Samsung have had the Gear VR out now, which is supported by Oculus for a number of years now, it has been for some time the best mobile VR experience and in some cases the only true mobile VR experience. Samsung upped the game further, when they coincided the release of the Samsung S8, with an updated Gear VR, which also had a puck, to become more immersed in the VR experiences on the device. If you owned a Samsung phone, this was the best choice, in fact Samsung gave away the device for free to those that purchased a Samsung S8 in the US.
For some time, there had been rumours of a VR device from Google, but nothing till last year when Google announced their DayDream VR device initially just for their range of Pixel phones. Over time this has expanded to Motorola and others, but for the first time, the Samsung S8 has now recently become compatible with the Google DayDream VR. The question we try and answer, is the Google DayDream the better option, given it’s half the price of the Samsung Gear VR.
Looking at both products, you can see they both seem well built, come with a controller and appear to be well made. On closer inspection you can tell that the Gear VR is the better made device. Where as the Google DayDream does appear to be cheaper, but not necessarily poor in quality, just cheaper because it is half the price and it shows. The Google DayDream does feel lovely, the texture and feel of the fabrics used are very soft and tactile. The padding appears to be push and smooth too. However, once in use, it becomes apparent that the Google DayDream is limited in padding, causing it to feel heavy on the nose and hard around the face. Given that there is no upper strap on the device, the weight it shifted to the bridge of your nose, and you need to have the device quite tight on your head to counter that weight shift. Using a Samsung S8+ in the device, adds quite a lot of weight, which is better handled by the Gear VR.
From that point, it becomes apparent that there is no means of adjusting the fit of the headset, to adjust for your eyes. So if you wear glasses you may encounter issues. Further more, you adjust the focus of the device, by moving it up and down on your face. This can cause a return of the issues with the comfort level of the device on your face. Something that the Gear VR has managed to counter for a while now.
The pucks for both devices are ok. The Gear VR puck feels better made and more premium. The feel of it in your hand is more natural and the buttons come to your fingers easier. The Google DayDream puck is adequate, it suffices, but it could have been a lot better. Ergonomically, it feels pretty poor in the hand and your fingers get lost sometimes. The tracking on these puck devices has never been great, but the DayDream suffers a lot from drift and you find yourself re-centering the pointer a lot of the time. This is also true for the Gear VR, but it happens less often and the tracking appears more accurate.
As ever with devices such as these, it comes down to content. Gear VR has been around a few years now and there is plenty of content and experiences on the Gear VR store. Plenty of free games and free experiences to choose from. However, the experiences and games on the Google DayDream store appear to be hard to find and a little clumsy. The breadth of content is as varied as the Gear VR, but this would catch up in time. Some of the games are also pretty expensive on the Google DayDream, some as much as £14.99 in the UK, or $14.99 in the US [seems the conversions with Google don’t follow and either the developer and/or Google are being greedy here].
The quality of the games are ok. On both devices you are not going to get the same level of immersion as you would say from the HTC Vive. However, as a casual use device, they both do the job pretty well. The Gear VR is more comfortable for more longer experiences, say if you were watching a Netflix movie or playing an active game. The Google DayDream fit means that it feels heavy and adds pressure around the face and nose, plus there is light bleed too which tends to cause issues which can break immersion.
The question begs, which should you buy? If you own a Samsung S8 and you are in the US, chances you own one of these already, due to Samsung giving them away. However, those of us outside the US were not so lucky and were given nothing – boo Samsung. If you own a Samsung phone, buy a Gear VR. It is the best experience for that phone. If you don’t own a Samsung phone and your phone supports Google DayDream, then get the DayDream, but don’t expect on either device blow away experiences and games that will have you totally immersed as they have you believe in the over acted adverts on TV.
Watch the in depth video review below: