When Oculus VR and Samsung announced the consumer Gear VR at Oculus Connect in September, they promised that it would arrive before the Black Friday shopping frenzy begins. Today they made good on that promise, putting the mobile virtual reality headset up for pre-order with a November 20 ship date.
This will be the third Gear VR in total, following two Innovator Editions (aimed at developers and eager early adopters). But it's the first that Oculus describes as "full consumer," with no more pre-release, beta or downplaying expectations strings attached.
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We'd expect to see Samsung crank up its marketing to match that. So far the Gear VR has only made guest appearances in commercials for other Samsung products, and hasn't had its solo moment in the marketing spotlight. Next year is going to be an important year for VR, with the releases of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR, so you could see the Gear VR release as the first pop in this popcorn machine.
As for the headset itself, we strapped it on at Oculus Connect 2 and it feels noticeably lighter and more comfortable than both Innovator Editions. It's 19 percent lighter than the Gear VR for S6 Innovator Edition and there's a fabric(?) material padding the face part of it, which will cushion your face with a little more love than the cheaper-feeling foam padding on the Innovator Editions.
Samsung solved most of the overheating issues from the first Innovator Edition in the second version for the GS6, but there's still room for improvement there and we'll keep our eyes on that when we review the Gear VR. Lens fog is another question mark, but if nothing else you can always buy some chemical products designed for scuba mask fog.
The new headset also has a cross-shaped indentation on its touchpad, to make it easier to control things while your eyes are busy convincing your brain that you're flying around in a jetpack or engaging in international espionage with a silencer-laden 9 mm.
The consumer Gear VR is compatible with all of Samsung's 2015 flagships: the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+. The first two phones have smaller screens (5.1-inch compared to 5.7-inch on the last two) and will have a slightly smaller field of view, but they'll also have slightly higher pixel densities. It's a very similar experience either way, so buy the phone you prefer – not the one you think is going to be better in the Gear VR.
Oculus also announced some new content arriving in time for the consumer release. That includes atmospheric exploration puzzler Land's End (from the maker of Monument Valley). Twitch and Oculus Arcade, which puts you in a positively 80s-tastic arcade to play classics like Pac-Man and Gauntlet, are available today.
The new Gear VR costs US$99 – half what eager beavers paid for the Innovator Editions – and is up for pre-order now from Samsung, Amazon and Best Buy. For more you can check out Gizmag's hands-on with the consumer headset.
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