Samsung Gear VR (2017) review: Samsung Gear VR's best feature isn't the Galaxy S8, it's the controller

The Good Affordable. A large app library. New remote is comfortable and easy to use. Samsung's new Gear VR updates work with older phones and Gear VR headsets, too. New software runs cooler on Samsung phones.

The Bad Locked into Oculus' mobile Gear VR software library. Requires a Samsung phone. Lacks any ability to track movement in a room, like higher-end VR headsets can do.

The Bottom Line The revamped Gear VR feels similar to Google's Daydream View VR headset, but its impressive library and software design still make it great for entry-level VR viewing on the go.

7.6 Overall
  • Immersion 8
  • Interaction 8
  • Comfort 7
  • Ecosystem 7
  • Setup 8

VR is a hassle. It's pricey and difficult to set up. At this point, you may be better off trying than buying. Samsung has walked a pretty smart path with the Gear VR. It recently released a new third-generation version of its phone-powered headset, and its goal hasn't changed: be simple, and be affordable.

Gear VR is a snap-on, wireless affordable way to turn your Samsung Galaxy phone into a surprisingly capable basic virtual reality headset. And years later, it's still pretty impressive.

What's new in the latest version of Gear VR:

  • A wireless motion controller finally adds one-handed, easier controls in apps.
  • A revamped Gear VR software update adds higher resolution, a built-in web browser, and VR apps run smoother and cooler on existing phones and headsets.
  • The new Gear VR headset fits the new S8 and S8 Plus phones, but it's basically the same as last year's headset.
Joshua Goldman/CNET

The new Gear VR headset works with the Galaxy S8 Plus ($269 at Walmart), S8, S7, S7 Edge, Note5, S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+ and comes with Micro USB and USB-C adapters. The extra bits of gear, however, mean keeping track of small dongles. Google's more elegant Daydream View design works without any plug-in dongles at all, but the larger Gear VR, while bulkier and more plastic, fits better on my face.

Again, don't get a new Gear VR headset if you have an old one; just buy the new remote instead.

The Gear VR still works with wired headphones, leaving the headphone jack space on the phone unobstructed. But it's probably better to use wireless headphones to reduce the cable tangle.

I've been using the latest version one with the new Galaxy S8 Plus over the last couple of weeks. To be clear, this isn't the same high-end VR hardware as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Those are more-advanced pieces of tech that also require a cutting-edge PC.


Gear VR is similar, but its controller and software are new.

Sarah Tew/CNET

No, the Gear VR does not push the envelope, but it's probably the VR I'd use daily, and the one I'd recommend to most people as a starter kit. Why? Because it's easy to put on and move around in, it's a lot cheaper than the high-end models, and it has some great VR experiences available for it.

Gear VR came free if you preordered a Galaxy S8 ($230 at eBay) but costs $130 for the controller plus headset for everyone else. If you already have an older Gear VR headset, the controller works with your older setup for an extra $40.

Compared to other mobile VR systems like Google's Daydream View, Gear VR currently has more apps to choose from. For that reason alone, I'd still go with Gear VR over Daydream. But most people, I'd say, should simply get the one that matches the phone they have or want.

If you already have Gear VR, get the new controller, because it's the best part of what's new. But just be forewarned that right now there aren't a ton of apps that take full advantage of it.

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