Ever since Samsung unveiled its Gear VR headset almost two years ago, the company has made some smart moves regarding the device. It partnered with the virtual reality hardware industry leader, the Facebook-owned VR. Samsung also made the price of its headset only $99. And lastly, the company pretty much gave them out for free if one bought a Galaxy S7 phone, which conveniently fits inside the headset.
These decisions have led to Samsung becoming one of the leaders in the consumer virtual reality market. The fourth iteration of the Samsung Gear VR, announced Tuesday, is likely to help the company maintain its position as a leader in the consumer VR space.
Samsung took the wraps off the device at a press event on Tuesday in New York City, referring to it as the “new Gear VR,” and said that it will ship alongside the also-recently-announced Galaxy Note 7 next month. While the headset doesn’t really add much to the previous model in the way of hardware improvements, enough has changed that it’s hard to mistake it for last year’s model.
A bit bigger than its predecessor
The dimensions of the headset are certainly the most evident difference between last year’s model and this year’s. The new Gear VR is a bit wider (207.8mm versus 201.9mm), longer (122.5mm versus 92.6mm), and taller (98.6mm versus 92.6mm) than last year’s model, but ever-so-slightly. The extra space included in the new Gear VR seems to be engineered to fit the new Note 7 perfectly.
The new Gear VR is also slightly heavier than its predecessor at 312g compared to 310g. However, this difference is so slight that one could not tell the difference offhand. The device feels incredibly similar, if not identical, to last year’s Gear VR. If Samsung was going for continuity in this new Gear VR, it certainly succeeded in doing so.
While the sizing of the new headset is not so different than those of its predecessor, the new Gear VR’s other changes are certainly more significant. Principally, the new Gear VR utilizes a new connectivity that was not part of last year’s model: USB Type-C. Last year’s Micro USB port is now gone and has been replaced with the very same USB Type-C port found on the new Note 7.
According to Samsung, the inclusion of the USB Type-C port allows the headset to be capable of handling “power and data transfer,” Samsung vaguely explained, but didn’t elaborate. Down the line, most likely, the headset will be able to support certain accessories such as external batteries or controllers.
The new Gear VR hasn’t completely gotten rid of Micro USB, though, as a legacy connector that comes with the headset will provide a means of backwards compatibility. Thus, the connector will enable the headset to be backwards compatible with the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and the S6 Edge Plus.
Additional tweaks to the new Gear VR
The new Gear VR has also improved the field of view from the last year’s model’s 96 degrees to a slightly wider 101 degrees. Additionally, the interior padding has been made thicker to improve comfort, and the headset’s interior has been changed to a much darker color scheme in order to combat the old model’s reflectivity. The new model also includes a new, dedicated button that brings up the Gear VR menu from within any application or game.
Beyond these changes, the new Gear VR hasn’t changed all that dramatically. If you are excited to see the new Gear VR for yourself, the headset goes on sale for $99 the same day as the Note 7, August 19, at Best Buy, Amazon, and several other vendors.