The Google Daydream VR aims to compete with the Samsung Gear VR. It currently works with the Google Pixel, the Google Pixel XL and — according to CNET— now has support for the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force. Is the Daydream View worth the $79 price tag? Let’s find out.
The Daydream View comes in a surprisingly small box, which takes a long time to open since you have to slice the tape at two different corners. But once you open the box, you are looking at a completely different device than the plastic Gear VR. Google’s VR headset looks inviting with its cloth finish. It almost looks like an item you would find in your mother’s drawer. The device is surprisingly light and portable.
Those who own a Pixel XL may think they bought the wrong VR device since it looks way too small to fit the Daydream View, and it is. But that doesn’t matter. When you center the Pixel XL on the screen, close the door, and attach the cover’s bow to the top of the headset, it works. Yes, it looks strange on the outside, but it looks much better on the inside.
The Daydream comes with a controller for selecting things and navigating the VR menus. It certainly is a lot easier than using the touchpad that comes on the Gear VR. In fact, everything about the Daydream View feels easier than the Gear VR, from the setup to fitting the device on your head without having to worry about the lenses fogging up (although the August 2016 version of the Gear VR has improved on this). But is it necessarily a better mobile headset? Not really.
Those who used Samsung’s virtual reality headset will notice that the field of view (FOV) is slightly smaller on the Daydream, and the FOV on the Gear VR is barely passable. The 90 degree FOV on the Daydream isn’t a deal breaker, but it is a disappointment. But the biggest disadvantage that the Daydream View has over the Gear VR is the software, which is practically non-existent.
Google will add a lot of important VR software titles in the next couple of months, but how can you release a VR headset without the ability to play video files or view pictures that are shot with the Pixel XL camera or side loaded? It’s great that Hulu Plus is automatically installed in the Daydream library, but how useful is the app when audio and video don’t sync correctly?
There are two great apps here. One is YouTube VR, which allows you to view YouTube videos as if you are watching them on a big screen. However, it’s the 360 videos that are the star of the show, and if you have enough bandwidth to stream them in high quality, you can enter into many really immersive experiences. There is a 360 degree snowboarding video that will make your stomach drop when the main subjects go downhill.
However, the best app — which is also one of the best apps that has appeared on any VR headset — is Google Earth VR. This app takes you to the center of just about any location in the United States as well as most of the locations in the rest of the world. For example, this author typed in the address of his childhood home and almost teared up when he was put in the middle of a high quality picture that made him feel back home. He wasn’t happy about the fact that the current owners made the front and back yard look like a jungle, but smiled when turning his head and seeing that the Prekezes residence across the street didn’t change one bit.
These two apps will make the $79 price tag worth it. Perhaps, when Hulu Plus works and apps such as Netflix and a theater app that natively views files on your phone are added, the Daydream View will be a must-have. For now, the Gear VR is the best mobile headset you can buy, but it’s only available for Samsung phones. But at least with the Daydream View, you don’t have to worry about the phone you are using blowing up in your face.
[Featured Image by Daryl Deino]