Hands-on review: Google Daydream View

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Google Daydream View is the exciting new virtual reality headset for everyone else on Android who hasn’t bought a new Samsung smartphone and the Samsung Gear VR.

Google Daydream View

Yes, it’s another mobile-based VR headset, but this one is poised to work with more Android phones in the future, starting next month with the brand new Google Pixel and Pixel XL.

Daydream View is also going to be less expensive than the Gear VR. It’s Google’s Chromecast-like bid for virtual reality: beating everyone else on price, and getting way more consumers hooked. Brilliant.

Google Daydream View

Even better,

It’s still early days for Daydream VR platform, based on what we tested at the Google Pixel launch event. There’s a lot of potential, even if it feels like a fabric-lined Samsung Gear VR clone.

Price and release date

Google Daydream View is ridiculously inexpensive for a virtual reality headset, at least one you want to buy. It costs $79 (£69) in the US, beating the Gear VR by a meaningful $20 (£10).

You’ll be able to pre-order the headset soon through the Google Store, or pick it up at Verizon or Best Buy in the US. Currently, the Google Store displays a “wait list” to find out more release date details.

Outside of that, we know that Google Daydream View launches in November. By then, you’ll already have ample time to purchase the Google Pixel or Pixel XL, which debuts on October 20.

Design and specs

Daydream View is relatively the same size and shape of a mobile virtual reality headset, but it’s coated in a distinctive fabric layer that gives new meaning to Google’s “Material Design.”

This likeable, lightweight material feels comfortable to wear, at least in the demo we experienced at the company’s Pixel launch event.

There’s a single elastic band in back holds the headset to your noggin and it’s surprisingly steady. Best of all, it won’t mess up your the top of your hair, mohawks included.

Daydream View has a hand-washable facepad, just in case your first instinct is to ask “What if I get the it dirty?” and Google promises it works with most eyeglasses; Coke-bottle-sized lenses still questionable.

Going with the “natural” fabric design are three different color choices, just in case you want to match your favorite outfit. Slate, Snow and Crimson. Someone in today’s audience was super excited for Crimson.

Games and software

Here’s where the Google Daydream View – and all new Samsung Gear VR challengers – needs to prove itself, and our brief time with the headset proved just that.

Google is touting its exclusive demo of the wand-waving VR game, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find” Them” from the mind wizardly creator J.K. Rowling.

The Harry Potter author isn’t really designing the game based on her new movie, but we were told she did play the game and gave it her thumbs up. Our demo was really too short to judge.

What we did like was exploring the 360 degree realms that showed of the mobile-gaming level graphics, with deep contrast ratios of the 5.5-inch Pixel XL and its 2K resolution. The gameplay as a bit thin.

Less graphically appealing, but more fun was the mini-game collection “Wonderglade.” In our demo, we had to race a ball around a tiltable track by moving the level of the track platform by twisting the remote.

The good news is that Daydream is going to have the Google Play Store, and it’ll feature all sorts of 360-degree content: games, movies, photos and even news experiences.

The grid-like layout of content looks exactly like the Gear VR home screen. That’s okay, because you shouldn’t change what works just because someone else has done Samsung in that fashion.

Google just has to get the library up to speed, and we’d imagine a lot of Samsung Gear VR ports will make their way to the Google Daydream platform in time.

Remote control

Casting spells in “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find” and racing spherical objects in “Wonderglade” is gave us a good idea of what to expect from Google Daydream’s remote control.

The included controller is really tiny – about the size of the Apple TV remote. It’s just as easily losable, so Google decided to put an elastic strap on the inside of the VR headset. It’s a secure place to stash it.

The sensors are what you’d expect from a Wii-like motion controller is a miniaturized form. It’ll sense when you’re swinging a bat or steering an airship, according to Google. Those are the games we want to play next.

This is a flash hands on review, one that we’ll be updating to a full hands on review now that the today’s Google keynote has ended. Join us in an hour for more photos and additional impressions for our take on the Google Daydream View VR headset.

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