Best Mobile VR Headsets

VR is cool and, in many cases, expensive. If you want to experience outstanding quality graphics be prepared to spend the coin. But what if you are not sure VR is your thing? Or need more than one device for your project? The solution is a mobile VR headset.

What is a mobile headset?

All VR head devices can be divided into three categories: tethered (PC-connected), standalone, and mobile.

Mobile or smartphone headsets, as you can say from the name, use mobile phones to introduce you to the world of virtual reality. They are designed with a slot to put a phone in and as soon as you do it you are ready to experience VR. The set of lenses in the headset transforms a screen image adding depth and dimension. That won’t work with any image – you need to run an application specifically designed for such use. 

That also won’t work with any smartphone. The quality of what you see heavily depends on the quality and technical features of your phone. The newer and more powerful the phone – the better the picture, it’s that easy. Luckily, most of us already have quite good phones, so it is just another way to use their full capacity.

How to know mobile VR headset is for you:

  1. You have a powerful smartphone.
  2. You have never tried VR and want to know what it’s like.
  3. Your project requires many devices to be used at the same time.
  4. You want to experience VR on a budget.

Of course, mobile headsets have some drawbacks. They cannot show the same performance as more powerful standalone or PC headsets. You can’t expect your phone to compete with your computer in terms of performance and quality. You will also have to pay attention to the battery level. VR applications empty the smartphone’s battery as fast as any other mobile game you play.

Once you decided phone headsets meet your goals, it’s time to choose one. Here are the best mobile VR headsets on the market.

Google Cardboard 

Innovation, hi-tech, new era of technology – what others say about VR. Cardboard – what Google say about VR. In 2014 they presented the world a low-cost VR device which has been widely popular since then. Their solution is a cardboard frame compatible with any smartphone as long as it physically fits into the frame. It works perfectly fine with both Android and iOS systems. 

Google Cardboard is the cheapest solution on the market. But, if you don’t feel like buying it, you can make one. Google shared all the technical specifications on their website in case you want a DIY VR headset. 

However, Google Cardboard has limited usage. As it doesn’t include any controllers it relies on a smartphone’s camera, accelerometer, and gyroscope. Which makes it impossible to interact with the content to a full extent. Some people can also find it uncomfortable, as you literally press a piece of cardboard to your face.

Compatibility: Android 4.1, iOS 8.0, or higher.

Price: $15

Advantages:

  • the cheapest solution;
  • compatible with most smartphones;
  • easy to use and set up.

Disadvantages:

  • not very comfortable;
  • no controllers.

Google Daydream View

If you consider Google Cardboard a demo version of a VR phone headset, then Google Daydream is an example of a fully-operational device. It uses practically the same technology but in a more presentable way. This headset is covered with a pleasant-to-touch fabric and the inside is equipped with a removable facepad for maximum comfort. With adjustable straps, it can be placed on a head without having to hold it with your hands like Cardboard.

The same as Google Cardboard, Daydream uses a pair of lenses to turn a screen image into a VR experience. But this time Google equipped its headset with a Bluetooth controller which connects with the phone. The controller has a clickable touchpad and two menu buttons (Home and Apps), a volume button. It also has motion detection, which definitely adds Daydream a lot of interactivity. 

Before you take your wallet out of the pocket, impressed by all these features, check if your phone is good enough. Google Daydream is compatible with the phones that have a 1080p OLED screen with a refresh rate 60Hz, and that run on Android 7.0 or later versions. Once you make sure your phone fits, you have a chance to enjoy various content Google suggests: a number of games, films, stream services. Such services as Netflix, YouTube, HBO, and Hulu have Daydream-ready apps for your pleasure. 

Compatibility: 1080p OLED screen, Android 7.0 or higher.

Price: $99

Advantages:

  • comfortable and easy-to-use;
  • includes a controller;
  • high-quality VR experiences;
  • wide content range.

Disadvantages:

  • high phone requirements;
  • supports Android system only.

Samsung Gear VR

Being one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers, Samsung couldn’t miss such a niche as mobile VR headsets. Together with Oculus, it created Gear VR which turned out to be a great device.

The same as already mentioned headsets, Gear VR uses the power of a smartphone to lead you into virtual reality. A phone connects with the headset through a USB connection. The headset is equipped with built-in gyro and proximity sensors. To operate and navigate it offers you two options: a touchpad plus two buttons on the right-hand side of the headset and a hand controller. The handstick is similar to the Daydream controller, but with a trigger. In case you like none of those, you can connect Gear VR with a third-party controller.

Contentwise, Gear VR is connected to the Oculus store which suggests a decent choice. You can find great games, apps, and services to enjoy the experience: Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Minecraft. 

The drawback of this headset is its high demand for the phones to use — a selected range of Samsung phones meets the requirement. And the price — Gear VR is the most expensive smartphone headset.

Compatibility: Galaxy Note9*, S9, S9+, Note8, S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge, A8 Star, A8, A8+.

Price: $130

Advantages:

  • comfortable and easy-to-use;
  • comes with a controller;
  • high-quality VR experiences;
  • extensive library of VR content via Oculus.

Disadvantages:

  • supports only selected Samsung smartphones;
  • the most expensive phone-based solution.

The choice of the mobile headset depends a lot on your goal: whether you want to try what VR is like or to get immersed in a quality experience. Well, as quality as you can expect from a smartphone device. 

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