Samsung Gear headset is a great way to try virtual reality

Easy to install, quick to learn. If content keeps up this will be a top seller.

By Jon Peddie

Samsung Gear, the new virtual reality head-mounted display (HMD), is easy as can be to get started. Put in a phone, it tells you to download and install the Gear app. Just hit “Next” a couple of times, and it does it all. Then you are asked to create an Oculus account. Even if you already have one, do it because this is a Samsung Oculus account, and it’s different. After you set up an account (if you already have one, it may find it so you’ll have to use an alternative email address), you receive an email to confirm. And as soon as you do, the apps are ready to download. You get six free ones as part of the set-up package.

The Samsung Gear virtual reality headset. (Source: Samsung)
The Samsung Gear virtual reality headset. (Source: Samsung)

After the download, the phone tells you to connect it to the HMD. You put on the HMD and the screen puts a little circle up and tells you to position it (by moving your head). After you do that (with ample positive feedback messages about how well you’ve done), you are then given a training session on where and how to use the controls on the side

The Gear app is loaded automatically when the phone is plugged into the headset (via the USB connector). The app uses the phone’s proximity detector, so if you take the headset away from your face, the screen shuts off to conserve battery

There is also a look-through mode where you can use the front-facing camera to see the environment you are in, if you have the cover plate off.

It really is very well done, and when you’re sufficiently trained you can look at some 360 movies. One of them is like a FPS (first-person shooter), but there’s no interactivity, just observation.

The resolution of the Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge is 1440 × 2560 pixels (about 534 ppi density). That makes each eye 1280 × 1440, which is pretty good resolution, but when you are that close to the screen, you can see the pixels. If the content is compelling enough, you forget about the pixels.

I felt as if I was wearing a scuba mask, which was not disturbing, disappointing, or discouraging. The ability to look around in all directions is truly a wonderful experience, and I think I can say I like the Gear VR HMD better than my Oculus Rift DK2. The Gear is certainly a lot easier to set up than the DK2, and it is totally untethered.

There is a library including a video about wild animals. The 3D video is bad; when the buffalo walks, his legs look like they are flying out. The FPS game video is very well done. There’s an interactive shooter game—monsters appear and you shoot at them using the controls on the side of the headset. It’s amusing for about two minutes, and then, unless you just like simple blasters, it’s boring. And as I and others have said from the beginning, the content will make or break virtual reality. The promise of the experience is definitely there—you can (literally) see it, feel it, and enjoy it. It’s just limited in content right now.

What do we think?

The Samsung Gear VR HMD is possibly the best, and least expensive, way to try VR, and the experience is really good. In fact, it’s great.