Virtual Reality

Samsung Gear VR (for Galaxy S6): Four weeks later

Samsung Gear VR (for Galaxy S6...
Gizmag revisits the new Gear VR for Galaxy S6 after about a month
Gizmag revisits the new Gear VR for Galaxy S6 after about a month
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The Samsung Gear VR for GS6, which relies on a Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 edge
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The Samsung Gear VR for GS6, which relies on a Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 edge
Gizmag revisits the new Gear VR for Galaxy S6 after about a month
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Gizmag revisits the new Gear VR for Galaxy S6 after about a month
The new Gear VR is by far the most consumer-ready VR headset you can buy today (though Samsung and Oculus insist this is still for early adopters and developers)
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The new Gear VR is by far the most consumer-ready VR headset you can buy today (though Samsung and Oculus insist this is still for early adopters and developers)
You can use the GS6's charging cable to prevent battery drain in the new Gear VR (though the cable is short, so it's best plugged into a portable charger)
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You can use the GS6's charging cable to prevent battery drain in the new Gear VR (though the cable is short, so it's best plugged into a portable charger)
The Gear VR's content library is surprisingly good, especially for a device that's technically pre-consumer
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The Gear VR's content library is surprisingly good, especially for a device that's technically pre-consumer
An internal fan lets you stay inside virtual worlds for about an hour (aim an external fan at your head, and you can play for as long as you want)
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An internal fan lets you stay inside virtual worlds for about an hour (aim an external fan at your head, and you can play for as long as you want)
Herobound: Spirit Champion, a free game that's basically a full console title
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Herobound: Spirit Champion, a free game that's basically a full console title
Looking into the virtual worlds of the Gear VR (screen image simulated)
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Looking into the virtual worlds of the Gear VR (screen image simulated)
The Night Cafe, one of the winners of Oculus' recent Mobile VR Jam contest
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The Night Cafe, one of the winners of Oculus' recent Mobile VR Jam contest
The new Gear VR for GS6 is available now, for US$200
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The new Gear VR for GS6 is available now, for US$200
Jaws Quick Spit is a defogging product (aimed at scuba masks) that can help to defog your Gear VR (much cheaper than Clarity Defog It Wipes, right)
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Jaws Quick Spit is a defogging product (aimed at scuba masks) that can help to defog your Gear VR (much cheaper than Clarity Defog It Wipes, right)

It's been almost a month since we first got our hands on the new Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy S6. Our review covered most of the bases, but after four weeks with the mobile virtual reality headset, we have a few more thoughts.

Since running our new Gear VR review, the biggest news in virtual reality has been the announcement of the first consumer-facing Oculus Rift. It was Oculus VR that sparked this recent virtual reality craze (we got our first taste at CES 2013) and by this time next year the company should have two consumer flagship headsets on the market: the PC-based Oculus Rift, and a full consumer version of the Gear VR (the current version isn't technically a full consumer product yet, but it feels awfully close).

The overheating issues that were common with the Note 4 version of the Gear VR are basically kaput in the GS6 version, thanks to an internal fan. We can immerse ourselves in the new Gear VR for an hour before getting an overheating message. And if you aim an external fan at your head, there's basically no limit to how long you can play.

You can use the GS6's charging cable to prevent battery drain in the new Gear VR (though the cable is short, so it's best plugged into a portable charger)
You can use the GS6's charging cable to prevent battery drain in the new Gear VR (though the cable is short, so it's best plugged into a portable charger)

The new headset is also more compact and includes a power port for preventing the Galaxy S6's battery from draining. You will need to power it with a Samsung-made cable, though, like the one that comes with the Galaxy S6. And since it isn't very long, your best bet is to plug it into a portable charger (sitting on your lap or in your pocket), rather than a wall outlet.

The combination of quality cooling and being able to plug into a power source makes the Gear VR for S6 more of a ready-for-primetime VR platform than the Note 4 version was. This is basically the first real VR console consumers can buy. It doesn't feel like watered-down "mobile" virtual reality (Candy Crush this is not), as in many cases the Gear VR experience is more console-like than casual. It's a full VR platform that just happens to be powered by a phone, rather than a PC or game console.

When you're "inside" the Gear VR, you don't feel like you're playing a game, and you certainly don't feel like you're playing a smartphone game. You're just wearing a "magical" headset that transports you into these amazing worlds.

Looking into the virtual worlds of the Gear VR (screen image simulated)
Looking into the virtual worlds of the Gear VR (screen image simulated)

There's already a healthy selection of VR content in the Gear's Oculus Store – including constantly-updated 360-degree videos in Samsung's Milk VR app. There's also a good selection of full games (many of them paid), including a few gems that provide hours of quality gameplay.

Our favorites include Viral (an on-rails, physics-based shooter that's loads of fun), two different Herobound games (third-person action/adventure, somewhat akin to Zelda) and a crap-your-pants horror-fest called Dreadhalls (the horror genre in VR is more horrifying than you can imagine).

Other highlights include hacker-puzzler Darknet, jetpack spy adventure Omega Agent and the stealth action/strategy title Protocol Zero.

Herobound: Spirit Champion, a free game that's basically a full console title
Herobound: Spirit Champion, a free game that's basically a full console title

The fact that we can rattle off a "best of" list of full console-type games is a sign that the platform is coming along very nicely.

In fairness, all current VR platforms – including this one – are still in beta (while others are completely closed to consumers). But, again, the Gear VR is good enough that it could be considered a consumer product right now – even if Oculus and Samsung insist that it isn't quite there yet.

There should also be plenty more content on its way in the coming months, as Oculus recently sponsored a Mobile VR Jam, awarding over US$1 million in prizes to VR developers. The top pick was a co-cop submarine game called SteamCrew VR. Runners-up include The Night Cafe, a mesmerizing walk through Vincent Van Gogh's post-impressionistic world and Drift, a bullet simulator (where you're the bullet trying to find its target).

The Night Cafe, one of the winners of Oculus' recent Mobile VR Jam contest
The Night Cafe, one of the winners of Oculus' recent Mobile VR Jam contest

Gear VR owners can download and play the current builds of the VR Jam games and experiences right now (including those and many others). They aren't in the Oculus Store though ... build links can be found in this Oculus blog post.

Giving Gear VR owners access to the winning entries both pads the platform's available content in the short term and gives us all an exciting glimpse of what's to come. Playing with the winning entries is a bit like exploring a new frontier, with some of these demos peeling back different layers of what virtual reality will ultimately be able to do.

Jaws Quick Spit is a defogging product (aimed at scuba masks) that can help to defog your Gear VR (much cheaper than Clarity Defog It Wipes, right)
Jaws Quick Spit is a defogging product (aimed at scuba masks) that can help to defog your Gear VR (much cheaper than Clarity Defog It Wipes, right)

Another thing we've learned since running our full Gear VR review is a cheaper way to deal with lens fog. Our previous recommendation was an effective – but expensive – product called Clarity Defog It Wipes (they run around US$4 per wipe, and start to dry out and lose effectiveness after 3-4 uses), but we recently tried a liquid alternative called Jaws Quick Spit Antifog Spray.

Spray a small amount of Quick Spit on each lens, rub it in for a while, and then wipe it off with a damp microfiber cloth (careful to keep the liquids on the lenses and off the rest of the headset). Your Gear VR lenses should be fog-free for your next few sessions. One bottle runs around $8, and will last a long time.

If you'd rather experiment with your own anti-fog solutions, most products recommended for scuba mask defogging should also work with VR headsets.

The new Gear VR for GS6 is available now, for US$200
The new Gear VR for GS6 is available now, for US$200

Of course if you don't own a Galaxy S6 or Note 4 (and don't plan on buying one), then you're left out of the Gear VR fun. Versatility is one big advantage Google Cardboard will have, as its aim is to play nicely with just about any phone – Android or iOS. But the flip side is that by only supporting select Samsung flagships, the Gear VR can provide a more consistent user experience, one that doesn't vary depending on processor, GPU, software version or display.

Right now it looks like Gear VR will be the more Apple-like approach, with Google Cardboard more like Android.

The Samsung Gear VR for GS6, which relies on a Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 edge
The Samsung Gear VR for GS6, which relies on a Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 edge

Samsung has yet to throw its full marketing might behind the Gear VR, but once it does, this has the potential to be its most important product yet. The fact that this version is still labelled as an "Innovator's Edition" tells us how high a bar Oculus and Samsung are setting, in terms of content. The hardware user experience is already rock-solid and the content library is in very promising shape – much better off than the Xbox One and PS4 were in their first month as full consumer products.

If this is still "pre-consumer," then we can't wait to see what "full-consumer" looks like.

Speaking of consumer VR headsets, stay tuned to Gizmag leading up to E3, for more on the Oculus Rift, as well as rivals like the HTC Vive and Project Morpheus. The Gear VR for GS6 is available now, for $200. The Galaxy S6 (or GS6 edge) is sold separately.

Product page: Samsung

4 comments
EricJones
A correction and some extra information. The fan has nothing to do with keeping the device cool. It's there as a way to equalize the temperature on both sides of the lenses to prevent fogging. If you are still having fog issues with your S6 GVR, then it's possible that there is something wrong with that fan. I've run into a couple of instances where the fan didn't kick on when it was supposed to and I had to reboot the phone to make it work again. The reason it doesn't overheat like the note 4 did is due to the design and materials of the device. That huge chunk of glass in the back gets very warm, but it also creates a large surface area to radiate heat away from the phone. The note 4 has plastic around the battery and more plastic around that acting as insulation keeping all of the heat in. The charging cord that came with the phone isn't always up to the challenge of keeping the headset working. Some people have never been able to get it working and my experience with the cables has been intermittent at best. I've found that a solid cord built only for charging like Anker puts out is more capable of keeping it up and running. You touched on it, but running it from an external power source bypasses the battery completely so it doesn't use the phone battery and doesn't create nearly as much heat while in use. Any external battery or charger that you intend to use needs to have an output of at least 2.4 amps at 5 volts or 1.67 amps at 9 volts. Most external batteries I've seen tend to run at 2 amps or less. Using a good external battery with a 3 amp output I was able to use the Gear VR all day with out running out of power or overheating. I was so happy with it that the battery and charging cord are now part of the kit along with a microfiber towel and a Moga controller. There's a lot more points of separation between Gear VR and Google cardboard, but I appreciate that you stated that you said there is a difference. So many reviewers look at it and say "huuurrrrr it's nothing but a $200 google cardboard clone" without ever taking the time to notice that it's a completely different level of experience.
DonGateley
And never forget that you are locked into their walled garden of curated content. This won't be your 3D porn box. :-)
Skydivingvr
I hope someone who has a fogging problem reads this because I have eliminated all the fog without spray ons and all that stuff which barely works. It is simple. It involve undoing fifty screws I'd say which is easy. And then unclipped the data leads on the chip. Then unscrew two screws holding the fan case in place. In the fan case is a cheap budget fan and this fan is the problem. The problem are the following things... It is 12v fan which gives no power thattis good enough to get around the inside. TheThe insuis allablocked off soshe lenseslenses do not even get touched by thethe fan fan air. The fanfan literallyliterally needs to get through a plastic tube to hut the lens which it cant. Tge fan has five big blades and low output meaning terribke all round. The fan is 30mm x 30mm x 10mm. It slots into a case. Yiu can change this so easily with a 5v fan with 8-12 blades that generates more power and remains silent. Not onoy that but once the lenses are hot enough and dont need the fan anymore you can add an additional switch to the fan and run the lead out the fan vent and under the tge unit to put a discreet switch to turn it on or off. Any fan the same size will fit. Brushless is better but bearing will give a touch of a noise though headphones take care of that. All up it is an hour job. Check out my thread on ocukus forums and reddit showing what i did and whay i came across. Its a $3.50 fix that will never need to be worried abiut again. If yiu arent comfortable then take it to a electrical store. Its so simple Hioe this offers some help to someone
DaveBra
Protocol Zero: If you bought or or thinking of buying (can't buy if you already have Android 6 as it isn't available) this game BEWARE you CAN'T play the game after upgrading to Android 6 (marshmallow). The developer has ended support for this game so it will not be updated.