Oculus Go was announced months ago, but it wasn’t until this week at GDC 2018 that the company actually made the headset available to try.

At the Oculus booth today we got our first good look at Oculus Go, the $200 standalone VR headset that the company hopes will hit a sweet spot of price and accessibility. The Go is a lot like Gear VR, but instead of snapping your phone into the headset, everything is built inside. That spares you from needing to drain your phone’s battery as you play, and unlocks the power of the hardware inside by offering improved thermals and removing unnecessary components.

Visuals

Photo by Road to VR

Putting on the headset, the new lenses (now Fresnel) offer what appears to be a larger field of view than the latest Gear VR, achieving a view close to that of the Rift. In terms of resolution, the Go (like Gear VR) actually packs quite a few more pixels than the Rift: 1,280 × 1,440 vs. 1,080 × 1,200.

Of course, resolution is only one part of what determines the overall visual fidelity, and while the view inside is noticeably more sharp than in the Rift, with much less screen door effect, the more limited horsepower means that the graphics of the games inside the headset still fall easily into the “mobile” class. Granted, Go’s sharp display would probably be preferable if photo or video viewing is your primary use-case. We’ll need more hands-on time with the headset to really get a good feel for the finer details of the display, but if ‘Gear VR graphics with an Oculus Rift field of view’ means anything to you, then you’ve already got a good sense for Go’s visual performance.

Controller

Photo by Road to VR

The Go controller, which seems to borrow its core shape from Touch, feels more comfortable than the Gear VR controllers that launched last year. Its rounded design just seems to fit so nicely in your hand, and the bend at the top makes reaching the trackpad and buttons easy, while the trigger is in a great spot and depresses along a hinge (which feels more natural), rather than being a glorified button.

Like the headset itself, the Go controller only supports rotational (3DOF) tracking. Games use the rotational movement to roughly infer the movement of your arm, but ultimately the experience is like playing a game where your arm is attached to your torso by your elbow—meaning your can swing it around, but only from a singular point. It’s better than having no controller, but not nearly as good as having a fully tracked controller (6DOF), like we see with more advanced headsets like the Rift and Vive. For more on how the controller is used with the headset and as input for VR games, much of our Gear VR Controller Review applies (as both controllers have feature-parity and are cross-compatible as far as apps are concerned).

Convenience Over New Features

Given that Go supports all Gear VR apps, you won’t be surprised to find that the in-headset experience is very similar to Gear VR, which means it’s decidedly ‘mobile class’ in terms of interactions and graphics. However, many of Go’s biggest benefits are about convenience and ease of use rather than differences in features and functions.

For instance, the audio from Go’s built-in speakers is smartly routed through the stiff struts of the headstrap; a small slit lets the sound out right near your ears. That means you can get decent audio without needing to fiddle with headphones after you’ve put on the headset (a surprisingly grating annoyance). And while you could always do the same with Gear VR, in that case it would just use the phone’s speakers, which aren’t very high quality, are muffled by the headset, and can’t offer proper stereo. With Go, you get better headphone-free audio, and it’s stereo too.

Sound from the headset’s speakers comes from these slots in the headband (which are right next to your ear while wearing). | Photo by Road to VR

It was unfortunately too loud where we were testing Go to get a good feel for the audio quality, so we’ll have to revisit that aspect. At very least, it can get quite loud, easily loud enough for me to hear the game I was playing against the background of thousands of conference goers on an expo floor. Luckily, there’s also a 3.5mm audio jack on the headset in case you do want enhanced quality or a little more audio privacy.

Another convenience is simply not needing to A) own one particular type of phone in order to use a Gear VR, and B) not needing to sacrifice the use of your phone to your VR session. With Gear VR, you have to slap your phone into the headset which means draining its battery, making you unavailable calls, texts photos, etc, and dealing with fingerprints, dirt, and dust on your phone’s screen. With Go, all the hardware is built in so you can just pick it up, put it on, and …Go (I see what they did there).

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What’s more, building the hardware into the headset to be optimized for VR has huge advantages over trying to use phone-optimized hardware. The key is that, because Go doesn’t have to be a phone, Oculus can eliminate unnecessary components, spread things out, optimize components (like putting in a bigger battery that couldn’t fit in a phone), and overall create much more efficient thermal dissipation from the same kind of hardware which is otherwise crammed into your phone and tuned for very different types of usage. Better thermal dissipation means the hardware inside can run faster with less risk of overheating, which Gear VR is often prone to do.

So even though Oculus Go is powered by phone hardware that’s several years old, Oculus says it can perform better than Gear VR, because the extra efficiency allows it to run at higher performance, which means cranking up the rendering resolution and even the framerate.

Aesthetics

Photo by Road to VR

Like the Rift, it’s clear that a lot of thought has been put into the Go’s aesthetics. The headset feels very solidly put together, and made with materials that feel more like a ‘device’ than a mere accessory. And while the headset feels a bit front-heavy, the strap design helps offset that with a few smart additions, like the rigid struts around which the headset can pivot against the user’s face, and the double-strap in the back that finds a nice place to hug your head. Short term comfort seems promising, but until we have a good hour or so to wear the headset, it’ll be tough to judge long term comfort.

– – — – –

While the Oculus Go lacks some features (like 6DOF headtracking) offered by other forthcoming standalone headsets like the Lenovo Mirage Solo ($400), it’s also going to be priced at half the cost ($200), despite a very similar visual experience. In the end, Oculus’ focus on accessibility (both by hardware design and by price) seems like it could more readily appeal to the kind of casual VR user that the Go and many other standalones are targeting.

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  • Ombra Alberto

    Add that it greatly improves the use of such a device with glasses.

    • Paula

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      • Harry Cox

        Good point

        • Firestorm185

          Yes, Google paying people 97 US dollars an hour… very good point. xD

          • Harry Cox

            Yeah, should really have its own article on here

          • Firestorm185

            Yeah, right? I mean, it’d make it so much easier for RTVR readers to see if they just made it an article rather than a comment every time! Then we’d all be making 100$ an hour working on Google’s VR projects at home! It’s so easy, I can’t believe they’re choosing to make it comment-based… unless they only want those active in the community to see the opportunity! OoO That must be it! It must be just you and me, Harry! xD

          • Harry Cox

            Well put. I feel so privileged!

          • JJ

            dang i must be missing out! I also love the terrible grammar in those spam posts. clearly someone from an eastern area who hasn’t grasped all of english yet/

          • Firestorm185

            Google has some strange marketing habits indeed! xDDDD

          • wcalderini

            And we could ALL have a latest Chevrolet.

      • VR Geek

        Who are they are fools that believe this crap?

      • Tell me more!

    • benz145

      I don’t wear glasses so this isn’t something I’m likely to notice myself — did you try it for yourself or are you just referring to the fact that they’ve said it’s better for glasses at some point?

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    I will by one just to play the only motorcycle game in VR “Superbike VR”

    • jj

      dang a comment by jean that isnt negative? Good job!

      • brubble

        Ive taken over from Jean.

    • Pretty good VR sim, that.

  • Veron

    For people into 360 video, VR porn or virtual tours, this device is the holy grail.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      For VR Porn you really also want positional tracking ;)

      • Laurence Nairne

        That would make POV very disorientating.

  • Ian Shook

    Is the audio …hearable… to others nearby? I see there’s no in-ear option.

    • dk

      in the last photo next to the usb port is what looks like a 3.5mm jack …and I see it was mentioned in the article

    • Graham J ⭐️

      I’m sure you can turn it down enough that others won’t hear the moaning.

    • benz145

      It is but not much more than usual on-ear headphones. As mentioned, there’s a 3.5mm jack too.

    • There’s a headphone jack.

  • Graham J ⭐️

    I like the idea of a standalone headset, but not without positional tracking and not from Facebook.

    • Xron

      Well, there is always Htc, you might be able to buy something from them for 600$+ after their stand alone leaves china only market.
      For average consumer 200$ pricetag is what he needs.

      • dk

        in the mean time 6dof Lenovo daydream headset – $400
        and 64gb Go $250-280

  • Kenji Fujimori

    Isn’t Facebook the owners of rift being sued for privacy issues?

  • Good review as always, Ben!

  • WyrdestGeek

    Re Gear VR overheat: yeah Gear VR does overheat. *a lot*

    Suggested test for Go VR: Try launching Altspace VR and see if you can wall around for more than 30 seconds without it overheating. That would be an improvement.

  • Brad Fessler

    The need for a standalone headset has been existing for awhile in the education sector. Is there a way to control a group of these for a teacher? Controlling what content is playing on all of the headsets at the same time? This is possible with the Gear VR by inserting a small text file onto the controlled devices.

  • brubble

    Jeeves, summon Sir Rift the 2nd. ;)

  • Lance

    Hello, I’m trying g to use an Oculus Go in China but I have some problem setting it up, anybody with some experience there that could suggest how to overcome the geography?? Best, jv