Alongside the launch of the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, Samsung unveiled what they called the New Gear VR with Controller. It's available for free to anyone that pre-orders the Galaxy S8 from just about anywhere, and after the phone has launched this bundle will be available for $129. Since the previous Gear VR was priced at $99, and the Gear VR Controller is available separately for $39, it sounds like this new bundle will be a pretty good deal for future Samsung phone owners.
But when we started digging into what was actually new about this new Gear VR, that deal started to sound less and less like a good thing.
Most hands-on reports with this new Gear VR point out one big difference. They all say the new headset has 42mm lenses with a 101-degree Field of View, and improved distortion correction tech to help with motion sickness. That sounds great, but there's a few things worth pointing out here. First, the current Gear VR already has 42mm lenses with a 101-degree Field of View. Second, the "improved distortion correction" is something that happens on the phone connected to the Gear VR, not the Gear VR itself.
The big deal here is the Gear VR Controller.
In looking at the new Gear VR versus the current Gear VR, two visual differences appeared. The face plate that covers the Gear VR lenses on this new version is glossy like the back of a Samsung phone now, instead of the matte faceplate that game with the previous version. Also, the USB-C port connector on the new Gear VR has a light grey casing and toggle instead of the matte black of each that came with the previous version.
There only physical difference to the actual headset is visually imperceptible. In fact, even the physical dimension specs on Samsung's website for these two headsets are the same. The only differences in one is measured in millimeters and grams, while the other is measured in inches and pounds. But there is a difference. The area that holds the phone, the indented area in the plastic is slightly wider on the new version. Both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ still fit great in both versions, but the slight physical difference does exist.
The big deal here is the Gear VR Controller, and make no mistake it genuinely is a big deal for the Gear VR. It's going Adding a controller with three degrees of freedom like Google Daydream will allow for more compelling game and navigation experiences. When you add that to the 600+ strong list of apps already available and the impressive efforts from Oculus to eliminate the screen door effect, this experience is going to be unparalleled in the mobile VR world. You just don't have to spend $129 to get it.
Samsung has made the Gear VR Controller available separate from the headset, so anyone with an existing Gear VR can get the most important part of the update. This controller works with every phone that can connect to a matte black Gear VR, which is great. But the current Gear VR is already available on Amazon for $50 with Prime shipping if you're willing to buy a version with no Warranty.
It's possible to get a Gear VR that works with the Galaxy S8 and offers the exact same experience for considerably less than the $129 bundle if you're willing to put the pieces together yourself, so is this bundle really an upgrade?
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