Gear VR full review

At the Mobile World Congress (MWC), an event primarily aimed at smartphone releases, HTC and Samsung have both announced virtual reality headsets that boast some pretty impressive features. Though this might seem like an odd move for HTC, President Peter Chou said that “Virtual reality will become a mainstream experience for general consumers.” The virtual reality race is heating up with products in development from Oculus, Sony and Microsoft. Here's our HTC Vive vs Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition comparison.

HTC Vive vs Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition comparison: Design

In terms of design, the updated Samsung Gear VR is 15 percent smaller than its predecessor – thanks to the smaller screen size of the Galaxy S6, which is used as the display (similar to Google Cardboard). This means the headset is useless on its own: you'd only buy one if you have a compatible Samsung smartphone. Speaking of compatible smartphones, there are only two devices that can be used; the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

It uses the same software as the Oculus Rift to power the software and mechanics of VR, compressed into an Android app. The Oculus software makes the Gear VR stand out against its competition, as it was long believed that the Oculus Rift was the best all round VR headset (even though its still in development).

Samsung has tried to combat the issue of comfort, one of the problems with the original Gear VR and headsets in general, by adding mechanical ventilation to make it more comfortable over long periods of use. It also has better weight distribution than the previous generation, which is down to a redesigned strap, according to Samsung. All this equates to a good-looking, sleek VR headset.

The HTC Vive doesn’t look as sleek. It looks more like the Oculus Rift developers’ kit than a nearly finished product and appears to be wired, as opposed to Samsung’s wireless offering. Whether this will change before launch is anyone’s guess but looking at how HTC is describing interaction with VR, particularly the ability to walk around a virtual environment, it looks like wires would tie you down.

There’s currently a lack of built in headphones, but again, looking at the way that HTC describes its VR experience, we can imagine that the final version will come with headphones. If not, there’s a headphone port ready to be used with your own headphones. It’s also “really light, so you can wear it for a long time without feeling weighed down”, according to HTC.

HTC Vive vs Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition comparison: Display

The Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition relies on the Samsung Galaxy S6 display – but this is certainly not a bad thing. It boasts a 2560x1440 resolution on a 557ppi Quad HD display, running at 60 frames per second (fps).

It’s interesting that Samsung has only chosen 60fps as that is (according to developers) the minimum frame rate to not cause nausea. To put this into perspective, the Oculus Rift DK currently runs at 75fps and that may increase again before its consumer launch.

The HTC Vive display is just as good, if not better. While the resolution is lower than the Gear VR, running at 1200x1080 per eye, the Vive utilises two separatescreens. This coupled with the frame rate, a beautifully smooth 90 fps, eliminates jitter and gives the Vive “photorealistic imagery” according to HTC.

HTC Vive vs Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition comparison: Unique Features

One unique feature of the Gear VR is that it uses the Galaxy S6 as its display. The reason for this is to offer the VR Gear headset cheaper – and we're sure people forking out for the S6 will appreciate that.

As well as Samsung’s upgrades to the Gear VR’s design, it has also added one other feature – a USB cable. Using the Galaxy S6 as the display is both a blessing and a curse, as it means draining your phones battery (and it already has a smaller battery than the S5) so this way, you can charge your phone and use the headset at the same time. With this phone charging blessing comes a price though; you’ll be tethered by a wire. You can still use your Gear VR wirelessly but intensive VR sessions might force you to reach for the charger.

While the Gear VR uses Oculus technology, the HTC Vive does things a little differently. Where the Gear VR uses your smartphones various sensors to track your head movement, it doesn’t track your position in a room. Essentially, the Gear VR is a device that most people would use when sat down but the HTC Vive is something you’d use if you wanted a complete virtual reality experience, interacting with the virtual environment around you.

The device is powered by PC instead of a smartphone and uses a gyro sensor, accelerometer and a laser position sensor that allows the device to track head movements as precisely as one tenth of a degree. That, coupled with the Steam VR base station will allow you to walk around a 15x15 foot room and interact with the virtual space instead of using a controller, a la Oculus Rift.

HTC has also claimed to have fixed the issue with virtual reality and controllers – the Vive will come with a pair of “wireless controllers” that are simple and intuitive, HTC claims. Apart from that, it gave no detail as to what these controllers will look like – could they be gloves? We’ll have to wait and see.

HTC Vive vs Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition comparison: Content

Samsung’s VR offering isn’t that great at the moment. Even though the original Gear VR has been out since December, most of the content available seems to be mainly demos and ‘experiences’. The good news is that Samsung will support the Oculus Store once it launches and that will give consumers much more choice, but the issue is that no one knows when that will be. Oculus is keeping tight-lipped on that one.

HTC has partnered with Valve, creator of Steam – the hugely popular online marketplace for PC games – to bring out the HTC Vive. Working directly with Valve means that a selection of compatible VR games available on Steam would be available for the Vive, but this has not yet been confirmed. While on the subject of Steam, the HTC Vive is the SteamVR device that Valve teased on the Steam Store last week. Google, HBO and Lionsgate are already working on content for the machine, which sounds a lot more promising than what Samsung is currently offering.

HTC Vive vs Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition comparison: Price & Availability

There isn’t yet any word on a release date or pricing for the updated Gear VR Innovators Edition, but history suggests that it’ll be around the same $200 price as its predecessor. As it’s going to be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, which are both due for release in April, it’s fairly safe to say that the Gear VR will launch around that time too.

HTC hasn’t yet given us a specific release date for the consumer edition of the Vive, apart from the fact that it’ll be out by the end of this year. It has however confirmed that a developer kit will go on sale to developers shortly.

The virtual reality headset race has begun and with only prototypes of the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and Microsoft HoloLens available, the HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR look to be kicking off the party early.

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