There’s no question VR is the wave of the future. And with Google throwing its calculated, well-designed hat into the ring, the big boys are here to play. Compared to Samsung’s Gear VR ($100) and Zeiss’s VR One Plus ($130) (the two other non-full-motion, affordable VR headsets on the market), the Daydream View ($79) is the most intuitive smartphone VR system. But that isn’t to say it’s without its flaws.
Right now the only compatible phones are the Pixel and Pixel XL, but other, non-Google phones will be compatible farther into the headset’s life cycle. To set up Daydream View, simply download the Daydream app from the Play Store and follow the onscreen prompts. Then, toss your Daydream-compatible phone into the headset. To work, the phone doesn’t have to line up perfectly with the headset — the headset auto-aligns itself. There’s also no fiddling with the lenses and fitment system, as with other VR headsets. It’s comfortable and clear right out of the box.
Navigating the Daydream’s software happens with the smart remote, which is simple enough. With a host of sensors, you can play immersive games where you can do things like throw items and cast a fishing rod. Turning the controller sideways also allows you to use it in a Wiimote-esque fashion, such as in games like Polly Runner, where you fly through an endless sea of prisms. At the moment, the app selection is limited; you can just about count them on your fingers and toes, but more apps will be rolling out over the coming months. The best use of Daydream VR, however, is immersive 360 video. Thanks to the wealth of 4K 360-degree videos available on YouTube, you can be transported to just about anywhere. When paired with headphones, tuning out is easy.
While Daydream VR has its pluses — and it is unquestionably the best hardware for the smartphone VR headset market — it still isn’t all there. In testing, the Pixel XL tended to overheat after only a few minutes of playtime. Another drawback, and one that no VR system is immune to, is motion sickness; after about 10 minutes of use, it’s easy to get a little disoriented and dizzy.
But, at $79, it’s an easy purchase, and one that every Pixel owner could make. If you haven’t experienced VR, the Daydream View is as good as it gets in the smartphone headset category — and more affordable than Samsung’s Gear VR and Zeiss’s VR One Plus. And while you’ll still look like a cyborg while wearing it, at least you’ll look like a stylish cyborg, thanks to its gray, maroon and heather slate colorways.