Samsung Gear VR: What I Learned the 1st Day

Many of the mobile carriers offered a free Samsung Gear VR deal for people who pre-ordered the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge bringing virtual reality to a lot of Galaxy S7 owners. Samsung started delivering the Gear VR already and we got one. Here are 10 things we learned about using the Samsung Gear VR during the first day of use.

The technology behind virtual reality goggles is still in its infancy, but the Gear VR shows great promise. When the VR industry finds ways to fix the problems below, it will take off and bring users one step closer to the Star Trek holodeck future most of us want.

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Video Resolution on Gear VR Disappoints

You’d think that gazing at a beautiful Samsung Galaxy phone display would result in incredibly crisp and beautiful images and video, but that’s not how it works with the Gear VR. The Galaxy S7 Edge sports a great 1440 x 2560 res display. That’s a 534 ppi pixel density. However, the lenses on the Gear VR result in a noticeably pixellated look. It’s grainy and looks pretty bad after the initial wow factor wears off.

gear vr lenses

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Users hoping to watch movies or look at high res photos in crystal clarity will find the Gear VR disappointing.

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Accurate Focus Clarity is Nearly Impossible

In addition to the poor picture and video quality, the focus on the lenses doesn’t work as hoped. The images mostly look clear, but it’s slightly off. No amount of fine tuning brings the entire screen into focus. Things on the edge look softer than those in the center of the person’s view.

Use the focus dial to get a clearer picture. It's always a little fuzzy no matter how much you focus.

The focus dial is used to get a clearer picture. However, it’s always a little fuzzy no matter how much you focus.

The Galaxy VR focuses using a dial on top of the goggles. I turned it a few times before it came into focus and then went past the clearest focus moving back into the blurry range trying to find a clearer image. It’s usable, but needs improvement.

The Galaxy S7 Edge Runs Really Hot Inside

After about 20 minutes of use the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge felt the hottest I’ve seen it. That’s due to the amount of image processing power the Gear VR requires. We’ll see whether using it for long periods of time will hurt the phone’s hardware. I don’t think it’s that bad, but time will tell.

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gear vr with galaxt s7 edge

The Gear VR Drains the Phone’s Battery Quickly

Related to the heat generated by using the Gear VR, the usually great battery on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge drained fast. After the 30 minutes it took to set it up and then play around watching some videos, looking at some photos and downloading the 6 free games that come with the Gear VR, the battery dropped from about 70% to less than 40%. My son’s Galaxy S7 drained about 25% in around fifty minutes of use. Plan to keep a fast charger close by while playing.

I Got a Little Headache and Slightly Dizzy

Using the Gear VR for about 10 minutes gave me a slight headache. I decided to push through and it went away after another five minutes. People highly sensitive to things like watching a 3D movie might not enjoy the Gear VR at all. My wife can’t go to 3D movies for this reason and she pulled it off after a minute because it bothered her almost instantly.

Some people report getting a little nauseous after using virtual reality. Only one thing made me feel slightly dizzy. There’s a sample 360-degree video of a helicopter tour of the Las Vegas Strip. I started to feel a little light-headed and dizzy while watching it moving around to see all the angles.

Most people should feel fine if they get the focus clarity adjusted as well as possible and don’t make sudden head movements while wearing the Gear VR.

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Big Heads Mean Tight Straps

The Gear VR straps are too close to the ears.

The Gear VR straps are too close to the ears.

The straps on the Gear VR connect to the two sides and the center top edge. They’re easy to install and most people won’t mind the tightness. My 18-year-old son thought the straps fit comfortably with one exception. I’ve got a larger than normal head and it felt very tight after using it for about ten minutes.

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The Gear VR fits great on normal heads, but not people will big heads.

The Gear VR fits great on normal heads, but not on bigger heads.

The straps run just behind my ears on the side of my head and that got annoying for both of us. He didn’t think it was too tight, but did find the strap’s placement around his ears bothersome.

Games Require a Game Pad

A few web sites say that the Amazon Fire TV Gaming Controller works with Gear VR games and the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, but we couldn’t make it work. We tried the SteelSeries Nimbus that works with Apple TV. The controller most people recommend for use with the Gear VR comes from the same company, but it didn’t work either.

The SteelSeries Free Mobile Wireless Gaming Controller ($26.50 at the time this post) promises to work with it. I ordered it from Amazon and will test it out. People who want to play games will need a controller like it to play them.

Gear VR Feels Isolating

If you like to watch movies all by yourself, you won’t mind feeling isolated. I’d rather watch with family or friends, so it does bother me.

Wearing the Gear VR also means staying put. I can’t get up and move around safely without turning on the pass through camera, which is hard to get used to. Seeing the environment from a camera instead of with the naked eye feels like looking through a hole.

The Gear VR lets users plug in headphones into the phone so sound won't annoy others.

The Gear VR lets users plug headphones into the phone so sound won’t annoy others.

The sound of videos and games annoyed the people around me. They designed the Gear VR so the user can plug in headphones, but now you’re really isolated. If you’re just wearing headphones, someone can get your attention by waving at you. With the goggles on, the person will  have to touch the user which can startle you.

Short Videos Work Great

The short videos available on Facebook, Hulu and the other video collections available for the Gear VR come with a cool wow factor. There’s a lot of educational content and some that’s just entertaining or interesting. You can sit on stage and enjoy U2 with the band sitting around you or watch Cirque du Soleil perform with members of the cast sitting next to you.

Some videos play on a virtual movie screen and it looks like you’re sitting in a theater or a video room. Others offer 360-degree immersive experiences. Some offer 3D video.

The Samsung Gear VR works great for short form videos.

Long Movies Aren’t That Enjoyable

I haven’t watched a full-length movie yet and I don’t want to. First, the headset is uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. Second, I prefer watching movies with family or friends. Third, my 4K TV looks better than the video quality of the Gear VR.