Google Daydream VR full, in-depth review
The virtual reality world just changed for the better
- Potentially world changing
- Cheap and accessible
- Great content now and more coming
- Headset isn't the best fitting
- Only works with Google Pixel phones for now
Just a few months ago we were cooing over applications and content like this being available on an expensive, powerful, sprawling PC rig. Now here they are on a phone... For a hundred-odd bucks! Buy one for yourself right now and then buy more as Christmas presents for your nearest and dearest - if they have a Pixel, that is.
Price$ 119.00 (AUD)
We’ve seen a few VR headsets for phones lately – they simply hold onto your phone and allow it to access what was, until today, a small world of VR videos and a few apps. Google’s Daydream View VR system is a headset plus a Bluetooth controller wand which finally lets you interact with virtual worlds displayed on your phone – like properly interact.
The wand and the software are the key elements here. But first let’s take a look at the headset itself.
Google Daydream VR Headset
Despite performing the same VR goggles function as previous VR headsets that we’ve seen (like the 3SIXT VR Headset and Zeiss VR One Plus) this one isn’t made out of plastic and foam pads. It’s fabric-coated with a flap at the front. The lenses are plastic like the 3SIXT and the 360fly headsets. The flap is the important part as few manufacturers have managed to get this right: the phone clasps often get in the way of the buttons on the phone's side and frequently exert enough pressure on them to activate functions like volume and power off – which is annoying. Google’s flap is secured with elasticated band (like a hair band) and attaches to a plastic hook. As such it’s easily the quickest-to-use clasp we’ve seen although having a better way to line up the middle of the phone with the holder would be helpful. You can also access the controls on the side of your phone while you use the headset... but you probably won't need to.
There are some Near Field smarts in the front flap as the headset detected the phone when we placed there for the first time and offered to install the Daydream app for us. However, you can just download it from the Play Store and you can still use other headsets without missing out on anything.
But we do have some reservations. The shape and size of the foam area around the goggles might look a bit classier than straight foam, but there’s less give in it meaning that the fit isn’t great. This means that light leakage from outside is noticeable both in the form of reflections on the lenses and from the relatively- large gaps which you can look through at the sides - which can be a bit distracting. However, more than this, the lack of give in the foam married with a single headstrap means that the headset needs to be quite tight to avoid falling down. But making the headset tighter puts pressure on your eyes and that makes things go blurry. We actually preferred using the Zeiss and 3SIXT headsets as they were more secure, comfy and enclosed – they also worked fine with the rest of the Daydream system. But it’s a minor thing - there’s no deal-breaker here.
But that’s just the physical element of this setup and it’s borderline irrelevant in the potentially-world changing innovation brought about by the controller wand and software.
The Daydream wand
The wand is simply a small, rechargeable Bluetooth device with sensors, buttons and a touchpad - not unlike a Wiimote. Anyone who has used the hand sensors provided with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR systems will immediately be impressed. Whereas those systems require hardcore PCs, an expensive headset and a sensor array that needs to be installed in a room, the Daydream does basically the same job with none of that. We’d like to say it’s less accurate, but it’s not by much and re-centering it when it gets out of alignment is a cinch. There’s a trackpad at the front that you use with your thumb. This can be used to swipe through menus or navigate an avatar around a map – amongst other things. There’s a Back button and a Home button below this and – Hallelujah! – a volume rocker on the side (no more fiddling with buttons obscured by headset clasps).
We see the power of this device from the opening setup tutorial…
Google Daydream software
The tutorial runs for a few minutes but it’s one that will delight and surprise you. Clicking on a moving butterfly by aiming the controller (which acts like a pointer) is one thing, but using it as a torch to illuminate animals in a dark virtual forest is quite something else. It’s amazing and puts you in mind of some of the casual games and VR demos from Steam.
And things only get more impressive from there.
We've seen impressive star chart apps before but now we can be part of a fully-interactive planetarium with Star Chart VR.
Meanwhile Google's Street View has evolved into something wonderful. Using the controller to navigate around landmarks, like the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, really does give you a sense of what it's like to be there and walk around. We loved walking up to the famous Indian temple and looking up at the towers. It gives you a real sense of scale of the place that we've not experienced before.
In more-entertainment-focused apps, Pearl is a cross between a music video, short film and a VR movie. You're sat on the dashboard of a car watching a father and daughter go through life while a song plays. You can look wherever you want while it happens. It's very immersive.
In some apps you can use a virtual keyboard.
The potential for experiencing live and historical events is off the charts. While this isn't new in the world of VR, we suspect that Daydream will popularise the practice and dramatically improve quality going forward.
Next: The best part, worst part and conclusion
Join the newsletter!
Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000
Ballistix Sport AT
Apple iMac Pro
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A9 Speaker
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch
Samsung QLED 8K TV
Toys for Boys
ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac
ESET Internet Security
Oregon Pro WMR500 Weather Station
Tivoli PAL BT
Osmo Coding Awbie Game
Nix Pro Colour Sensor
ESET Smart Security Premium
Little Bits DROID Inventor Kit
Ikea RIGGAD work lamp with wireless charging
SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker
TimeFlip Magnet Simple Time Tracking Device
Naztech Xtra Drive Mini + 256GB microSD Card
Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Brilliant but not quite a breakthrough
- 2 HP Omen 15 (2018): Full, in-depth review
- 3 HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen): Full, in-depth review
- 4 Moto G6 review: A solid mid-tier effort with few compromises
- 5 Dell G5 review: Easy to live with
Latest News Articles
- Optus launches Apple Watch on mobile broadband plans
- Tidal launches on Samsung wearables
- Fitbit announces availability of Charge 3
- Huawei double-down on battery life with Huawei Watch GT
- Telstra detail Australian pricing for LTE Samsung Galaxy Watch
PCW Evaluation Team
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.
I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.
If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.
If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.
- Razer Phone 2 review: One for the fans
- Oppo R17 Pro review: Full, in-depth, Australian review
- Google Pixel 3 XL review: Ghost in the machine
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies