Hands-on: Samsung Gear VR review: Immersive headset requires a Galaxy Note 4 to function
The Samsung Gear VR is not like other virtual reality headsets. Unlike Oculus Rift or Sony Morpheus, the Gear VR doesn't come with any display built-in - instead you'll need to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to pop into the front of the headset for the immersive experience.
Employing the expertise of Oculus VR, the Gear VR headset is designed to work with the latest Note 4 phablet, and that device alone because of its significant Quad HD screen resolution. But that means it's another case of a Samsung device being restricted to the Samsung family.
That won't be a bad thing for all, though. Rather than forking out for the full price of a VR headset, here there's an Android access point that ought to cost less - although the final price and release date are unknown. We're crossing fingers for a sensible price point.
We tested out the Gear VR ahead of its official unveil at IFA 2014 and it's... well, it's bonkers. But we'd say the same thing about the other current VR experiences too.
After strapping the Note 4 to the front of the Gear VR and popping the plastic protector screen over that, our day-to-day glasses came off and we tweaked the dioptre adjustment wheel on top until focus was made better for our eyes.
The head strap felt comfortable, as did the spongy cushioning around the eyes and as we didn't wear any earphones on this occasion - it's possible to do so from the Note 4 or via Bluetooth wireless - it felt less claustrophobic than our Oculus Rift experiences have been.
Despite the Note 4's significant Quad HD resolution, the magnification of each individual eyecup of the Gear VR is so that the view is pixelated overall. Not the ultra-high resolution experience that we were hoping for.
But in terms of functionality the immersive experience is every bit as strong as Oculus Rift. No surprise really, given that the Oculus logo is on the side of the product because Samsung is using the same technology.
As well as watching Cirque De Soleil in a (virtual) theatre environment with performers right around us, and us able to turn our heads to focus on the action, we also played a shoot-em-up game. Content is downloadable on a pay-for basis.
With no controller present - although a Bluetooth one will be included in the box, we're told - it was a case of aiming with your head and shooting by tapping the touch-sensitive panel to the right side of the device. Watching others doing the same around the room looked hilarious and somewhat stupid. But it was also undeniably fun. We just hope we don't catch any nutters doing the same on public transport when the Gear VR is released.
But what is perhaps most exciting about the Gear VR is one of two things. One, it's running on an Android phone setup which means yet another window with a far greater reach for developers to experiment with - and that could be what gives the modern VR movement an additional kick up the backside.
Two, there's no tether so you're free to roam and rotate as much as you like without getting wrapped up in a wire. Ballet dancing and pirouettes here we come.
If you're a fan of Oculus and Morpheus then the Gear VR may attract. But if, like us, you find the whole experience stifling (for those who have tried it) and gimmicky then the Gear VR will do nothing to change that opinion. if anything it might make it worse because, in part, this Gear is designed as a product to help shift yet more Samsung mobile devices.