On Saturday morning, Best Buy locations across the country received Samsung’s new Gear VR virtual reality headset. Only locations in Los Angeles previously had them on display. For the most part, Best Buy isn’t letting people actually try the headset yet, but that didn’t stop us from convincing a Best Buy store manager to let us run with the Gear VR after hours. Needless to say, we are impressed.
The Gear VR can only be used with the Galaxy Note 4, which goes on sale Friday, October 17. The Best Buy Samsung rep told us that there are no immediate plans to make the device available for other smartphones, though that may change. He also told us that the Gear VR will be available for purchase sometime in November. We can imagine that this device will sell well and persuade a lot of people to purchase the Galaxy Note 4.
The Gear VR is built by Oculus, a company that just released the Oculus Rift DK2. Those hoping to have the same exact gaming experience with the Gear VR will be disappointed; this is a mobile device that runs on a smartphone processor, not a powerful desktop. This isn’t to say that the Gear VR is a completely disappointing gaming machine. Games that are ported to the VR, such as Temple Run, offer an immersive and exciting experience.
If you, like us, are more into virtual reality videos, tours, roller coasters, and other non-gaming uses of virtual reality, get in line for this device now. The Oculus Cinema app, which allows you to watch movies at a space station, cinema or home theater is definitely a movie theater killer. You can even watch 3D IMAX movies. We watched a minute of Gravity 3D that Best Buy loaded and the experience was even better than it was watching it at a movie theater.
The Gear VR, in its first iteration, isn’t perfect. Like the Oculus Rift DK2, you can still notice individual pixels in all the graphics. However, the images now look more clear than ever. This is because the Gear VR uses the Galaxy Note 4 screen, which has a 2560 x 1040 pixel resolution. The Oculus Rift DK2 uses the Galaxy Note 3 screen, which has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution screen. One has to understand that even though the Galaxy Note 4’s screen is Quad HD, putting it up to your face makes it seem less detailed.
Unlike the Oculus Rift DK2, the Gear VR lacks positional tracking for depth. This can cause a lot of uncomfortableness for some users. However, unlike the DK2, you can turn around in your chair with the VR headset on and not get tangled in any wires. You can also take a long walk with the Gear VR, although Oculus and Samsung highly suggest that you don’t.
We need to spend a little more time with the Gear VR to make a final conclusion. However, our initial impressions–with understanding the limits of processing power on a mobile device–are positive enough to recommend that you start saving $200 dollars to experience this thing. Even if you only use the Gear VR as a virtual movie theater, your money will be well spent.