Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Samsung's Gear VR Innovator Edition hits the US in December for $199

Samsung's take on virtual reality couples a Galaxy Note 4 with Oculus Rift technology.

Nate Ralph Associate Editor
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Nate Ralph
2 min read
Advertiser Disclosure
Advertiser Disclosure
This advertising widget is powered by Navi and contains advertisements that Navi may be paid for in different ways. You will not be charged for engaging with this advertisement. While we strive to provide a wide range of offers, this advertising widget does not include information about every product or service that may be available to you. We make reasonable efforts to ensure that information in the featured advertisements is up to date, each advertiser featured in this widget is responsible for the accuracy and availability of its offer details. It is possible that your actual offer terms from an advertiser may be different than the offer terms in this advertising widget and the advertised offers may be subject to additional terms and conditions of the advertiser which will be presented to you prior to making a purchase. All information is presented without any warranty or guarantee to you.

The Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's mobile-focused take on virtual reality is almost here. The Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition will reach the US in December, pairing Oculus technology with the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 to bring "a fully immersive virtual reality experience" to a head near you. Presumably yours. It will be available for $199, or bundled with an as-yet-unspecified Bluetooth controller for $249.

This isn't quite the same experience as the Oculus Rift or Sony's Project Morpheus . Both of those devices pack their own displays, and will be tethered to a larger platform for all of their VR content -- a PC, or the PlayStation 4 in Sony's case. In that regard, Samsung's Gear VR seems quite a bit more flexible: just slip in the Galaxy Note 4 and it'll pull double duty, serving up VR content and working as the display.

But this is ostensibly a step up from Google Cardboard. While that scrappy "device" offered a VR-experience with any Android phone you own, it was ultimately just a cardboard box with some lenses slotted in. The Gear VR Innovator goes a bit further, offering gyro- and accelerometer-based motion controls, proximity sensors, and touchpad controls. The Galaxy Note 4's 2,560x1,440-pixel display is arguably a step up from the 1,920x1,080-pixel display on the Oculus Rift DK2. But both the Oculus and Project Morpheus offer camera-tracked positional accuracy -- the Gear VR's head tracking seems " limited to tilting and turning ."

The reliance on an Android smartphone -- and the Galaxy Note 4, specifically -- is a bit worrying. We liked the phone well enough in our review , but Sony's Project Morpheus has the full weight of the PlayStation 4 behind it, while the Oculus Rift will pair with PCs running Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. Samsung claims that existing Oculus games "might be relatively easy to port over," but expecting developers to create software for such a specific platform is likely to prove a daunting task. And as impressive as the Note 4 may be, it simply can't match up to the sort of horsepower you can expect to eke out of a gaming PC, or even a gaming console. There are a few titles kicking about that Samsung hopes will show of Gear VR's potential, including partnerships with Vevo for music videos, a Cirque du Soleil performance and a VR-version of Temple Run .

Concerns aside, this remains an exciting step forward for the world of consumer-friendly virtual reality. A portable VR-experience could prove to be a good way to share virtual reality with those of us who aren't convinced. It could also be an amazing way to spend a cross-country flight, while simultaneously confusing anyone in your row; I call that a win-win.

Editors' note (7:32 p.m. PT): Updated with pricing information.