 lineup

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 11:56 1

27. Shocky (Posts: 2068; Member since: 16 May 2012)


Rating is irrelevant, until HTC Vive and the Rift are available there is no real competition.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 17:34

31. buenos (Posts: 7; Member since: 24 Sep 2014)


the Rating is relevant....the Vive & Rift require a $1000+ PC to run. The Gear VR is an introductory VR device, also portable...

posted on 30 Mar 2016, 07:25

43. Shocky (Posts: 2068; Member since: 16 May 2012)


Neither are available yet.

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 12:32 5

28. Talhamid (Posts: 31; Member since: 13 Jun 2009)


What? This the best mobile vr, period. After a while you stop noticing pixels. The UI and content is wonderful. It's cheap and the only game in town.

Had it been an Apple product the score would have been 9.7 to match the screen size of the newest ipad. Pathetic

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 14:46

29. Djz89 (Posts: 260; Member since: 25 Aug 2014)


Pa is in the generous corner I see. My experience with gear vr was disappointed. I give it 5/10

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 19:45

32. technitude (Posts: 94; Member since: 19 Dec 2013)


It's weird that some people are so judgmental. This is a new idea, and I'm glad anyone is doing it (and how Samsung is doing it - keeping it relatively cheap). It'll take time for there to be practical implementations of this new product. But, I'm guessing there will be more in way of educational uses and sports viewing, than regular games. I think teaching someone to drive with these on would allow students to be exposed to a lot of situations that they cannot practice easily (dirt roads, ice, rain, merging, parallel parking in traffic, etc.)

I think... Good job Samsung

posted on 22 Mar 2016, 23:13

33. ibend (Posts: 3167; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)


so.... what is $100 VR headset that deserve 8/10 or 9/10??
or any VR headset that is better and have more feature than GearVR at that price range (there must be a ton of better choice, since this one get some crap score)

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 02:14

34. Jimrod (Posts: 859; Member since: 22 Sep 2014)


A lower score doesn't have to mean there are better options. I could sell a lump of dogs**t for $100 and it would probably get poor reviews. If another person tried to sell a lump of dogs**t with a cherry on top for $100 I'd imagine the reviews would still be pretty poor.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 02:45 1

36. MrElectrifyer (Posts: 1887; Member since: 21 Oct 2014)


For the initial setup, it would be nice if the Gear VR had some dedicated storage for the content that needs downloading. Android is more than smart and capable enough to automatically mount the storage, install/copy whatever content is required to the phone's internal storage, and unmount it once done. That way, incremental updates to the experience is all that'll need downloading, but aren't necessary to use the device.

However, you complaining about slow download speeds and not mentioning what your internet broadband speed is sounds like a pointless cry.

If I had one, I'd use it every time I watch a movie. What I'd normally watch on my Surface Pro 2, I'd want to experience with the Cinema Mode.

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