Still Can’t Get A Piece of the Oculus Rift? Say Hello to the Samsung Gear VR


Virtual Reality (VR) is upon us and resistance is futile. Soon, streets will be populated with people strapped with VR headsets and completely oblivious to everyone around them.


Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch (and scary, honestly), but 2016 really is shaping up to be The Year That Virtual Reality Descended Upon Humanity. The Oculus Rift, which is now owned by Facebook, is the first thing that will most likely pop up in people’s heads at the mere mention of virtual reality, with the HTC Vive probably coming up second.


But make no mistake: Experiencing the (currently) full power of virtual reality using the aforementioned headsets is no easy task for your PC and your wallet. So, before throwing all your life savings and emptying your piggy bank to get a piece of those high-powered VR headsets, ask yourself first what you will use it for. If it’s for high-end gaming, then by all means go bankrupt. But if it’s just for watching 3D movies and videos and playing mobile games, there’s a much cheaper alternative: the Samsung Gear VR.


Mini-Oculus? Yes and no

Let’s just get this out of the way first: The Samsung Gear VR, despite carrying the tech giant’s brand name, is actually powered by Oculus, although Samsung also had a hand in the development. And that’s an immediate assurance for you that this VR headset isn’t just a cheap knockoff or something. It also makes use of the Oculus app, so you can think of it as the Oculus Rift’s younger brother (albeit a really, really young one).


But while the Gear VR is powered by the Oculus, it does not possess the processing power of its pricey big brother. No, scratch that: The Gear VR does not even have a processor. Instead it acts as a sort of 3D goggles, with Samsung devices docked into it to act as both the display AND processor. And not just any Samsung devices: The Gear VR is only compatible with the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7, and the Galaxy S7 Edge. So if you own a Samsung device that does not bear the name of any of those, then you’ll have to make another purchase.


The controls are in your head

No, you don’t control the Gear VR with your mind, although that would have been really cool. As soon as a compatible Samsung device is docked into the Gear VR, the controls shift to the headset itself. For calibration, a wheel can be easily found at the top of the headset. And for the controls themselves, the right-hand side of the headset serves as the main lobby. It houses a touchpad for navigation, a back button, and the volume controls. So, yes, while controlling the Gear VR you will actually look like Cyclops (the X-Men character, not the one-eyed Greek creature), ready to fire off optic blasts from your eyes. Or perhaps like Professor X when he uses his telepathy, James McAvoy-style.


Okay, enough with the mutant references.

Lots of applications

As mentioned, the Gear VR only serves as an accessory to a select few Samsung devices. But that does not mean it has an extremely limited use. The Gear VR currently has more than 150 available apps on the Oculus store, so you have a lot of things to explore. And, yes, games are among them.


The main and popular use of the Gear VR is for watching 3D movies (that are bought legally, of course). Now, accessing your 3D movies isn’t exactly a plug-and-play setup. The Oculus will create a default folder in your Samsung device, but that’s primarily for 2D movies. You have to create a separate one for 3D movies, and depending on the file type, you may have to perform a few simple steps to get things in order. Don’t worry; it’s not that hard compared to, say, solving an Algebra problem. Another use of the Gear VR is for viewing 360-degree images captured by 360-degree cameras. Watching 3D movies and 360-degree images can be disorienting at first, especially if you’ve never experienced 3D viewing before. But once your eyes adjust to it, the experience is very immersive and eye-popping (not literally).


Virtual reality at an affordable price

The Samsung Gear VR is a great piece of hardware to own if you already have one of the compatible Samsung devices. It will allow you to delve into the world of virtual reality at a much cheaper price. And buying a Samsung device to dock with your Gear VR is certainly a LOT cheaper than building a PC that can efficiently handle the high-powered VR headsets. Also, don’t worry if you wear glasses; the Gear VR has enough room to fit them and the comfortable padding ensures that you will feel nothing but comfort throughout your virtual reality adventures. If you’re not into high-end gaming and simply want to get into the virtual reality craze, the Samsung Gear VR is a good buy.

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