Samsung Gear VR: Australian Hands On

The Samsung Gear VR may look a little weird, but it's actually more important than you think: it's the world's first commercial VR experience using Oculus Rift technology. We went hands on to see if it's "all that".

Gear VR may have the blood of Oculus flowing through its transistors, but it's far from what we've come to expect from different models of the now Facebook-owned VR wunderkind.

Instead of being just some stereoscopic ski goggles tethered to your PC, the Gear VR hinges on you popping in your Galaxy Note 4 to act as the screen for your virtual voyage.

All you do is launch the Oculus Home hub app and dock the phone. From there, you're left to control it with a touchpad and back button on the right-hand side of the VR unit. You also get a focus slider on top of the unit to bring everything into crisp focus as you use it.

Being eyes-on with the Gear VR is a surprisingly comfortable and enjoyable experience. The first Oculus Rift made me want to throw up thanks to a very low refresh rate.

The boffins at Oculus have worked with Samsung to improve it for the Gear VR, and come up with a screen on the Galaxy Note 4 that has an incredibly high refresh rate and a solid resolution. It still feels a little pixelated here and there, but it's miles ahead of the original Oculus experience.

The only problem we found with viewing Gear VR content and games is the fact that you can pop the screen out at will and what that does to your screen. With the Oculus, the screen was mounted inside the unit so you never touched it. On the Gear VR, it's powered by your phone so you're touching it all the time. That means that smudges and fingerprints on the display make the experience seem cloudy. You're going to have to police those like crazy.

The only other thing we would have liked to have seen is some sort of Bluetooth controller for gaming. I never quite know what to do with my hands while I'm wearing VR.

Externally, the Gear VR is actually a very handsome unit. You're still going to look like a dork wearing the damn thing, but at least you'll be having fun on the inside and you won't be tethered to your PC.

The head strap is incredibly comfortable, and the unit is light and very well-built. There's a nice cushioned strap for the back of your head, too. The only omission we noticed from a physical standpoint was a lack of cushioning for the bridge of your nose.

We only got to play a few passive VR experiences on the Gear VR, but Samsung is working with big movie and game studios to get content on the boil, and fast.

We're looking forward to seeing what they come up with.


    Pissed off, what if you want the Note Edge and VR Gear?

      Considering the Note 4 and Note Edge are pretty much the same size, I would assume both would fit into the unit.

    I'm not sure how much this is going to be, but for the moment I'm really enjoying the ColorCross phone holder I've got (which I think can fit a Note, but I personally use with a Nexus 5).
    That said, the latency of movement to image is a bit sluggish on the Nexus 5 which is something they have apparently specifically addressed with this unit. Having additional accelerometers integrated into the headset is also a great idea, because it means you'll get better precision.

    Mind you, both my mother and my partner got some simulator sickness. It will be interesting to see if the reduced latency of movement in this unit improves that.

    (Not wanting to get all pitch-like, but I ordered my ColorCross on a weekend from this ebay seller and they arrived on the Monday which was awesome).

    Why can't they hook up these VR headsets to a Xbox controller and play battlefield with it. So far it's all been lame roller coaster rides and walking through building. If they don't hook up VR to top shelf games quickly, people are going to get bored with it and it will slowly die. What's holding them up?

      I don't know having not tried it with any game so this is only a guess, but with the amount of head turning that goes on while playing infy in battlefield i reckon this would be pretty average if not vomit inducing. For vehicles though especially jets and attack choppies? that might be a thing. It would depend on how its implemented in game.

      Not sure is there any way of changing the sensitivity on these? I'm talking like you would when adjusting your distance for 360 as you would for a mouse. so you would have more sensitivity for playing infantry so you wouldn't have to move your head as much? might make aiming very difficult.

      Last edited 24/09/14 11:29 am

      The question should be "Why can't an Xbox controller hook up to anything other than an Xbox or Xbox wireless adapter?".

      I doubt that was the point of your question though. The issue is framerates and latency. To render a game like Battlefield at the required framerate for VR, you need a decent PC. Which leaves you with the sole option of running Battlefield on your PC and streaming the video to your phone over your local network. You also need to send the headtracking data from the phone to your PC as well. The latency introduced here makes for a really really shitty VR experience.

      All this can already be done though. I've done it. Tridef will run the game in stereo for you. Then you use something like Kainy or Limelight for Nvidia Gamestream to send the video to your phone. Then you use FreePIE to send the headtracking info from the phone back to your PC and input that as mouse movement. You get a small taste at what VR is like, but it's no where near the same as just using a Rift.

      That's why GearVR apps will be sub par for awhile until developers work out how to squeeze more performance out of the phone.

      VorpX is a driver that lets you play current games on an Oculus Rift, including Battlefield.

      Works pretty well, if you can tolerate all the rapid movement and sudden changes in direction. What you're asking for is certainly possible and often quite cool, but maybe not as slick or comfortable as you're hoping - current games are not built for the immersiveness of VR, and can be very disconcerting to play.

    motion sickness

      Indeed: just made half the office motion sick handing a Cardboard from person to person using the Subaru Motorsports app which includes videos with 360 degree viewing, and Tuscany Dive (demo for Durovis Dive) using a Sixaxis controller for movement.
      Not often you see people grinning and motion sick.

    As this is just a fancy google cardboard i'm hoping it's in the ~$99 range. Thrown in with the phone would be awesome too.

      It's $250, but has more tech in it than Google Cardboard. The Oculus motion sensor is apparently built into the headset, and it has the touch pad on the side and adjustable lenses. For comparison, Cardboard uses about $40 of parts if you use the lowest quality lenses that are suitable, but has basically no comfort at all and the lenses aren't adjustable.

        That's not much less than the actual Oculus Rift. I was excited to get a Note 4 and the Galaxy Gear and eventually an Oculus Rift. At that price point, I can't justify both. There isn't enough hardware in it for it to be that expensive IMO.

          I agree it's a bit on the expensive side. The current Oculus Rift dev kit is $350, which is a fair bit more expensive, It's not clear what the retail price for the Rift will be, yet.

            After shipping and GST, the Rift comes to $560au

        You can get a 'cardboard' cardboard (vs a plastic headset like the Durovis or ColorCross) now for about $5 on sale pretty frequently from and others. That's using resin lenses, and doesn't necessarily include the 'magnet' controller, but it is adequate for fiddling around.

    I never quite know what to do with my hands while I’m wearing VR.
    Adult content will fix that.

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