Best Mobile VR Headsets 2017 – Complete Buying Guide

best-mobile-vr-headsets

What is a Mobile VR Headset?

 

Currently, there are a lot of people wondering if there is a big difference between a mobile virtual reality headset and a normal VR headset. Spoiler alert: there is a major difference between them, and it’s quite self explanatory!

A mobile VR headset is powered by a phone. This means that the processing power is slightly slower than that of a PC, which is quite fast. However, the mobile headset has its own perks. No cable is connected, as it is completely wireless, and generally, so far, mobile headsets have been much more affordable– some costing as little as a few dollars.

Types of Mobile VR Headsets

 

Should you take a deeper look into mobile VR headsets, you will see that there are two types. One type is passive, and there is not much more to it than easily plugging into your phone. The the other type is at least slightly more active, and will often come with additional hardware support.

Though the active headsets are not always substantially more complicated than the passive headsets, they generally have additional sensors inside the headset and additional software support. For example, a Daydream ready device needs special software (provided by Android Nougat, latest Android OS version), which is not available in most mobile headsets, but has been included in the latest Android version.

Passive VR Headsets

 

There is a lot to like about the low maintenance, affordable options for VR headsets. They are inexpensive, and compatible with basically any phone, including iOS; this is important, as it is the only way for iOS users to experience virtual reality through their phones right now. There are a lot of apps that utilize the technology on the App Store and on Google Play, too.

Because these headsets are so simple by nature (they’re little more than a plastic or cardboard box that holds the phone), a lot of manufacturers are making their own versions of these headsets, which is creating a great level of healthy competition to choose from.

The downside to purchasing a passive headset, rather than an active one, is that they aren’t compatible with addition hardware or software, which means that they are limited in their performance. Also, very few of these passive VR headsets feel comfortable on your face.

Right now, some passive VR headsets worth knowing about include:

 

Sale
Merge VR - Virtual Reality Headset for iPhone and Android

Merge Labs, Inc - Wireless Phone Accessory

$79.00 - $17.06 $61.94
Sale
Zeiss VR ONE Plus Headset

Zeiss - Wireless Phone Accessory

$109.00 - 1 $108.99
Homido HOMIDO1 Virtual Reality Headset for Smartphone

LUY8X - Wireless Phone Accessory

$24.99
Official Google Cardboard

Google Inc. - Wireless Phone Accessory

$15.00

Active VR Headsets

 

As nice as a passive VR headset can be– if you have a phone that is supported by an active VR headset, buying one is an absolute must! The additional software and hardware make for unforgettable, high-quality experiences that simply can’t be replicated by their lo-fi equivalent.

 

A few of the most popular active VR headsets are:

In-Depth Analysis – Mobile VR Passive Headsets

Official Google Cardboard

Google Inc. - Wireless Phone Accessory

$15.00

Google Cardboard

 

Google Cardboard is a notable passive headset as it is friendly to both Android and iOS devices. The current story is that it was made by a Google employee, David Coz, mostly as a side project (Google allows 20% of employee time to be spent on side projects), and now it has grown into something special.

 

A large number of apps are built for Google Cardboard, and it is about as simple of a VR device as you’ll find. Unfortunately, there’s no strap, so it must be held to your head at all times. It’s very simple, the input is only one button, and it is probably the least expensive, and one of the first of its kind– it has made its reputation so far as being many people’s first contact with virtual reality.

Google Cardboard Review

Sale
Merge VR - Virtual Reality Headset for iPhone and Android

Merge Labs, Inc - Wireless Phone Accessory

$79.00 - $17.06 $61.94

Merge VR

 

Merge VR is also compatible with both Android and iOS. Personally, I think the purple color is quite ugly, as is the design in general– but this is subjective, of course. Despite this, the build quality is quite solid, and it works the same as Google Cardboard but is in some ways glorified. There are two input buttons, and the lenses are adjustable.

 

Despite its relative solidity, it is still a lightweight option. Before purchasing, ensure that your phone actually fits into a Merge VR headset, as some bigger versions probably will not.

Merge VR Review

Sale
Zeiss VR ONE Plus Headset

Zeiss - Wireless Phone Accessory

$109.00 - 1 $108.99

Zeiss One

 

Very similar to the Merge VR, this is another quality option. If you recognize the brand name, that is probably because Zeiss is a reputable optics manufacturer. Unlike the Merge VR, though, the Zeiss One’s lenses are not adjustable.

Zeiss One Review

Homido HOMIDO1 Virtual Reality Headset for Smartphone

LUY8X - Wireless Phone Accessory

$24.99

Homido VR

 

The Homido VR headset is, once again, more similar to the Zeiss One and the Merge VR than it is to Google Cardboard. Marketing itself as a premium alternative to Google Cardboard, I found it to have some distinct strengths and weaknesses.

The design is better than Merge, and it’s very comfortable. It’s also compatible with various devices. On the hand, it doesn’t have the same amount of game selection as Cardboard, there is no input, and it’s quite expensive.

Homido VR Review

In-Depth Analysis – Mobile VR Active Headsets

Gear VR

Samsung SM-R323NBKAXAR Gear Virtual Reality 2016 for Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+ (International Version, No Warranty) - Black
  • Turn your compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone into a completely portable and wireless virtual reality machine, with Accelerometer, Gyrometer, Proximity (Mount/Unmount Detection).
  • Easy to use touch pad with dedicated Back and Home Buttons.
  • Wide field of view, precise head-tracking and low latency brings reality to the virtual, Be transported to amazing new worlds, in games, video and images, Thousands of 360 degree panoramic photos.
  • Compatible with: Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge (International Version - Product packaging and manual may be in a different language other than English).

 

At the moment, this is the standard-setting premium, and the biggest VR headset in the active category. To get an idea of the scope Samsung has announced that it has delivered 5 million of these headsets. This headset is only for Samsung products, and only a select few at that:

The hardware is made by Samsung, while the software was created by Oculus, with John Carmack (yes, John Carmack the game development legend) as the head of the project.

 

The latest release is a 2016 edition, and it includes additional sensors inside the headset, as well as addition software that’s installed on Samsung devices – this software really optimizes the performance. The App store is controlled by Oculus, so the selection of VR content with the Samsung Gear is vast. As should be expected on a project of this caliber, the lenses are adjustable.

 

This headset also comes with a touchpad and few additional buttons, but it doesn’t have a hand controller like Daydream; this is noticeable because a lot of apps require game controller. Generally, the high resolution of Samsung phones makes for very nice image quality…

 

If you own a Samsung device that supports VR – this is a must buy.

Samsung Gear VR Review

Daydream

 

Google Daydream View - VR Headset (Slate)
  • Don't just see the world, experience it. With daydream view, you can teleport from virtually anywhere to Pretty much everywhere.
  • Browse from an ever-growing Collection of apps and games in the daydream app - a home for all of your virtual reality experiences.
  • You can always get the best seat in the house with daydream view. Experience concerts, sports and more in full 360 degree panoramic view.
  • The daydream view controller transforms with your imagination. Go from the sidelines to the center of action. Feel the adrenaline Rush as you speed down the racetrack.
  • Daydream View's lightweight, durable headset is made from soft, breathable fabric to help you stay comfortable longer.

 

Within the industry, Daydream is considered to be the older brother of Google Cardboard. Developed by Google for Android, it is also a sort of prototype for a headset which other manufacturers can build. Google’s device is called Daydream View.

This is a great headset, but the device has to be Daydream-ready, and right now, only a select few are:

 

 

Just like the Gear for a Samsung device, if you’ve got a Google Pixel, this is a must buy! The design is incredibly impressive, and it’s very comfortable to wear. The major advantage over the Gear VR, at this point, is that it has a controller which is included with the device, which opens the door to a lot of games.

 

The App store is nice, but there isn’t a huge selection at the moment because in the past, Google was curating apps by themselves and not letting outside parties upload them. However, Google recently announced that they will open up the store so many other parties can upload their apps.
Don’t be surprised if a whole lot of upcoming devices are Daydream-ready.

Google Daydream Review

Huawei VR

 

At this point, we don’t know yet release date or price of this headset, but it seems very promising. Huawei has already made two daydream ready phones, so we’re expecting them to release it in other markets. For now, all we know it won’t have a controller like Daydream view, but we still expect this to be a top notch headset.

Huawei VR Review

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