Samsung Gear VR review: What you need to know

Price when reviewed

Samsung has really been pushing its Gear VR mobile virtual-reality headset over the past couple of years. Upon the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the South Korean smartphone manufacturer gave everyone who pre-ordered a free Gear VR. Not only did this ensure Gear VRs permeated the mainstream market quickly, it also opened the door to high-end mobile VR – slowly changing people’s perceptions from Google Cardboard-esque experiences into something far more immersive.

Samsung Gear VR review: What you need to know

You may have seen various mobile networks or the likes of Carphone Warehouse advertising the Gear VR alongside Samsung’s smartphones. Don’t worry if you’re left wondering “what is the Samsung Gear VR?”, or “how does it work with my phone?”, the world of mobile VR can seem somewhat confusing to the uninitiated. That’s why I’m here to guide you through everything you need to know about the Samsung Gear VR before diving in and snapping one up.

Samsung Gear VR with Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Gear VR: Everything you need to know

1. What is Samsung Gear VR?

In simplest terms, the Samsung Gear VR is a head-mounted housing unit for a Samsung Galaxy phone to enable virtual-reality experiences. You can think of it as a VR device that sits somewhere between the rudimentary Google Cardboard and the more technically advanced headsets like Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR.

All VR experiences are powered by the Samsung smartphone housed in the unit and you can interact with them via a touchpad on the side of the unit or via a bluetooth controller if you have one to hand.

2. What phones work with Samsung Gear VR?

Because Samsung likes to keep things in the family, the Samsung Gear VR only works with Samsung Galaxy phones, and even then only its flagships from the last couple of years. The latest version of Gear VR can house all of Samsung’s recent flagship phones – including the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. In all honesty, you’re better off using the S8 or S7 as the Galaxy S6 can get a little hot after a few minutes of continual play.

3. How much is a Samsung Gear VR?

You’ll have to pay around £80 to pick up the most recent model of the Gear VR. 

4. How does the Samsung Gear VR work?

Samsung’s Gear VR works by using your Samsung Galaxy smartphone as its brains. Because your smartphone deals with all the processing, along with acting as Gear VR’s display and accelerometer, the actual unit itself is rather lightweight and simple.

In fact, the only tech housed in the headset itself is a pair of Oculus-made lenses and a navigational touchpad on the side of the unit so you can interact with VR menus. There’s also a little focusing wheel at the top of the device, if you can call that tech…

Samsung Gear VR hero shot

5. What can I do with the Samsung Gear VR?

While the Gear VR’s uses are somewhat limited compared to that of a dedicated PC VR headset, Samsung’s device is perfect for delving into 360 video or for educational experiences. Samsung has also put together a store of VR-enabled apps meaning there’s plenty of games to play through too if you fancy immersing yourself in something when on the go.

6. Samsung Gear VR now lets you share your VR experience with friends

Oculus has just made the Samsung Gear VR a bit more socially inclusive, adding Chromecast support for users to stream virtual reality romps to their TVs.

While tethered headsets like the PSVR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have long offered users the chance to project their VR antics, this has been lacking in mobile headsets. Now, the Oculus mobile app, running on the latest version of Android, will feature support for Chromecast-connected displays.

Others will now be able to see what’s going on inside the Gear VR headset, which stands to make the whole experience more communal. It’s also a useful way to guide those with less experience in VR, calibrating what’s on-screen without having to continuously pass the headset back and forth. Think of it a bit like The Crystal Maze, with you and your sister shouting at you mother as she flails about with headstaps.  

Google is due to bring a similar feature to Daydream in a big update later this year. For now, however, this makes Gear VR the only headset to official support Chromecast – which is a welcome move from Oculus. 

7. Where can I get a Samsung Gear VR?

You can pick up a Samsung Gear VR over on Amazon, but you should also be able to find one at the likes of Carphone Warehouse or any high street Samsung store.

8. How does the Samsung Gear VR compare to Oculus Go?

Oculus Go is Oculus’ newest VR headset, a standalone device that lets you play games and watch videos in very much a similar way to the Samsung Gear VR. Seeing as it runs on the same Oculus UI as the Gear VR, there’s really not a lot of difference in sheer functionality. However, as stated in our Oculus Go review, the standalone headset has many advantages over the Gear VR that you might want to weigh up before diving into buying Samsung’s headset. The biggest improvement is in the optics, with a crisper lens setup meaning there’s less image ghosting during play. Another bonus is not having to use your smartphone – and thus its battery – while playing. The overall headset feels nicer to wear for long periods too, and has better audio capabilities as well. It may cost more than a Gear VR, but as you won’t have to fork out for a compatible Samsung phone to use it, it’s actually very good value for money.

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