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Open up a whole new (virtual) world with Samsung’s $200 Gear VR headset

Updated on 05-08-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added availability and app info. 

New Gear VR model: Pricing and availability

Looking for a headset accoutrement to complement your new Galaxy? Samsung’s second Gear VR, which is made to fit the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and only the S6 and S6 Edge, is now officially on sale at brick-and-mortar locations like Best Buy and Samsung’s online store. Like the Innovator Edition, it’s priced at $200.

So what’s the difference between the new Gear VR and Samsung’s soon-to-be-outmoded Innovator Edition? Not much, truly. It’s about 15 percent smaller and a tad bit lighter, and has a redesigned weight distribution with better counterbalance. The new Gear VR has a USB port for charging any slotted-in S6, plus a more comfortable head strap with thicker padding, granular focus adjustment, and a mechanical cooling fan. Basically, it should be a lot easier on the eyes and face for those longer viewing/play sessions.

But what’s great hardware without apps? The improved Gear VR ships with the Oculus VR Store, a digital catalog of virtual reality applications and games. The store gained support for paid apps in March, and will soon extend that to other forms of media — Oculus’s video platform, Oculus Cinema, has begun offering a rotating selection of streaming short films.

Samsung’s first stab at VR: the Innovator Edition

Samsung’s first stab at virtual reality entertainment is here. The Innovator Edition Gear VR headset can be purchased for $200 through Samsung or AT&T. It’s ready to wow friends and family this holiday season. Well, we say it’s $200, but because the headset only works when a Galaxy Note 4 is plugged in, you’ll need one of the $800 smartphones too. Otherwise, it’s a useless, vision-obscuring face mask.

If you own the Note 4, or plan on picking one up at the same time, the Gear VR opens up an entire new world in front of your eyes. The smartphone slots into the visor, where it becomes the heart of the Gear VR — offering up its Quad HD, 5.7-inch screen, Snapdragon 805 processor, and many different sensors to bring a 360-degree, virtual reality entertainment world to life.

Related: Three unanswered questions about Samsung’s Gear VR

The Gear VR is closely related to the Oculus Rift, and also should be regarded as a piece of tech for early adopters. This means there isn’t a huge selection of software or movies created specifically for it just yet. It does come with HeroBound, a dungeon-based platform game we tried out at the IFA show back in September, plus the underwater demo called theBlu, and a selection of other games.

Some will require the use of Samsung’s Gear VR controller accessory, while others — such as nDreams’ Gunner shoot-em-up, which you can see in action above — make use of the Gear VR’s head tracking abilities instead. Samsung says a variety of 3D content, including a specially filmed sequence made by Cirque du Soleil, will be available for download too. If you’re wondering what the difference is between the Gear VR and the Oculus Rift, it’s mainly that it doesn’t need to be hooked up to a computer to operate.

According to AT&T’s website, the Gear VR should be in stock from December 8, but don’t go looking for it in one of the network’s retail stores, because it’s currently an online-only purchase.

Previous updates:

Updated on 04-23-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added details and pricing of Samsung’s new and improved Gear VR model.