Samsung’s mission statement about its virtual reality offerings is a simple one: keep it simple and relatively affordable. Now on the third incarnation of its virtual reality headset, this statement has not changed at all. The one downside of Samsung Gear is that you must use it in conjunction with a Samsung phone – the idea presumably being that if you will rush out and buy a new phone and a new headset. This is false seller logic though, as people with a Samsung phone already might consider the Samsung Gear, but those with a different manufacturer’s phone will simply go elsewhere for their virtual reality hook-up. Perhaps for their fourth foray, Samsung will emulate Google’s Daydream View and allow connection through other Android devices… The headset comes with a small hand-held controller to make navigating through apps easier. (Other headsets come with buttons mounted on the headset itself which can be awkward to use without seeing what you are pressing.)
While not the most expensive or highest-end headset, the Samsung Gear is a sturdy, versatile and comfortable headset that will suit the needs of most everyday gamers and users. The headset can be used connected via wires, but is probably best used wireless so as to enjoy the full range of motion allowed by virtual reality. The handy controller – a better version of Google Daydream’s offering – can be used to track motion within the room if you are on your feet and drifting towards a wall. There is still something of a dearth in the market for virtual reality apps (come on all you app designers, get cracking!) so you may not be able to play in a virtual world for a long, long time, but this is probably not a bad thing as virtual reality can chew through a phone’s battery. The new software is more energy efficient so this is being improved upon as updates are released, but it may be best to check that your favourite games and apps are virtual reality ready and available through your chosen platform before you spend money only to be disappointed.
Pros and Cons
Relatively economical – not as cheap and cheerful as Google Cardboard, but a good solid product that will not break the bank
Comes with remote control which can be used with older Samsung Gear models for the price of a (cheapish) upgrade
Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus and their agreement with Samsung means that you have access to all the newest content as it comes available – it may not be huge at the moment (see Cons below) but the platform is growing and this growth is sure to accelerate hugely in the next six months or so
Must have Samsung phone to use
No motion tracking within the room except through remote controller
Something of a lack of apps and games (see above, this is sure to change)
Samsung Gear VR may not be the cutting edge of virtual reality, but it offers a solid, comfortable, and very usable product for a reasonable price with more than adequate access to available apps and games. What must be taken into account is not what you can expect now but what will be available in the future given the connection between Gear and Oculus/ Facebook. Taking those into account, Samsung Gear VR is the one to consider ahead of the rest.