Updated Samsung Gear VR takes some important steps forward

Along with the new Galaxy Note7, Samsung also revealed an updated version of its smartphone-based Gear VR headset at the Unpacked event this morning. The price ($99) and features remain essentially the same as the last-generation model's, but the new headset brings in a slightly wider field of view, interchangeable phone connections, and a darker color scheme.

Arguably the most exciting news about the new headset is that it supports USB Type-C, not only for connecting to phones but also for external data connections. The older Gear VR headsets have a micro-USB connector for charging the phone while using the headset, but game controllers had to be connected to the phone via Bluetooth, which is notoriously fickle.

The new Gear VR has an external USB Type-C port that is both used for charging and also to support data connections, opening up the door for all sorts of peripheral shenanigans. The latest Gear VR can still support phones with micro-USB connections, though. The internal connector that joins the headset and your device is modular and interchangeable; both micro-USB and Type-C connectors are included.

Other functionality changes include a field of view expansion, from 96° to 101°. This brings the Gear VR experience that much closer to the 110° field of view offered by the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The new headset resembles its more expensive cousins externally, too, but the new navy color scheme isn't just for looks. With the older, white headsets, reflected light (from an inadequately snug fit) could ruin the VR experience. Hopefully the darker plastic can alleviate that to some degree, but the fit should be more reliable too, as Samsung has made the face padding both thicker and softer.

The input functions of the Gear VR have been revised, too. The previous model of the Gear VR introduced a cross-shaped indentation to guide the finger along the trackpad, but on the new model, the trackpad has been flattened out. Only a small ridge—like the one likely on your F key—remains to guide the finger. Finally, the back button above the trackpad is now matched opposite a home button that returns the user to the Gear VR main menu.

Samsung's Gear VR has been a runaway success despite initial skepticism, and it's probably the most accessible VR experience right now. As a result, even though the new iteration is more of an evolution than a revolution, this update is pretty significant. In any case, incremental improvements offered at the same price point are always welcome. The new Gear VR goes on sale on August 19, and you can pre-order one right now.

Comments closed
    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    Does it solve the biggest issue with phone VR currently, which is fixed point tracking? The current methods use the accelerometer and other sensors in the phone to guess where your head is relative to where it started, but they’re not entirely accurate and result in positional drift. This is why “real” VR like the Rift/Vive use fixed external points.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    1st gen GearVR had terrible positional drift. Made using it a royal PITA.

    I know it is dependent on the quality of the gyros and sensors in the phone and I was using an S6 rather than a fancy S7, but even if the drift was only HALF what the S6 gave me in the 1st gen GearVR, it’s still no good for anything other than 60-second demo experiences.

    The Oculus (or Vive I guess, I haven’t used a Vive) with all their messy cabling is still a preferred option for anything longer than two minutes of VR. Sorry, but input lag causing motion sickness is a minor issue that affects [i<]some[/i<] people. Positional drift is a major issue that prevents EVERYONE from enjoying VR. I couldn't even watch a five minute video clip on the GearVR, because after two minutes I had to turn my head ninety degrees. How is anyone expected to enjoy a VR movie without sitting bolt upright in a swivel chair?!

      • Laykun
      • 3 years ago

      The GearVR essentially replaces the gyros/accelerometers of your phone with what they think are better ones. What I found best was to watch videos in the Oculus Video app using travel mode in the “void” scene. This way the video slowly follows your gaze direction and combats drift really well.

    • Airmantharp
    • 3 years ago

    Has external data connections, but none of those external data connections are for hooking up to a PC or console :/

      • RAGEPRO
      • 3 years ago

      Well, the Gear VR has no display without a phone. You certainly could hook the Gear VR (with installed Galaxy phone) to a PC and then use some software to turn it into a PC display, particularly if said phone is rooted. It’s just USB after all.

      Would be a lot of work to make it worthwhile though. There’s no external tracking, for instance.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    Guess this explains why Samsung was giving away the first-gen Gear VR with S7 purchases. I got one through the giveaway with the S7 work bought, and it’s still sitting in the box.

    • Anovoca
    • 3 years ago

    I enjoy my gear VR but there are 2 improvements that would actually get me to go out and buy a new one.

    1.) internal rechargeable battery so you don’t have to have a cable attached to your face to use it for more than 1 hour.

    2.) A way to dissipate heat from the back of the phone so your experience isn’t paused every 20 minutes for battery cool down mode to initiate.

    As it stands right now, the only way to use it for more than an hour without running out of battery is to have it plugged in. Having it plugged in generates excess heat in addition to what the screen is producing in a confined space with poor airflow and causes the phone to overheat about every 15-20 minutes.

      • sweatshopking
      • 3 years ago

      Phone to overheat…? What? I’ve NEVER had a Windows phone overheat are they doing something different to the phone in this thing?

        • Neutronbeam
        • 3 years ago

        True…most people have NEVER had a Windows phone. ;->

          • sweatshopking
          • 3 years ago

          Do android phones overheat and require time to cool down during use? Is this normal?

            • Neutronbeam
            • 3 years ago

            Not to me…and I’ve have Android and iPhone–both at the same time.

            • Anovoca
            • 3 years ago

            Charging while under heavy (display) use causes it, combined with limited air exposure to the surface of the screen. Although it could also be in part due to the spicy nature of the VR content……. >.>

        • tipoo
        • 3 years ago

        The Snapdragon 810 Windows Phones get just as hot as the Snapdragon 810 Android phones, though some manage a bit better with heatpipes.

          • sweatshopking
          • 3 years ago

          I’ve never seen a cool down mode.

            • tipoo
            • 3 years ago

            And what VR viewer do you put your Windows Phone in?

            Most phones get warm, but being in that confined space is a notch above.

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            I have never put it in vr. Hence my question about what was causing it.

            • RAGEPRO
            • 3 years ago

            Have you ever loaded up a graphically-and-compute-intensive application for >15 minutes at a time? I’ve only seen a temperature warning on my phone when playing an intense 3D game for upwards of 20 minutes outdoors in the Texas summer.

            Don’t underestimate VR processing. Even simply displaying a static image in VR can require a surprising amount of image processing. Doing something like a continuously shifting video or worse, a 3D game (in which you are not only displaying the content, but generating it) is incredibly taxing for a mobile device.

            This is why Pascal implements various VR-specific features in hardware; it’s not for 1080s, it’s for Tegras.

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            I’ve certainly used intensive applications. Never had an overheating warning.

          • BurntMyBacon
          • 3 years ago

          @tipoo: “The Snapdragon 810 Windows Phones get just as hot as the Snapdragon 810 Android phones, though some manage a bit better with heatpipes.”

          It appears my google-fu has failed me and this Wiki page isn’t helping either:
          [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Windows_10_Mobile_devices[/url<] I'm just curious as to which Snapdragon 810 Windows Phones you are talking about. The Lumia 950XL is the only one I know of and it certainly manages heat better than Snapdragon 810 Android devices (no doubt due to the heatpipes you mention). Lest this be confused as me countering your point: Yes, a Snapdragon 810 Windows Phone will get just as hot as a similarly equipped Android given the same thermal solution.

        • Firestarter
        • 3 years ago

        any phone will overheat if the SoC is too power hungry for the chassis to support, regardless of OS

          • BurntMyBacon
          • 3 years ago

          True, but how many Windows phones were ever built with a top end SoC? Only the Lumia 950XL with its Snapdragon 810 to my recollection. It has a 5.7″ chassis, a cooler and more power efficient revision of the SoC, and a heatpipe working for it. It might simply be that Android manufacturers sometimes have more of a propensity for exceeding their thermal dissipation capacity in the pursuit of peak performance. Or if you prefer, Microsoft and Nokia before them are overly cautious and sacrifice peak performance for thermal considerations.

        • smilingcrow
        • 3 years ago

        Yes, you need apps to push an O/S into the red so there’s the problem right there.

        • Luminair
        • 3 years ago

        > I’ve NEVER had a Windows phone overheat

        Not even while playing a game at 90 fps for 20 minutes? Why not?

          • BurntMyBacon
          • 3 years ago

          Probably because most Windows Phones don’t have the SoC to play intense games at 90 fps. Games that aren’t intense don’t generate as much work to begin with.

          That said, I’m left wondering why anyone should expect a device to overheat after a paltry 20 minutes of game play. I’ve never seen a Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable overhead like that. It seems to me that phone manufacturers have been using SoCs that generate too much heat for the chassis they are placed in for so long that many people just expect it now. I guess cooling is the biggest loser in the pursuit of thin (battery is a close second).

        • Pancake
        • 3 years ago

        I love my Nokia 735 with Windows 10 and agree it’s never ever overheated. But this could be due to the complete lack of apps that might do anything with the CPU/GPU.

      • Laykun
      • 3 years ago

      Interesting, I run the Gear VR with a note 5 (international) and have never had to let it cool down. Also, when plugged into power, the device does not charge, it only serves to hold the battery level at a constant value as to not generate too much extra heat.

      Do you use the GearVR with the front cover on? If so I’d recommend leaving the front cover off when the phone is inserted.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This