You’re about to get a hotter and comfier Samsung Gear VR


Samsung made a number of smart moves with the original Gear VR headset, which it unveiled almost two years ago

First of all, it partnered with the virtual reality hardware leader, the Facebook-owned Oculus VR. Second, it made the Gear VR just $99. And third, Samsung basically gave you one if you bought a Galaxy S7 phone, which happens to go inside the headset. 

These choices helped Samsung become a leader in the consumer VR space.

The company is likely to maintain that lead with its upgraded headset. The fourth edition of the VR headset gives the device a cool new look, replacing the hokey white body (with black accents) with a midnight blue chassis. 

This serves two purposes: You’ll look like less of a dork wearing them (thank you, Samsung) and the black interior cuts down on any unwanted reflections, which could improve the overall VR experience.

The new VR headset feels more comfortable on your face.

The headset also got a cushion upgrade, so the device feels more comfortable on your face, and comes with longer straps.

Since the new Gear VR has to partner with Samsung’s sharp, new Galaxy Note 7, it now includes a USB Type-C port. Don’t worry, it will also ship with a Micro USB port adapter, which you’ll want to be careful not to lose (during our demo, the tiny dongle slipped right out of the Samsung rep’s hands and went darting across the floor).

The new Samsung Gear VR is better looking and offered redesigned navigational controls.

The new Samsung Gear VR is better looking and offered redesigned navigational controls.

Samsung also upgraded the optics a bit, going from 96-degree field of view to 101 degrees. They also took some feedback on the touch controls and redesigned the buttons, removing the indented cross pad, making the controls larger and adding a separate button that brings you back to the Oculus Home screen. All these changes should make it easier to control the VR headset with touch alone.

The headset also has a new USB Type-C port on the bottom that can both deliver power to the phone and be used for data. The latter feature should help it support VR peripherals, whenever they arrive.

Better in every way

I got a chance to try out the new Samsung Gear VR headset with the new Galaxy Note 7 inside. As promised, the new cushions and straps make it much more comfortable. You still adjust focus with the dial on top. 

Samsung let me try an immersive skateboarding video, which I watched while standing atop a real skateboard attached to a gimbal. Samsung did not give us an opportunity to try the new controls.

The video, though, looked great — naturally, since it was shot with high-quality 360 video rigs — and sound was provided by a standalone headset. 

I immediately lost myself in the video, looking around at the four or five other longboarders racing down the hill with me and doing my best to balance on the real skateboard as it moved about beneath me.

At $99.99, the new, hipper-looking Gear VR will likely keep Samsung ahead of the consumer VR pack for now. Come this fall, Google and its army of phone partners will be releasing their own Daydream-ready devices, VR headsets and controllers, which will almost definitely provide some much-needed competition. 



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