Got Gear? Get the most from Samsung's virtual-reality headset by leveraging these five simple tricks -- many of which apply to Google Cardboard as well.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
If you own one of a select few Samsung smartphones and haven't yet tried a Samsung Gear VR headset, you're missing out. Honestly, I thought it was just going to be an all-plastic, Samsung-branded Google Cardboard, but the Gear VR delivers an Oculus-powered virtual-reality experience that's pretty exceptional.
I give partial credit to the headset itself, which incorporates some nice features (included a navigation touchpad) and has room enough inside to accommodate those of us who wear glasses. But Samsung's software, most notably the unfortunately named Milk VR, greatly enhances the experience as well.
With those two elements in place, now it's time to fine-tune your Gear VR viewing. Here are five tips for getting the most from your headset. (The first three apply to Google Cardboard as well!)
1. Add a gamepad
Although the Gear VR's side-mounted touchpad is OK for navigating menus and such, it's definitely not the best choice for games.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best choice for games is a gamepad. The Gear VR officially supports three models: the Moga Pro Power ($80), Samsung EI-GP20 (hard to find in the US) and SteelSeries Stratus XL for Android ($60). Anecdotally, the Moga Hero Power () appears to work as well, and it stands to reason other less-expensive gamepads would also be compatible.
2. Sit and spin
Half the point of a virtual-reality experience is a 360-degree view. Sure, you can spin around while standing up, but don't blame us if you trip or get dizzy and hit the floor.
No, the better option by far is to sit in a swivel chair. That way you can easily turn in either direction while keeping yourself safe from gravity.
3. Hook up headphones
Virtual reality is all about the visual experience, right? Sure, but don't leave your ears out! Even an inexpensive set of headphones will dramatically improve the quality of games, videos and apps. It's all about immersion, and if you're relying solely on the phone's built-in speaker, you're missing a huge part of it.
Now for the bad news: Bluetooth headphones reportedly suffer from a bit of "lag" when paired with the Gear VR, particularly in games. They're OK for video, but ultimately you might be better off with wired headphones. As with anything, trial and error is your best bet.
4. Get comfortable
Nothing will turn you off VR like motion sickness. Some folks are more susceptible than others, but until you know your tolerance, stick with apps (from the Oculus Store) labeled "comfortable for most."
At the same time, switch on the Gear VR's Comfort Mode, which promises to help reduce eyestrain by adding a blue hue to the display. You can find this option on the Oculus Home screen.
5. Block out the world
Is real life always calling at the worst possible moments, like when you're binge-VR-watching "Jessica Jones" or gunning down an alien onslaught? That's the downside putting your phone at the core of your VR experience. Calls, reminders, text messages -- endless interruptions.
Fortunately, you can block all this stuff. Just head to the Oculus Home screen, focus your cursor on Do Not Disturb, then tap the touchpad. Presto! Now you're set for distraction-free virtual reality. (If only we could enable such a mode in actual reality.)
Now that you're Gear VR-ing like a pro, be sure to check out our roundup of the headset's best games. In the meantime, hit the comments to share any other essential Samsung Gear VR (or, for that matter, Google Cardboard) tips you've learned.