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.