Facebook-owned Oculus’s Latest VR headset, Oculus Go, is here, and today we’re going to review this virtual reality contraption to see if it’s worth spending the $199 price attached to it.
The first thing that strikes you about the Oculus Go is its minimalist and easy to use architecture, with no smartphone or PC needed to connect to it for it to work – a truly standalone VR headset, with only the main unit and the wireless controller to worry about, and that’s about it.
It’s, what you can say, is the midway option between the less expensive and pretty much basic Samsung Gear VR headset – or the Google Daydream VR, which is useless without a smartphone connected to it – and the hardcore PC gaming Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
Let’s start by checking out what is included in the box before we actually get into the good and the bad of the headset.
In addition to the headset and the controller, it comes bundled with an accessories box, which includes a 5-volt 2-amp-rated fast charging adaptor, a manual, a wrist strap and two AA batteries for the controller, a lens cleaning cloth, a micro USB cable and, last but not least, a ‘glasses spacer’ – a really handy inclusion for bespectacled users.
It is, for sure, one of the more comfortable headsets out there on the market today, with a generous amount of breathable foam around the eyes, three adjustable spandex head straps secured with Velcro, not to mention the gray matt finish plastic that accounts for the shell.
It may be a little bit on the heavier side but it does compensate for it with the even weight distribution as compared to, say, the Samsung Gear VR headset which has to accommodate a phone up front.
On top of the headset, you have your power button and a volume adjuster, while a micro USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack have been made available on the side, which is a bonus of sorts, considering the fact that the onboard speakers built into the headset strap ensure a decent enough 3D sound quality. The microphone on the bottom of the Oculus Go allows you to chat with people.
From a specifications perspective, well, the Snapdragon 821 processor and 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage are reminiscent of a Xiaomi phone.
The lightweight ambidextrous controller fits perfectly into the contours of your right or left hand and has a touchpad which doubles as a button, including a trigger designed for your forefinger – a handy feature for interacting with VR environments.
The wrist strap included in the accessories box is there to stop you from inadvertently hurling it across the room and damaging stuff.
Before you can start using your Oculus Go, you need to download and sign in to the Oculus Go Companion on a supported device, which can be any Android phone running 6.0 Marshmallow or higher, or any iPhone running iOS10 or above.
Once you’re done with the downloading, plug in your Oculus Go headset into your wall socket using the included micro USB cable, or the power adaptor if you happen to be outside the U.S, to charge it up.
While the unit is charging, press and hold down the power button on the headset to start it up; then, follow the simple instructions on the app to connect the headset via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
You’ll be asked to insert the batteries in the controller, after which you need to select the right-handed or left-handed option; of course, this can always be changed in the settings.
Then, you’ll have to endure a demo video and a few health and safety warnings that you need to give your consent to before you’re through to the Oculus Store screen that immediately starts synching your headset to the newest version of the software, which may take 15 minutes, or so.
You can use the intervening time to browse the store to check out the games and apps available for download, most of which do support the Go, with a few that are only compatible with the Oculus Rift
Once the software upgrade is complete and after you’re through with the quick tutorial and choosing your background landscape, you’ll find yourself on the main menu where you’ll see options for recently used apps, or coming events, as well as tabs for new apps and games, with all your setting options down at the bottom of the screen.
Compared to the Gear, Rift and Vive, the picture quality of the Go is closer to the more expensive Rift or Vive than the modest Gear.
The Go is, in fact, equipped with newer second-gen lenses than those on the Rift, which combine exceptionally well with the 2560 x 1440 resolution LCD screen to give a higher per-eye resolution than the Rift, which says a lot about this lower priced headset.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to rate the Oculus Go on a par with devices that are 2-3 times more expensive, at least in so far as the lenses and picture quality are concerned.
The standalone capability of the Go makes it even more endearing; gone are those pesky cables going over that shoulder of yours, although one has to concede that this is no hard-core gaming VR headset, but, then, it was never intended to be one.
The Go is, in fact, a very efficient media entertainment device, apparently offering in excess of 1,000 great VR experiences, including loads of games like Rush, Coaster Combat, and Pet Lab, to name a few.
The Oculus Go is an even better machine to watch stuff on; you have the Netflix and the Hulu apps, as well as loads of video – including 3D stuff from the Oculus Store and even National Geographic to choose from.
The presence of a web browser is a pretty useful inclusion as well, especially if you are a YouTube lover.
One app that really stands out – and this is, probably, a subjective observation – is the Melody VR which lets you watch artists in concert, or in a personal space like their balconies, playing your favorite music, with the decent quality built-in speakers only adding to the experience.
Somewhat along the lines of the Play Station ‘Home,’ the Oculus Room allows you to join a public room, or invite your buddies from your friends’ list to join you in a virtual space to do stuff together, like play games, listen to music or just chat – indeed, a great way to hang out with your mates, especially those you don’t’ get to see a lot of.
Summing it up, from a purely gaming perspective, the Oculus Go offers an impressive range of games that are fun but better suited to younger kids.
By no stretch of the imagination is it going to take over from your gaming console or your PC but, as mentioned before, it’s not even making an attempt to do that. Honestly, at the price it’s being made available for, this comparison is rather unjustified.
The $199 price tag also justifies the absence of 3D position tracking; the single controller; and the fact that it’s running on a 2016 phone processor.
The battery life isn’t much to harp about; just about 2 to 2 ½ hours, depending on what you’re doing on it, and it takes as long as three hours to fully juice it up, which is a pretty long wait, one has to say.
While it’s quite comfortable to use, it does leave some reddish marks around the forehead area, as well as the nose and eyes if used for extended periods, which in the scribe’s case was around the 15-minute mark.
It’s, certainly, a recommended buy when you consider its ease of use; its great picture quality; the impressive collection of simple games and great apps; the included web browser; and good sound-quality – and, all of that for just $199.
However, if you’re looking for the best gaming experience in virtual reality AND if you are willing to shell out $400, the Oculus Rift is what you should be considering.