Oculus Go is probably the most important thing to happen to VR technology in 2018. Not because it’s the best headset on the market – not by any means – but because it changes all the rules for people looking to buy their first VR headset. With Oculus Go, you don’t need a PC, console or smartphone to power your VR experience; you simply slip on the headset to get involved.
“…you no longer need additional hardware to get a taste of virtual reality.”
This is one of the few “standalone” VR headsets to hit the market this year, which means you no longer need additional hardware to get a taste of virtual reality. Better yet, you can get your hands on one of these for as little as £199 and this means the total entry price for VR technology is lower than we’ve ever seen.
Oculus Go makes VR cheaper, easier and more accessible to the mainstream market, which means this could be the device that takes headsets out of the showrooms and into the households of millions. If nothing else, it’s already forcing other manufacturers to up their game and develop headsets for casual users, instead of focusing on gaming enthusiasts.
The question is: how much can the £199 Oculus Go really offer compared to more expensive options and is this the first VR headset you should buy?
Why is Oculus Go such a big deal?
Oculus Go has earned itself a reputation as a turning point for VR. This hasn’t got anything to do with spec sheets or a new breakthrough in technology, though. People are excited about Oculus Go because it packages existing VR tech into a truly standalone headset that doesn’t require additional hardware, such as a games console or high-end smartphone.
You can walk into a store today, buy Oculus Go and dive right into a virtual reality world.
With headsets like Oculus Rift – the Go’s more expensive big brother – you need a serious gaming PC to provide the content and processing power for rich VR experiences. Then you have mobile VR headsets such as Samsung Gear VR, which offer a less sophisticated kind of VR compared to Rift but give you more freedom of movement and cost a fraction of the price.
In fact, Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream headsets are both cheaper than Oculus Go, costing around £120 and £100 respectively. The problem is Gear VR is only compatible with flagship Samsung smartphones and Daydream only works with a few high-end mobiles, which adds another £500-£700 to their entry prices.
This isn’t a problem if you already own a compatible device but you’re stuck if you just upgraded to the latest iPhone.
Oculus Go vs the Competition
Oculus Go promises to make VR truly portable and affordable for everyone, but how does it stack up against more expensive headsets? Let’s quickly run through the competition to see how much you’re actually getting for your £199 with Oculus Go.
Oculus Go vs Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift costs twice as much as the Go and is aimed at serious gamers, so these two VR sets are never really competing against each other. Rift’s tracking system is far more advanced and taps into the processing hardware of powerful computers to create highly rich VR experiences.
If you want the best VR tech on the market right now, Oculus Rift and PSVR are the first devices to look at, depending on how you prefer to play your games.
Oculus Go is doing something entirely different. It provides an affordable and truly-mobile entry into VR that competes with the likes of Samsung Gear VR and a number of new headsets due for release this year.
Oculus Go vs Samsung Gear VR
While Oculus Go isn’t designed to compete with Rift, Samsung Gear VR is precisely the kind of headset it aims to take on. The biggest problem for Samsung is that Gear VR only works with the latest Samsung smartphones while Oculus Go is phone independent (although you will need an Android or iOS device to set up Oculus Go via the mobile app).
If you’re a Samsung phone owner, then the Samsung Gear VR asking price of £119 beats Oculus Go at £199. However, keep in mind that you’ll have to stick with Samsung smartphones if you want to keep using Gear VR, whereas Go will work the same, regardless of which phone you upgrade to next.
In terms of pure specs and the VR experience, there isn’t much between Oculus Go and Gear VR. Samsung’s VR headset is built by Oculus anyway and the Go has the slightly better display and audio specs, which you would expect from a newer device. You won’t really notice this when you’re using either device, though, and you’ll be better off paying attention to which headset and controller feel more comfortable to you.
Oculus Go vs Lenovo Mirage Solo
Lenovo’s Mirage Solo is another standalone VR headset that doesn’t rely on a smartphone to operate. Using Google’s Daydream Standalone technology, Mirage Solo provides a slightly different experience to the Oculus VR environment and Lenovo’s headset offers the better spec sheet with a more powerful processor, more sophisticated tracking system, larger battery and better connectivity options.
It also costs more than Oculus Go ($399 vs $199 in the US) which will put it in the same price bracket as Oculus Rift if it sells at £399 when it hits shelves in the UK this June. The other problem for Lenovo is only 70 of the 450 Daydream apps currently available in the Google Play Store take full advantage of the Mirage Solo’s specifications. This will change with time, of course, but the Lenovo advantages over Oculus Go are fairly modest at this stage, despite the better hardware.
Oculus Go vs HTC Vive Focus
HTC’s Vive Focus also beats Oculus Go on the spec sheet, matching the Mirage Solo’s inside-out 6DOF headset tracking and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC processor. The Vive Focus also boasts higher resolution with dual 1,600 × 1,440 OLED panels, which beats the Go and Solo alike.
In terms of hardware, HTC comes out on top but it’s at a disadvantage when it comes to content. While Oculus Go taps into the existing library of Gear VR content (thanks to the Oculus-Samsung partnership) and Mirage Solo uses Google’s Daydream, HTC has developed its own ecosystem which has a lot of catching up to do.
Aside from this, you can’t buy the Vive Focus in the UK or anywhere outside of China for that matter. Prices are expected to be in the $525 region for the US and, while the reception in China has been largely positive, this could be a difficult price to justify considering the cheaper options available.
What can you do with Oculus Go?
Oculus has made its Go headsets binary compatible with Gear VR, which means Oculus Go has access to more than 1,000 games, experiences and apps already available for Samsung Gear VR users. You also get a range of apps exclusive to the Oculus ecosystem and a set of new environments launched especially for Oculus Go – some of which are available on Gear VR as well.
To give you an idea of what Oculus Go is capable of, let’s take a look at some of the experiences and games you can look forward to.
Al Jazeera’s Contrast VR
Al Jazeera’s Contrast VR puts you on the front line of news reporting, providing a 360° view of the world around you. The award-winning media network is pioneering the way news stations tell stories with unique documentaries, videos and livestreams that take you behind the scenes of the world’s biggest news events and most pressing issues.
Jurassic World: BLUE
In Jurassic World: Blue you follow the adventures of a highly-intelligent velociraptor named Blue as she fights for survival on an island overrun by dinosaurs and also faces the constant threat of natural disasters. Aside from facing volcanic eruptions and lifeless wastelands, you’ll also come snout-to-snout with some of the islands most dangerous predators.
MelodyVR takes you to live performances from your favourite artists, allowing you to enjoy the show in 360-degrees, from multiple spots around the venue. You can park yourself in front row seats, step back to take it all in or even get up on stage for a closer look at the action. While the MelodyVR app is free, you will have to pay a fee to watch certain shows.
Space Explorers offers a cinematic VR experience of being a NASA astronaut and a grand vision of humanity’s future in the universe. You’ll get to see the challenges and sacrifices NASA’s finest face during training and missions, get a view of space programs around the world and the latest advancements and ambitious plans for deep space exploration.
They Suspect Nothing
They Suspect Nothing is a cheeky collection of mini-games where you play the last human on Earth trying to infiltrate a robot society. You’ll work your way through a series of human detection tests where you’ll need to prove your skills as a robot to avoid suspicion. Your challenges include open part surgery, piloting a drone and managing rush hour in an explosives plant – what could possibly go wrong?
République VR is a stealth action game developed by industry veterans responsible for games such as Metal Gear Solid, Halo and F.E.A.R. You play as a woman called Hope, who is trapped in a futuristic totalitarian state run by a sophisticated surveillance network. Your mission is to hack this network and guide Hope through a series of traps and heavily guarded mazes.
Anshar Online is a space shooter that puts you inside the cockpit of an intergalactic battleship. This online, multiplayer game is also available on Oculus Rift and Gear VR, making it easier for you to team up with mates and take on enemy teams through a series of challenges.
That gives you an idea of the kind of things you can expect to do with Oculus Go. What you don’t get is access to PC gaming in the same way you get with Rift. So if you’re wondering whether Oculus Go can play Steam games or Rift titles, the answer is no. For the high-end VR experience that comes with titles such as Skyrim VR or Robo Recall, you’ll have to pay up for a PC and Oculus Rift setup.
Will Oculus Rift go down in price?
Oculus Rift prices have dropped substantially over the past year and it’s obvious that VR prices are generally heading downwards. Competition is heating up between manufacturers and they’re now fighting it out for the mainstream consumer market, which means virtual reality will continue to become more affordable and more innovative at the same time.
Great news all round.
However, Oculus Rift’s current price tag of £399 seems about right in the current market so we don’t expect any more major price drops until the company replaces it with a new flagship headset. Sure, you might save the odd £50 in promotions here or there or get some free vouchers, but that’s about it.
So, if you’re sure Rift is the VR set for you, you may as well go ahead and buy it now so you can enjoy the best of its technology for longer, while it’s still one of the top VR experiences in the industry.
What are reviews of Oculus Go saying?
Early reviews of Oculus Go are very positive (read our Oculus Go review here) – albeit some more than others. If you’re expecting the best VR experience available for $199/£199 then you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you have realistic expectations of Oculus Go, as a budget entry point into VR technology that you can take anywhere, it’s difficult to criticise Oculus’ first standalone headset.
While Lenovo and HTC offer marginally better VR specs, they’re significantly more expensive and Oculus still comes out on top in terms of content – at least for now. The Mirage Solo and Vive Focus experiences will continue to improve as more content is developed that puts their hardware to full use but there isn’t a great deal between them and Oculus Go at this point.
When you consider the price and how quickly things develop in this industry, it’s hard to ignore Oculus Go as your first buy into VR technology while you wait for standalone headsets to offer more.
Should I buy Oculus Go as my first VR kit?
If you’re new to VR and hungry to get a taste without spending serious money, it’s difficult to recommend anything else right now. Oculus Go is the first standalone headset to really bust the entry price into VR gear and the experience it provides is as good or very close to all of its current competitors.
The only other reason not to buy Oculus Go is if you’re a serious gamer and you want the best VR experience available.
If you own a Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream compatible smartphone, then Oculus Go isn’t the cheapest VR option for you at this level. That being said, Samsung and Google’s offerings could restrict your smartphone choices in the future if you want to keep using them.
The only other reason not to buy Oculus Go is if you’re a serious gamer and you want the best VR experience available. In this case, you’ll be looking at a select few options like Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR as your gateways to a virtual reality world.
We loved this headset. It's a great choice for those who are dipping their toe into the world of VR and it's almost certainly the turning point for mainstream VR. We can't wait to see what's next from the Oculus standalone headset stable.