Gadgets

Why I ditched my Google Cardboard and bought this instead

As VR viewers go, Cardboard is good -- but there are far better options for enjoying virtual reality on your smartphone.

I've been a fan of Google Cardboard ever since I slipped my smartphone into that unlikely box and soared the virtual skies of Google Earth. In the roughly 18 months that followed, I've spent time onstage with Paul McCartney, enjoyed virtual sightseeing tours and, most recently, watched a remarkable documentary.

Just one problem: I wear glasses, and Google Cardboard just isn't designed to accommodate them. Another one: cardboard, as a general rule, isn't super-comfortable when mashed against your face.

Ultimately, I figured I was consigned to blurry, uncomfortable VR forever -- until a Homido Virtual Reality Headset landed on my desk (and then my head). Spoiler alert: I'm not going back to Cardboard. Ever.

homido-with-lenses.jpg

When it comes to satisfying smartphone VR, it's all about the lenses.

Homido

I'm not saying the Homido is the single best smartphone-compatible VR headset on the market -- I haven't tried enough others to know that for sure. In fact, the Homido has one big flaw that almost keeps me from recommending it.

But here's the revelation: the headset comes with three sets of lens-holders for different focal lengths. There's one for "normal" vision, one for near-sighted folks and one for the far-sighted (that's me). Now, even with my glasses off, I can see everything in much sharper detail.

Beyond that, the Homido offers various knobs for adjusting your depth of view and the distance between lenses (known in the eye world as IPD). Whereas everything in Cardboard is fixed, here you get to fine-tune the settings for the best possible focus and clarity.

The all-plastic headset has a thick foam strip along the front and elastic bands that wrap around the top and back of your head. For short periods, it's very comfortable to wear, though with a heavier phone like an iPhone 6 Plus, eventually you start to feel it in your face and neck.

Here's the real problem with the Homido: no select/action button. That makes certain apps frustrating, if not impossible, to use. Thankfully, there's an easy fix: pair your phone with a Bluetooth remote or game controller (something you'd probably want to do anyway to really maximize certain VR experiences). Hit up Ebay and you can find these for under $5 (like this one).

But I love the plastic clip at the front of the headset; it makes for very easy loading and unloading of your phone and holds it securely in place.

The Homido sells for 69.99 € (about $75 US) direct, but I found it for $56.49 from online store MobileFun. There are any number of less expensive headsets out there, though I don't think many of them offer the same level of lens adjustment -- and for an eyeglasses wearer like me, that makes all the difference.

Bottom line: If Google Cardboard isn't delivering the VR experience you'd hoped, consider a headset that's a bit easier on the eyes.

Have you tried other headsets? Share your reviews in the comments!