Alcatel’s Vision VR headset doesn’t need a phone or PC

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The VR headsets keep coming, but the Alcatel Vision runs on its own(Credit: David Nield/New Atlas)

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Broadly speaking, there are two types of virtual reality headset in the world: the high-powered, PC connected ones like the Vive and the Rift, and the ones that are run by a phone. The new Alcatel Vision, however, is neither. We took the standalone headset for a spin at IFA 2016.

What Alcatel has done is stuff smartphone-like components into the body of the Vision, so there's no extra device needed. Presumably it's a trick Samsung could do if it wanted to, but for the time being it's happy to sell the Gear VR and its Galaxy phones separately.

Alcatel already makes a VR headset to go with its Idol phones, so we're presuming the company's engineers have more or less melded the two.

We were able to get a quick go of the Alcatel Vision on the show floor at IFA 2016 in Berlin, and came away pleasantly surprised: This is no Oculus Rift, for sure, but Alcatel has put together a headset that's comfortable and well-built.

It's clever too, with the battery around the back inside the headrest, spreading the load of the weight of the Vision. We didn't bother messing around with the Vision's straps and fit to any great degree, but it still felt comfortable and light enough for short bursts.

It looks very much like many other smartphone-powered VR headsets... without the smartphone(Credit: David Nield/New Atlas)

Alcatel says the battery is good for three hours between recharges. The materials, from the plastic casing to the foam head cushion, are hardly premium but are solidly put together and to our hands and foreheads about on a par with the Gear VR.

The same could be said for the visual experience: There were slight problems with focus and blurring but nothing too major, or too different from what you would get with other mobile VR headsets. Colors were bright, light leak was almost non-existent, and there was no noticeable lag between head movements and movements on the screen.

It's going to be an interesting alternative to Samsung's mobile device when it goes on sale towards the turn of the year. From our first impressions it doesn't give quite as good an experience as Samsung can offer, but then again you don't need a Samsung phone to run it, and so pricing could be crucial – there's nothing official yet, but a rough figure of €499-599 is being suggested by Alcatel (that's about US$560-670 at today's exchange rate).

Hardly a budget option then, but again, no PC or phone required.

Content could be an issue too, though Alcatel says it will have 100 VR-ready videos and more than 50 games available by the time the Vision goes on sale. Presumably it'll work with the standard 360-degree clips on YouTube and Facebook as well, but to really shift units it needs more than that.

We did try out some 3D videos (offering genuine depth rather than just a spherical movie) from Jaunt VR, and the VR producer is one of the companies Alcatel is partnering with to make sure Vision owners actually have something to watch later this year.

Inside there are two 3.8-inch, 1080p AMOLED displays (giving Vision wearers an impressive 120-degree field of view), an octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM. Apart from FOV, those specs are a notch down from the Samsung Gear VR, which pretty much matches with our overall impression.

For those looking for a cheap-ish (maybe) way into VR without having to buy a new phone, the Alcatel Vision might appeal. But with so many inexpensive VR devices now on the market that fit pretty much any handset – and Daydream on the way – it could be a tough sell.

We also bumped into the Dlodlo team at IFA, and it has a standalone VR headset in the pipeline as well, the Dlodlo X1. It's still "coming soon" though, the Dlodlo rep told us, and by the time it arrives it might already be redundant.

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