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BARCELONA // In these early days of virtual reality, LG’s 360 VR headset, unveiled on Sunday, is a lightweight and relatively stylish option compared with the Samsung Gear VR, as well as the numerous other VR headsets inching their way closer to launch.
It’s a shame therefore that the unit I tested at the Mobile World Congress offered a deeply underwhelming VR experience, one that, in its current pre-launch incarnation, offers a very poor showcase for the nascent technology.
On the plus side, wearing LG’s headset doesn’t involve putting a strap over and around your head like the Samsung Gear VR, resembling instead the VISOR worn by Geordi La Forge of Star Trek: the Next Generation.
While Samsung makes you strap your Galaxy smartphone to the front of the headset, the 360 VR connects instead to the LG G5 via USB cable, making the headset significantly less heavy to wear.
So the 360 VR is lighter and more stylish than its Samsung rival, although style is relative when you’re wearing a screen on your head oblivious to what’s going on around you.
But how does LG’s VR experience compare with that of Samsung? In a word, badly.
The trade off with the 360 VR’s lack of straps is significant light leakage around the edges of your field of vision. The result is that the viewing experience is utterly non-immersive, immediately negating a key aspect of the VR experience.
Matters aren’t helped by the fact focus adjustment is achieved by manually twisting the eye pieces, a fiddly and frustrating process that involves a lot of trial and error and repeatedly taking the headset off and putting it back on again, compared with the simple focus adjustment wheel on the top of Samsung’s headset.
Once you’ve achieved the right focus and found a dark corner to prevent light leaking in, the 360 VR offers a VR experience that is, simply put, mediocre, with low resolution, significant lag, and juddery movement. While viewing the still 360 image of the LG stand (taken with LG’s 360 Cam) was fine, the rollercoaster video demo rendered very poorly.
It’s worth repeating that the LG 360 VR headsets on display at MWC are pre-launch models, and that company has a few months (June is the current expected launch date) to iron out bugs.
LG shouldn’t underestimate the amount of ironing that lies ahead of it though. Taking Samsung’s Gear VR headset for a spin 12 months ago was a transformative experience that sold me on VR’s potential. Those experiencing VR for the first time via LG’s new headset, in its present incarnation at least, are far less likely to be convinced.
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