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Oculus Go review

Research Center: Oculus Go The virtual reality market may be heating up, but it’s still a foreign concept to the vast majority of people who aren’t hard-core gamers or tech geeks. That’s something Oculus and Samsung worked together to try and change a few years ago with the smartphone-powered Samsung Gear VR, and even Google’s own Daydream View headset.

Now Oculus – arguably the leader in the VR space – is ready to take on mobile VR on its own. And the company’s solution is completely stand-alone: There’s no smartphone required with the new Oculus Go, a £199 headset that it hopes will bring virtual reality to the masses. But just because the Oculus Go is cheap for a stand-alone headset doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worth buying.

Is it? Find out in our Oculus Go hands-on review.

A comfortable and inviting design

Oculus has been developing VR headsets ever since it first launched the Oculus Rift in 2012, and the company has been working on refining its product – it shows in the Oculus Go. Fabric is key to the design of the headset, ensuring that it not only looks welcoming but stays relatively comfortable too.

Unlike the Rift, the Oculus Go features a slate gray color scheme, which looks pleasing. It boasts a similar strap system to the Rift, with the sides and top strap all adjustable, ensuring you can get a decent fit. The front and sides of the headset are all fairly minimalistic.

You’ll find a simple Oculus logo on the front of the headset, along with a volume rocker and power button on the the top, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side, and a micro-CM© USB port for charging next to that. It’s not a bad layout, but the volume rocker would be better placed on the controller rather than on the headset itself – reaching for the headset to change the volume isn’t really all that intuitive. Fabric is key to the design of the headset, ensuring that it stays relatively comfortable.

Speaking of the controller, it’s easy to use and get used to. There’s a trigger on the back, which you’ll use for selection and in certain games. There’s also a touch surface on the top, as well as a back button and home button.

For the first few minutes you’ll need to get used to figuring out which button is which, but it doesn’t take long. While the headset allows for headphone use, it actually has headphones built-in to the straps. It sounds good enough, though if you want a truly immersive experience you’ll want to use your own headphones.

There’s also a built-in microphone for social virtual experiences, but we were unable to really test the quality of the microphone. While we had only a limited amount of time trying out the Oculus Go, it remained relatively comfortable for that time. There’s plenty of padding where the headset contacts your face, and a space big enough for a large nose like mine to sit contact-free.

The trade-off of that nose space is light bleed from under the headset, so it’s probably best suited to dark rooms.

Decent, but not ground-breaking, performance

Because the Go is a stand-alone headset, it requires a built-in processor, RAM, and storage, unlike the Rift, which is powered by your computer. The computational power in the headset isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it gets the job done. Under the hood, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, the 2016 flagship phone SoC of choice.

You’ll also find 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. Oculus Go Compared To While some of the specs might seem a little dated, especially if you’re used to phone specs, Oculus says everything has been optimized for VR use, claiming this makes up for it.

It also helps keep costs down – which is kind of the point of this headset in the first place. In the contained, regulated environment that we tested the headset in, it seemed to perform well – though not perfectly. After testing a few apps, we noted some long-ish loading times, and a noticeable stutter every now and then.

Thankfully, that was rare – and in general the headset seemed to easily handle the apps and games that were installed on it. In the contained, regulated environment that we tested the headset in, it seemed to perform well – though not perfectly. Part of why the headset performs well is due to the lower resolution.

The total resolution is 2,560 x 1,440, which equates to 1,280 x 1,440 per eye. We found the quality similar to the Google Daydream with a Google Pixel smartphone — or the Samsung Gear VR. In other words, it’s not a high enough resolution for the pixels to disappear like on high-end headsets, but it is high enough to not be a huge issue.

The refresh rate of either 60Hz or 72Hz, depending on what the developer chooses, also helped ensure that the headset felt relatively smooth. The headset seems to have a similar field of view to the Gear VR, and one that’s slightly smaller than the Oculus Rift. Unlike some other upcoming stand-alone headsets (such as the Oculus Santa Cruz), the Go only supports three degrees of freedom, or 3DoF.

In other words, you can’t really move around in 3D space. You can go side to side, and up and down, but you can’t move closer or further away from an object – and if you try, you’ll start to feel a little nauseous. It’s a strange sensation when you move in real life without the corresponding movement on the headset.

Of course, we wouldn’t have expected 6DoF support in a budget headset – but something to keep in mind nonetheless.

Oculus Go review Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

According to Oculus, the battery on the Go will last up to 2.5 hours on a charge, which isn’t huge. The company also recommends against using the headset while charging it. We’ll have to test this out for ourselves later, but 2.5 hours certainly seems like a drawback, especially since it apparently shouldn’t be plugged in at the same time.

It’s all about content

Up until now in the review, there’s not a significant reason to buy this headset over a Gear VR or Google Daydream View, especially if you already have a compatible smartphone.

That all changes with content though. At launch, Oculus is touting a massive 1,000 apps and games available to users, and that number is sure to grow. There’s a plethora of games and experiences to choose from, and some of them are pretty impressive.

For example, there’s Coaster Combat, in which you’ll speed along massive rollercoasters and shoot targets along the way, as well as Republique VR, an action game in which you’ll control sneaking characters through the game world. There’s even a virtual reality version of Settlers of Catan, Catan VR, which allows you to play you friends without having to own the board game.

Oculus Go reviewOculus Go reviewOculus Go review

  • 1. Republique VR
  • 2. Coaster Combat
  • 3. Hulu

Along with the Go, Oculus also announced a few ways to enjoy content on the headset. For example, the company has launched Oculus Venues, a service designed to give users access to concerts, live sports matches, and more.

It also announced Oculus TV, a hub for providers like Netflix and Hulu, which will allow users to watch TV on the equivalent of a 180-inch TV in a virtual space. In other words, Oculus wants the Go to be your one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs. You can game on it, watch TV on, and even interact with your friends on it.

Speaking of interacting with your friends, Oculus has also announced Oculus Rooms, a customizable virtual environment in which you can invite friends to hang out, play games, and watch TV. It’s an interesting concept – though of course you’ll need for your friends to have an Oculus headset too.

Conclusions

The Oculus Go is clearly a step forward for accessible, mobile virtual reality. It’s the first of its kind, and with that in mind, it’s a relatively high-quality product at a very affordable price.

On top of that, it eliminates the need to lock your phone into a headset, and that’s a good thing for those that don’t want their phone’s battery to drain to almost nothing in a short amount of time. But should you buy it? Is it the best virtual reality headset?

If you’re looking for a way to dip your toes into virtual reality without breaking the bank, it’s a great way to go, and we think the best mobile VR experience to date.

If, however, you already have a Gear VR or Daydream headset and are fine with the content on offer, you’re not going to get huge performance boosts or massively upgraded visuals to warrant the purchase – and you may be better served saving up or waiting for something a little more powerful with a higher resolution.

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