Plenty are dreaming about the day that they can truly immerse themselves in virtual reality. A future where they can lay down in capsules and open their eyes to an interactive digital world. This view is both evident in and inspired by animes like Sword Art Online and modern light novels, such the Legendary Moonlight Sculptor. However, we're far from that futuristic take on virtual reality, we might not even get there.
Moreover, the best that our current technology permits are the VR headsets, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. However, both of them are quite pricey, especially if we consider the computer hardware needed for them. Less pricey options come with headsets that get powered by mobile devices. For instance, Samsung's Gear VR, which retails for $99.
For a while, the Gear VR has sat alone in its own mobile-VR-headset niche without a proper competitor. That is until Google's Daydream View VR headset surfaced and at $79, it's cheaper compared to the Gear VR. But how does it compare to Samsung's offering?
Design And Build Quality
Google says that the Daydream View VR is "inspired by what you wear" and as such, the headset is made using soft, breathable fabric, which is unspecified. Digital Trends' Julian Chokkattu went to the Google Fall event earlier this month and got his hands on the Daydream View VR headset.
"The plastic frame feels a little cheap, but I immediately forgot about it once I started touching the soft fabric it's made of," comments Chokkattu. "You can bend it a little, which is going to be handy when traveling."
Contrary to the Daydream View and its fabric, the Samsung Gear VR is made of plastic with a matte finish. Both headsets will cater users even with their glasses on and have removable face masks for hygiene purposes.
Putting a compatible smartphone into the Gear VR requires for the cover to be taken off before sliding in the phone, which will be secured by clips on both sides. Google took a different approach and decided to use a clamshell cover and secures the smartphone using single elastic strap on top of the headset.
"Just drop in your phone and you're ready to go," says Google.
The Gear VR uses the micro-USB port to connect to the phone. Google opted to do this headset-phone connection wirelessly.
Unlike the Gear VR, the Daydream View does not come with a middle headstrap. However, it's also important to note that none of those who tested Google's VR headset made remarks of it sliding down their face even when they had it strapped for an extended period of time.
The Gear VR comes in at 318 grams prior to any smartphones getting slotted into it. Much of the added weight is due to the hardware packed within the headset.
Of course, Gear VR's built-in hardware has its own perks.The sensors detect whether the headset is worn and allows for faster movement detection. Samsung said this facilitates less delays compared to relying on the phone's sensors.
At 220 grams, the Daydream View is lighter than its competitor. Considering that these things get strapped to the user's face, it won't be wrong to say that lighter is better since it facilitates a "more natural" experience. However with a smartphone in it, it will still pack some weight.
Note that the Google Pixel, which is compatible with the Daydream View, weighs 143 grams. Having it in the headset equates to 363 grams.
"Compared to the PlayStation VR's headband design, the Daydream headset felt heavy strapped to my face with a smartphone inside it," says Mirror's Jeff Parsons. "Even though it's one of the lightest headsets available, it still took a few seconds to adjust to the weight pulling my face forward."
Engadget's Devindra Hardawar says that the latest Gear VR model, which was released alongside the Galaxy Note 7, is the most comfortable iteration of the headset. This is thanks to a the new material that rests on the user's skin.
"As soft as a fleece blanket meant for babies," Hardawar describes the new material while adding that coupled with a few design tweaks, it makes the experience more immersive.
As for Google's Daydream View, many of those who had the chance to try it say that it's the most comfortable mobile VR headset they've tried. Aside from Digital Trends' Julian Chokkattu, Stuff's Andrew Hayward also has the same sentiments.
The Gear VR's main controls are baked into the headset itself. The focus adjustment wheel sits on top the head mount. For navigation, a trackpad and a back button to the headset's right-hand side. There also buttons for adjusting the volume.
Deciding that it doesn't want the controls to be on the headset, Google packs the Daydream View with a controller, which has nine motion sensors and a directional pad. The controller also houses couple of buttons for the volume, a home button and an extra button that developers can configure for their apps.
It's like a Wii controller that can be used interactively for apps and games — swing a bat or steer an airship. It has a built-in USB Type-C port for charging.
Note that both headsets will cater other controllers, even if they have more complicated button setups.
As for the experience, both headsets shouldn't be expected to be proper alternatives for the Vive or the Rift since there's only so much that the Mobile SoCs can do.
So far, Google has only lists its Pixel phones to be compatible with the Daydream View. The Mountain View-based company says that more Daydream-ready smartphones are in the horizon, which is promising since the choices will not be limited to just one outfit.
This is actually the problem with the Gear VR. Samsung lists the Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note 5, S6, S6 edge and S6 edge+ as compatible devices, which are all its own phones.
Games And Apps
Obviously, Samsung is ahead in this aspect since the Gear VR is backed by the Oculus Store that has a number of really good apps, which it accumulated over the course of the last two years. This is in addition to its own dedicated apps such as Bomb Squad and EVE: GunJack.
As for the Daydream View, only a couple of experiences — Harry Potter Wizarding World and Digital mini-gold — have been shown off thus far. However, heading over to Daydream View page shows a number of apps and games. For video, there will apps from Hulu, Netflix, HBO and YouTube, as well as Google Play Movie. The games listed include Gunjack 2: End of Shift, Fantastic Beasts and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.