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Samsung Gear VR headset hands-on: Better than the Oculus Rift (in some ways)

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 23, 2014
Apologies to Samsung. I've talked a lot of smack about its Gear VR headset, from the day we first heard the rumor that "Samsung is getting into virtual reality." It seemed like a disaster in the making--a desperate cash grab that was going to poison the VR well before Oculus even made it to market. Back at E3 I even asked Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell whether they were worried at all about Samsung, which seems especially ironic in retrospect considering the two companies are partnering up for Gear VR.

And finally, the Note 4 gets hot when it's acting as the display and processing brains for the Gear VR. How do I know? Because after prolonged usage, the Note 4 pops up a warning talking about how hot it is! That doesn't seem good. Carmack talked during his keynote about how Samsung allows Oculus to effectively run the device at its full processing power for far longer than it would during normal usage, which creates heating problems due to the passive (no fans) cooling of a mobile device.

I don't know how long you'd have to run Gear VR for that warning to pop up normally — obviously we were using demo units that were running for at least forty minutes before I ever got my hands on them. Still, it's a bit worrisome to see that warning pop up, and I can't help but wonder how it'll effect the longevity of the Note 4 considering that's not exactly a cheap device. (The unsubsidized cost starts at $826.) I guess we'll have to wait for a review to find out, though.

Bottom line

Surprise: Gear VR is good! Far from poisoning the VR well, Samsung's Gear VR might actually be the thing that helps it go mainstream, considering you don't need a fancy PC to run it, you don't need to attach a cable to the side of your head, and you can run many of the most mainstream VR experiences without ever needing to pull it off your face.

I know. It's shocking to me too. If it only worked with more phones than the pricey Note 4...


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