Hands-on with the Homido Mini clip-on VR glasses

Designed for quick-fix VR, this is so much easier to use than Google Cardboard -- but do you get the same virtual-reality experience?

The Homido Mini promises to make VR a less bulky affair.

Homido

VR is cool and getting cooler, but the way you consume it definitely isn't. Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR and most other VR headsets are big, bulky and hard to travel with. They also make you look, well, the word "dorky" comes to mind.

The Homido Mini is a pair of folding VR glasses that clips to just about any smartphone. It's an ingenious solution to the problems of bulk and dork, but not without a few issues of its own.

The Mini is elegant simplicity, just a solid plastic frame with lenses that fold together for easy transport and apart for VR viewing. Just slide the clip down the center of your phone and you're ready to queue up your favorite apps, games and whatever. It makes Google Cardboard and other headsets feel like a huge hassle in comparison.

What's more, it affords easy access to the screen, meaning you don't have to remove and open up your headset every time you need to tap an onscreen menu or switch apps.

Perhaps best of all, it works. When you think about it, Google Cardboard and its ilk are just special lenses and a holster for your phone. Here you're just getting the lenses, but it turns out that's enough. I looked at apps like Cedar Point VR as well as New York Times VR, and found them nearly as immersive as a headset.

However, there's obviously no way to go hands-free with this; you'll have to hold your phone rock-steady as you turn your body and/or head, and keep holding it throughout the game or video. Thus, the Mini is better for quick-fix VR. This could be demos you want to show friends or new apps you want to evaluate before switching to a hands-free headset.

What's more, I found the lenses delivered a lower-resolution experience than in other headsets I tried. I'm not sure if this is because of my eyesight (I wear glasses) or a quality difference in various VR lenses. But while some apps looked sufficiently sharp, others seemed fuzzy. I can't explain why.

Also, it's a bit disappointing that the Minis don't come with a case, as smudged lenses are likely to result from carrying them in your pocket or a purse.

Now for the big question: How much? Homido charges about $16.45, converted from the €14.99 cost for the Mini. The price converts to about £10 in the UK and AU$20 in Australia. But for U.S. customers, Amazon sells them for $14.99 (shipped free with Prime). That's about what you'd pay for an assembled Google Cardboard, or one of the various no-brand VR headsets available from sites like Gearbest. Most of the latter come with headstraps, and in some cases adjustable focal distance or even a Bluetooth remote.

Thus, the Homido Mini is no real bargain, but it's definitely the fastest and most convenient way to enjoy VR on a smartphone.

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