Published on 28.12.2015
It’s rushing. Every second, more than 100 cubic meters of water fall down Gullfoss Waterfall in southwest Iceland. Mists are in the air, whirlpools and foam waves pierce the water masses of the Hvitá River. An impressive spectacle, which does not seem quite real on the office chair in Germany only because the water mist of the Gullfoss does not break through the screen in Samsung’s virtual reality glasses Gear VR and lies on the face. And because it is not Icelandic cold, but rather tropical warm under the combination of smartphone and 3-D glasses.
2016 will be the year of virtual reality (VR). At least when it comes to the manufacturers. In the race of Oculus, HTC or Sony for the first market-ready VR glasses, Samsung is first ahead with the help of Oculus. While the competition relies on complete systems with their own screens, the Gear VR (about 100 euros) is connected to a current smartphone from Samsung and takes on the role of the screen. So far, so simple.
The Gear VR is reminiscent of oversized ski goggles. It has sensors, two lenses, a touchpad and various switches. The installation is quite fast. The smartphone (the current edition of the Gear VR works with the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge + and the Note 5) is connected to the USB port on the front of the glasses. Then the necessary software and access to the Oculus store are downloaded. Here you can also find all other apps – from VR cinema to games to 360-degree photos and videos.
In the test, a whole series of apps flicker over the rather high-resolution screen of the Galaxy S6 Edge+used for a smartphone with 2560 to 1440 pixels. We travel through the human bloodstream, dive through reefs full of colorful fish, hover over Iceland and fight our way through swarms of space hunters in space. Practical also: With the glasses, many exciting holiday resorts can be explored from afar.
The VR experience is very positive: As soon as the glasses are on your head, you feel like you are sitting in a different world – while you are actually only turning on an office chair. Front, back, top or bottom – something can be discovered everywhere. Samsung has also developed a browser tailored to the glasses.
So you can browse the net with the Gear VR halfway comfortable, with the Netflix app can stream movies. Since only one half of the screen is used per eye in VR mode, the resolution drops to 1280 to 1440 pixels. Due to the large magnification of the spectacle lenses, you can quickly see the pixel structure of the display. The edges of the image are also slightly blurred.
It is controlled by head movement and via the small touchpad on the edge of the glasses, which, however, ensures many annoying incorrect entries. Another problem is weight. Together with the S6 Edge+ weighing just under 150 grams, the combination weighs around 450 grams. The good fit and padding make up for that in the beginning. But after a few minutes, the Gear VR sits heavily in the face. In addition, the heat that accumulates in the glasses during prolonged use.
True, VR nausea (Motion Sicknes) is far from being such a problem as it used to be. However, sensitive users still suffer a little during abrupt movements, virtual stair walking or events that take place at the edge of the visual field.
The conclusion after a week with the Gear VR: If you already have one of the new Samsung flagships, you can turn it into an entertaining VR headset for just under 100 euros, which works without annoying cables and expensive additional computers. The videos, panoramic images and games from the Oculus Store are fun, the app offer is already appealing at the start, and there are also numerous free apps to try out.
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