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Samsung Odyssey could be the Windows VR headset to beat (hands-on)

The OLED displays you crave.

You know Galaxy. Now, meet Odyssey:

Samsung Odyssey

This image is official, unlike the product page images that leaked this morning.


Samsung has a new VR headset, but it's designed for your Windows PC. It could, however, be the best hardware of the holidays, if you're okay with using Windows Mixed Reality (Microsoft's name for its upcoming Windows VR platform) as your VR system.

The Samsung Odyssey, just announced today, is coming Nov. 6 for $499 (roughly £375 or AU$640). It originally leaked in a Microsoft product page this morning.

The Odyssey is just one headset in a barrage of Windows VR headsets coming this fall: Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo all have them too. And, like those headsets, the Odyssey will work with Microsoft's wireless VR controllers and VR apps in the Windows Store when they launch this fall.

But the Odyssey has two things all those other headsets don't: Samsung's increasingly sought-after AMOLED screens, and built-in headphones from audio partner AKG. The catch: it'll cost you a bit more.


AMOLED technology generally offers far deeper blacks than the LCD panels every other PC manufacturer is building into their Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which can be quite useful for a realistic VR experience. Plus, Samsung's panels appear to be higher resolution too -- while every other Windows Mixed Reality headset has a resolution of 1,440x1,440 pixels per eye, Samsung's displays will apparently offer more vertical real estate at 1,440x1,600 pixels.

(For context, those are notably higher-res than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which offer just 1,080x1,200 pixels per eye.)


The Samsung controllers look very similar, but perhaps with slightly more ergonomic grips, to other ones we've seen demoed with Microsoft VR headsets.


Built-in headphones, meanwhile, are just plain convenient for VR -- you don't have to worry about cords getting tangled, or whether the band of your existing headphones will fit around the headset's straps. We've definitely preferred having them on the Oculus Rift, compared to the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, which require you to plug in additional parts.

One other key difference: Samsung's headset doesn't have a flip-up, welder-mask-style visor like every other Windows Mixed Reality headset. But if you ask me, that's not necessarily a bad thing -- because you've got that extra padding pressing against your cheeks, you don't need to cinch it as tight against your head. In a brief demo, it felt more comfortable than the competition. The screens seemed very crisp.

There's a lot we don't yet know about Samsung's headset. CNET has only tried it briefly. And it costs $499, as much as you'd pay for a complete Oculus Rift kit, and more than Microsoft's other partners are asking for their Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

So far, we've been cautiously optimistic about Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality platform. It's neat how the headset's built-in cameras mean you don't need to mount base stations around your room. (You do with the existing Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.) But we haven't yet tried it under real-world conditions, only in small and often dim rooms, and we had some tracking issues in early demos. 

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Odyssey: The premium mixed-reality headset

Plus, like most VR platforms, we're still waiting for a killer app that'll make us want to buy it. Windows Mixed Reality headsets do have access to the same SteamVR library as the HTC Vive, but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

If you'd like to use your Windows desktop in VR, though, it's shaping up to be a pretty intriguing experience. There's a new feature called Snap to App that lets you instantly teleport to a comfortable viewing distance from windows you pin to the walls of your virtual house, and you can just ask the Cortana voice assistant to move or resize windows with voice commands. Because the system can track your gaze, you only need to say "Move this here," or "Bigger" to get the system to understand your commands.

And if you'd like to hang out with friends in a virtual space, Microsoft has just announced that it's purchased AltspaceVR -- an early VR social network that nearly shut down after financial difficulties, until a mysterious benefactor came along. (It seems that the benefactor was Microsoft.)

As far as the hardware's concerned, Microsoft is hoping that it can make VR headsets as simple as PC monitors -- you just plug one in, and it works, with no additional setup, and no worry about whether your friends' devices are compatible with yours. "If you have an HP and I have a Dell, we'll be able to play a game against each othe without having to worry about it, in the same way we don't worry about which manufacturer's monitor is connected to our PC," says Microsoft's Greg Sullivan, a director in the company's Windows and Devices group.

We'll let you know if Samsung's headset is the one to buy when we've had more time with it this fall. 

By the way, don't expect these headsets to work with your shiny new Xbox. Microsoft won't talk about that at all: "Over time we'll absolutely have it in Xbox, but we have nothing to announce in that space today," said Microsoft's Alex Kipman.

Originally posted Oct. 3 at 10:14 a.m. PT.
Update at 12:41 p.m. PT:  Added further details about the Odyssey.