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Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream review: Google's standalone VR is a half-step to the future

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The Good Fully standalone VR headset. Tracking cameras can allow greater range of motion than the Oculus Go. Comfortable fit. Works with Google Daydream VR apps. Expandable storage via microSD card slot.

The Bad Expensive. Headset design is large and bulky for a portable device. Movement range is limited. No built-in speakers. The included one-handed controller isn't as good as what PC VR systems can offer. Relatively few apps currently work with the Mirage Solo's added motion tracking.

The Bottom Line Google's first self-contained VR headset is one step toward making mobile VR better, but it's not the complete package.

6.9 Overall
  • Immersion 7
  • Interaction 6
  • Comfort 8
  • Ecosystem 7
  • Setup 7

Virtual reality has two places to go right now: go cheap, or push the boundaries. The Oculus Go was the former, getting in the door at $199 all-in. Lenovo's Google-powered Mirage Solo is the latter.

The Mirage Solo, like the Oculus Go, is also a standalone VR headset, no phone or PC required. But it's a little different. Its tech pushes more for where the future of VR will eventually be. But at $399, it also costs twice the price. And the Mirage Solo isn't a full step to the future: it's a half one. I'll explain.

The Mirage Solo is now available, a year after it was announced at Google's 2017 developer conference. After wearing it for a few days, I can already tell you that, while it shows where VR is heading, there's no reason to buy the Mirage Solo at launch.

Editors' note: This review covers the Lenovo Mirage Solo in its original shipping state. We'll update this review in the future, when and if new software updates change the experience to the point that our overall recommendation changes. 

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No phone, no PC

Sarah Tew/CNET

VR, cutting the cord

The Mirage Solo looks like a VR headset you'd use on a desktop PC, or even the PlayStation VR: a padded display with lenses, attached to an adjustable visor ($240 at Amazon) you tighten around your head. Much like most Microsoft Mixed Reality VR headsets released last year, the Mirage Solo has a similar design. It even looks a bit like Lenovo's PC-connected wired VR headset.

Mirage Solo is totally standalone, but only the second device to ever be completely PC or phone-free -- Oculus Go is the first. Unlike the Oculus Go, however, there isn't even a phone app to pair with. Just plug it in, charge it up, turn it on and set it up, and you're set.

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The Lenovo Mirage Solo (left) and the Oculus Go (right): your two standalone VR headset options so far.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google has its own phone-connected VR goggles, Daydream View, that work with a selection of Android phones and offer up basic VR much like the Samsung Gear VR. The Mirage Solo runs on similar software, but with a few key extras. The biggest is it allows some level of room tracking, enabling movement similar to what PC-connected VR and the PlayStation VR are capable of. It does this through two fish-eye cameras on the front of the headset (called inside-out tracking).

Inside the box, there's the headset, a little motion-enabled controller that's exactly like the one that comes with Google's Daydream View.

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This VR allows some movement, but it's mostly... stationary.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Leaning and moving, just a bit

The Mirage Solo's biggest trick is tracking motion in space, something called 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF). Using motion sensors (gyro, accelerometer) plus two wide-angle cameras on the front of the headset, it can track your movement. Ducking, leaning, stepping: This is the stuff the Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR and Daydream View cannot do.

This is the first mobile headset that's had this kind of tracking, and yes, it's basically the same tech that's in Microsoft's PC-based VR headsets. No room sensors are needed. I tried it at my desk, in the office cafeteria, at my train station, outdoors and even on a train (don't do that: vehicle motion makes the tracking drift).

Sometimes, it's amazing. Virtual Virtual Reality is a game (also on the Oculus Go) that feels incredibly immersive. The sense of "being there" is definitely enhanced with the headset's usually good extra camera-based tracking.

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This is how much room there is to move around, between these two chairs, before the VR world fades to gray. It's not a lot.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There's a drawback, though: the range of movement is super-limited to just a couple of feet in any direction. If I take more than about two steps, the VR world fades to black and a message tells me to step back into my VR zone. Google says the reason for this is safety and comfort. The Mirage Solo has no ability to recognize obstacles in the world around me. But it can recognize where the ground is, and can learn to ignore people walking nearby to keep tracking smooth.

The extra degrees of movement do make the VR feel more comfortable: when in Google's Arts and Culture art museum, I can lean into a piece of art. In BBC's tour of life on Earth, I can peek around the edges of a cartoon 3D otter. I can bend down to examine something. I can duck snowballs being thrown at me.

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