Consumer virtual reality is here, at least consumer VR of the mobile variety. If you used either of the Innovator Editions of the Gear VR, then your basic virtual reality experience with the consumer version is going to be nearly identical. But there are a few key differences.
The new headset is lighter and has a slightly more comfortable padding lining the front (the part that hugs against your cheeks and forehead). We never found the Innovator Editions to be uncomfortable, but along with consumer branding for the new headset, there’s also a slightly more consumer-friendly level of comfort.
The biggest difference with the consumer Gear VR, though, is that it’s compatible with four phones, instead of just one or two. The Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ will all power this magic teleporting machine. Clearly Samsung is using this deal with Oculus to sell more phones, which severely limits the Gear VR’s audience, but at least those are four pretty terrific phones to be limited to.
Speaking of the Oculus Rift, Gizmag spent enough time with it at Oculus Connect to say it’s clearly several notches above the Gear VR (powered by a high-end gaming rig, how could it not be?). If you simply want great VR and don’t own a Samsung phone, then just wait a few months for the Rift (or perhaps the HTC Vive). As great as the Gear VR is for Samsung phone owners, the full retail cost of buying a high-end smartphone along with the headset isn’t that much lower than the cost of buying a gaming PC that meets Oculus’ recommended specs.
There’s lots of great content to play with now in this Samsung/Oculus walled garden, but PC-based virtual reality is close enough around the corner that we don’t recommend buying a Samsung phone for the sole reason of using the Gear VR. If you’re torn 50/50 between a Galaxy and something else, then sure, no harm in letting that push the scales towards something like the Note 5 or GS6. But the really good stuff is coming soon and you’ll need a nearly $1,000 PC to use that. As outstanding as the Gear VR is for mobile VR, the non-mobile stuff is naturally going to be where the envelope is really pushed.