You Should Buy a Gear VR*

*if you have a phone that works with it.

Samsung’s Gear VR is one of the most amazing devices I’ve ever reviewed. Wonderous. I’ve lost hours spinning in circles exploring the far reaches of the world and beyond. I can’t think of a better way to spend $100 on a product.

Here’s why.

Virtual Reality

Samsung’s Gear VR was developed in a collaboration with the company that re-launched virtual reality as a thing that actually works and is worth doing: Oculus. While the production version of the Oculus Rift ships this summer, the Gear VR is available now for only $100.

Understandably, it’s not nearly as elaborate or as powerful as the Rift. However, it gives you an incredible taste of what the Oculus can do, for a fraction of the price. Well… a fraction of the price if you already own a specific Samsung phones (Galaxy S7, S7 edge, S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and Note5). These phones lock into the front of the Gear VR and act as the screen and the brains. What your $100 buys you is the device to hold it on your head, the lenses to let you see the screen up close, and access to the Gear VR ecosystem of games, videos, and images.

Into Worlds

There are a lot of things you can do with the Gear VR. My favorite, and probably VR at it simplest, is exploring 360-degree photos from all over the world. Pick a location, and spin around like you’re there. Lose a few hours doing that, for sure.

Better still is the 360-degree artwork, for a lack of a better word. Basically, sci-fi and art scenes, but totally surrounding you. It’s like stepping into some awesome sci-fi movie or game.

Then there are the movies. Yep, 360-degree movies. Most are travel or sports videos, but there are a few fiction ones too, including one from Star Wars, and one with zombies.

The games, which seems like a huge selling point, are very hit-or-miss. I guess that’s to be expected so early on in VR game development. Land’s End is an atmospheric puzzle game from the people who made the fantastic Monument Valley. It’s pretty cool, though fairly slow. Instead of walking through the world, you have to click to the next predetermined location, then the game moves you there. It works, but it’s not ideal.

EVE Gunjack looks cool, but it’s an on-rails shooter. Not my thing, but for what it is it’s cool.

Honestly, I found gaming on the Gear VR to be rather boring, just like any games I’d play on my phone. I prefer something more elaborate.

But even considering that, I still love the Gear VR and have lost many hours using it. The videos and movies alone make it worth the purchase.


The refresh is high and the lag low, so most people probably won’t get vertigo or feel queasy, but it’s possible. Also, it’s really easy for your phone to overheat, so you have to turn the brightness down, limiting some of the “wow” factor by reducing the OLED’s contrast ratio.

Lastly… it’s not an Oculus. At $100 of course it isn’t, but having experienced the Oculus, I kept wanting to move through environments, explore these strange new worlds, and that’s not possible with the processing in a phone. There are glimmers of this in some games, but for a real FPS-type game, you’ll need the processing power of a PC and the Rift.

Bottom Line

If you have one of the devices listed, absolutely get the Gear VR. If you pre-order the S7, you’ll get a Gear VR for free. It’s a fun diversion, and a great way to sample what the future of VR will be like (i.e. absolutely awesome).

Cos's picture

I just pre-ordered the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to replace my IPhone and they give you the headset for free along with 6 games, and it the case of T-Mobile, free 1 year of netflix

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
That S7 looks sweet. I love my S6 edge.
notabadname's picture

I demoed this today and was not impressed with image quality. The phone is nice and a worthwhile purchase, so I am not being an Apple fanboy. But the VR experience I found to be visually disappointing. Yes, the motion tracking is really very neat, and smooth. You will definitely find yourself spinning in circles like a fool, looking like Luke with his blast shield down. But the picture's pixel structure was impossible for me to ignore and took away from the experience. Text was even worse in the menus where you could easily discern the grid-like blocks that comprised the image. The actual images, with their motion helped to hide pixel structure, but it still looked like I was watching a 480 P image in each eye. While a fun (for 10 minutes) tech demo, I would definitely not recommend spending $100 for what I believe most people will leave in a drawer or on a desk-top somewhere after the first week. It reminds of my 3-D View Master I had as a kid; fun on Christmas morning, but a month later sitting in a drawer with a bunch of circular white cardboard slide disks of 3-D animals. Viewed once, and forgotten. Instead, spend the $100 dollars on cool games and Apps to enjoy on the S7's beautiful display.