Let’s be honest: most VR headsets are crap.
Many developers give you a cheap piece of plastic with crummy lenses, disappointing you more than a sweater from your grandma on Christmas.
Google and Samsung buck the trend with their Daydream and Gear VR headsets, as they’re both premium products. When we look at Google Daydream vs. Samsung Gear VR though, which one reigns supreme?
Hint hint: It’s the Gear VR.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Mobile VR Headset
Mobile VR is obviously more limited when compared to standalone or PC-tethered headsets, but it can still be pretty awesome. With that said, there are some things that you should consider before you put down your dough to buy one.
I’d recommend you think about the following before you buy-in:
You should definitely take your budget into account and purchase the device that has the most bells and whistles for your dollar. Cheap headsets often aren’t worth considering, but you probably don’t want to spend $200 on a mobile device, either.
Make sure you do your research and see what headsets meet your needs and your monetary consideration.
The size of your phone’s screen will dictate the headset you can buy. Some headsets only support screens up to 5.5 inches, while others can support 6 inches or larger.
Make sure the headset you’re looking at will fit your phone, otherwise you’ll be stuck returning your device back to the store.
What are you expecting from your VR experience?
If you’re looking for full games, you’re going to have to look to a few select style headsets, as most are only good for viewing experiences.
Both Daydream and Gear VR have decent gaming options, thankfully.
Presenting Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR
Google’s Daydream launched in late 2016 and is the company’s first true foray into VR (if you don’t consider the cardboard cutout headsets). The device has an attractive fabric design and includes a controller to help navigate your virtual environment.
The headset can be used with a variety of different Android devices, with some brands listed as being “Daydream ready”.
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung worked with VR pioneers Oculus to develop the Gear VR headset. The headset is sturdy and well-built and works to integrate the Oculus ecosystem within your smartphone.
The device does require you to have a compatible Samsung Galaxy or Note phone, but the experiences provided are generally much higher than you get with other mobile headsets.
How Daydream vs. Gear VR Match-Up
Before we go too far into this comparison, I wanted to let you know that I own both of these devices and have used them extensively. I’m going through each of the categories below and assigning who gets the edge.
At the end, I’ll tally these up and explain why I think that device is the winner. Sound good? Let’s get started!
The build quality of both the Daydream and Gear VR are good. Google clearly went with a lightweight approach to try and make the headset comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The fabric look and feel reminds me of a comfortable hoodie material, and the device vents surprisingly well.
The Gear VR is a traditional plastic setup, but it feels sturdy. It’s considerably heavier than the Daydream, but the head strap is much better. The over the top band helps distribute weight better, and it actually makes the device less front-heavy.
While both of these headsets do a good job, I have to give the Gear VR the edge in this category.
Edge: Gear VR
You may think that your phone will provide all of the visual aspects of your VR experience, but the headset does have a role. The field of view determines how much of the world you see at once, while the quality of the lenses will also dictate how crisp some of the images appear.
The Daydream has a better Field of View, coming in at 101 degrees, while the Gear VR comes in at 96 degrees. The difference is small but based purely on specs you’d give that to the Daydream. I do think that the lenses on the Gear VR are a bit better, but once again, the difference is very small.
A large portion of those visuals will be the screen quality on your phones. The Daydream does support phones like Pixel 3, which has a stunning display. Similarly, the Gear VR has support for Galaxy and Note devices, which have resolutions up to 1440 x 2960. These resolutions up the ante, and make the content look great.
Both devices come with a controller to help you navigate menus and apps. They function similarly, working more as a mouse than a gaming controller. I did find that the tracking and accuracy of the Gear VR controller was better, and I think the battery life is a bit superior as well.
I will also point out that you can sync Bluetooth gaming controllers to both headsets. This becomes a big benefit when playing certain games that allow you to steer or navigate cars or ships. If you’re looking to play games, I’d certainly recommend looking into buying an Xbox One Controller or something similar.
Edge: Gear VR
Google and Samsung have both developed ecosystems for users to buy and load apps from within the headset. Both are usable and easy to navigate, but once again, I have to give the edge here to Gear VR.
The Oculus OS loaded into the headset is about the same standard you get with the Rift, Go, and Quest, and the familiarity and functionality is something that the Daydream cannot beat. It’s so easy to navigate between your library of apps, social functions, and store that nearly anyone can do it.
This is an area where the Daydream is miles behind, and Google has some serious work to do if they want to become a serious player in the VR industry.
Edge: Gear VR
When you look at the Daydream and Gear VR, you’ll notice that they’re priced similarly.
You get similar controllers, and the out-of-the-box functionality is comparable. Still, the better OS and experiences that are tailored for Gear reign supreme here, and end up giving you a better bang for your buck.
Edge: Gear VR
At the end of the day, the better device is the Gear VR by a country mile.
I have nothing but love for the headset and have owned a few versions of them over the years. Don’t get me wrong: the Daydream is a very good headset, but it’s like driving a Mercedes, whereas the Gear VR is like having a Bugatti.
If you don’t have a Samsung smartphone, the Daydream is a good way to go, but if you do own something like a Note or a Galaxy, then the Gear is the best headset for you.