Samsung Gear VR is the company’s low-budget virtual reality headset that was developed in partnership with Oculus. Unlike the native Oculus headsets, Gear VR doesn’t cost as much and also doesn’t need a computer for operation. Instead, all you need is one of the Samsung flagships (S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, S7, S7 Edge or Note 5) which can easily be plugged into the headset.
Even though the Gear VR has been available in U.S. for quite a while now, it is soon going to be officially available in Pakistan as well. Every one who pre-ordered the Galaxy S7 will get a free Gear VR with it while others should be able to buy it from Samsung outlets. Price of the Gear VR is expected to be somewhere around 20,000/- PKR.
Gear VR Unboxing
To keep the Gear VR’s cost at a bare minimum, Samsung packs the headset in a lost-cost, simple packaging. Outside is a cardboard box with a plastic tray inside. Front of the cardboard box has the Samsung Gear VR logo, “Powered by Oculus” logo, a list of compatible Samsung devices and a render of the headset itself.
The back is same as the front with the addition of some basic information regarding the headset, plus a few health and safety warnings.
Inner plastic tray of the packaging contains the Gear VR headset, two straps and a manual.
Gear VR Setup
Setup process of the Samsung Gear VR is fairly easy. To get started, I simply inserted my phone (microUSB side first) into the Gear VR headset. Then, I pushed down a little until the clip on the opposite side of the VR headset gripped my phone.
Once my phone was inserted for the first time, it prompted me to take my phone out again and go through the setup wizard. This took a while since my internet speed was slow and it was trying to download about 120MB of Oculus goodness onto the phone. Once that was done, I had to signup for an Oculus account and it downloaded a few basic VR applications. Finally, it asked me to put my phone back into the headset to get started.
Putting my phone back into the headset, the Oculus software took me through a basic tutorial on how-to get around in virtual reality. After which I landed onto the Oculus Home for the first time and I was totally amazed (more on the experience later).
Gear VR Hardware
Like other VR headsets, Gear VR isn’t exactly small. However, since it’s an accessory for your phone, Samsung has tried making it as portable as possible. It is quite lightweight and has velcro straps which are easily fold-able (or even removable). Moreover, it is comfortable to use because of the cushion around the edges of the headset.
Samsung’s Gear VR is different from other VR headsets in the sense that it provides an untethered experience. It has an array of sensors on-board — Accelerator, Proximity, Gyro — which reduce the latency in the VR world. Not only that, but it also has a some basic controls which eliminate the need of the controller if you’re only looking forward to watching movies on the headset.
Almost all of the controls are located on the right side of the VR headset. There is a 4-way scrolling trackpad, a back button and the volume rocker.
Not to forget, there is a wheel up top which allows you to adjust focus according to your eyesight. Even though the Gear VR headset has a lot of space to accommodate glasses, I’d recommend that you try using the VR without them for more comfort.
Gear VR Experience
If you’re trying a VR headset for the first time or maybe you’re coming from a Google Cardboard, you’ll find the Gear VR experience to be totally amazing. I simply snapped my Galaxy Note 5 into the headset and was taken to Oculus Home from where I could access my library of VR content. I’d recommend that you use some good quality headphones — like I did — with the VR for a totally immersive experience.
Once I started playing the content, I found myself totally engaged with the virtual reality. Being the Iron Man in an “Avengers: Age of Ultron” fight scene was super cool. Running from the temple while I could see a big monster chasing me was a totally new way of experiencing Temple Run. I also did have fun watching a few episodes of “Shadowhunters” on Netflix, feeling as if I was in nicely furnished living room with a big TV.
Below are a few videos of the different experiences I had using the Gear VR headset.
Watching 360 Content
Despite the totally amazing experience offered by the Gear VR, there is one thing which can’t be ignored and that is the display quality. It isn’t exactly great but it isn’t too bad either. The pixels are easily noticeable but don’t hinder your experience once you are immersed into the content.
Nevertheless, I would’ve loved to see a Samsung flagship this year with a 4K display for a better Gear VR experience but unluckily — at the moment — S6 and S7 flagship line-up offers a pretty similar virtual reality experience.
Gear VR Wrap-up
Below is a summary of our key findings from the Samsung Gear VR review:
- Best low-budget VR headset powered by Oculus.
- Fairly easy to setup and get started.
- Portable enough to throw in a backpack and carry around with you.
- Comfortable to use, even for long times.
- More than 100 apps and games on the Oculus Store.
- Display quality isn’t exactly mind blowing but is good enough.
- Small list of compatible Samsung smartphones (S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, S7, S7 Edge and Note 5 only).
If you already own a compatible Samsung smartphone and have cash to spare, I’d recommend that you get a Gear VR immediately. For what it costs and what it offers, I’d definitely say that the price tag is justified by the experience.
If you don’t own a compatible smartphone but would like to experience VR, I’d recommend that you look into Oculus Rift or HTC Vive which are coming out later this year. They do carry much heftier price tags but will also offer a superior experience in comparison to the Gear VR.