Samsung Gear VR hands-on: we dive into virtual reality


Once upon a time there was the Nintendo Virtual Boy – an ambitious video game console that came with the promise to immerse the player in a virtual reality experience. Sadly, it flopped so bad that it is regarded as one of the worst failures in the history of consumer technology. Now, almost 20 years later, Samsung is launching a very similar contraption – a contraption that does virtual reality the right way, or so it seems. It is called the Samsung Gear VR, and here at IFA 2014 we had the chance to give it a try.

The design


At a glance, the Samsung Gear VR appears to be nothing but a set of plastic-made goggles that you wear on your head. There's more to it than meets the eye, however. Samsung's virtual reality handset is used together with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – when docked, the phone acts as the screen and brains of the Gear VR. So what does the latter do? Well, the Gear VR has a set of lenses – one for each of the user's eye – which allow one to focus their sight on the image. It also takes care of detecting the motion of the user's head and hosts navigation controls on the side. 

As far as comfort goes, the Samsung Gear VR is a light gadget, but probably not as light as we wish it was. Games and media will do a great job at drawing your attention, but at the same time, chances are you won't be able to ignore the fact that you have the gizmo strapped to your face. Speaking of the straps, they can be adjusted depending on the wearer's preferences. Soft, foamy material acts as a border between your face and the unit. Focusing, which we found to be a bit fiddly, is adjusted with a single wheel situated on the top of the Gear VR. It would have been nicer, however, if the two lenses could be adjusted independently for each eye.

The experience


"Wow!" – this is the reaction that often follows right after one puts the Samsung Gear VR on. Without a doubt, having the ability to look around by tilting your head, as if you're really in the environment being projected, is an exciting experience. Also, we like how the video being projected fill your eyes' field of view really well, without leaving giant black borders around the sides. As for the demos, we had the chance to play a dungeon crawler video game, which we controlled with Samsung's own smartphone gamepad, but Samsung also had booths where videos were being projected on Gear VR units. 

Overall, our initial experience was a fun one, but we can't say that we're sold on Samsung's interpretation of virtual reality headsets at this time. There are still some factors that seem to be holding the device back, such as its size, its weight, and the fact that it only works with the Galaxy Note 4, at least for now. Plus, it is hard to say what the quality of the Gear VR content is going to be like. Sub-par videos and games can quickly lead to the demise of what's already shaping up as a niche gadget. Nevertheless, we hope to give it a more in-depth look in the near future.

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31 Comments

1. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Question is, does it lag? And that

2. CoastCity

Posts: 257; Member since: Mar 07, 2014

I saw somewhere that is fluid experience with a slight piece of pixelization even with that screen. Will it work with Google's 3D though?

16. doejon

Posts: 411; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

perhaps the content wasnt 4k/2k

18. vincelongman

Posts: 5753; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Probably because the 1440p QHD display (not 2K) still is not high enough for VR yet For VR you ideally need 4K (because its so close to your eyes) Also keep in mind that the Gear VR is only 60Hz, 96° and has no head tracking So some people might get motion sick

5. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Its only lag when your brain does, troll.

12. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Are you the only idiot in your family? Even a retard has more brain than you..

21. Tizen007

Posts: 575; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

Question is, are you a troll? And that

26. RORYREVOLUTION

Posts: 3131; Member since: Jan 12, 2010

PhoneArena has more trolls than I have ever seen on a website. Do you guys just all have an Apple convention and say "hey, let's go post something stupid and meaningless about our number 1 rival Samsung! How dare they become as popular as our beloved Apple! We gotta post nonsense on every Samsung related article and then get all butt hurt if someone says anything bad about the iPhone!"

31. Af1rPA

Posts: 712; Member since: Jun 12, 2014

Touchwiz?

4. Vexify

Posts: 570; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

Sony's VR will blow Samsungs VR out of the water. Why? Because they have the extremely long experience of gaming. They have the extremely large if not largest gaming community now. They have the tech, and they have the brains. Also, who would buy a VR from Samsung over Sony? You've got to be out of your bloody mind. Samsung is pushing out a VR just to do it, and just to have one. Go home Samsung. You're not Sony, or even Oculus Rift for that matter.

7. T.Law

Posts: 423; Member since: May 10, 2014

Remember Nokia?

10. maherk

Posts: 7016; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

And I am guessing you already bought Samsung's VR to be able to compare it to the Sony's one?

14. Vexify

Posts: 570; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

No. But I'm smart enough to know that I'll actually be able to play hundreds of more ACTUAL games streamed from my PS4, than some silly crap from SS.

19. vincelongman

Posts: 5753; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The PS4 is probably going to have trouble with VR, since you need high resolution and fast freshrates So the Gear VR connect to a PC will be far better (just use Limelight or wait for people on xda to figure out a way) But the Oculus will still be the best

20. Tizen007

Posts: 575; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

Good for you. But reality is that no one cares, what YOU will do with your PS4. And I don't understand why you would be bringing up VR for consoles when this VR is really about phones. Categorization is important for preschoolers.

15. pavsidhu

Posts: 214; Member since: May 20, 2014

Who wants to pay loads for a project morpheus when Samsung does it for £150/$200? Samsung is bring VR to the consumer market.

17. Vexify

Posts: 570; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

The people want a real experience, and not some sh*tty wanna-be gaming VR.

29. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

So just because its cheap you came to the conclusion that its not good ? Also, just because sony has long experience of gaming doesn't necessarily mean they can't be beaten. Sony is known to be providing camera lenses for a long while in all the flagship phones. But this year Samsung came out with its own ISOCELL tech and it blew the Sony's experience in phone camera lens 'out of the water', capisce ?

6. realjjj

Posts: 375; Member since: Jan 28, 2014

The price in Europe seems to be 200 euros and that's just insane for something they should give away for free with the phone - there is next to no harware in it.

8. zacsaturday

Posts: 262; Member since: May 09, 2014

vrase are going is going to be released soon, you can use any phone as long as it has a 3.5 to 6 inch screen. it will probally be £50 to £100

25. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Need further confirmation whether there additional hardware on the headset. Their press conference seem to suggest additional connectors and sensors to make the VR experience happen.

9. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I like the $20 Google Cardboard. lol.

11. KillgoreTroutTime

Posts: 433; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

So you have to buy a Samsung phone just to get their stand alone smart watch to work and you have to buy a Note 4 just to get this thing to work. Samsung is starting to become obnoxious and I am becoming less and less likely to invest in the Samsung ecosystem.

13. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

I understand your feeling. I also wish Samsung would support more brands and models. QHD screen would work to VR Gear advantage though.

22. gigaraga

Posts: 1454; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

Much haters who haven't even tested it out already bashing Samsung. Shame on you. You're like little whining haters who whine all day about how bad Samsung is.

23. MistB

Posts: 581; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

No different to the Apple haters, hate what's popular and fight for the underdog, honestly who cares what they think? Luckily I don't fall into that line and can decide what to get for myself thank God, whether that maybe Apple/Google/MS/Samsung etc, don't give a damn what people buy and I certainly ain't gonna have some immature fool tell me what I can and cant buy. Much like I wouldn't care if offended the HTC/Sony/LG crowd that I think they're stuff is a load of tosh, but then again I don't but I decide whether what they sell is good enough for me to buy, just apply that logic and ignore what these trolls with no lives do!

24. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Android ecosystem is diverse and complete in every sense. We already have many type of gadgets to complement our phones and gadgetry needs. There is no reason to hate or attack Apple other than to irritate a few Apple hardcore trolls.

27. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

just here to bully apple, no real harm intended. duh?

32. nathan.carter

Posts: 416; Member since: Aug 11, 2014

BUY SHAMSUNG WOW TODAY! AND WHEN YOU BUY YOU ALSO GET MORE THAN WHAT YOU NEED IN APPS, FINGERPRINTSCANNERS, HEARTRATE MONITORS, AND ALL THE GEAR YOU CAN HANDLE! COME AND GET YOUR GEAR ON!

28. aba71983

Posts: 807; Member since: Jul 24, 2014

Your a BIG STUPID person if you buy this Samsung Gear VR.

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