Virtual Reality

Hands-on: Samsung's $99, Oculus-powered, consumer Gear VR

Hands-on: Samsung's $99, Oculu...
Gizmag goes hands-on with the first consumer-facing Gear VR
Gizmag goes hands-on with the first consumer-facing Gear VR
View 7 Images
The new consumer-facing Gear VR, with the Galaxy S6 edge+ – one of five phones it's compatible with
1/7
The new consumer-facing Gear VR, with the Galaxy S6 edge+ – one of five phones it's compatible with
Gizmag goes hands-on with the first consumer-facing Gear VR
2/7
Gizmag goes hands-on with the first consumer-facing Gear VR
The Gear's touchpad now has an intended cross pattern, which will make it easier to find while wearing the headset
3/7
The Gear's touchpad now has an intended cross pattern, which will make it easier to find while wearing the headset
The facial padding is now a different material (this one feels more like fabric, where the Innovator Editions had a foam-like material)
4/7
The facial padding is now a different material (this one feels more like fabric, where the Innovator Editions had a foam-like material)
The new Gear VR will cost $99
5/7
The new Gear VR will cost $99
Left side of the headset
6/7
Left side of the headset
Oculus didn't have live demo units this week, but the company tells us the VR experience is basically the same
7/7
Oculus didn't have live demo units this week, but the company tells us the VR experience is basically the same
View gallery - 7 images

The new US$99 Samsung Gear VR is the first full-consumer mobile headset from Oculus. Though we'll have to wait to see what the VR experience is like (spoiler: it's probably exactly like it was on the Innovator Editions), we did get to check out the physical differences in the new model.

The consumer Gear VR is 22 percent lighter than the version for the Galaxy S6 (which itself was already lighter than the Note 4 version) – and you can feel the difference when you pick it up. It's not that we ever thought the previous model felt heavy, but the new Gear VR does get you closer to completely forgetting that you have a mask strapped to your face.

Oculus didn't have live demo units this week, but the company tells us the VR experience is basically the same
Oculus didn't have live demo units this week, but the company tells us the VR experience is basically the same

When you add the fact that it's wireless (as it always has been), the consumer Gear VR is fleshing out its role as the portable one. The Oculus Rift is the more powerful headset (and always will be), while the Gear VR is the mobile option, with raw horsepower that will sit maybe two or three years behind.

Making the Gear VR lighter than it already was plays to its inherent advantages: phone in pocket, headset in backpack, instant VR everywhere you go.

The Gear's touchpad now has an intended cross pattern, which will make it easier to find while wearing the headset
The Gear's touchpad now has an intended cross pattern, which will make it easier to find while wearing the headset

Another subtle tweak that should help out is the touchpad's new textured cross-pattern. Though you knew on the older models to reach for your right temple, the flat pad could be tricky to find when you're "inside" the VR worlds and need to quickly zap a bad guy. The indented pad will be much easier to find when you're "blind."

The biggest upgrade, though, is the fact that it fits all of Samsung's 2015 flagships: the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+. A slider adjusts the phone area to fit either the smaller or larger phones, and there's an indicator that lets you know which pair of phones it's currently sized for.

The new Gear VR will cost $99
The new Gear VR will cost $99

The front cover is back with this model. The 2014 Innovator Edition (Note 4) had a cover, but the early 2015 (GS6) model didn't. You can still, however, use it without the cover if you want.

Though, in yesterday's keynote, Samsung showed a product image of the headset without the top strap, the new model does still have one. It's just removable. The focus adjustment wheel (which the Rift doesn't use, as it simply leaves room to wear glasses) is back as well, and in the same place, top-center.

The facial padding on the new model uses a different material. Hard to say exactly what it is from our hands-on (though it looks and feels like some kind of fabric). Oculus' Mobile Head suggested it could potentially help with lens fog.

The facial padding is now a different material (this one feels more like fabric, where the Innovator Editions had a foam-like material)
The facial padding is now a different material (this one feels more like fabric, where the Innovator Editions had a foam-like material)

The lighter and more compatible Samsung Gear VR will launch this November (at some point before Black Friday, Samsung says). Its $99 price is half what the Innovator Editions cost developers and early adopters.

For more, you can check out Gizmag's full coverage of Oculus Connect 2.

View gallery - 7 images
5 comments
RohanPeiris
Hey Will, Now I've seen reviews of the Innovator editions for S6 and Note 4 comparisons. They tell me the S6 has better ppi and looks better, but the FOV is slightly less. Now can you tell me, did you try the Note 5 and compare that against the S6 and S6 edge+ ? Please are you able to say if the Note 5 would have less screendoor effect than the Note 4 at ALL - or would this be exactly the same ? I am considering which phone to purchase for the best VR experience... since there are different phones I'd like to know the VR experience on each, no matter how small the difference. FOV and ppi / screen quality wise. Is there a clear BEST ?
NathanCasey
How is the rift more powerful? By having a lower res screen and headphones? lol
NathanCasey
How is the rift more powerful? By having a lower res screen and headphones? lol
DonGateley
Looks like that pad isn't the trackpad I thought it was. With those grooves it seems to have just two separate functions, up/down and front/back. If so, that's a shame. A true trackpad with tap sensing is much more flexible as a control.
only1tricky
Ok, a couple of things I don't see on this edition of the new Gear VR and perhaps you could clarify for me are 1) the micro fan, I'm actually glad to see it go (if it really has gone). Doing away with the fan as small as it was should help with the phones battery life. I'm not sure if it really helped with the de-fogging anyway. 2) The power pass-through port, I did like this as even though it didn't actually charge your phone, it was nice to be able to use the device for a reasonable length of time, while not completely draining my battery.
I guess the omission of these two items has helped keep the manufacturing costs down so they could offer a much lower price point to consumers.
I'm not too sure why they decided to put a usable cover on the front of the device (other than for aesthetics)? How would you be able to use it in pass-through camera mode? and surely it will trap more heat. I use the Gear VR for Galaxy S6 Innovator edition and heaven knows it gets hot real quick if you use the unit for anything more than playing a simple game.
Thoughts?