Using Google Cardboard is great for a brief introduction to the virtual world, but Samsung and Oculus have shown us just how powerful a smartphone can be as a VR system with Gear VR. Google’s answer is Daydream, a higher level platform that uses all the lessons learned from cardboard making to create a more cohesive virtual experience. Their first headset, the Daydream View, takes the recently announced Google Pixel and uses it to create this new experience. Here’s how this new setup compares to existing smartphone-based VR systems built by Oculus and Samsung.
Comfort and ease of use are at the heart of a good smartphone VR headset. Samsung has had three generations of hardware to meet these challenges, and the latest version of Gear VR has been a great success. Gear VR is now wide enough to work with glasses of different sizes, and the software is designed so you only need to unlock your phone and plug it into a USB port to launch Oculus Home.
Google has taken this process and made it even easier. The NFC connection to launch Daydream Home is wireless, so you only need to put it in the fold and close the latch to launch the software. This is a small added convenience, but it reduces the initial setup hassle and allows the platform to support many different types of smartphones.
Daydream view is also smaller, lighter and offers almost the same amount of space for those with glasses. Google achieved this by making the outer padding more open on the sides, rather than creating a full seal around your face like the Gear VR. The downside of Google’s design is the way light enters the headset from the back, as there’s no sealing there. Samsung has worked hard to use matte plastics and remove as many light sources as possible, so that the Gear VR experience is completely immersive. Daydream users are unlikely to have the same experience with the View headset.
As already mentioned, the Daydream View is much more comfortable to wear than the Gear VR. The emphasis on fabric for most of the body makes the headset feel nice to the touch, but the real draw is the strap. This single strap makes the headset as secure as the Gear VR without the use of rough plastics and hard tightening mechanisms. The Daydream look can loosen up with a lot of tension, but the strap is elastic enough that you shouldn’t have too much trouble with your fit. The difference between day and night when wearing these two headsets is mainly due to the strap used.
The Samsung Gear VR is also noticeably larger and slightly heavier than the Daydream View. The use of hard plastic means the headset is durable and easy to clean, but it also means it’s less convenient to take on the go. While the Daydream View headset has a real problem with low flow, which can be bad for some users, the focus on convenience and comfort makes it a worthy contender for Gear VR.