The Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR is our pick for the best virtual reality experience consumers can have today, but it has some limits – including overheating issues and the fact that it only works with the Galaxy Note 4. But now you can buy a new version of the Gear VR that plays nicely with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. Read on for Gizmag's early impressions.
Update: No need to waste your time with early impressions, you can now read Gizmag's full Gear VR review.
The new Gear VR is very similar to the original Note 4 version, but so far it looks like it's improved in all the right places.
Most importantly, the new Gear VR has a built-in fan. With the Note 4 model, you were lucky to get through half an hour with the brightness set to low, before having things cut-off short with an overheating message (that is, unless you were aiming a fan at your head). After cracking open this new model, we put it through a good 40-minute gaming session, with brightness jacked all the way up, and got no overheating messages.
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You have to have spent time with the Note 4 version to fully appreciate this, but so far it looks like the biggest annoyance with that model has been fixed. Praise the VR gods, for all is well in the world.
Lens fog is still an issue in the new Gear VR, as it is in every VR headset we've used, but some anti-fog products will help with that (we can recommend Clarity Defog It wipes, though it's possible cheaper solutions will work too).
Our biggest question going in was how the smaller 5.1-in screens of the Galaxy S6 and GS6 edge would affect the VR experience, but so far it looks almost exactly the same as it does with the 5.7-in Note 4 inside. We're pretty sure the FOV is slightly smaller with the new model, but it isn't noticeable or a compromised experience in any way.
We used the new Gear VR with the Galaxy S6 edge, and its curved screen also didn't alter things a bit.
When we reviewed the Note 4 version of the Gear VR, one big caveat was that its game selection wasn't the biggest, with many short demos populating the Oculus Store. Since then, though, Oculus has starting selling paid apps – and things are looking a lot meatier these days. Viral and a new (full) version of HeroBound are terrific, Dreadhalls will make you crap your pants, and there are plenty of other games and 360-degree videos to sift through.
Samsung and Oculus VR are still careful to describe the Gear VR as an "Innovator Edition," aimed at early adopters and developers, but this new version is much more consumer-ready than the Note 4 variant was back in December. Solving overheating alone is a huge step forward, and there are also new additions like the ability to charge while using the headset (it might be a bit awkward having a cord sticking out of the bottom, but it's a way to keep your phone's battery from draining during longer sessions).
Stay tuned for our full review. So far, though, the new Gear VR looks like the already-sweet collaboration between Samsung and Oculus VR got a lot sweeter. If you own the Galaxy S6 or GS6 edge and are at all curious about virtual reality, there are much worse ways to spend US$200.
Product page: Samsung