Category Archives for "Product Reviews"

We review the latest products in the Virtual Reality space. Our comparison studies will help you decide on the best gear and accessories out there. If you are in the market to buy a Virtual Reality Headset then these reviews will help you make up your mind.

March 12, 2018

Sony’s Xperia Touch Wow’s the public at SXSW

Sony's Xperia Touch

Sony’s Xperia Touch combines projection with sensor technology to turn any table top, wall or other surface into a touch screen.

Sony first appeared above the horizon in the west during the nineteen sixties, as a maker of good quality, portable (transistor) radios. Since then, they have given us the walkman, Betamax and many fine audio and video products. They have also ventured into computers, the music business and the movie business.

They are known for being innovative. So, it is only natural that they should be out there in the virtual reality and augmented reality industries. And it should come as no surprise that their “Wow “Studio” at SXSW (South by South West) in Austin, Texas should have made such an impact this year, as indeed it did last year.

One of the products on display this time around was a product called Xperia Touch, a projector that turns any flat surface into not merely a screen, but a 23-inch touch screen. That is, it projects an image onto a flat surface which can be horizontal (e.g. a table top) or vertical (a wall) and it used infrared to track your finger as it touches areas of the screen, which can be hotspots in the same as you can have hotspots on a web page.

You can swipe, select, or even move pieces on a board game - anyone for backgammon? What’s more, it can detect your presence when you approach and switch itself on, along with a greeting message on the surface that it is aimed at.

The full specs are:

Weight: 932 g

Dimensions: 69 x 134 x 143 mm

Battery: 1300 mAh (1-hour continuous video playback) - 1000 cycles

Sensors: Microphone, Accelerator*2, e-Compass, GPS, Gyro, ambient light detector, barometer, thermometer, humidity detector, human proximity detector, infrared sensor.

Connectivity: WiFi 11 a/b/g/n/ac (SISO), Microcast sink, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC.

Connectors: USB Type-C, HDMI Type-D

Display: SXRD laser diode projector with 3 x primary colors and LCD shutter, 1366 x 768, autofocus, 23 - 80-inch projection area, 100 lumens, 4000 - 1 contrast.

Main Camera: 13 megapixels.

Indicators: LED

Controls: 10-point multi-touch using IR sensor.

Sound: Two-way stereo speakers.

Power: USB 15 volts.

Xperia Tough from Sony

Xperia Touch from Sony

It is pricey - $1699 at the time of writing - but that is in the nature of nearly all new tech products. As time goes by, the Xperia Touch will come down in price and better versions will come out. But for now, it is out there for those who have the money and want it.

But Sony hasn’t stopped there. They have also showcased a whole swathe of products, pushing the limits of innovation and creativity. They are demonstrating this technology in an interactive exhibit combining images from multiple projectors, sensors and 3D-printed models and props. The whole thing is controlled by custom software. It is not intended as an actual product, more a proof of concept.

The exhibit has attracted praise form the Verge, if only for proving that “something like this is both more accessible and can be experienced collectively, without requiring everybody wear a pair of smart glasses, a VR-style helmet, or even a compatible smartphone with the requisite software."

VERDICT: The product that we'd all LOVE to have - if only we could afford it!

February 16, 2018

Best Windows Mixed Reality Headsets of 2018

Windows Mixed Reality headsets

Do you want to know the difference between virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality? Are you considering buying a Windows mixed reality headset? In this review we’ll answer the question, compare the products and give you some advice on choosing which headset to buy.

First, what’s the difference between the three so-called “realities”? In brief, virtual reality creates a fully immersive artificial world via a headset that closes out the world. Augmented reality involves wearing transparent glasses through which you see the world, while virtual objects are overlaid either by being projected onto the glass or (in theory) onto the eyes themselves.

But what about “Mixed Reality”? This is where it gets a little confusing. The general and widespread definition of mixed reality is that it overlays reality with virtual objects (or real ones that are in another location), but these objects can be “anchored” to the real world and the user can interact with them like in virtual reality. Imagine having a videochat with friend hovering before you while at the same time walking in the street and looking ahead to see where you’re going.

The problem with this definition is two-fold. The first is that it could just be considered a definition of one of the uses of augmented reality, rather than a true separate category. The second is that Microsoft has just come along and introduced something called Windows Mixed Reality. This is a new standard for headsets by Microsoft partners, but despite the name, it is really just virtual reality by another name.

The reason Microsoft treats it as different is because their mixed reality headsets use inside-out tracking but have their own built-in screens. Inside-out tracking means that unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, they don’t lighthouses or external towers to track your head position or movement. Having built-in screens is important. It means that unlike Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR, they are more than just phone housing units.

In fact, this combination of inside-out tracking but with its own built-in screen has been around for a while. The Osmose virtual reality headset was built on this concept and although the company behind it lacks the resources to market it like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, they still produced a credible product.

But now Microsoft has taken matters to a new level with Windows Mixed Reality. This is a new standard that has been implemented by Microsoft’s partners: Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung. These companies have already established themselves as makers of Windows-based PCs, so they clearly know their stuff. And with five of them competing in this area, there is good choice of headsets.

One of the good things about Microsoft getting in on VR - even if they insist on calling it “mixed reality”, is that it offers a cheaper alternative to getting into the virtual world via the high-end competition. At the same time, it avoids the kludgyness of the phone housing low-end units.

It is worth noting that there are two Windows Mixed Reality standards. There is the regular and then there is Mixed Reality Ultra. These headsets all support Ultra, but getting the benefits of Ultra is dependent on having WMR Ultra computer. Ultra offers a 90 Hz refresh rate, instead of the 60 Hz for regular WMR. It also offers better Field of View (100° instead of 90° for regular WMR). Other advantages of Mixed Reality Ultra are that you can interact with more than apps at the same time, and also you can capture, share and stream what you’re doing.

With all these headsets, you can install Steam and SteamVR on your PC and then install Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR. Once you have done that, you can play SteamVr games on the headset. And with Revive, you can also play Oculus Rift games. These headsets give you access to both Rift and Vive apps, as well as Microsoft’s native Mixed Reality games. Currently, haptic feedback is lacking from Vive games because the motors used to produce vibration in the WMR controllers are different from those in the Vive controllers. Microsoft is looking into finding a solution for this, but as of yet, no solution has been implemented.

Still on the subject of the controllers require Bluetooth 4.0, so if your PC doesn’t have Bluetooth - as is the case with most desktops - you need a Bluetooth dongle. Paradoxically, Microsoft recommends plugging the dongle into a Bluetooth 2.0 port on the computer for this, even though the dongle itself is 4.0. A quirk worth bearing in mind.

 And so, with this in mind, we’ll take a look, in this review, at the five Windows Mixed Reality headsets available in the market and compare what they have to offer.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Acer mixed reality with controllers

Acer mixed reality with controllers

The Acer has a certain visual appeal about it, even before you take it out of the box. Unlike the other headsets reviewed here, it is a mixture of blue and black - a bit like the Sony PlayStation VR. In fact, blue is something of a theme color with the Acer because both the headset and the controllers arrive in blue boxes. The actual Head Mounted Display is wrapped in plastic and then sandwiched in foam to hold it in place.

It has a resolution of 1440 x 1440 per eye (2” x 2.89”) offering excellent visual qualities. This resolution is higher than the Vive and Rift. However, the so-called screen door effect (being able to see the gaps between sub-pixels) is not completely removed. If you focus hard on it, you will see it. But if you don’t try to actively look for it, you will probably not notice. At any rate, the image is sharper than with the HTC and Oculus products. At this resolution you can read text on the screen. But it is still not good enough for small text. Field of view is 100° for WMR Ultra 90° for standard WMR.

The headset has both HDMI 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 connectivity. When using 1.4, the refresh rate is 60Hz. When using HDMI 2.0, it is 90 Hz. Either way, there is no flicker and no feeling of tired eyes that derives from flickering images.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset fresnal lenses

Acer mixed reality headset inside view

The display is kept in focus by two round Fresnel lenses. Unfortunately, unlike most headsets on the market (including many of the cheap ones) you can’t change the interpupillary distance (IPD). It is fixed at 63mm. But Acer uses a software system that recreate the manual adjustment between 59mm and 67mm. This is enough for many people, but not all. I won’t even say most. (Let the buyer beware!)

Although it is not standalone (in the sense that it does still have to be tethered to a computer by a cable) it does not require any towers or lighthouses for tracking. Instead, all tracking is done by that well-established triumvirate of Gyroscope, Accelerometer and (in some cases) Magnetometer. There are also two tracking cameras built into the headset to assist with “inside out” tracking. Finally, there is an IR sensor for tracking the wand controllers.

This camera is black and white, in accordance with its limited purpose. The camera does not show what is going on outside unfortunately. If they did then the headset would be able to mimic the transparency of augmented reality glasses. Then it really would be a mixed reality headset. But as I said above, this isn’t true mixed reality, just virtual reality by another name.

Acer mixed reality  headset

A view from above - the Acer mixed reality headset

The whole thing comes bundled with two controllers and a 4-meter (13+ foot) cable. That’s more than long enough to allow you a fair degree of freedom of movement. Cable-free would have been nice. But VR requires that a large amount of data must be sent to the headset. Bluetooth probably wouldn’t have the bandwidth. WiFi might, but with wireless there’s that latency problem. And with VR, low latency is crucial. Otherwise you end up with dropped frames, picture freezing and that dizzy feeling. So cable it is!

In the setup process, you start off my aiming the headset at the computer and select Trace. From this starting position (and subject to the limits of the cable) you map out your play area by moving the headset around, making off the perimeter of the area in which you will be using it.

In action, you get a high degree of freedom of movement and six degrees of freedom. The gyroscope can track head orientation (like the pitch, roll and yaw of airplanes). The accelerometer can track forward/backward, left/right, up/down. In theory, this should give you a bigger play area than a headset that has to be monitored from the outside. However, you are still constrained by that cable. (Elsewhere on this site we review
cable management systems and another system for cable management.)

Like the best headsets on the market, the Acer has a proximity sensor that can detect when you put it on. And when this happens, it activates the display.

Acer mixed Reality with a sting in the tail

Acer Mixed Reality with a sting in the tail

The headstrap is mechanical and has a moisture-proof padded section for the forehead. At the back of the strap is a blue dial that can be used to tighten the strap, I say tighten rather than tighten or loosen, because the tightening process is like a ratchet mechanism, that locks in place behind the turning of the dial. If you tighten it too much, you would actually have to take it off to loosen it again. Ideally, they should have provided a release mechanism like the Sony PlayStation VR has.

On the other hand, if you need to merely see something outside the headset, you don’t need to take it off. You can simply flip up the visor. This is a good design feature, as you never know when there might be something going on in the real world that you have to attend to. However, anything with moving parts is subject to wear and tear, and so this flip-up/flip-down visor could be a potential point of failure. In fact, it actually felt rather weak and “plasticky” for want of a better term. That is not to deny that it is useful. But it could be made better. I also found that when closed, the visor did not let light in. However, it is possible that if the user has a small face, the outside light might not be completely kept out.

 From the point of view of comfort, I was impressed. Notwithstanding our concerns about the ratchet mechanism on the strap, I felt at ease inside the headset. It is lighter than the Rift and much lighter than the Vive. In fact, it weighed less than a pound. This might be because it is quite small. In size as well as in weight, it has advantages over the bulkier Vive and Rift.

Acer Windows Mixed reality

Acer Mixed Reality Headset with Audio Jack

I haven’t yet mentioned the audio. These headsets don’t have headphones, only the standard 3.5mm audio input for plugging in your own earphones or headphones.

I also haven’t mentioned the controllers. These are basically the same across the Windows Mixed Reality range with only the label differing. They are incredibly easy to set up. Just put in the batteries, pair them with the PC and you’re all set to go. However, you might like to get rechargeable batteries and keep one set charged (or charging) while you’re using the other.

The headset is certainly good value for money. It is fun to play with (or work with) and comfortable to wear. It is designed for Windows and is Steam VR compatible. With Revive, it can also run Oculus Rift software. So there is no shortage of content.

VERDICT: A good virtual reality product (yes Virtual, not mixed) with a couple of minor weaknesses..

Dell - Visor

Dell Visor Windows Mixed Reality headset

The Dell Visor

The Dell Visor has that white glossy finish that we associate with Apple and before that with 2001: A Space odyssey. In other words, that space-age futuristic look. But headsets are not All about aesthetics. So let’s take a look at the functionality.

It has HDMI 2.0 video input, USB 3.0 and the standard 3.5mm input for plugging in headphones, which again, do not come bundled with it. You have to buy your own.

Like the Acer it has a flip-up/flip-down visor, so you can take a break from virtual reality and return to the real world briefly without having to take off the headset altogether. Like others in the range it doesn’t have an over-the-head strap. It has a band that surrounds the head that can be tightened with a small wheel at the back to just the right amount to stay secure. And once in place, it has a nicely balanced feeling about it.

Dell Visor Windows Mixed Reality headset

Dell Visor - inside view

You can even wear it with glasses. And the sides are cushioned with padded foam, protecting the glasses. As with Acer and others in the WMR range, there is no mechanical control to vary the interpupillary distance, only a software calibration. However, not expect to be prompted about this in the set-up process.

Notwithstanding that minor gripe, the Dell Visor feels good. It is well-ventilated and stays cool. Thus, you can play highly energetic games without sweating, without steaming up the lenses and without the headset itself overheating. This is achieved - or at least assisted - by air channels on either side of the noses. And because of the way it sits firmly on the head, there is no uncomfortable pressure on the nose.

The resolution is the same as the Acer (1440 x 1440 per eye). Also, like the Acer, and the HP below, Field of View is 100° for Windows Mixed Reality Ultra apps and computer, 90° with regular a Windows Mixed Reality computer. Similarly, for Ultra, the refresh rate is 90 Hz, for regular WMR it is 60 Hz.

frontal view of the Dell Windows Mixed Reality headset

A frontal view of the Dell WMR headset

Also, like the Acer it doesn’t have any lighthouses or base stations for the kind of outside-in tracking used by the Vive and Rift. Instead - like all the Windows Mixed Reality headsets - it relies on inside out tracking. This is achieved by the two monochrome tracking cameras on the front of the headset headset and the combination of gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer. All of this gives you six degrees of freedom. But, unlike the Acer, it does not have a proximity sensor.

The handheld controllers are versatile and comprehensive, including a thumb stick, touchpad, trigger button, grab button, windows button, menu button, pairing button. The problem is that if you move the controllers out of sight of the tracking cameras, the system doesn’t know what’s going on. However, Dell have built in a clever solution for this. The software actually predicts where your arms are likely to be based on how they were moving when they vanished from the cameras. The algorithm calculates where they ought to be based on the speed and direction in space when they went out of view.

Of course, if they stay out of sight of the cameras for too long, the system gets confused and its predictions - or rather guesses - become less accurate. But all in all, it is a pretty clever workaround and in most cases is good enough. When you consider what a pain in backside base stations and lighthouses are, this is actually quite a good solution. After all, how often do you put your hands behind your back? Especially when you’re fighting off zombies or aliens.

Dell Visor with a controller

Dell Visor with a controller

And besides that, it is clear that Microsoft wants to get away from the gaming-only world of the Vive and Rift and move VR into such useful fields as office business, and education.

At this resolution, the image is sharper and clearer than the Rift or Vive, but if you concentrate hard enough you can see a screen door effect in which individual pixels become visible. But if you’re not looking for it, you won’t notice it.

As with the rest of the range (except the Samsung), the Dell visor doesn’t have built in headphones, so you have to supply your own. This decision was probably taken because many people already have a favorite set of headphones. But the downside is that if your favorite headphones happen to be large or bulky, then you may find them competing with the headset for space.

VERDICT: Best aesthetic design. Would be our joint favorite, but for the lack of hardware IPD calibration and proximity sensor.

HP - Mixed Reality Headset and Controllers

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset

The first thing we noticed about this headset is that whereas the Acer looks a bit like the Sony PSVR and the Dell looks almost Apple-like (or space-age), the HP and Lenovo look remarkably like each other and they - together with the Samsung - are more conventional in their appearance. Or to put it another way: the HP, Lenovo and Samsung don’t look too different from the Vive and Rift.

The HP can connect to any PC with Windows Mixed Reality or Windows Mixed Reality Ultra. With the latter you get a better field of view (100° - as distinct from 90° with regular Windows Mixed Reality).

It can connect via either HDMI or the more powerful VESA Display Port. Please note that Display Port 1.2 can support both the 60 Hz (Windows Mixed Reality) and 90Hz (Windows Mixed Reality Ultra) refresh rates. But with HDMI you need HDMI 2.0 for 90 Hz or HDMI 1.4 for the 60 Hz. The headset comes with a combined USB-HDMI cable that splits at the end into its respective components.

Technically, the HP headset has the same specs as all but one of the others in the range. 1440 x 1440 per eye, choice of 60 Hz or 90Hz refresh (depending on whether the app and hardware are WMR Ultra or just plain old WMR), 3.5 mm combo jack for external headphones. Tracking by gyroscope, accelerometer and the tracking cameras. There is a proximity sensor so that it knows when you are wearing the headset.

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset with cable

The HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset with cable

The HP fits around the head like the Dell and tightens with the same wheel at the back. The visor portion can be flipped up and down like the Dell. This has been compared to a welder’s face mask. One of the problems is that HP have used quite a lot of padding on the face mask. Far from preventing or absorbing sweat, this seems to encourage the buildup of sweat and causes condensation and fogging up. This is in complete contrast to the Dell which is well-ventilated.

Another problem is that the HP is quite heavy, weighing almost twice as much as the Acer. This may not be a problem for everyone, in fact it means that the headset is sturdy. But some people find it easier to forget that they are wearing a headset if it is light. On the other hand, the headset is big enough to accommodate glasses, without having to worry about the glasses bumping against the lenses of the headset.

Setting up the headset is straightforward, though if you want to use it with SteamVR there are a few extra steps. Unlike the more expensive headsets with outside-in tracking, you are less restricted in your play space - although you are still limited to the length of the cable. The long cable is 4 meters (just over 13 feet), the same as the Acer and Dell.

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset and controllers

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset and controllers

As with the other Windows Mixed Reality headsets, the system can lose track of the controllers when they go out of view of the headset. I stress “of the headset” because the tracking cameras are mounted on the front corners of the headset, so even if you cannot see the controllers, as long as they are within “sight” of the tracking cameras, you can play on as normal.

In practice, the HP headset is not as accurate or as quick to respond as a the Vive or Rift. But it is pretty good, and, in any case, the slightly slower responsiveness and accuracy is more than offset by the higher resolution.

We had some issues running SteamVR, such as video memory being hogged unnecessarily by the virtual room from which mixed reality apps are launched when you put the headset on. However, you can bypass this and launch SteamVR directly. The virtual room (or "cliff house" as they call it) will run in the background but will hog less video memory.

VERDICT: Worked okay, but the weight made it feel awkward.

Lenovo Explorer Bundle

Lenovo Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Lenovo Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Although all the Windows Mixed Reality headsets have to comply with a minimum spec set by Microsoft, some of them have higher specs than the minimum. Such is the case with the Lenovo Explorer headset. Instead of the WMR standard 100° Field of View, you get 110°. The actual resolution is the same as the other: 1440 x 1440 per eye. As with the others, this is still not enough to completely eliminate the screen door effect - that enables you to discern the individual pixels. But again, that only happens if you are looking for it. If you forget about it, it goes away.

The front cameras track the controllers, like the others in the WMR range and as long as the controllers don’t disappear from view of the cameras, your playing can continue uninterrupted. In fact playing with the Lenovo Explorer went quite smoothly most of the time. And it must be stressed that while this and other WMR headsets sometimes have problems tracking the controllers, the head tracking is perfect and not in any way hampered by the lack of base stations. This is true of both this headset and the others in the range.

Thus, as with the others in the WMR range, you get better resolution and almost as good tracking for a substantially lower lost than the Vive or Rift. To some VR purists, the limitations to the tracking are a dealbreaker. For others, the problem is negligible. It depends what and how you play. Indeed, for some, it is the price that is the deal breaker. And it is quite possible that those who have been holding off buying a virtual reality headset until now, might just take the plunge because of the low prices on these headsets (except the Samsung).

Lenovo Mkixed Reality Headset and controller

Lenovo and controller

Another advantage to the inside out approach of WMR over the base station method used by Vive and Rift is that it’s almost plug and play, with virtually no set up. You plug it in, trace out your play area by moving the headset and that’s it.

The batteries on the controllers have a reasonable life, but if you play a lot you would be well advised to get rechargeable batteries and a charger. By keeping a spare set permanently charged, you can ensure that your gaming experience is not subjected to anything more than a minimal interruption.

On the comfort side, the results are mixed. It is light, weighing less than a pound (380 grams in fact). Having said that, it might not be big enough for everyone. After all some people have bigger heads than others. The padding around the nose is quite tight. This is good for keeping out the light, but bad news for people with big noses, at times feeling almost suffocating. This also means that the ventilation if not great and it tends to overheat, causing sweating. Finally - and again, a common negative feature across the range - there is no mechanical adjustment for inter-pupillary distance, just the rather limited software adjustment.

 And like the others, it has that flip-up/flip-down feature that makes it possible to return to the real world briefly, without having to take the headset off and put it back on again.

VERDICT: Solid spec, but mixed results on the comfort side.

Samsung HMD Odyssey

Samsung Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality headset

Samsung Odyssey headset

Finally, we arrive at the king of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Samsung haven’t allowed Microsoft’s specs to hold them back to the minimum requirements. Far from it. They have gone for the gold with the Odyssey. In the process, they have made the most expensive of the WMR headsets. So what do they have to show for it?

First of all, other headsets in the range have taken advantage of the minimum requirements, to give the user flexibility by allowing them to use their own earphones or headphones.  But Samsung have taken off in a different direction. They have chosen instead to aim for the best user experience by providing a set of good quality built-in AKG “premium” headphones.

These boast “360-degree spatial sound” - which means that they can create sounds coming at you from different sides and angles. So, if, for example, the game calls for a helicopter approaching from behind you and then flying overhead and landing in front of you, the headphones will recreate this experience. The headphones are hinged rotationally, so that they can be flipped down 90° from parallel to the headband to a perpendicular position such that they cover the ears.

The headset also includes an integrated microphone array that you can use to talk to Cortana, the Windows 10, voice-activated smart assistant.

Samsung Odyssey controllers

Samsung Odyssey controllers

On the other hand, Samsung seem to have missed some other opportunities for premium enhancements over and above the minimal spec. For example, the controllers use the same AA batteries as the other WMR headsets, instead of being rechargeable. Of course, the owner could get their own rechargeable AA batteries - and even keep a spare set charged at all times as we recommend - but Samsung missed a trick by not being proactive about this.

In game play, the Odyssey is at least as good as any of the others, working best if the tracking cameras are able to assist the gyroscope and accelerometer. That calls for the play area to be at least moderately well-lit and for there to be some level of detail. If you were playing in an empty hall, this might be a problem. But in practice it is unlikely to be as most homes have some defining detail. Even floor tiles or grained floorboards will help.

This means that in most situations, the Odyssey feels no less responsive than a Vive or Rift. And while a problem can arise if the controllers drop out of view of the cameras in the headset, you can at least turn round with the controllers and keep them (and yourself) in play.

Another point in favor of the Odyssey is the graphics. Samsung have opted for an AMOLED display instead of the LCD displays that the other headsets in the range have chosen. These are sharper and more responsive to rapid change than the LCDs. Also, Samsung has given the headset a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye, instead of the 1440 x 1440 of the others.

Samsung Odyssey side viee Windows mixed reality

Samsung Odyssey in profile

One thing the Odyssey lacks is the flip-up/flip-down feature of the other headsets. In that respect, the Odyssey is more like the Vive or Rift. After experiencing the flip feature, it was hard to adapt to no having it with the Odyssey. It is a useful feature. And one feels almost deprived without it.

Visually, the Odyssey is close to the Rift or Vive than say the Acer, which likes the Sony PSVR or the Dell which looks the most futuristic. That means, it has a solid, sturdy look about it. It is also the second heaviest of the headsets in the WMR range, weighing in a hefty 650 grams.

The Odyssey is more like the Vive and Rift than the other WMR headsets in another respect too: it has a hardware adjustment for interpupillary distance. Whereas the other WMRs reviewed here are limited to a fixed physical 63mm IPD with a 4mm “software” calibration in either direction (for an effective 59-67mm), the Odyssey can be physically varied between 60mm and 72mm. This makes allowances for larger heads in the way that other WMR headsets do not. Unfortunately, there's stil no focus adjustment capability.

The question of value for money for this headset is hard to answer, because the prices of these headsets are constantly changing (and falling).

VERDICT: Our Choice. Lack of a flip visor is more than offset by higher-resolution, built-in headphones and hardware IPD control.

February 8, 2018

Samsung Gear VR w/Controller (2017) – Latest Edition

Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR has gone through several iterations. This is the latest and it is compatible with Samsung PhoneCast. If you use it with a Galaxy 8 or 9 you can download the PhoneCast app and use most of your phone apps through the headset. (However, note that if you have the Galaxy 8, you must get the particular version of the headset designed for that model, because of size differences).

With phones

Designed for Samsung phones

The Gear VR is built for use with Oculus software, so you need the Oculus app download and account to get the games that will run on it.

Bear in mind that Gear VR is something of a bridge between the low-end phone housing VR headsets and the high-end proprietary VR headsets: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR. The Gear VR is unique in having features of both. It is based on the phone housing concept, but it runs Oculus games. Unlike the big boys, it is untethered and  a true standalone. It needs no expensive and bulky computer hardware to run. It also neither has nor needs any lighthouses or towers to track its position.

Gear VR 6

Sheer elegance!

This has several downsides. For a start, the image quality is limited by the resolution of the phone. Secondly, the head tracking is limited to 3 degrees of freedom, rather than the 6 of the Rift and Vive. This means that while it can follow your head as it turns, leans or moves forward and back, it cannot track as you move forward and backward, left and right or up and down.

There may also be a problem of latency, depending on how good the phone is - and how much "stuff" it has running in the background.

Only as good as the phone

As good as the phone

On the other hand, it has the benefit of giving you access not only to Oculus games but also the ability to use Android apps in a virtual reality environment. It also comes with a small and handy remote control that is good enough for most games - although some Oculus games require a bluetooth gamepad, which is one point on the downside, but hardly a deal breaker.

Inside the headset

Inside the headset

Depending on the resolution of the phone screen, you may find that individual pixels are sometimes visible. But the visual quality, was on the whole very good for a headset in this price range. Also, it is light and very comfortable to wear.

The unit has a USB C-type port at the bottom, so it is possible to charge the phone without removing it from the headset.

VERDICT: A perfect product for the best of both worlds!

February 8, 2018

Pansonite 3D VR Headset Virtual Reality Glasses (without headset)

Pansonite headset

This is the Pansonite headset without the remote control. As such everything said about it already applies, except regarding the remote.

It aims for comfort by using leather and an elastic foam to give it just the right amount of “give” and prevent it from becoming too sweaty. The leather allows your skin to breathe and reduces not only the sweating per se, but also the clouding up of the lenses caused by evaporating sweat. The sponge distributes the weight and ensures that the headset has just the right amount of grip to avoid slipping without feeling too tight and suffocating. The sponge also makes the headset more flexible and accommodating to different shapes of face. The nose area is also quite deep, thus increasing support in the nasal area by greater weight distribution.

Weight distribution is further enhanced by the T-shaped headband which greatly adds to support and plays a major role in distributing the weight evenly.

The optics are very good, although ultimately constrained by the resolution and visual qualities of the display on your phone. The Pansonite has a 120 degree field of view - somewhat more than the Oculus Rift or HTV Vive - and the lenses are PMMA HD aspheric.

A comfortable fit

The makers have packed a lot into this headset, including a button for video/music play, a volume control and a control for pausing the action and answering incoming calls. It has controls for varying the distance between the pupils of your eyes and the focal length. 

Other clever features include excellent ventilation to prevent the phone from overheating. The makers have clearly put a lot of thought into this design, having spent two years on R & D to design, develop and fine-tune the product to customer needs.

The Pansonite fits most smartphones easily, including, Android phones and iPhones. Basically any smart phone with a screen size within 4.0 - 6.0 inches is compatible. Thus, the iPhone 5/SE/6/6s/7/7 plus, Samsung S5, S6, S6 edge, S7,S7 edge, Note 4, 5; LG G3, G4, G5, G6, V10, V20; Nexus 5, 6P etc are all compatible with the Pansonite. The phone housing is also padded to protect the phone from moving around.

One word of caution, regarding the Amazon reviews. For some reason, on, the reviews of this product have become convoluted with reviews of various other products, including a griddle, a tablet cover and a luxury lingerie bag! If you happen to chance upon such reviews, please just ignore them. This product is a phone-housing virtual reality headset, not a piece of kitchen equipment or a tablet cover - let alone bag for Victoria's innumerable secrets!

VERDICT: An excellent entry-level headset at a good price. 

February 2, 2018

SARLAR 3D VR Headset

Salar 3D

This must rate as one of the cheapest VR headsets on the market. It has the usual Velcro straps, including an overhead T-strap to distribute the weight. The foam padding around the eyes, blocks of the light from outside and ensures a good fit. It is also removable and can be replaced when it has done its time.

Movable lenses

Movable lenses

The lenses can be moved closer or further apart to accommodate differences in head size and distance between the eyes. It also has an adjustable focal length for users who are short-sighted, up to 600-degree myopia. For those whose myopia is worse than this, the makers claim that you can wear glasses with it. This is technically true, however we found it to be rather uncomfortable wearing glasses with it

With glasses

With glasses

In practice, it’s like watching a movie from the middle of a cinema.

Perhaps one of the most interesting thing is the detachable figure-8-shaped “glare shield” that fits into the phone housing section. It is designed to block out light and increase the immersive feeling, when playing VR games. When merely watching a movie, the makers recommend removing the glare shield.

Glare shield

Glare shield

The phone housing section also incorporates spring-loaded, sliding bars to secure smaller phones that might otherwise move around. Indeed, this headset can accommodate smartphones with screens from 4 to 6.2 inches.

Phone housing

Phone housing

However, whilst the makers did an admirable effort to make an ultra-low-cost headset, they seem to have compromised in a rather basic respect. That is, the headset has no button to start or stop the games or other apps. You have to actually start the game with the phone out, start the app and then put the phone in the headset. This is, to put it mildly, rather inconvenient.

Nice design, but...

Nice design, but...

For this reason, we cannot really recommend this unit, except as a very basic starter, if you want to dip your toes into the water of VR and find out what it’s all about. At least it is cheap, so the financial commitment is small. But caveat emptor: you get what you pay for.

VERDICT: Entry level only, buy with low expectations.

January 31, 2018

3D Virtual Reality Headset with Remote Controller

3D Virtual Reality Headset with Remote Controller

This phone-housing headset comes with integrated headphones (cushioned with memory foam and position-adjustable), an over-the-head T-strap and magnetically attached front cover that can be detached easily. However, this snap-on/snap-off cover doesn’t really seem to have much use or purpose. For actually putting the phone in or taking it out, you have to actually open and close the hinged door. The magnetic cover is merely a removable part of the door - if that makes makes any sense.

On the subject of the headphones, we have to give the makers a big thumbs up for the audio quality.



The lenses can be moved further apart or closer together to accommodate different shaped faces and inter-pupillary distance (i.e. the space between your eyes). However, this is only between 60mm and 70mm. A 55mm minimum distance would have been better for smaller heads and 70mm is probably not enough for the largest.

The focus can be adjusted so that you don’t need to wear your glasses, while using it - up to 600 degree myopia, according to the makers. The field of view is 120 degrees and the lenses are HD resin aspherical.

On the inside

On the inside

While it claims that it can fit phones from 4.7 to 6 inches, in practice we found that this claim was stretching it a bit. That is, not that they are misleading, but rather that the sizes they are referring to are phone sizes not screen sizes. Thus an iPhone 6+ has a 5.5 inch screen, but a case size of 6.22 inches and will therefore not fit. The iPhone X, on the other hand fits perfectly.

Like all products, when it first comes out of the box, it takes some getting used to. You have to adjust and tighten the velcro-secured straps or else you’re going to find it slipping down your face. This may seem like an obvious point but, because the strap is elasticated, it might seem like an unnecessary step. Also, it something that is all too easy to forget when you’re looking forward to trying out the new toy! We also found that even when strapped on, the device still let in a certain amount of light at the top.

Inside out

Inside out

As many smartphone apps are activated by touching the center of the screen, the headset provides a button in the lower right of the headset to activate this mechanism. You might think that this could leaves marks on the phone screen, but we found that it didn’t.

The device comes bundled with a controller which can be paired with the phone via Bluetooth. The pairing process worked fine. However, because of the “basic” - i.e. limited - iOS support, it was virtually useless with an iPhone. This means that even the process of choosing and starting an iPhone game, requires taking the phone out and putting it back in again. With an Android phone, however, it worked fine.

It comes with a somewhat confusing manual and an always-useful cleaning cloth.



VERDICT: A reasonably good headset and controller, but only for Android phones.

January 26, 2018

Canbor VR Headset

Candor headset

This phone-housing type VR headset can accommodate smartphones from 4.7 inches to 6.2 inches. Using aspheric resin lens technology, the headset offers a 120 degree field of view.

It has some nice features, such as a dial to adjust the space between the lenses (for different sized heads with different distance between the eye pupils) and a powerful focus-setting feature. They provide a cleaning cloth for the lenses, although any suitable lens cleaning cloth can be used.

Candor headset-04

Impressive technology

It also has reasonably good sound from the earphones, although the volume is not great. There are buttons to control volume, play/pause and answering the phone, as well as a touch button for games. The phone housing has holes on both sides to help the phone stay cool.

The ergonomic design uses breathable padding for comfort and the whole thing weighs less than a pound. Further adding to comfort, there is an over the head to distribute the weight. The left, right and top straps are all adjustable, to ensure a snug fit and minimize pressure on the nose.

The package includes a user manual and  company also has very good customer service that responds quickly if there are any problems.

VERDICT: A good, low-cost, entry level, phone-housing VR headset

January 24, 2018

Royole Moon review – the lowdown

I had the opportunity to try out the Royole Moon briefly while on my travels in the USA. But now we have been loaned the latest version for a more detailed review. To get an overall perspective on the product, we recommend that you read both reviews. This will give you the full picture.



Viewing experience

Listening experience

Content availability

Battery life & charging

Physical comfort


Design & appearance

Value for money

Overall Rating

What is the royal Moon?

The Royole Moon is a personal cinema or movie theater. You can use it to watch movies, television, videos, internet content and even a monitor for computer games. It can receive content from any device with an HDMI, USB or WiFi output and it can store 32 GB of data on the smartphone-sized box that powers it. In other words, the box does double duty as the power source and the data source.

It can also receive data via WiFi - and in fact is WiFi-ready. Indeed, when we started using it, the first thing we did was go to settings and set it up for WiFi. It showed a list of WiFi accounts within range, we selected ours, entered the password and that was it. We were set up and ready to go.

From there we went to YouTube and proceeded to feast our eyes - and ears - on content to suit our eclectic taste. Music, comedy and live news from various sources. But let’s break it down into elements.


Pure elegance!


The Royole Moon uses touch controls for navigation. After pressing the round button on the box to switch it on the headset, you control the unit almost entirely from the right headphone with swipes or slides of the fingers on the surface. The outer rim controls the volume and the inner circle controls the rest. Slide clockwise or anticlockwise round the outer rim to make it louder or quieter respectively. Swipe left, right up and down on the inner circle of the right headphone to move between icons on the screen. To start/stop the current content, you simply single tap on the inner circle. Double tap to go back to the previous screen or operation.

Also, slide (rather than swipe) your finger along the inner circle when you are in browser mode on the internet. This moves the cursor, in much the same way as you would on a trackpad. But When you have to enter data on the virtual keyboard for the browser (or the mini-keyboard for YouTube) you must use the more awkward swiping method to move one letter at a time, whether sideways, up or down.

All of this is pretty much intuitive, and I more or less figured it out without reading the instruction manual, or even the quick start guide.

Well I say intuitive, but it was not all plain sailing. Because the swiping method (as distinct from the sliding method with a cursor) is actually quite awkward and easy to get wrong. This made it rather hard to enter letters when it came to making a specific selection on YouTube.

When you have to move a cursor one step at a time and then tap once (and only once) to select a letter, it is very easy to make a mistake and enter the wrong letter. And then, having to go to the back button to delete the erroneous letter, adds to the frustration. Then if you want to select the same letter twice and tap twice without pausing, the system thinks you have selected the go-back option and takes you to the previous screen or menu level!

In fact, it is fair to say that the single most frustrating experience with the Royole Moon is trying to correct entry errors and selection choices. Now obviously, you couldn’t have an actual touch keypad because you are cocooned inside a headset. However, they could have used the cursor and the sliding method, to enable the user to home in quickly on the relevant letter on a virtual keyboard, followed by a tap to select that letter. Hopefully. Royole will change it to this method in the future.


For your eyes... NOT only - you can set it the way it works for you!


The Royole Moon is packed with features. Others are covered elsewhere in the review, so I'll focus on just one here: the eyepiece diopters.

Not everyone has the same sized head. Consequently, not everyone’s eyes are spaced equally apart. The Royole Moon makes allowance for this by enabling the eye pieces to be moved to the left or right, varying the distance between the pupils from 58 - 70 mm. You just press the button-dials gently in and slide them to the right positions for your eyes. I noticed that the one on the left was slightly stiffer to the touch than the one on the right. I don’t know if this is true of every model.

Ignoring the stiffness, however, I noticed a slight problem. If I had the eyepieces pushed close together, I could see the “screen” perfectly with no visible “division” between the two eye-views, but the corners of the screen (especially the lower corners) were truncated. This probably means I had the eyepieces too close together.

However, when I pushed the eyepieces further apart, while I could then see all four corners of the screen, I could also see two faint curved lines in the middle, separating the views, suggesting that the eyepieces were now too far apart. The best way to describe this is when you try to focus on something very close to your eyes and see the sides of your nose. A slightly better analogy might be when you are looking through binoculars, but do not press the eyepiece close to your eyes.

Royole Moon-Video+Audio in one-2

Video without your eyeglasses

This leads to another point, that the headset doesn’t feel like it is close enough to the face. This is partly because of the weight. At times it tends to feel like it is slipping and one has to tighten it around the head to keep it in place.

In addition to being movable, the eyepieces have diopter dials that can be rotated to change the focus of each eyepiece separately between -7.0 (near-sighted) and +2.0 (far-sighted). This means most people can wear the RM without glasses! (And this is very important for maintaining a tight seal to keep out the ambient environment and make sure that the experience is truly immersive.)

found that by shutting each eye and rotating the other, I could get the settings right. I have a slight problem related to my vision that made this a little harder. My left eye is slightly “lazy” in that it takes longer to change focus. So, when tried to set the focus right for left eye it was a little trickier as the eye took longer to settle down on what I was focusing on. Once I had it approximately right, I had to spend a few more seconds fine-tuning it to get it just right - and even then, I’m not entirely sure that I did.

But as I said, that’s a problem with my eyesight. I have exactly the same problem at the optometrist, when they narrow down the left-eye lens selection to a choice of two and then ask me which is sharper. I say, “can I try the other one again… okay, now the first… okay now the second one again…” You get the picture!

Compelling cinematic experiencect

Compelling cinematic experience

Viewing experience

Apart from the above problem of the truncated corners, the viewing experience was an absolute pleasure. The Royole Corporation describes the view as a virtual 800-inch screen. However, that is only meaningful in relation to your notional distance from that screen. And Royole doesn’t say what that notional distance is to justify the 800-inch screen size. I myself cannot put a figure on it either. But it felt a bit like sitting two-thirds of the way forward in the stalls of a large cinema with a wide, curved screen - plus the added “pleasure” of being in the middle of the row and, better still, of being the only customer!

In terms of numbers, we are talking about a 110° field of view - comparable to the best VR headsets currently on the market, but soon to be eclipsed (rumor has it) by a couple of VR headsets breaking the 200° FoV barrier. We’ll see if Royole rises to the challenge.

As mentioned, in order to be able to show 3D, the Moon has separate displays for each eye. Each display has a full 1080p resolution (i.e. 1920 x 1080). The contrast range is 10,000:1, the color is 24-bit RGB and the refresh rate is 60 Hz. This is easy on the eyes.

There is a button for switching the images between 2D and 3D button. However, the device can automatically detect whether the content is 2D or 3D. If you press the button to override the system’s choice you end up feeling like Clarence the cross-eyed lion. (Readers of a certain age will know what I'm talking about.)


The Royole Moon takes "stylish" to a new level!

Listening experience

The unit includes noise-cancelling headphones that offer very good and faithful sound reproduction. While they did not completely cancel out ambient noise, they did such a good job that within a short time there was a feeling of being completely secluded in the world of whatever content we were watching and/or listening to. And of course, adjusting the volume was dead easy, with a simple slide of the finger clockwise or counterclockwise around the outer rim of the right headphone.

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mobile Theater-4

You can store up to 32GB of content in a smartphone sized box and take it on the road!

There is a big range of content available for the Royole Moon. Any device with an HDMI or USB output can supply content. You can upload videos from a computer to the device. And that means you can watch DVDs and Blu-ray disks via your computer. You can even upload them onto the box and take them with you. The box stores 32 GB, so you can load it with content and take it with you on an airline flight. (The promo video actually shows a passenger putting on the headset and secluding herself from the other passengers in this way.)

And you’ve also got the internet. For that you don’t have to connect via your computer, as the device has very good WiFi. Apart from a couple of occasions when the sound went a bit wobbly, we found it to have a very good connection and to run smoothly. And this was for YouTube, which sometimes has its own bandwidth problems. Also, there are many internet sources of content, including the many TV channels that also offer internet services, especially news channels. Plus of course, that vast world of content on YouTube.

As we reported on August 16, Royole Corporation has signed a deal with Sony to supply movies for the Royole Moon via an app called Royole Lounge. But in fact, any movie that is available on a disk or as a download can be relayed to the headset or transferred to the 32GB box, via HDMI, USB or Wifi. More generally, the Royole Moon has its own operating system (Moon OS).

I tried it out with news, music, sport and even some relaxation videos with quiet music, rivers and waterfalls. It was truly relaxing and the only thing I didn’t like was having to come out of it and back into the real world!

This leads to...

Woman using Royole Moon on a plan

2020: An airline odyssey with the Royole Moon

Physical comfort

This is a highly subjective issue. The headset is nicely padded and contoured to fit the round shape of a human head. But it feels a bit heavy and at times there is a sense that it is “pulling downwards”. In order to ensure that it doesn’t admit any ambient light, it is important to make sure that it is fitted tightly. Both the headband that covers the top of the head and the viewing part of the unit can be expanded and contracted (like better quality headphones) to accommodate different size heads.

The padding around the eyes (together with appropriate fitting adjustments) ensures that ambient light is kept out and the experience is truly immersive. However, the bulk of the padding can also create a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. I wouldn’t call it a feeling of suffocation, but my breathing was heavy in the first few minutes of putting it on. This may have been due to the after-effects of a winter cold.

At any rate, once I got used to it, I felt fine. In fact, as I mentioned above, taking it off and coming back into the real-world was also a bit of a psychological adjustment after that wonderful feeling of immersion that I got while wearing it and watching videos.

Some people have complained of feeling sweaty. I didn’t notice that, although the lenses did eventually steam up a bit. But Royole have thought of that and provided a cleaning cloth for those occasions. I only had to use the lens cloth a couple of times and it did the job fine.

battery life and charging time

The device charges in a couple of hours and can run for about five hours on a single charge. This is practical in most situations. Even if you were using it on a long-haul flight, you probably wouldn’t be using it continuously. And on long-haul flights, you might even be able to plug it in to recharge it.

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mobile Theater-1

We can't get enough of this beauty!


This is not a heavy-duty appliance - and probably not designed to take the kind of knocks and bruises that a gaming headset might be subjected to. However, as the unit that we received for test purposes was on loan, we couldn’t really test its durability. It felt like it could get through normal, everyday usage unscathed.

But a device like this is not always subject to “normal” usage. It is intended to be used not only at home but also “on the road” and for airline trips. In those conditions, it’s bound to take a few knocks. And because it is not really a rugged item, that could be a problem. Royole thoughtfully provides a soft bag for carrying the headset and control box. But I would have preferred a harder case for transit and travel.

But even a hard case couldn’t protect it from the hard knocks that it might take within the home environment. Let’s face it, it will sometimes be used as a pacifier for children and teenagers. As such, one would expect it to get some rough treatment over its normal lifespan.

But it’s not clear if it even could be ruggedized. To so, it would inevitably lose one of its most compelling features...

Royole 3D Moon Virtual Mob

"Without your space helmet, Dave, you're going to find that rather difficult."

Esthetics and design

The Royole Moon is one of the most beautifully designed products I have ever seen. When we first unboxed it, we noted that it had the kind of design features we might have expected form a product by Apple. I also noted that it looks like the kind of thing that could have been a prop in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There is little more we can - or need to - say on this subject, as the pictures speak for themselves.

A young woman wearing the Royole Moon on an airline flight

Relax and let the Royole Moon transport you...

value for money

This is a rather difficult question, because there is no getting away from one painful fact: the Royole Moon is expensive. At $799.00 in the USA and £718.60 in the UK, it is a high price to pay for what is admittedly a wonderful viewing experience. Unlike an expensive, widescreen, high definition television that can be viewed by the whole family at the same time, this headset can only be viewed by one person at a time.

Even the benefits of 3D are to a large extent outweighed by the fact that once again (as in the fifties and thirties) 3D hasn’t really caught on. This may be due to the dizzying effects of active viewing glasses or the fact that we only really perceive 3D up to a distance of about 50 feet anyway. Sweeping panoramic views and long shots are not really enhanced by stereoscopic vision. High resolution, contrast and a high refresh rate are far more important.

But that is perhaps a point in the Royole Moon’s favour. It has all these qualities and 3D. Indeed, maybe as more products like this arrive on the market, there will be yet another resurgence of 3D and maybe this time it will catch on. But at this stage, that is pure speculation.

So, I suppose the question should be: would you buy the Royole Moon if you had the money? I don’t mean scraping the money together and forgoing other pleasures. I mean if you were a man or woman of means, and could afford the best, would this be on your shopping list? As I am not a man of means, perhaps I am not the best man to answer this question. I appreciate the beauty of a Rolls Royce, but would I instead buy a Lamborghini? Or a Tesla?

In fact a Tesla is probably the closest analogy, because - like Tesla cars - the Royole Moon is on the cutting edge of technology and its appeal is based on advanced functionality, not snob-appeal. For this reason, my gut feeling is that if you’re the kind of person who can afford the latest “boy’s toys”, this would be on your list of must have items.

I know that I’d buy it!

VERDICT: A must-have product if you can afford it.

January 23, 2018

Pansonite VR Headset with Remote Controller

Pansonite VR with Remote Controller

This VR headset is a particularly good example of a smartphone-housing headset. It aims for comfort by using leather and an elastic sponge to give it just the right amount of “give” and prevent it from becoming too sweaty.

The leather allows your skin to breathe and reduces not only the sweating per se, but also the clouding up of the lenses caused by evaporating sweat. The sponge distributes the weight and ensures that the headset has just the right amount of grip to avoid slipping without feeling too tight and suffocating. The sponge also makes the headset more flexible and accommodating to different shapes of face. The nose area is also quite deep, thus increasing support in the nasal area by greater weight distribution.

Weight distribution is further enhanced by the T-shaped headband which greatly adds to support and plays a major role in distributing the weight evenly.

The optics are very good, although ultimately constrained by the resolution and visual qualities of the display on your phone. The Pansonite has a 120 degree field of view - somewhat more than the Oculus Rift or HTV Vive - and the lenses are PMMA HD aspheric.

Pansonite VR Remote Controller

Pansonite VR Remote Controller

To round it off, the headset comes bundled with a nine button, bluetooth remote controller.

The makers have packed a lot into this headset, including a button for video/music play, a volume control and a control for pausing the action and answering incoming calls.

It has controls for varying the distance between the pupils of your eyes and the focal length of each lens can be set independently, so you can adjust it for your eyes and not have to wear glasses. 

Other clever features include excellent ventilation to prevent the phone from overheating.

The makers have clearly put a lot of thought into this design, having spent two years on R & D to design, develop and fine-tune the product to customer needs.

The Pansonite fits most smartphones easily, including, Android phones and iPhones. Basically any smart phone with a screen size within 4.0 - 6.0 inches is compatible. Thus, the iPhone 5/SE/6/6s/7/7 plus, Samsung S5, S6, S6 edge, S7,S7 edge, Note 4, 5; LG G3, G4, G5, G6, V10, V20; Nexus 5, 6P etc are all compatible with the Pansonite.

The phone housing is also padded to protect the phone from moving around.

Now all you need to do is get some Android or iPhone games or content and start playing.

VERDICT: Great entry-level headset at a good price. 

December 6, 2017

Best VR Cameras for 2018

Samsung Gear 350

What is life without a 360-deg camera? In this multi-product review, we review & compare some of the best panoramic VR Cameras choices available in 2018.

Funbot 360 Degree Camera 

The Funbot is at the lower price range for 360 degree panoramic cameras. With a 210° fisheye lens, it’s quite impressive, considering that it shoots full HD (1080p) video at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps. It also shoots 4MP spherical images.

There are three video modes, in fact: panoramic, flat and VR. Video can be uploaded to VR headset for a true 3D effect. It also has the option of timer shooting.

Funbot VR Camera

Funbot VR Camera

Battery life is good. The makers say “up to” 1.5 hours. We found it in the region of 75 minutes. The battery is 1400 mAh. But the device doesn’t come with a memory card. You have to buy one as well obviously. The good news is that it supports up to 128 GB (Micro SD Type 6 or higher).

It is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems and has built-in WiFi and sharing using SNS. It also features a noise-cancelling microphone. On the front, in addition to the camera is a shutter button and light for the shutter, WiFi, photo and video - so you know the state of play at all times.

The camera can be mounted onto a selfie stick via a ¼ inch screw hole. Connectivity is achieved through a Mini HDMI or Wifi, while charging is done through a micro USB. It comes with a charger and carry case.

VERDICT: Good piece of kit and excellent value for money. 

Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 350

Samsung Gear 350

Although designed for use with the Samsung Gear, this 360 degree video camera is compatible with iOS. It shoots 4K 360° video. Content can be live-streamed with Gear 360  and can be converted to standard video or photo format (five different viewing modes).

The kit comes with a Type C USB cable, strap, pouch, quick start guide and of course the camera itself. Battery capacity is 1160 mAh. As mentioned above, it is compatible with Android 5 or higher and iOS 10.0 or later. It works with a variety of memory cards.

The video and audio quality are good, and it is easy to use, a very shallow and short learning curve. It can even be used for night-time photography, using the time-lapse feature.

VERDICT: Very versatile, a big brand name 

Richoh Theta V 360 Degree Spherical Camera

Ricoh Theta

Ricoh Theta

This 360° camera has similar specs to the Samsung Gear 360: e.g. 4K and live streaming. It also has both bluetooth and wireless LAN communication. Equipped with Three axis gyro sensors and three axis acceleration sensors, it can track its position on motion with ease. It also has "360°spatial audio" for greater audio realism.

Those familiar with the THETA S, will notice a marked improvement in the specs. Transfer speed is 2½ times faster for video and 3.2 times faster for still images.

Several things make this product stand out from the crowd somewhat. One is a remote playback function. Another is the 12-megapixel resolution. A third is its ability to record images in low lighting conditions. And yet another is the fact that the lenses are close together, ensuring that the “dead zone” is kept small. It’s ability to sense its own motion and orientation is another strength. And when using the time-lapse facility, it takes a picture every four seconds instead of the more usual seven. It comes with a carry case

The battery is charged by USB and can handle high-amp as well as low-amp connections without overheating. On the down side, it can only record for 25 minutes and you can’t add an SD card. Also, it has no image stabilization, despite having gyro and motion sensors. At this price it really ought to.

VERDICT: Left us wanting for more especially at the price it comes at. 

Insta360 Nano Compact Mini Panoramic Camera

Insta 360 panorama

Insta 360 panorama

This 360 VR camera has one-touch sharing and live-streaming. There’s no need for separate export or manual stitching of images. The whole process is automatic

It is compatible with iPhone 6 up and clips neatly onto your iPhone (connecting via the lightning connector) to turn it into a 360-degree VR camera. When it is running the Insta 360 App while attached to the iPhone it shows you a preview of the live image and gives you total control of settings and modes.

However, it doesn’t have to be connected to the iPhone. It can be used as a standalone camera. When used in standalone mode, everything is controlled by a single button. A single press of the button switches it on. Pressing again (after two seconds) takes a still photo. If you want to record a video you press twice in rapid succession. And to stop the video recording, you just press again. Finally, if you want to take a picture with a 10 second timer, you press the button three times without pausing in between.

The resolution is impressive: 3040 x 1520 both for still images and for video at 30 fps. It has a MicroSD expansion slot that can take up to a 64GB memory card.

VERDICT: Very versatile, very impressive. A good buy.