- Comfortable and compact
- Google’s wealth of content
- Fantastic remote
- Easy setup
- Light leak and glare common
- Makes phones very hot
- Would like wider field of view
- Google Daydream VR
- Included remote
- Requires compatible Android 7.1 phone
- Content from Google Play
- Manufacturer: Google
- Review Price: £69.00/$103.50
WHAT IS GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW?
Google Daydream View – and the Daydream platform it’s built upon – is the natural successor to Google Cardboard.
It’s a huge improvement over the search engine giant’s last attempt at mobile virtual reality, and it takes the fight straight to Samsung and the Oculus-backed Gear VR.
It might not match the likes of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but for the price of entry you’re getting a headset with a lot of potential.
GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW – DESIGN
If you’ve ever used a Gear VR then you’ll instantly welcome how much nicer Daydream View feels both to hold and to wear. Whereas Samsung built its headset out of rigid plastic, Google has used material, of the kind that pyjamas bottoms might be made from. This also helps it be much smaller and easier to jam in a bag although note that it’s more prone to soaking up sweat.
A single strap runs around the rear to help keep the headset in place, and it’s adjustable with quite a variation in sizes. I have a large head and it fits fine, but I’ve also tried it on people with smaller heads and they haven’t had a problem getting it to stay in place.
You won’t be able to wear glasses with the headset on, so keep that in mind, and it can become quite painful after a while if it’s fitted quite tight, so I’d suggest keeping it loose. As with any VR headset you’ll probably look like a wally wearing it, but that’s par for the course.
The front portion unclips and reveals a slot that holds the included remote and acts as the area for docking your phone. Overall, it’s a very neat and attractive bundle.
My review unit was grey, but there’s also a swish-looking red and a white model available too.
GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW – SETUP AND COMPATIBILITY
Another area in which the Daydream compares better than the Gear VR is the setup. There’s no fiddly plugs to connect or slots into which you need to intricately place your phone. Simply unclip the front portion of the headset and drop in a supported phone.
The headset connects via NFC, and it proved a smooth process that worked consistently. You’ll need to make sure you have the Daydream app installed, and that you’re using one of the supported phones.
Obviously, the most pushed supported phones are the duo of Pixels – the Pixel and Pixel XL – but expect to see other compatible handsets become available over the next few months. Huawei’s Mate 9 is one of the first, and I’d expect the rumoured Snapdragon 821-toting OnePlus 3T to also work with the Daydream View.
It’s a shame that early 2016 flagships such as the HTC 10 and LG G5 won’t be compatible with the headset.
Google’s official documentation details the required specs for a “Daydream Ready” phone, and they’re fairly beefy. It will require Bluetooth 4.2 LE and a screen size of between 4.7 and 6-inches that boasts at least a 1080p resolution at 60Hz; plus a 3ms or less latency and a 5ms or less persistence. It will need to decode two instances of 60fps video simultaneously and be capable of 60fps rendering.
Now while that may appear specific, it’s there to ensure the experience is smooth on every device – and that’s important.
With the phone is connected, both the 3.5mm jack and USB Type-C port will be exposed, so you can plug in some headphones and keep the phone charged. However, you’ll need a very long USB Type-C cable for this to actually be a viable option.
I’ve been using the Daydream View with a Pixel XL. It looks a little odd perched inside the headset; it feels too big and juts out at the top and bottom. It’s completely stable and won’t fall out, however – but it looks far more natural with the smaller Pixel inside.
GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW – APPS AND GAMES
You can have a fantastically built headset that feels as comfortable as a cloud, but without any decent content it will be useless.
I’ve managed to sample only a few bits so far, but I’m pretty confident that this headset will provide plenty to do.
You’re a wizard, Max
As you’d expect, Google has optimised a load of its core services to make use of the 360-degree view. YouTube – which offers plenty such content anyway – is the obvious place to start, but Street View is very cool for transporting yourself away. I visited the Taj Mahal for lunch, sort of.
There are a few games so far and a few experiences that seem to pull in content from YouTube. They’re nice as an introduction to VR, but probably aren’t something you’ll revisit time and time again.
One of the headline Daydream apps is a tie-in with the new Harry Potter spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them“, and I can see it becoming a firm favourite with kids. You can swing around your wand with the remote – and, well, what more do you really need? It’s free too.
The Daydream UI adopts the cartoony style that looks at home in VR, with a seriously sleek-looking landscape covered in apps and options. You navigate with the remote and there’s direct access to the Play Store for downloading further apps without removing the phone.
GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW – THE VIRTUAL-REALITY EXPERIENCE
If you’re coming to the Daydream View expecting a virtual-reality experience comparable to the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or even PSVR, then you’re likely to be disappointed. Those headsets cost hundreds of pounds, being powered by pricey hardware. The Daydream View, on the other hand, is a £69 headset that will be powered by a range of phones with slightly differing specs.
My experience so far – using Pixel XL with quad-HD display – has been very positive. However, it continues to suffer the same issues as other mobile headsets.
While we’ve come to expect our phone screens to be crisp and pixel-free, this isn’t the case with VR. Pixels are easy to spot and details can be jagged, and this leads to content sporting a very cartoony look in the attempt to combat such issues.
This is especially noticeable in video content – it’s jarring watching a YouTube video – and the problem is alleviated only when the content is really good.
It’s less noticeable in apps. Wonderglade is a cartoonish game centered around classic theme park titles and Hunters Gate is a monster-hunting RPG; both feel less limited by the resolution.
How content will appear will also depend on the display resolution of your phone: quad-HD should look much better than 1080p, but VR is the biggest reason for 4K displays on phones.
The field of view on the Daydream View is slightly narrower than the Gear VR, so you’ll see black bars in your peripheral vision. I’m not too bothered by this and it doesn’t affect the immersiveness of the headset. But I’m sure it’s something that will be fixed in version two, or when a third-party builds a headset.
Latency isn’t an issue either, and movements you make with your head or the controller are almost immediately replicated on the screen. The low latency, combined with a smooth frame rate (in the games currently available; this could changes further down the line, of course) help make the Daydream View comfortable to use. I haven’t so far felt sick or nauseous while playing.
The controller is one of the best things about the Daydream View – and a huge improvement over being forced to pair a game controller, or use the frustrating touchpad on the Gear VR.
It pairs via Bluetooth and the remote tucks away inside the grooved pocket of the headset when not in use. It’s used for everything from navigating the menus to controlling your character in games. It’s responsive, too – and can be mirrored virtually in the headset.
There’s a small responsive touchpad on the top, volume buttons on the side and a select and menu button on the face.
The Daydream View isn’t perfect, though. When used in lit rooms, I found that there was significant light leaking into the headset, with the two glass panels reflecting light and thus becoming a distraction. You can combat this slightly by tightening the strap, but as mentioned already, this make the headset uncomfortable.
It’s far from a deal-breaker, but it does limit the immersive feeling somewhat.
I also notice that the phone became very hot, especially if playing for extended periods. I played Hunters Gate for around 30 minutes, and I pulled out very toasty feeling Pixel. Battery drain is significant, too – about double that of playing a normal game.
SHOULD I BUY GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW?
If you have a compatible phone, a spare £69/$103.50 and a yearning to get a first taste of VR then the Daydream is a must-buy.
It’s a comfortable headset that looks good and already appears to have a developing library of content. But it’s the remote that really makes it a device that I’ll keep going back too. It makes games much more fun and navigating so easy.
There are some minor issues with glare and light leakage, and a wider field of view would always be preferable, but this really is the current peak of mobile virtual reality.
A comfortable, easy-to-use headset – it’s the next step in mobile VR.