In the world of smartphone-based virtual reality, there’s Gear VR, then there’s everyone else. Samsung’s collaboration with Oculus has resulted in superior quality an impressive library of VR experiences. Cardboard is cheap, but the quality is bad. Other stuff, like the Xiaomi Mi ay or Zeiss VR One, are plagued with tiny libraries serious quality issues.
Now there’s a new challenger. I just spent 10 minutes with ’s new Daydream View headset, I can honestly say that I think it’s a better overall experience than Gear VR. My early impressions are clear: This is the smartphone VR to beat.
Daydream View will be released in November, with the headset remote sold together for $79. If my experience is any indication, it’s a must-buy for those picking up a xel phone.
ght, comfortable, easy
’s VR headset looks weird. It’s all fabric-y, with a texture that looks like denim feels like soft cotton. Yeah, it takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely more fashionable than slapping a white- or black-plastic brick to your face.
It’s also very light, very comfortable. The whole thing flexes breathes enough to keep your face from becoming a sauna when your phone gets hot ( it will), with no phone inside you can barely feel it on your face. The hefty xel XI demo’d the system with definitely drags it down a bit—an overhead strap might be a good idea—but it stays put at least as well as Gear VR does.
It’s easier to use than Gear VR, too. st make sure your Daydream-Ready phone is unlocked, place it on the flap, close it up. You don’t have to plug it into a B connection on the headset, or adjust any knobs or levers. There’s sadly no I (interpupillary distance) adjustment, but I had no trouble finding the “sweet spot” on the lenses. And I find Gear VR to be notoriously finicky in that regard, particularly because my I is on the small end of the average range.
The phone communicates with the Daydream View headset via NFC gets information like: How far apart are the lenses? ere is the phone lined up in relation to them? It uses this to know where on the phone’s display to draw the left right eye views to line up properly.
A better VR experience
In terms of VR quality, Daydream with a xel X Daydream View headset is roughly comparable to Gear VR. The field of view is similar, lens distortion about the same, there’s surprisingly little screen-door effect. ‘s fabric-clad headset does let a little bit of light bleed in right near the temples, but it’s going to be hard to notice unless you’re in a bright room.
Head movement tracking is suitably fast smooth, with very low motion-to-photon latency. There’s no head position tracking (as you get with Oculus Rift or HTC Vive), so experiences will need to be tailored to allow for minimal head movement, but plenty of head-turning. Again, just like Gear VR.
If you find yourself getting a sick feeling from Cardboard other cheap VR headsets, I think you’ll like Daydream. seems to have checked all the boxes necessary for a hurl-free experience.
It’s all about that controller
ere the Daydream really has one over on Gear VR is in its included motion controller. To manipulate the Gear VR, you have to either buy sync a gamepad, or use a little touch area up on the right side of the headset. It’s awkward.
The Daydream spec calls for a motion controller, which is included with ’s Daydream View headset. It’s a little pill-shaped remote, not that unlike the one that comes with the Oculus Rift. It features a swipeable, tappable, clickable concave touch pad with a single button underneath (that apps can use to call up menus the like). A second, dimpled button returns you to the Daydream home screen, a pair of volume buttons do exactly what you’d expect them to.
This little thing is essentially like having a i remote with the Motionus adapter on it. It’s accurate responsive enough to let you draw, write, point. There’s a bit of lag to it—it’s got nothing on the HTC Vive’s precisely-tracked controllers. Still, it’s a vastly better default way to interact with VR apps than the Gear VR’s side-mounted touch pad, or even a game controller. I played a bit of an exclusive game based on Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts ere to Find Them that had me waving around the controller like a w, a cartoonish barnyard-themed “tip the maze to get the ball through” game that worked just by tilting the controller. Both were perfect examples of how interacting with VR is better with h-waving controls.
The new king of smartphone VR
I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll have full head movement room-scale VR experiences all driven by our smartphones. ’ll be able to manipulate the world with our regular ol’ hs without using a controller, we won’t be able to see the pixels at all.
But the technology to bring that to the mass market isn’t here yet. For today’s technology its limitations, not to mention the price sensitivity of an add-on gadget that can only be used with your already-expensive high-end phone, Daydream View nails it. It’s affordable at only $79, comfortable, lightweight, it looks pretty good (for a big thing you strap to your face, that is). It’s dead simple to use, it comes with a great motion controller. I don’t know how many other Android phones (besides the two xels) are going to be Daydream-Ready in the coming months, but for those that are, this is a must-have accessory.