One of the frustrating things about some of the top VR headsets on the market today is the wires. The PlayStation VR, for example, takes a good deal of plugging in and configuring before you can accurately use it. Similarly, both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have a cable connecting them to your PC. This cable trails behind you wherever you move, meaning you have to be continuously aware of it. Although it’s unlikely you’d actually ever trip on it, this method of tethering can break your level of immersion. Lenovo, partnered with Google, hope to change this with their Mirage Solo VR headset.
The concept of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is to bring wireless and immersive VR at an affordable price. As we saw in our Mirage Solo review, it succeeds in this to a certain degree. In this guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about this revolutionary headset. We’ll cover how it works, what you need to run it, how much it costs, and how it compares to some other headsets in a similar price range. We’ll also look at some of the top games currently available for the device.
What is the Lenovo Mirage Solo?
The Lenovo Mirage Solo is the first standalone virtual reality headset that offers full movement tracking. It’s powered by Google’s Daydream platform and gives users the ability to enter virtual environments without the need for an expensive PC or smartphone to power the experience. Traditionally, VR has been the reserve of either high-powered computers or less immersive mobile phones that sit in front of a pair of lenses. Lenovo and Google realized that this was often prohibitive, and wanted to create a headset that combined freedom of movement without the need for an external connection.
The two front-facing cameras are what make this virtual reality headset so very different from anything that we’ve seen before. They allow for the device to track movements in 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF), meaning that every directional movement you make while wearing the headset translates into your virtual experience. As we mentioned in our review, the technology isn’t perfect yet. However, it is an exciting development for the future of VR. The system that the Mirage Solo uses is known as WorldSense, or inside-out tracking, and it represents a step up from previous technologies we’ve seen. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, for example, use external sensors to track headset movement.
How the Lenovo Mirage Solo Works
The best way to think of this headset is as a specialised version of the Google Daydream View or Samsung Gear VR. It has a similar processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR, which is specifically modified for virtual reality. It also has 4GB of dedicated RAM and uses an Android-based operating system. A VR-optimised LCD panel with a 2560×1440 resolution and 110-degree field of view places the headset on a comparable level, visually anyway, as the Vive or Rift headsets.
Above, we mentioned the cameras that the Lenovo headset has. Their fisheye lenses track both external ‘feature points’ of the environments as well as inertial measurements from the headset. In doing so, the WorldSense system is able to estimate the user’s position accurately. Google claims that it works well in both dim and bright conditions, indoors and outdoors. If the conditions would allow you to read a book, the WorldSense technology will be able to track your VR movements. If you use the headset in an entirely empty room, the cameras will have no reference points and will then revert back to standard 3DoF tracking. Sadly, the controller that is bundled with the headset can only ever track 3DoF. It’s the same controller that is bundled with the Google Daydream View.
Lenovo Mirage Solo Requirements
The main selling point of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is that you don’t need anything other than what’s included in the box to experience virtual reality. We’ve seen with many other headsets that you need to have an expensive PC, powerful smartphone, console, or extra sensors in order to use the device fully. The PlayStation VR headset, for example, requires an extra camera and controllers as well as a PlayStation 4 console to get the most out of the system. Similarly, the Oculus Rift only ships with two sensors. In order to achieve room-scale tracking, you need to purchase a third.
With Lenovo’s headset, you can literally take it anywhere and use it. You don’t have to worry about wires other than a power cord to charge it. You can use it outside, take it with you when you travel, and use your smartphone at the same time.
How Much Does the Lenovo Mirage Solo Cost?
The cost of the Mirage Solo places it in its own unique class of headset. At £349/$399, it’s around the same price as an Oculus Rift and slightly more expensive than a PlayStation VR. However, once you’ve purchased the device, you don’t need to worry about buying a console or PC to run it. Similarly, while it’s more expensive than the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View, the cost of the smartphone doesn’t need to be accounted for.
The only other standalone headset on the marketplace is the Oculus Go. Similarly, this headset doesn’t require an external device to power it. The Go is also significantly cheaper. However, Oculus’s headset does not feature 6DoF tracking. The difference is significant, but then again, so is the price.
Lenovo Mirage Solo vs Oculus Go
These are the two headsets that really go head to head. Regarding target audience, they’re likely to be the same: people looking to experience VR without needing lots of expensive tech to go with it. As we’ve said, the Oculus Go is a lot cheaper than the Lenovo Mirage Solo; $199/£199 as opposed to £349/$399. But the Lenovo has many more features than Oculus. The processor is more advanced, it has 6DoF tracking, more internal storage, and it has a wider field of view. These features are more than enough to distinguish it from the cheaper Oculus headset.
Despite the obvious hardware advantages the Mirage Solo has, it’s somewhat let down by its software offering. The range of games and apps on the Daydream store is rather more limited than on the Oculus store. Furthermore, certain apps seem to be more expensive on the Mirage Solo than on the Go.
Lenovo Mirage Solo vs Oculus Rift
In terms of price, these two headsets are fairly evenly matched. The Oculus Rift was recently lowered in price to just £399/$399. For this price, you also get two fantastic touch controllers and two sensors. These components combine to give a nearly unrivalled level of immersion when it comes to exploring VR. The controllers for the Rift are tracked in relation to the headset, meaning your hand movements and gestures translate to your virtual environment. This is a level of immersion beyond that offered by the Lenovo headset. Again, the Rift has a broader range of games and apps on offer too.
Where the Rift struggles against the Mirage Solo is in regards to the tech requirements. The Oculus headset needs an incredibly powerful PC, particularly when it comes to the graphics card. One of these can cost at least £750/$800. So, if you don’t already own a high-end computer, the Mirage Solo seems like the better option.
Lenovo Mirage Solo vs Google Daydream View
Google’s Daydream View headset uses the same platform as the Lenovo Mirage Solo. However, the former is a mobile-based virtual reality experience. It requires a high-end smartphone to run the platform and only offers 3DoF tracking. The Daydream View is perhaps most similar to both the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Go headsets. The Lenovo, therefore, has the edge in terms of visual quality, immersion, and usability.
Again, the Google Daydream View is considerably cheaper than the Mirage Solo at £49/$99, but you also have to account for the cost of a high-end smartphone to power it.
Lenovo Mirage Solo for Entertainment
With a battery life that averages 2.5 hours, there’s plenty you can use the Lenovo headset for. One of the intriguing features that aren’t available on other devices is the Mirage’s camera. It’s capable of recording 180-degree video right to the internal memory or SD card. So, if you want to share your experiences whilst wearing the headset, it’s a nice feature.
At launch, there were around 70 apps that supported the WorldSense 6DoF tracking of the Mirage Solo. Compared to the Oculus headsets, that’s quite a limited. That being said, the quality of the screen concerning resolution and field of view means that even 3DoF entertainment experiences are noticeably better than on other mobile headsets. Immersing yourself in movies or live entertainment is highly enjoyable. One of the real benefits of being standalone is that you simply need to put the headset on and you can dive right in; you don’t need to plug in a phone or boot up your PC.
Lenovo Mirage Solo for Gaming
There are a growing number of games available on the Daydream store that the Mirage headset can run. Sadly, the number of games that make use of the 6DoF features of the device is somewhat limited for the time being. As more 6DoF headsets are released, there will be a wider range of games being released. It’s a shame that the selection is so restrictive; headsets such as the Vive and Rift have proven how amazing and immersive these games can be.
Another element that holds the headset back as a gaming device is the controller. Because it only tracks 3DoF, a large amount of interactivity is lost. Again, the high-end headsets all feature better controllers which make gaming a more appealing prospect.
Lenovo Mirage Solo Top Games
As we mentioned above, the range of apps that make full use of the potential offered by WorldSense is limited. However, there are some titles that stand out:
Blade Runner: Revelations
The Blade Runner series is the epitome of sci-fi and futurism, which makes it ideal for a VR experience. The game places players into the point of view of a veteran blade runner who must unravel a replicant plot. It’s fun, immersive, and looks great on the Lenovo Mirage Solo.
This snow-based frolic uses the positional tracking of the Mirage Solo headset to good effect. Players take part in snowball fights against various opponents and must duck and move to avoid being hit.
Another winter-themed game is Extreme Whiteout; a snowboarding game that uses head movements to steer and avoid obstacles.
Lenovo Mirage Solo Review
It’s clear that the Lenovo Mirage Solo is an important piece of hardware. It truly pushes the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from virtual reality headsets. The fact that you can take it anywhere and play it in just about any location makes it incredibly versatile. It brings some of the excellent features we’ve seen from other 6DoF headsets to the mainstream. However, despite the hardware advances, the Lenovo headset suffers from being on the Daydream platform. There are few apps that take advantage of the WorldSense technology, meaning the overall experience is somewhat lacking.
Hopefully, more developers release games and apps on the platform over the coming years. Doing so will encourage other companies to develop hardware that brings standalone VR to consumers. Read our Mirage Solo hands-on review here.
It’s clear that Google is trying to progress virtual reality technology. The Lenovo Mirage Solo is definitely an innovative piece of hardware, largely thanks to the front-facing cameras and WorldSense technology.