Virtual reality technology is gradually improving, but unless you’re a tech geek or a hardcore gamer, it’s likely still not on your radar as a product to buy. Not to mention the fact that good VR headsets can set you back well more than $500, and that’s not including the price of a gaming computer.
VR companies are now trying to bring the price down, trying to make the VR headset “for the masses.” The Oculus Go is one of those products. It’s a VR headset that doesn’t require a mobile phone, or any kind of external computer to power it — also known as a standalone VR headset — and it’s relatively inexpensive at $200. Will the low price tag tip over the average consumer into trying VR? We spent some time with the Oculus Go to find out.
An understated but welcoming design
All virtual reality headsets more or less look the same, but it’s comfort that takes a priority. You’ll look goofy wearing the Oculus Go — no different from any other headset — but the design is sleek, and the gray color scheme gives it a modern look. It has a strap that’s similar to the more expensive and better-known Oculus Rift, which helps keep the headset firmly in place, while also distributing the weight around your head.
The headset, which is built by Xiaomi, has an Oculus logo on the front, and there’s a power button and volume rocker on the top. It’s a strange place for the volume rocker, and reaching around to control the volume is a little awkward. There are volume controls on the remote, though, and we found ourselves using them more.
On the left side of the headset, you’ll see a headphone jack and a MicroUSB charging port. We’re not quite sure why Oculus didn’t adopt a USB Type-C port here – considering most smartphones and laptops these days come with USB Type-C chargers — it’d be nice to not to need a MicroUSB cable. We’re just nitpicking, it’s not a deal-breaking problem with the headset.
The straps look a little complex, but they’re really not. You can adjust the length of both side-straps, as well as the top strap, so you can easily find a fit that’s comfortable and works for your head shape.
Where the Oculus Go really shines is in gaming.
Oculus has also packed speakers into the side-straps, but of course you have the option to use the 3.5mm headphone jack. The built-in headphones aren’t great, but the sound is better than we expected. It should sufficiently keep you immersed, at least more than using the speakers. Unfortunately, you can’t use Bluetooth headphones with the Oculus Go – which feels like it would be a natural fit for a device that doesn’t need wires.
The face mask on the headset is black, and it has plenty of padding. The Oculus Go is comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time. I have a large nose, and I still didn’t have any problems with comfort. The trade-off for the nose space, however, is that there is some light bleeding in from the outside. You’re better suited to using the Oculus Go in the dark.
Set up is easy and simple, but you’ll need a phone. It’s confusing, considering the premise of the Oculus Go is how it’s a standalone headset that doesn’t need your phone to work. Still, once you pair the two with Bluetooth, follow the on-screen prompts on the headset and the app, you’re good to go. It should only take a few minutes.
From the app, you can do things like update your preferences and manage payment methods. You can even search for apps to download to the headset, which is a far better experience than using the remote to type in virtual reality.
A solid display
The screen in VR headsets is important. No matter how great the other features of the headset are, if the display isn’t up to par, it shows. With a low resolution, you can easily see the pixels, while a low refresh rate can take out some of the realism of movement.
The Oculus Go launched with a massive library of 1,000 apps.
The Oculus Go’s LCD display is standard with other VR headsets, with a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution (1,280 x 1,440 per eye). It’s similar to the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Google’s Daydream, another standalone VR headset. It doesn’t look too sharp — you can still see the pixels — but the content still manages to look pretty good.
We would like to start seeing higher-resolution screens for VR headsets across the board. The refresh rate for the Oculus Go can run between 60Hz and 72Hz – depending on the developer that creates the app; either way, you’ll be satisfied with the screen here, but VR aficionados may want to look to the new HTC Vive Pro for an even better screen resolution.
The Oculus Go comes equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, which is Qualcomm’s flagship chip for 2016. It’s a solid chip, albeit a little dated, but most apps and games performed just fine. We did encounter a few skips and jumps every now and then, and a better chip would future-proof the headset for more complex apps and games down the line.
There are a few features the Oculus Go doesn’t offer that other standalone headsets do, and it’s important to know. For starters, unlike the new Lenovo Mirage Solo, the headset doesn’t have 6 degrees of freedom. In other words, you’ll be able to move your head, but that’s it. You can’t move your head closer to an object to see it in more detail, nor can you move from side to side or walk around to try and see behind an object. This technology is still in development — especially for wireless headsets. While the Mirage Solo does have six degrees of movement, it’s limited in how much you can move.
Lots of content
Using the Oculus Go is easy. If the headset is in standby, it’ll automatically turn on when you put the headset on your head, after which you’ll simply hold down the home button to pair the remote and be brought to the home screen — exactly like the Mirage Solo headset.
A better chip would future-proof the headset.
Oculus has a few more perks over Google’s Daydream VR platform, which is its main competitor in the mobile VR and standalone VR space at the moment. There’s a VR web browser on the Go; and the biggest advantage? Content. While Daydream offers “more than 150” apps, the Oculus Go launched with a massive library of 1,000 apps. Most of them are ones that have been available on the Oculus Store for quite some time with the Samsung Gear VR, but it’s still a big difference between the two platforms, and a compelling reason to opt for the Go.
Some stand-out apps? Anshar Online, a follow-up to Anshar 2, is an immersive and fun space shooter you can play both by yourself and in multiplayer mode, while Catan VR lets you play Settlers of Catan with your friends even when they’re on the other side of the world.
There are other types of apps too – Plex VR replaces your TV with a massive display to watch your favorite movies on, and it looks pretty good despite the screen resolution. But where the Oculus Go really shines is gaming, and there are plenty to choose from. You may find many to be repetitive — the kind of games you’d expect to play on your smartphone — but there are a good amount of gems. Since the Go is tied to the Oculus brand, you can be sure to expect more support for games and exclusive titles — potential ports for games built for the superior Oculus Rift.
Battery life is similar to the Mirage Solo standalone VR headset — about 2 and a half hours if you’re continuously playing a game. It may not be enough for some people, but it’s plenty for most. You can also use the headset while charging as well, for extended play time. If you’ve been using the headset for more than 2 hours, it may be time to give your eyes a rest anyway.
The controller is simple to use, similar to the Daydream controller. On the back, you’ll find a trigger – which acts as a selection button, while on the top you’ll get a touchpad for scrolling, and there’s a back button, and a home button. It’s powered by a AA battery, which is a bit of a shame — it would have been nice to use the same MicroUSB cable to charge the remote, instead of fussing with batteries.
Price, availability, and warranty information
The Oculus Go costs $200 for the 32GB storage model, or you can shell out $250 for the 64GB model. It’s available now. It comes with a one-year limited warranty, which only covers manufacturer defects.Our Take
The Oculus Go is an excellent option for people looking to venture into virtual reality. It’s a superior alternative to mobile VR, which is held back by the smartphone. The Go also has far more content to keep you entertained over Google’s Daydream platform.
Is there a better alternative?
There are better alternatives – but they come at a price. The new Lenovo Mirage Solo runs Google Daydream, offers six degrees of freedom, but it has a price tag of $400. Tethered VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, are more powerful and have far more visually-interesting games — but they’re also a whole lot pricier, and you need a powerful computer to run them.
If you’re completely new to VR, it’s worth considering Samsung’s Gear VR, or Google’s Daydream View. If you have a Daydream-compatible phone or a Samsung phone, then buying an $80 Daydream View or $100 Gear VR is a cheaper, and similar experience to the Oculus Go. The benefit of the Go, however, is that you don’t need to use a phone.
How long will it last?
The Oculus Go should last at least a few years if you take care of it, but virtual reality is also an evolving market. By 2019, there could be superior standalone headsets that offer better resolution and features like six degrees of freedom. In other words, the Oculus Go will last, but it may become technically dated sooner than you expect.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking for a great standalone virtual reality headset with a decent library of apps and only have around $200 to spend, buy the Oculus Go. It’s a great option for people on the fence about VR, and if you simply want to dip your toes into the platform.