We had the chance to review the latest standalone headset from Oculus – the Oculus Go. Released in May 2018, this is the first standalone VR headset from the Facebook-owned company.
Oculus Go Review
The Oculus Go represents somewhat of a milestone in virtual reality technology. It gives users a very good VR experience, without the need for a high-end PC or smartphone. Everything you need for a fun and immersive experience is contained within the headset itself. In our in-depth look at the Oculus Rift, we mentioned how the headset plus a powerful PC or laptop could be prohibitively expensive. The Go offers an experience to rival that of its big brother, at only a fraction of the total cost.
In this article, we’ll give an in-depth review of the Oculus Go. We’ll take a look at some of the key specs and features, the design, performance, and available content. Our goal is to give you everything you need to decide whether or not this is the right VR headset for you.
Oculus Go Key Specs
We’ll start by looking at some of the device’s key specifications (Compare with other VR headsets). As we’re about to see, it’s impressive just how much Oculus have managed to pack into this standalone headset.
A 2560 x 1440, 5.5” LCD. It has a standard 60Hz refresh rate and an overclocked option which improves it to 72Hz. The screen managed an impressive 538 ppi.
The Oculus Go runs that latest Android 7.1.2 Nougat OS.
A Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor powers the Oculus Go. It’s the same processor that powers a range of smartphones, including the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, HTC U Ultra, and LG G6. This particular iteration has two 2.3GHz Kryo HP cores and two 2.15GHz Kryo cores, which really do pack a punch.
3GB, sufficient to power the VR experience.
Qualcomm Adreno 530
There are two versions, a 32GB and 64GB version. Neither has the option to expand that.
802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
A Micro-USB slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
190 x 105 x 115 mm
470 g, or 1.04 lbs
32GB $199/£199, 64GB $249/£249
One particularly standout feature is the 2560×1440 screen. Although it’s not an OLED screen like the Oculus Rift; it does have a better resolution than its big brother.
The Rift only produces 2160×1200, meaning they’re comparable in visual quality, despite the gulf in price.
For the price, it is amazing how much they’ve packed into the Go. It has specs comparable to a high-end smartphone, and as we’ll see, delivers performance that can challenge some of the established names.
Oculus Go Hardware
Now, let’s get down to the hardware itself. Unlike every other VR headset on the market today, the Oculus Go doesn’t need to be connected to anything else to use it.
No cable running to a PC or console, and no smartphone to mount in the front. That being said, you’ll still need a smartphone in order to get set up with the device.
You’ll be prompted to download an app to your phone when you unbox the headset, but thankfully the setup is a straightforward process, taking only around 5 minutes. Essentially you need to activate your Wi-Fi settings and calibrate the controller. Then, you’re ready to start.
Perhaps the one weakness of the hardware lies in the limits of its movement tracking. More expensive headsets, such as the Rift and HTC Vive, offer 6 degrees of freedom (DOF). This means you can walk around your virtual environment and your movements are tracked. The Go only provides 3DOF, meaning only your head movements translate to virtual movements. This is fine for those new to VR, but it is a considerable step down from the Vive and Rift. One other slight disappointment is the 101-degree field of vision, lower than the 110-degrees offered by the other two headsets. Still, the Go provides a perfectly solid and immersive experience to newcomers.
A novel inclusion to the hardware is the built-in speakers on the head strap. The open-air units create a good quality of sound, and rarely break the feeling of immersion. However, they’re still discreet enough to mean you’ll hear if your phone goes off or doorbell rings. For those who don’t want their audio being audible to outsiders, the headphone jack gives the option of an in-ear solution.
Oculus Go Key Features
We’ve written about some of the Oculus Go’s main selling points already. The fact it is a standalone unit makes it stand out from the crowd, and effectively opens up a new level in VR headsets. It’s better than any mobile-based technology, but not quite as good as those tethered to PCs. The speakers offer a unique way of conveying sound, creating an immersive atmosphere without being too uncomfortable. Below, we’ve listed some of the other features of note:
Oculus Go Controller
The 3DoF controller that comes bundled with the headset is extremely functional. A sleek design fits in the hand well, and using it feels entirely intuitive. It’s definitely an improvement over those that come with the Google Daydream View and Samsung Gear VR. However, it does have the same level of use or responsiveness as the Oculus Touch controllers that come with the Rift. The Go’s controller works best when it is fully utilised with software, such as in a first-person shooter game.
Unlike the PSVR, Rift, and HTC Vive, the Go doesn’t use an external sensor to track movements. Instead, it uses built-in sensors. As we’ve mentioned this means that forward and backward motions aren’t tracked, but head movements are. It does this 360-degree movement tracking well, although occasional light leakages through the bottom of the visor can disrupt the immersion.
It’s clear that Oculus has taken note from their Rift customers as to what needs to be included in the box. As well as the headset, controller, and necessary charging cables, the Go also has a lens cloth and glasses spacer, making it much easier to use the device if you wear glasses.
Oculus Go Design
On the surface, the Go looks pretty much like any other virtual reality headset. The design is pretty much a variation on the theme. However, despite this, it’s still a very well-designed piece of tech. It feels like a high-end headset, with sturdy construction that sits comfortably on the face. The fabric on the inner lining is immensely comfortable. The straps are also nice and soft, and reasonably easy to adjust for your head size. Overall it is a little front-heavy though, and you may feel the pressure on your cheeks after extended use.
One especially useful feature of the design is the power sensor. The headset will automatically power up when you put it on and power down when you take it off. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into making a user-friendly device. The rest of the design is clean and simple. All of the buttons are easily reachable, as is the headphone jack and micro-USB port. As mentioned above, the controller is also perfectly ergonomic, and after a short learning curve, you barely realise you’re using it.
One downside of the design is that it still lets in a fair amount of light at the bridge of the nose. It depends what you’re using the headset for, but it can certainly sometimes be more noticeable than is ideal.
Oculus Go Software and Content
The Oculus Go makes use of an app store to deliver content. There are around 1000 apps currently available, and doubtless, many more will arrive. A lot of the content is relatively reasonably priced, with each app only costing a few dollars or pounds (although some are free). Getting set up with the Oculus Store is an easy process, requiring a linked credit card or PayPal account to make purchases. Even with the smaller 32GB storage version, you’ll still be able to store around 3 HD movies, 10 games and 20 apps according to Oculus. Of course, this will differ slightly depending on file size.
One particularly interesting software feature of the Go is Oculus Rooms. This is a social gathering space where you can virtually hang out with your friends, providing they too have a headset. It’s a novel way of staying in touch with friends across the world. Aside from this, the Go performs well with many of the games and content available. Although mostly mobile-style games inhabit the store, there are a few gems currently available. If gaming isn’t your thing, it’s still a really great way to watch a movie or experience one of the many VR videos that are available in the store.
Oculus Go Review: Final Thoughts
This is a fantastic headset for many reasons. VR technology has a long way to go before it can be considered mainstream, but the Go takes a big step towards that. The fact it’s a self-contained device that’s incredibly easy to set up and start enjoying gives it great appeal. For the price, there isn’t currently a better option for trying out VR.
The design is comfortable, ergonomic, and functional. There are a few niggling issues with the weight and light seepage, but aside from that, it’s a well-constructed piece of hardware. It may not have all of the features of the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but for a fraction of the price, it comes pretty close. Performance-wise, it’s probably on par with the PSVR. Hopefully, it paves the way for more standalone VR devices, and eventually one that has full 6DoF support.
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.