Finally, high-quality VR for the masses.
The Oculus Go (See it on Amazon) requires nothing to function aside from your head. You don’t need to keep it attached to a powerful, expensive gaming PC. You don’t need to insert the right type of phone to power it. The Oculus Go is neither PC VR nor phone VR. It’s a standalone device and may very well be remembered as the first VR headset to bring virtual reality to the masses.
You simply pair the standalone VR headset with your phone, put it on your head, and you’re off to the VR races. For the multitudes who have been sitting on the VR sidelines due to pricing, complexity, attachments, or all of the above, the Oculus Go will be the headset that put them into the game. Or rollercoaster. Or virtual social gathering. The reasons why are obvious: It’s easy to set up, it’s comfortable to wear, it’s immersive, and it’s cheap. For now there are two Oculus Go models. The 32GB model for $199, and the 64GB model for $249. I reviewed the 32GB Oculus Go. It’s half the price of the Oculus Rift and twice as easy to use. Let’s get into the details:
Design and Features
The Oculus Go looks and feels more luxurious than its price would indicate. The exterior plastic materials feel solid; the foam molding is soft and covered in a breathable, mesh fabric; and the adjustable straps are thick and well stitched. I also like the gray color and the Go’s cleaner look compared to the Oculus Rift.
The controls on the headset are simple. There’s a power button on the top-left corner and next to it is a volume rocker, but you don’t need to push the power button because the headset has a sensor so it knows when you put it on your head and it powers on. It also powers off when you remove it from your head, which is pretty slick.
On the left side is a micro-USB port for charging the headset, and a headphone jack if you don’t want to use the Go’s excellent speakers, either for privacy concerns or just consideration for those around you. The Go’s speakers offer spatial sound that aid the immersive feel of the headset, but everyone else in the room can hear the audio too. The Go also has a microphone for social interactions as well as voice search.
Also in the box, in addition to the headset, is a controller (with an included AA battery to power it and a lanyard), a glasses spacer, lens cloth, and the charger. You don’t get two controllers as you do with the Oculus Rift, but the Go’s simple, small controller gets the jobs done just fine for entry-level VR. It features a trigger button, a small touch pad, and back and home buttons. I became acclimated to blindly using the basic controller in a matter of minutes.
Setup is super simple; just download the Oculus app on your iPhone or Android device, create an account, pair your phone with the headset, pop the battery into controller and start shopping for apps and games. You can browse the Oculus Store with the headset or on your phone. Navigating the Store using the headset is a breeze; it’s easy to browse its offerings because things are intelligently organized, the controller’s buttons are intuitive, and the Oculus Home interface feels responsive with little to no lag.
Like the Rift, the Oculus Go weighs just over a pound (1.04 pounds, to be exact). The foam molding that rests against your face and the straps for your head are both fairly heavy duty without crossing the line into hospital-grade level sturdiness and ugliness. Oculus did an admirable job with the design; the Go looks like a cute consumer product while also being sturdy and comfortable.
The foam molding makes the Go feel a bit lighter than it really is and lets you forget you have a one-pound headset strapped to your face, a key component to an effective VR experience. The side straps are elastic to create a snug fit, and both the top and side straps offer adjustable Velcro strips. It fit both my larger-than-average head as well as my 10-year-old son’s head, who was more than eager to assist me with testing. I have a smaller-than-average nose, however, and did see a bit of light bleed around the nose piece, particularly when I used the glasses spacer.
I wear glasses and – when attempting to be athletic – contacts. The Oculus Go fit over my glasses without the rubber glasses spacer, but my glasses started to fog up after a few minutes because they were too close to the Go’s lenses and didn’t allow for enough airflow. I found the Go to be much more comfortable when I was wearing my contacts, but my son also wears glasses and had no trouble with the fit. In fact, he removed the headset only when I told him he had to or when the battery died, and never because it got to be uncomfortable. I had to practically pry it off his head.
Oculus claims the Go will run for roughly two hours on a single charge (a little less for games, and a little more if you are just watching videos), and my testing showed that is an accurate claim. That may not sound like much, but after about 45 minutes, I need to take a break from VR to regain my equilibrium anyway.
The Go has a fast-switch LCD display with a 2560×1440 resolution. In testing, it exhibited smooth movement but despite having a higher resolution than that of the Rift, the pixelated, screen-door effect could be seen in some apps. And despite being completely wireless, the Go does not offer six degrees of freedom that lets you physically walk around to explore VR worlds. The Go uses an orientation system where you stay seated (or standing) and only move your head to look around the VR space. The app controls the movement or you need to click the controller on a target to move to another spot.
Oculus claims its App Store has over 1,000 apps, and I don’t doubt that figure. Some games and apps are free and others are not. It will feel instantly familiar to anyone experienced with Apple or Google app stores.
Games are generally $2.99-$4.99 each. The priciest I saw was $9.99. When you create an account, you add a payment method — either credit card or PayPal. Then when you go to the Oculus Store — either on the headset or on your phone — you can just point and click to purchase apps just like in Apple’s App Store. It’s super easy. And you create a PIN that you need to enter for purchases, so my son can’t go on a shopping spree when I’m not looking.
File size for apps varies. The Rush game I bought was only 366MB but RepubliqueVR was 3.7GB. Oculus estimates that you can fit 3 HD movies, 10 games and 20 apps on the 32GB Go, but a lot depends on the types of games you are installing, given the wide range in file sizes.
In my experience the Oculus Store has a seemingly endless supply of games and apps, but I have yet to find the one killer game or app among them. Don’t get me wrong — my son and I found a ton of cool stuff to play, and he would happily trade his real room for the room of Oculus Rooms if given the chance, but even the coolest of games felt more like VR versions of casual mobile games than intense AAA PC games.
The Oculus Store is easy to navigate with the controller — just point and click — and there is also voice search, which worked well. We tried out a number of apps and games. Our favorite games were two flying games: Rush, where you zip through the skies in a wing suit, and Omega Agent, where you fly around in a jetpack and shoot things. Coaster Combat was also fun; it combines the thrill of a roller coaster with shooting stuff. But again, these felt more like polished diversions rather than meaty gaming experiences.
More ambitious games ended up showing the limits of VR gaming on a headset that lacks positional awareness. Conflict0: Shattered was cool because it forces you to look around and over your shoulder to find enemy targets to shoot, but the lack of movement was quickly evident. Your character remains rooted in place during each scene; after you complete the task or kill all of the enemies, you then click a target to move to the next scene. Likewise, RepubliqueVR felt spooky and atmospheric, but its story is slow moving and watching the main character move through the game isn’t nearly as gratifying as actually being the character.
Perhaps the most promising part of the Oculus Go is its social gathering place, not surprising given Facebook owns Oculus.
Perhaps the most promising part of the Oculus Go is its social gathering place, not surprising given Facebook owns Oculus. With Oculus Rooms, you have a place to hang out with friends or, more accurately stated, your friends’ avatars. Because none of my Facebook friends apparently have an Oculus Go, I didn’t yet get the full Rooms experience, but the idea shows promise. You can customize the look of your Room and invite friends to hang out. In one area, you can gather around a table to play board games. In another, you can kick back on the couch to watch movies, listen to music, look at photos, or play any of your purchased games that support multiplayer.
In addition to games, there is a great deal of 360 photos and videos to explore. In fact, one of the first things you’ll do with the Go is choose a background for the Oculus Home interface. It’s like a desktop wallpaper for your PC but 1,000 times cooler. I selected Horseshoe Bend, a rock formation in Arizona, and quickly moved back in my seat because it looked like I was about to fall off a cliff.
Two of my favorite VR videos were of rollercoasters I was too chicken to ride IRL. My wife and I took the kids to Universal Studios, and only my intrepid, thrill-seeking wife was brave enough to ride the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and the Incredible Hulk Coaster. Thanks to Oculus Go, I got to experience both rides, as did my two kids. And now that I know what to expect from each ride, I like to think I’m now more likely to go on the rides should I ever return to Orlando. I was pleased to find the Oculus Go has enough non-gaming utility to be useful for the VR-curious that aren’t looking for a hardcore gaming experience.
The Oculus Go is available in two capacities; 32GB for $199.99 and 64GB for $249.99, and since it’s brand new it is holding steady to that price with no discounts or rebates: