New technology is fascinating, with virtual reality (VR) being a potent example.
In search of new and enhanced experiences, two headsets that popped up immediately were the Lenovo Mirage Solo and the Oculus Go.
What You Need to Think About Before Buying a VR Headset
Virtual reality headsets provide a deeper gaming experience but are not exclusively used by gamers.
In fact, VR headsets are becoming more widely used in the training of police, doctors, and so on.
As use cases rapidly expand, so do opportunities to use these new experiences to improve your knowledge, skills, mental health or just to sit back and relax. For me personally, as someone who loves music, I looked for a headset that would be best for enjoying musical experiences in virtual reality.
I made my decision by weighing the positives and negatives of each headset and giving more weight to features that matter more to me. When considering a virtual reality headset purchase, you should keep in mind the following key features when making your decision:
VR headsets are meant to be multi-purpose immersive experiences and, therefore, appeal to a wide range of audiences. Currently, you can use these devices to meditate on a virtual beach or even master a new skill or language, just to name a couple of non-gaming use cases. The applications will only grow as time goes on until everyone is using it, just like how almost everyone has a smartphone these days, no matter how old or young you are.
When it comes to the primary consumer of VR headsets, I’d say that anybody can get in on the fun. Heck, my grandma loves going into the Go to check out her hometown in Poland!
Really though, we see tech-savvy users in the 18 to 50 age range using headsets a lot. You do need to have a bit of technical knowledge to work these headsets, so make sure you know how to configure WiFi and Bluetooth before jumping in.
However, more and more people are becoming aware of these products and the ideal buyers of VR headsets are people who want to have new experiences with entertainment, music, and gaming. VR products can be complicated with various wires and a time consuming set up process.
Some older people have trouble with their mobiles, let alone a virtual reality headset. However, the accessibility of VR is changing for the better, with more and more models focusing on ease of use, and as a result, expanding the number of potential customers.
If you are looking for an intense gaming experience, you should consider more high-end VR headsets or consider buying a console. If you just want to play games and use apps, you could use or upgrade your smartphone, which is likely to have similar capabilities to the VR headsets we are reviewing.
You, as the buyer, will need to think about what purpose the VR headset will serve, how frequently you will use it and what features of the headset are the best for the things you want to use it for.
Presenting the Lenovo Mirage Solo and Oculus Go
For each aspect, we will compare the Lenovo Mirage Solo with the Oculus Go and see how they stack up against each other. The main advantages of the Lenovo include the motion tracking, which brings virtual reality worlds to life more, and the expandable memory allowing you to store a lot of media files on your headset.
However, the motion tracking comes with a higher price tag, a heavier headset and one of the major disappointments is that you have to use headphones, as there are no in-built speakers.
On the other hand, the main advantages of the Oculus Go is that it is relatively cheap, offers a decent first experience for those new to virtual reality with a wide range of games and apps, and is a much more comfortable headset.
The downsides with the Oculus Go are the limited memory capacity, the connection to Facebook and the privacy concerns that follow, and the lack of motion tracking, which means the VR experience is quite basic.
User Experience: Software
With the Lenovo based on Google’s DayDream 2.0 system, the app functionality is similar to the Google Pixel and other DayDream VR headsets, besides the space sensing. In terms of the range of apps and games, the Oculus Go offers a better selection. For instance, Blade Runner is a pretty cool game to check out in VR. If you’ve seen the film and are a fan of it like me, I definitely recommend checking out this game.
Facebook attempted to pack everything they could into the Oculus Go, meaning the software is slightly better in areas such as browsers and accessing YouTube within the VR headset. On the social VR side, there is OculusRooms, where you can watch films with others in virtual worlds, and chat in VR.
However, one thing I am wary about is the data sharing agreement between Facebook and Oculus Go.
Following privacy concerns with Facebook, it is important to realise that there is a blanket term in Oculus’ terms and conditions that allows the sharing and receiving of data between Facebook and Oculus.
If this data ends up in the wrong hands, you could be tracked more than you are at the moment! Lenovo have not been involved in any controversies relating to individual privacy yet, so if you are more conscious about this aspect, the Mirage Solo might be the safer option.
In terms of music, the Oculus Go provides better apps and games in my opinion, with MelodyVR providing access to live music and the YouTube VR app, which are the perfect use cases for me.
User Experience: Hardware
The unique feature of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is WorldSense, developed in conjunction with Google. By using dual 13-megapixel front cameras, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, the Mirage Solo allows up to six degrees of movement such that the headset tracks not only your head but also any other movements, like walking, leaning or dodging.
While not as good as the HTC Vive, the Lenovo provides a more affordable option for those looking for better immersion in VR worlds. Lenovo nevertheless has a lot of experience with inside out tracking, being of its innovators.
The hardware for the Oculus Go is pretty basic in comparison. In terms of memory and file storage, the Mirage Solo has 64 GB of internal storage and enough space for memory cards, adding up to 256 GB. The inability to expand the internal storage as much as the Mirage Solo is a big downer for the Oculus Go, as most of the available space is taken up by the operating system and default apps.
In terms of battery life, Lenovo’s lasts for about two-and-a-half hours, and is pretty much the same, on average, for the Oculus Go too.
For the controller of both VR headsets, the touchpad serves as a button, however, the Oculus Go also includes a trigger button on the back, which enhances the experience when playing shooting games.
The Mirage Solo’s controller is more practical since it is charged via USB-c, the same as the headset, whereas you will need a double A battery for the Oculus Go’s controller.
The winner here is clearly the Mirage Solo, boasting better technical specifications in terms of visuals, more practical charging and a large capacity for storing media files.
In terms of quality, we want to look at how well does the product performs when watching a video, playing games or listening to music. We also want to see which of the two provides a more immersive virtual reality experience.
First, let’s get the technical specifications out of the way, and explain what they mean for quality. Lenovo Mirage Solo specifications include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 5.5 inch LCD screen with 2560 x 1440 resolution and a refresh rate of 75Hz. In a nutshell, this means the visuals are very similar to the graphics we get on a Lenovo smartphone today, but the tracking is very impressive thanks to the WorldSense technology mentioned previously.
For the Oculus Go, it has similar specifications with a slightly less powerful processor and lower refresh rate but on the same screen size. The refresh rate is slightly lower depending on the application you’re using, but ranges between 60 to 72 Hz. Overall it is very difficult to tell the difference in the graphics between the two headsets. You’re not going to get the top quality graphics you’d get with the Oculus Rift, but you could see it as some sort of midway point between the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift.
The Oculus Go has in-built speakers, but the Lenovo doesn’t, so it makes the virtual reality experience more enjoyable for the user, who doesn’t have to scramble for a headset. While the motion tracking is much better, the combined visual and audible experience is much better with the Oculus Go for me.
Mobile headsets like the Mirage Solo and Oculus Go do not go to the full extent with visual immersion, such as waving your own virtual hand. They are both great multimedia devices for the amateur, but if you are looking for a deeper experience, then headsets that are connected to a computer’s GPU(s) are your best bet.
Value for Money
In terms of value for money, the Oculus Go definitely wins this round for me personally.
At almost 50 percent cheaper than Lenovo’s Mirage Solo, despite the added benefit of the tracker with the added range of movement – only available on a handful of apps – the Oculus Go is an affordable introduction to virtual reality.
However, if you are planning on storing a lot of media files on the headset, then the Mirage Solo might be worth the extra cost as this headset has a maximum capacity of 320GB compared to the Oculus Go’s.
For a casual user like myself, the Oculus Go is the best value for money. Arguably its main achievement is making mobile VR easier to access, but if you are a hardcore gamer or looking for a more immersive experience, the Oculus Go might not be a satisfying purchase.
If you are not new to VR headsets, then it is useful to know that the Lenovo Mirage Solo feels a bit like the PlayStation VR headset. The design is very similar, with the adjustable headgear almost identical. However, the extra padding on the forehead can make you feel hot after a while.
Unfortunately, there is no included speaker in the Mirage Solo, which means you will have to use earphones or headphones. This is where the Mirage Solo loses a lot of points with regards to comfort, as it introduces wires the non-tapered headsets were designed to get away from in the first place.
The Oculus Go is a lot more comfortable in comparison, using adjustable straps and velcro, plus it doesn’t require me to use any earphones or headphones. Even if you’re wearing glasses, the Oculus Go is still comfortable.
Both models are mobile and are not tethered to a PC or console, which is a positive as you are safer and movement is unrestricted. So one of the key differences between the two headsets is the weight. The Oculus Go weighs 468 grams while the Mirage Solo is heavier at 645 grams.
The heavier headset is the trade-off made by Lenovo for the improved motion tracking, so this is a question you have to ask yourself, whether comfort and ease of use are the main factors or functionality and immersion.
For me, it’s more about comfort, so I’ve gone with the Oculus Go for the comfort category.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with both the Lenovo Mirage Solo and the Oculus Go, but overall, the Oculus Go is the winner. It just delivers a better experience for users, with better comfort and ecosystem.
If you’re looking for a more dedicated gaming experience, or you’re more conscious about privacy and are looking for a more power efficient device, then the Lenovo Mirage Solo is the way to go with its impressive WorldSense tracking feature.