Hands on: Google Daydream VR View review
Google's Daydream VR View is the loungewear of virtual reality headsets.
Google announced a replacement for Google Cardboard at its Pixel event today. The plushy, lightweight headset officially titled "Daydream View" is a part of Google's five-part plan for its range of Pixel phones (Google Assistant, Photography, Storage, Communications and Virtual Reality). Pixel phones are optimised for Daydream VR out of the box, switching to VR mode seamlessly when placed in the Daydream View headset.
While Cardboard allowed for Google to toy with the idea of VR, Daydream View is its first serious foray into the platform. It's a more fleshed-out device than Samsung's Gear VR, but still relatively affordable when compared to top-tier headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.
I attended Google's Sydney live stream event and managed to get some hands-on (or heads-on) time with Daydream View. Here's what I thought.
Daydream VR View Design
The most differentiating and immediately obvious design aspect of Daydream View is its cushiony exterior. Daydream View is a wearable headset, and for that reason Google believes it should be designed like something you would wear.
The View is made from soft microfibre fabrics you would find in clothing and sporting apparel and is void of the harsh plastic edges and latches you find on other VR headsets. This was immediately comforting to me. Though today's handsets are likely to withstand a few bumps from a VR headset's inner mechanisms, years of cautious handling caused me to cringe every time I would pop my Galaxy S7 into the Gear VR 2. It's also finicky and, frankly, a little more painful than necessary getting those things to sit right.
Popping the Pixel into the Daydream View couldn't have been easier. You simply unclip the elastic latch atop the headset, flip the lid, sit your phone in and close it again. That's it. The Pixel connects automatically to the Daydream View, switching to VR mode on the fly.
In fact, the only thing that's adjustable on the Daydream View VR is the single elastic head strap. Tightening it was a breeze. The only issue I had with the View's fit was the nose groove – I just couldn't get it to sit right on my nose, but that could be because I've take one too many hits to the face in my time.
Probably just as important as the Daydream View VR is the companion controller. It's a tiny little thing that fits in the palm of your hand with a clickable trackpad at the top, a multi-function home button at the bottom and an unmapped button in the middle for third party developers to toy with.
It's also motion-sensitive like a Wiimote thanks its in-built gyroscope. To save you losing this miniature remote, you can secure it with an elastic strap behind the front flap when you're not using it. Handy.
So it's a built-for-comfort VR headset with a neat little controller, but none of that matters unless you've got things to do and places to explore with it.
Google demoed a handful of intriguing ideas at the Pixel event, like Netflix, YouTube and Google Maps compatibility. But for our hands-on we got to play the museum experience from the Google Pixel launch keynote and a relatively simple mini-game in the style of Mario Party's Tipsy Turvy. Using the gyroscope to guide farm animals around an unsteady platform was cheap, shameless fun, but most importantly the on-screen movements replicated my gestures to a tee.
Google View VR Specs
Google Daydream View
|Compatibility||Daydream optimised phones|
|Colours||Snow (white), Crimson (red) and Slate (Black)|
|Weight||30% lighter than other mobile VR headsets|
|Release date||November 2016|
Motion controller with in-built gyroscope
Upsides: Why you'd want a Google Daydream View
- Advanced mobile VR experience: While we only got a short glimpse of what the Daydream View is capable of, there has been other software teased that seems to make the most of the platform's motion-sensor controls (like a very cool Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer). The controller's gyroscope, three button-layout and trackpad open up a world of opportunities for VR developers that were previously unavailable.
- Virtually giving it away: The Daydream View VR will retail at $119 when it launches in November. While that's not exactly loose change, it's still a good deal cheaper than Samsung's Gear VR, which currently retails at $159 and is undeniably a more advanced product.
- Keep it classy: I have to admit, when they first flashed the fabric-clad VR headset on screen, I didn't quite know what to make of it. However, in person, it genuinely looks like a stylish piece of gear your could display proudly in your lounge room. And if Slate isn't your style, you can opt for the equally classy Crimson and Snow models. Also, if you've had to turn away VR on more than one-occasion because of your spectacles, you will be happy to know the Daydream View VR has been made with you in mind. There's plenty space inside the headset for a second-pair of eyes.
Downsides: Why you might not want a Google Daydream View
- Might not fit like a dream: To be fair, this could be the case with any VR headset. Though the Daydream View does a brilliant job catering for those with glasses, I personally had trouble fitting the Daydream View over the bridge of my nose. This meant it sat a little higher than I like. A small complaint about an otherwise snug headset.
- You don't own a Google Pixel: Daydream View was created for the Google Daydream View app. Only two phones are currently "optimised for Daydream VR" and it's, you guessed it, the Pixel and Pixel XL. More handsets are sure to become Daydream VR compatible once the headset is out in the wild, but for now you'll have to opt for on of Google's latest if you want to experience Daydream View.
Google Daydream VR View Early Verdict
As it stands, I would absolutely spend $119 on Daydream View. The only obstacle is the $1,079 (minimum) price tag for a compatible Pixel and whether or not third-party developers fully embrace the new platform.
This isn't the first time an impressive VR headset has released for mobile, but can you name one successful VR game for Gear VR? Admittedly, Google has a little more swing on that front and the Daydream View is more advanced than Gear VR, but still, it's impossible to judge whether these things have legs for the long run.
That said, I do have high hopes for the platform after my brief experience with it.
- Google Pixel XL Review: The ultimate Android experience
- Google Home is the speaker hub for Google to rule your life
- Hands on: Google Pixel first impressions review
- Telstra Pixel and Pixel XL plan pricing
- Chromecast Ultra Australian price, specs and launch date
- Google’s Project Daydream View is affordable VR for smartphones
- Google WiFi officially unveiled at Pixel event
- Google announces the Pixel and Pixel XL