Samsung Gear VR: Virtual Reality according to Samsung

Who I am
Valery Aloyants
Author and references

There would be so much to write about Virtual Reality viewers, also because in fact we tend to talk about them very little even in the specific field of video games. A few years after the launch of the various competitors on the market, there remains a great general uncertainty about the actual success of this technology and consequently about the possible future of this, even if among the few data that we are able to detect it seems that the higher diffusion of Samsung Gear VR compared to other solutions is a certainty. The reason is easy to deduce: the viewer is particularly comfortable and easy to use, being wireless and requiring no particular setup beyond the application of a smartphone inside it and the installation of the specific app, it has no cables and it is practically stand-alone, making it much less demanding to wear.

Another determining factor, perhaps the most important of all, is the price: 129 euros for the new version released in 2017 or much less for the previous ones are figures that are on another planet compared to those that characterize "high end" solutions such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and this is probably the factor with the greatest impact on the mass audience. Of course there is to consider the fact that the device is compatible only with Samsung's top range smartphones (with support extended, however, also to the older ones, released in the previous two years or up to the S6) but on the other hand also the other competitors require additional, expensive hardware to function. The collaboration with Oculus guaranteed the support of an already well organized and supplied Store, from there the good diffusion did the rest, convincing many developers to try the support with a good chance of success, which led to an excellent base of downloadable titles, including real video games and various types of "experiences". In the meantime, Samsung continues to evolve the viewer by proposing new versions practically every year, and in this case we take into consideration the 2017 edition, released in correspondence with Samsung S8 and equipped for the first time with a specific controller to hold in hand. .

How it looks

The new version of the Gear VR is substantially identical to that of 2016, both from an aesthetic and ergonomic point of view and (apparently) on the technological front, with the same characteristics reported (101 degrees of field of view, 42mm lenses, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor) The big difference is represented by the inclusion of the new Remote Controller, a sort of remote control connected via Bluetooth capable of significantly modifying the interaction system in virtual reality. The dark gray visor must be applied to the head through the band straps, a solution that continues to be not as comfortable as the one seen for example in PlayStation VR, since it is based on the pressure of the mask on the face and (especially in summer) can lead to some annoyances such as the frequent fogging of the lenses also given by the temperature reached by the smartphone. On this front, however, some improvements have been achieved through a better ventilation of the mask with the application of some additional air intakes, while the soft material in contact with the face still does a good job in isolating the eyes from external light. element of fundamental importance for a good vision. If nothing else, the headset is in this way more contained in size and easily manageable. Inside the package there is also a convenient USB Type-C to MicroUSB adapter that can be used for charging the smartphone directly inside the headset but not for reading content.

The USB Type-C port mounted directly on the viewer can still be used for direct reading of videos and software but using a Type-C pendrive (particularly practical solution, considering the dimensions that some 4K 360-degree movies can reach) or a Type-C to other USB standard adapter. The real protagonist of the supply in the 2017 edition, however, is the Remote Control: an elegant small device equipped with two function keys (practically the same ones found above the touch pad, always present on the right side of the viewer), a trigger, the volume control and a large circular button that can also be used to scroll by sliding your finger on its surface. Preparation is extremely simple: by hooking the smartphone to the viewer via the USB Type-C connector on the front and securing it to the guides, you are forced to download and install the official Oculus app, resulting in the creation of the account (or use of the Facebook credentials ) and remote control calibration, after which we are ready to enter virtual reality. The lack of possibility to apply the protective plastic screen above the smartphone once mounted on the headset, which was also possible in the previous edition of the device: in this way you get the feeling that the phone is a bit ' too exposed to possible accidental damage, but it is likely that this opening was also decided to contain the rise in hardware temperature, an inevitable consequence of intensive use in VR.

Interface and store

The collaboration with Oculus also clearly emerges from the organization of the interface, which appears similar to that of the Rift, with the app icons and options arranged in various sections that can also be framed by turning the head from one side to the other. It is all quite accessible even if the search for content can be a bit dispersed considering the presence of several similar channels for videos and internet browsing given by the simultaneous presence of the solutions offered simultaneously by Oculus and Samsung in parallel. In any case, it is above all an initial bewilderment that is gradually reduced. The offer is remarkable, even if in most cases it is the classic demonstrative experiences able to amaze and entertain at first and then destined to be left out in search of something more substantial. As for videos and multimedia content, as well as experiences of various types, the catalog is decidedly rich, much more equipped than it is on the front of real video games, growing but not at the rate seen on PC and PlayStation VR viewers, demonstrating how Gear VR is still positioned in a somewhat different segment from real peripherals gaming like the others. The remote control represents a convincing step forward for navigating the virtual space, making interaction with the elements more immediate and convenient than using the integrated touch pad on the side of the viewer (in any case always possible). Tracing in three-dimensional space is great and the controller is also directly visible in virtual reality, adding an additional element of immersion in digital space. It essentially functions as a pointer, with the addition of a trigger and a handy circular touch pad that doubles as a main button. It is an excellent tool which we recommend the purchase to those who own previous versions of the viewer, being also sold separately and essentially representing the only novelty of the 2017 edition compared to last year, in addition to compatibility with S8. The problem is the still limited use that emerges between apps and games, which we hope will expand from now on.

Various apps and experiences

You can't really complain about the amount of apps present in the Oculus store for Gear VR, which on this front surpasses the offer of Google Daydream without any hesitation. Another issue is the average value of these experiences, which in most cases suffer from the usual amusement park attraction syndrome, focusing everything on the initial "wow" effect but soon revealing big limits in terms of game design. It is however possible to find some very interesting productions among the real games, often sold at prices a little out of the standard of smartphone apps and closer to digital titles for PCs, which could upset those who are used exclusively to the mobile environment but which is still generally balanced with respect to the experiences offered.

There have been no releases of particular importance in correspondence with the 2017 model, so the titles of greatest interest have been more or less the same for a few months now: EVE Gunjack, Minecraft, Land's End, Hitman GO and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes are still at the top of the playful offer on the Gear VR Oculus Store, to which are added the various "experiences" including Ocean Rift, Blade Runner 2049, Sonar, StarChart and an abundant series of films, videos, short films and solutions halfway between media and social networks that help to identify the Samsung viewer as a sort of device for "augmented communication". These include Facebook 360, VISO Places, Oculus Rooms and Parties, Netflix, AltSpace, NextVR and the specific Samsung Internet VR browser, all elements that actually allow a different approach to standardized actions. Also noteworthy is the search for alternative solutions applied to narration, which find excellent interpretations in experiences such as Song of the Sea, Gone, The Night Cafe, The Expanse VR and obviously the horror that find fertile ground in virtual reality and therefore count numerous productions also particularly successful, among which we point out Affected: The Manor , Dark Days, Dreadhalls, The Hospital and Face Your Fears.

The games

The small amount of relevant games compared to the rest of solutions on the Store makes the Gear VR a tool rather far from PC viewers in terms of playful applications, but the titles reported still have excellent potential. In most cases, the best ideas come from the PC field and are converted for Gear VR, whose major limitation in the gaming field is in fact the absence of a good amount of large-caliber productions, however something valid is found. . EVE Gunjack once again demonstrates CCP's familiarity with the virtual world, even if the game is much simpler than Valkyrie, being a classic shooter in which, as a space gunner, we must take down the enemies that appear on the screen. It is recommended for the solidity of the graphic scaffolding that demonstrates a truly reactive response to commands and movements of the head, while also presenting itself aesthetically pleasing. There is very little left to say about Minecraft, but the Gear VR version has a strong appeal even for those who know the Mojang game perfectly: being physically projected into the cube world is practically a dream come true and this version of Minecraft is definitely one of the best games to try with the viewer. It can get tiring in the long run, which is why the developers have included the ability to switch to cinema mode at any time in which the game is projected on a sort of virtual giant screen.

A good example of a project developed entirely around virtual reality is Land's End, the first attempt by the talented Ustwo in this area: the heritage of Monument Valley can be seen in the rarefied and fascinating atmospheres of the game, which presents itself as a sort of Myst in which contemplation of the scenarios is an integral part of the gameplay. Hitman GO is a title already well known in the mobile field, also representing one of the best proposals in the puzzle field of recent years. Its structure remains practically unchanged here, but it represents an excellent example of the potential that can be reached by the puzzle and strategic genre with the application of virtual reality, a challenge accepted and well addressed also by Augmented Empire. The latter is a strategic one on the style of XCOM that shows well how much the genre can benefit from the absolute identification given by virtual reality. It also contains an excellent implementation of the new controller and represents a rare example of a video game for Gear VR structured in a rather classic way, also equipped with a rather long campaign compared to the standards. As a last example we mention Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a rare example of a game based on a sort of asymmetrical multiplayer in which only one player uses the viewer, demonstrating the even original uses that this technology can find.

The joys and sorrows of virtual reality

Beyond the objective limits of a device built to offer an experience different from those for PC and console, the problems of Gear VR are those inherent in the current technology used for virtual reality. First of all, the screen door effect, or the "screen" effect that marks the contours of every single pixel, difficult to digest at first. It is about adapting to a vision that is not yet perfect, focusing on what good stereoscopic 3D can offer and the possibility of moving the gaze within the virtual space, and these may be enough to accept the compromises currently unavoidable with this state. of art. Gear VR cannot replicate the "room scale" effect of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift as it does not have external detection sensors, so the experience is limited to the stationary position, with the possibility of moving inside the space through the controller. The remote control represents a good step forward in the interaction with the virtual environment but the support for the moment is very limited, in any case the direction taken seems to be the right one.

As for the side effects of virtual reality, these are very subjective: some users are more sensitive to the motion sickness that can derive in particular from the discrepancy between the movement in the virtual space and the actual position of the player. In the tests carried out we rarely detected the problem but it is possible that this is also due to the lack of titles with particularly frenetic and demanding gameplay, it is however a difficult thing to judge objectively, as well as the entire experience of virtual reality, of other party. As for the videos, a substantial difference can be seen between the use with streaming movies and those read directly from the internal memory (or external via USB): even if you have a good connection, the limited bitrate can make the videos in streaming often poorly defined to the limit of annoying, a problem that does not arise in reading from fixed memory, so if there is a choice it is always better to adopt the latter solution.


Price 129,00 €

Samsung Gear VR plays on a somewhat different field from that of other virtual reality headsets. Breaking away from the concept of a gaming peripheral, the viewer becomes a tool capable of expanding the multimedia use of the smartphone by extending applications of various types in the virtual environment, ranging from augmented communication to various narrative experiments. In all this, videogame products do not enjoy the relevance that a real gamer perhaps seeks from a tool of this kind, however the amount of apps, games and experiences that are settling in the Oculus Store is becoming increasingly relevant. Despite its technological and conceptual limitations, not least the fact that it only works with a restricted category of smartphones, for those who own a compatible device and are interested in virtual reality, the purchase of Gear VR begins to make sense, perhaps representing the viewer (not necessarily videogame) with the best quality / price ratio on the market, also reinforced by the excellent introduction of the controller.


  • Good quality / price ratio
  • Store somewhat stocked with various apps
  • The Remote Control is a great introduction
  • Still not many video games and somewhat immature
  • Less complete than other high-end headsets
  • Intrinsic flaws in current VR technology
add a comment of Samsung Gear VR: Virtual Reality according to Samsung
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.