Did you know that you're not limited to Google's offerings for Daydream VR? That's right; you don't have to choose to wear Google's Daydream View headset if you'd rather not. There are other worthy third-party Daydream VR headsets available to buy, and a few of them even solve some of the pain points of using virtual reality on a smartphone.
For instance, have you ever felt silly tacking on accessories to your head just to get into the zone? You know what I mean: piling on headphones on top of an already clunky headset that's housing a dense, hot brick. The Bobo VR Z5 headset is about eliminating the awkwardness of strapping a smartphone by bundling everything you need into one headset. And it's so much more comfortable to wear that it makes the Daydream View feel a bit cheap, quite frankly.
Headset: Comfortable and functional
The Bobo VR looks like a Daydream View knock-off, but not in a hokey way. It has the same gray upholstery lining the "goggles" part of the headset, but instead of an elastic band that goes around your head, there's an adjustable head mount. It's finicky to figure out at first, as you have to pull out the knobs on either side and rotate them back and forth to adjust the hard plastic shell. But once you get it figured out, you'll find it's comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time.
Once you get it figured out, you'll find it's comfortable to wear
Granted, I top out at about 40 minutes top smartphone VR, but I was comfortable the entire way through. The headset also feels more balanced across my cranium, and I appreciate that it doesn't slip around as I'm moving my head from side to side, which is a tendency of the Daydream View. The Daydream's elastic band secures to your head around your temples, whereas the Z5 headset effectively sits on top of your head like a crown.
The Bobo VR Z5 was confusing to configure at first because, like the Samsung Gear VR headset, it requires that you adjust the optics once you've placed the phone inside the front slot. This isn't something you have to do with Daydream View, but I like that you have to do this. The element of complexity makes the headset feel like it offers more.
I also appreciate how tightly the front plastic slot cradles any Daydream-view compatible device. There's no slipping around, whereas the Daydream View's smartphone seat can feel a little loose after some time.
Another marquee feature of the Bobo VR Z5 headset is its built-in HiFi headphones. The headphones connect to the smartphone with auxiliary cable -- or a headphone jack, as it's referred to in some circles. If your smartphone is devoid of one, like the Moto Z2 Force, which is Daydream compatible and which I tested with the Bobo VR Z5, you'll have to attach a dongle, which adds a bit of odd weight to the headset. You can feel the dongle sticking out and waving around, even as you immerse yourself in whatever virtual world is right in front of you. If you've got a phone without a headphone jack, however, you might as well skip this headset entirely, as it's not exactly practical. After all, if you can't use the headphones, what's the point?
Speaking of which, the sound quality of the Bobo VR Z5 headset's headphones are about on part with what you'd get at this price point. The bass is "boomy," if you will, and voice playback, thankfully, doesn't sound tinny. But, even though the Amazon listing boasts surround sound of sorts, the lack of active noise cancellation means you will hear outside distractions in the middle of your session.
Controller: Like waving a magic wand
The Bobo VR comes with a match Daydream-compatible controller, which offers a bit of an ergonomic edge. Unlike the flat-sided, oblong Daydream View controller, the Z5's controller has a slight hump towards the rear to help contour your palm around the peripheral. You end up holding it like a wand, and it's easy to bibbidy-boppity-boo it around whatever virtual reality app is on display. The controller charges via USB-C and features the same volume rocker and two-button-plus-touchpad layout.
The Bobo VR controller doesn't stow away
The Bobo VR's controller doesn't stow away nicely like on the Daydream View, but it is just as easy to use with the Daydream app. You can easily pair the controller from your smartphone's native Bluetooth menu, and Daydream will immediately recognize it.
Performance of the controller is about on par with the native Daydream hardware. Tracking is good, for the most part, but I had to continually re-orient the controller in the middle of a session by holding down on the Home button. I have the same problem with the regular Daydream View's controller, however, and I suppose there's some comfort in knowing that a third-party controller endures the same tracking issues that plague the default hardware.
Should you buy it? Yes!
It's a better way to experience what Daydream has to offer.
Admittedly, the Bobo VR Z5 headset isn't as mobile as the Daydream View, so it's not the kind of thing to consider of portability is your thing. But, this is going to replace the demonstration setup for my pals who come to visit because I think it's a better way to experience what Daydream has to offer.
The Bobo VR Z5 headset is a third-party peripheral made by a relative unknown, but it's so much more comfortable and higher quality than Google's offerings. It's the same price, too, so you're not giving anything up by trying out the "other" kind of headset. Don't grab this device if you're without a headphone jack, though, because then you'll have no other method to listen to sound than through the smartphone's speakers. Perhaps a future iteration of this third-party "knock-off" will offer Bluetooth pairing.