Questionable Pricing

Photo by Road to VR

In my time with the Lenovo Mirage Solo so far, I’ve been quite impressed. Despite its weight, the headset takes several important strides toward bringing features formerly only found on high-end VR headsets down to the realm of mobile VR: notably, positional tracking and a wide field of view. However, the rotational-only controller and mobile graphical quality mean this doesn’t really feel like a ‘full’ high-end VR experience. That isn’t a problem in and of itself, but the price needs to reflect that.

Mobile VR is fundamentally oriented toward more casual users, but casual users don’t usually drop $400 on dedicated gaming equipment. Many people willing to drop that much money on a single-use gaming/entertainment device are arguably quite likely to already own a game console or modern gaming computer. If the former, there’s a good chance that they own a PS4 (given that it has a strong lead over the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch), which means they could pick up a PSVR on sale for the same $400 price point. If the latter, they could pick up a Rift for $400 (or even cheaper on sale). Both headsets are likely to provide a more immersive VR experience thanks to greater graphical capabilities and full 6DOF tracking on both head and hands.

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This is mere anecdote, but of my personal friends and family, I can’t think of a single person to whom—if they came to me asking for my recommendation on a VR headset—I would recommend a $400 standalone. If they’re a gamer, the high-end tethered headsets are a solid choice. If they’re casual, I’m not going to suggest they spend $400 for a casual experience—I’d far sooner point them toward a Gear VR or Daydream headset for $100, and if they don’t happen to have a compatible phone, I’d tell them to wait until their next upgrade to get one that would work with either of those headsets.

Not to mention, we don’t know how long it will take until developers are actually designing for a half 6DOF / half 3DOF system like the Mirage Solo. When there are millions of 3DOF-only headsets out there, between Gear VR and Daydream, it hardly makes sense right now for developers to spend time figuring out how their game can take advantage of a 6DOF headset with a 3DOF controller (an odd combination not yet seen in the VR market). It would likely require ground-up redesign in order to take true advantage of the additional capability beyond simply letting players move around a little more. Unless such headsets are pouring into the market in droves, developers may just continue to focus their time on 3DOF VR experiences as a lowest common denominator, making playing VR games on the Mirage Solo like watching a DVD on a Blu-ray player.

This much can be seen in the Daydream menu on the Mirage Solo, which appears to be utterly identical to what’s seen through its 3DOF brethren—there’s no changes made to take advantage of the headset’s new capabilities as a 6DOF device.

The Big But

But, price is the key factor here. There are many advantages to standalone headsets. And while a $400 price point may put the headset into the awkward territory of being designed for casual users but priced for hardcore ones, if that price were to come down to $200, then it would be a completely different ballgame.

This is hopefully the direction that standalone VR is headed: full 6DOF at $200 or less. For the time being, it’s clear that if we want to achieve a $200 price point today, standalone VR is going to look like Oculus Go (3DOF only), while full 6DOF is going to cost more, with half 6DOF / half 3DOF falling somewhere in between as a compromise.

With the high-end headsets dropping drastically in price since the time the standalone Daydream headsets were announced last year, it seems that Lenovo now understands their $400 conundrum. In what appears to be some last-minute re-strategizing, the company sent out a note just ahead of the Mirage Solo’s reveal last week saying, “We’re working on driving down the price so that it’s accessible to more people, and we believe we can reach a more mainstream price point than the [$400] we shared.” Availability of the headset is planned for Q2, and we’ll be hearing more about pricing closer to that time.

So while $400 is the Mirage Solo’s ceiling right now, it isn’t clear how much lower Lenovo will be able to reasonably price the headset at launch. Hopefully though, in due time, the Mirage Solo, and standalone headsets with similar capabilities, will find their way down to $200 or less. That’s when they will start to become properly enticing for the casual segment.


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  • dk

    it’s snapdragon 835…..the price is actually really decent

    • Jackie

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  • Ldj

    Impressed by what they could reach with LCD screens. More details about the technology behind?

  • gothicvillas

    “the graphics and limited anti-aliasing make for a distinct ‘mobile’ look” – stopped reading here. Mobile VR is a bit of poop currently.

  • silvaring

    What really confuses me about standalones is that there isn’t a cheap 3DOF headset that works out the box with some kind of integrated leap motion style hand tracking. It doesn’t have to even be super precise with individual finger tracking or anything it just needs to be good enough for waving / clenched fists etc. Seems to me that this kind of interface would feel a lot more natural than these 3DOF hip controllers.

    • daveinpublic

      Would probably cost the hardware makers less, too, because you don’t need to include the extra controllers. But, the problem may be that the finger tracking software isn’t good enough. You may have to keep your fingers within a window of space. And it could be janky.

    • Sponge Bob

      Leap Motion requires lots of CPU/GPU cycles to track fingers
      This is on top of rendering VR
      Controllers don’t require much computation

    • dk

      qualcomm had leap motion integrated in their reference design and apparently it was working pretty well…..but for various reasons for right now interaction with the 3dof controller will be fine

      • Sponge Bob

        “fine” means useless ?

        • dk

          no it was more or less great ….just google it people were saying it was working great and that sensor was meant for mobile systems as far as having low power requirements and wider fov
          ….also leap motion tracking in general is super close to perfect after the orion software update

          • Sponge Bob

            hand and finger tracking will never replace hand-held or hand-attached controller
            similar to touch screen never replacing good old mouse for productivity applications

          • dk

            and mouse will never replace touchscreen on hand held devices :P … what
            this is not a 2d surface in front of u ….this is u sitting in a virtual world not having the option to use your hands as u use them in everyday life is just sad especially when it already can be done
            yes controllers r great and will be in the game likely forever……I completely agree….but not having your hands tracked and maybe capacitive gloves just for the exact moment of engagement when u pinch something or when your hand is facing away from u or when it’s behind u………it’s just sad not having that as one of the default options for interaction…..when it’s already possible and not expensive

          • Sponge Bob

            hand and finger tracking is nice but but try to use it for productivity apps and you get tired in 5 min
            and its not precise enough for drawing, CAD drafting etc
            (similar to fat finger problem for touch screens)
            6DoF small ergonomic controller attached to your hand or finger
            just one controller, not two of them – we do not use two computer mice
            and no gloves, thanks

      • Lucidfeuer

        The reason is they’re applying the same business (read speculative finance) model as already existing market segments like smartphones or TVs: release crap limited product with just disappointingly enough so that it may justify the sale.

        Or in other word technology retention, cost cutting and more importantly minimum iterative design to sustain release, which for something as unachieved and with a long-road ahead as VR is beyond fucking stupid.

  • daveinpublic

    Pretty cool that this device even exists. VR has come a long way. But, 6DOF controllers would add a lot, that may be the tipping point for me. Unless it was cheaper.

  • Doctor Bambi

    It’s really starting to feel like this headset is largely a 3DOF experience that also happens to do positional tracking as opposed to a fully fleshed out 6DOF package. If that’s the intent and case, then it’s a hard sell over Oculus Go, especially at twice the price.

  • Nathan SculptrVR

    I get horrible migraines in about 15 minutes whenever I use 3dof phone VR. I think I’m flicker sensitive?

    But I don’t have issues with 75fps 6dof standalone headsets. Even if the apps don’t make great use of 6dof, it’s worth paying for the lack of physiological awfulness.

    • benz145

      Could be flicker, could be lack of 6DOF for smaller head movements even if you aren’t walking around. No doubt it’s a great feature that every headset should have, but the price has to be right for it to make any sense.

  • Sky Castle

    I’m waiting for the Santa Cruz. Hope it doesn’t disappoint.

  • Jerald Doerr

    After owning the Vive and a Gear VR I’ll never even consider getting a stand-alone unit until someone comes up with a different controller as the Gear VR controller can barely be called janky.
    The only thing the Gear VR is good for is warming up my phone or amazing 3D porn that got old faster than eating at Hooters!

  • Peter Hansen

    “T-rex Simulator 2018” LMAO

  • Lucidfeuer

    Price is “meh”, 300$ would have been perfect for bulk-buying since it adds inside-out tracking contrary to the Oculus Go, but the rigid headband design makes it useless because you can’t carry a mallet of them around.

    There is absolutely no reason to get one beyond that, so…

  • AJ_74

    It’s unfortunate, but of all the major players in VR right now Sony is the only one that doesn’t appear to have its head shoved squarely up its ass. Sony has a focused, gamer-oriented strategy that is WORKING. Why aren’t the other’s emulating it?

    Microsoft – Releases the Xbox One X – A 4K GAME CONSOLE – with no VR headset/support, but works with PC manufacturers to release Windows “Mixed Reality” headsets, which aren’t mixed reality at all and only work with a handful of actual games. Concedes that VR is in fact primarily for gaming and cobbles together Steam VR support at the last minute.

    Oculus – Has no plans to introduce a proper CV2 anytime soon, but instead will release a standalone headset or two so that we can enjoy mobile VR in all its (non-)glory.

    HTC – Takes 1 step forward with the HTC Vive Pro hardware, but 2 steps backward by marketing it like a smartphone (is that the only way they know how to market a product?). It’s not the HTC Vive’s successor, improving on its areas of weakness while also bringing the cost down to a more mass-market level. No, it’s the “premium” version of the HTC Vive, complete with its “premium” launch price. Learned absolutely nothing from losing its sizable market-share lead in the span of a few months after Oculus’ summer sale and eventual permanent price cut.

    Samsung – Still thinks GearVR is a rousing success. Touts 10+ million headsets sold even though 8+ million of those were given away for free with Samsung Galaxy S and Note-series smartphones. Created the Samsung Odyssey, the very best of an almost pointless line of “mixed reality” headsets. Doesn’t seem concerned that the Oculus Go renders the entire GearVR platform obsolete.

    Dell/Acer/Lenovo/HP – Get free Windows 10 licenses in exchange for making pointless “mixed reality” headsets for Windows.

    Right now, Sony IS the VR market, and unless they can’t read their own tea leaves they’re already aggressively working on PS5 and PSVR2 in tandem.

    • gothicvillas

      well said. As owner of both Vive and PSVR, I cant help but think that PSVR is a complete package. I was on the fence about it and didnt even consider getting PSVR because i thought it will be poor experience. Oh man, how wrong I was! I find myself spending more time on PSVR than Vive. Sony has some quality games out there.

  • Mike549

    I’m for sure getting this. The newest Daydream headset is an improvement over the first and this will be a big improvement over that. Daydream actually has some really good exclusives and the upcoming Blade Runner game looks good.

    Stand alone is the future of VR. This is an early product but I bet it’s closer to what vr looks like in the future than the Rift and Vive where you’re tethered to a PC.

  • oompah

    yes 200$ is good for this
    which gpu it uses?

  • andywade

    I also get the impression that non-US users are an afterthought, and there seems to be little strategy in actually getting the thing into physical, real-world shops where you can actually try it out.

    A good save for them would be if they did a some deals with retailers and got the price down to an even $299 before Christmas – AND made damn sure that this reduction made it to those of us in the rest of the world. I’d snap this up for £230, I must say, but £350 is a bit… much, especially when the Quest is going to cost the same *and* will have dual 6doF controllers!