Just before noon at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom, guests to Samsung’s Unpacked 2016 were invited to the floor to demo new phones and accessories. And, given the event’s drama-infused focus on the Galaxy Note 7, that is what the new Gear VR felt like—an accessory, if a glorified one.

Fair enough: the Note 7 is, after all, the brains behind the Gear VR and, moreover, a product immensely more important to Samsung’s bottom line. While the following details were not emphasized (or, for the most part, mentioned) during the Unpacked event, they were made available via a press release and old-fashioned in-person inquiry.

  1. The rumors were true: the FoV has been improved from 96 to 101 degrees. This difference is going to be—or was for me, at least—difficult to notice without an older Gear VR at hand to compare to the new model. For comparison, the top desktop-class headsets have a field of view around 110 degrees.
  2. The headset is, at least hypothetically, more comfortable thanks to added padding around the eyes and a more robust strap-adjustment system. The longer straps were, in my experience, the more noticeable difference.
  3. The headset comes in black and blue.
  4. Buttons: Samsung has raised the touchpad to be flush with the rest of the device and has added a Home button that returns the user to Oculus Home with one touch.
  5. While there’s a USB-C port for the Note 7, the device also supports older phones via an included Micro-USB adapter
  6. An additional USB-C port atop the unit promises some sort of as-yet-unknown accessory or device integration in the future.
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See Also: Everything You Need to Know About Samsung Gear VR Phone Compatibility

Reading the above list of new and/or nominally improved features, one can figure a third explanation for why Samsung opted not to detail the Gear VR’s upgrades during its presentation: they’re modest. Especially given that the Note 7 retains the same 2560x1440p resolution as all prior Gear VR-compatible phones, the new Gear VR is not a generational leap. Thankfully though, Samsung has ensured backwards compatibility with all phones that were supported by the former version of the headset.

About my experience with the new Gear VR for Note 7: my hands-on was limited to demos and 360 videos. I was very much ‘on the rails’. What I can say is that the headset does feel slightly more comfortable than its predecessor, and the new button layout is welcome. Being able to tap a single button to return to Oculus Home is convenient compared to holding the back button to launch the menu and then further selecting your way Home.

gear vr note 7 smr323 (4)

The flush touchpad’s effect on user experience is harder to assess; the recess better enabled me to locate the touchpad on the older model when I began using it. I feel that any difference in initial usability, however, will be quickly rendered marginal after 10 minutes of use. In other words, the learning curve is small. The headset was otherwise as solid as it’s ever been—lightweight, easy to slide a phone in and out of, fairly sturdy, fairly sleek.

gear vr note 7 smr323 (3)

At the event, two ‘4D’ stations (using the prior Gear VR headset) took users through a kayaking experience and an Olympic training and achievement montage (Samsung is, and has been, a sponsor, it was emphasized many times over, of the Olympics). The seats shook. People watched seats shake people sitting watching short sports pieces—in 4D. This particular Gear VR-centric corner of the floor came off as a less engaging version of the ‘virtual rollercoaster’ arcade machines that have populated American malls for who knows how long.

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gear vr note 7 smr323 (1)

Whatever the case, I left Hammerstein Ballroom thinking that, as nice as the improvements to the Gear VR are, it’d be hard to imagine spending $99 on one if I already had the original consumer model. For anyone else with $99 in disposable income, an interest in mobile VR and a Samsung phone, the new device offers slightly more reason than already existed to invest in Gear VR.

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  • Simon Therrien

    The pre order is now available (for us)..
    http://www.samsung.com/us/explore/gear-vr/

  • ZenInsight

    I will buy it when I have a 4K Samsung phone. Especially if dual cameras enables head tracking. Visible hand controllers would be a plus too.

    • VirtualBro

      Yeah, it’d be nice if the phone + VR headset adapter only cost $300 total too. Also I’d like it if the headset weighed under 100g and could turn transparent so you could just wear it all the time. And of course it’d be great if it could run Xbox 360 or better-quality graphics at 90+hz in stereo

    • OgreTactics

      Dual-cameras could enable some AR, but I doubt it’ll be enough to resolve internal head-tracking (although it still baffles me as to why it’s not been made).

      However an integrated Tango system could not only enable accurate AR but also accurate and fast enough tracking to enable head and movement tracking, maybe even hand tracking.

      Let’s hope for the Galaxy S8.

      • ZenInsight

        I guess Qualcomm disagrees with you. Video review here:

        http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/qualcomm-snapdragon-vr820-hands-on/

        • OgreTactics

          You mean, they agree with me and proved that this has been in a pipeline for months?

          My point was, why the fuck has not one of the billion crap tech companies like Google, Samsung or HTC implemented it yet?

          • ZenInsight

            May be the Phone cpu’s are not good enough yet? Or the nm size of the chips need to shrink because using a camera to check 3d space eats battery? Beats me.

          • OgreTactics

            Battery is not a problem as far as I’m concerned since I can get more battery for a GearVR session that I’d want to stay in this session or even showcase apps.

            There are indeed limitation in processing buffering, which means you are now able to do certain things (environment tracking, head motion, AR overlay…) but not others (hand reconstruction, accurate object mapping…).

            Which means the tech is vastly optimal and good enough so that it should be implemented ASAP in smartphones and mobile VR. This is the key to simultaneously unlock the potential of millions of apps, tools, games, experiments…and as many people investing, developing, experimenting with it.

  • OgreTactics

    ULTRA disappointed by the limited FOV. The Galaxy S7/NOTE 7 resolution is good enough so that you don’t have screen-door effect (instead, what I call led-curtain effect), but the reduced limited FOV is unbearable and in fact one of the most impractical point of VR today, or so I’ve came to realise 3 years down the road.

    120° FOV with anamorphobic lenses is really not that fucking hard to implement and is a minimum, also I wonder why nobody is trying to develop Wereality Sky like 150° lenses.

    • Gary

      for me it’s the resolution that kills it. I mean it sorta go hand in hand. If you want them to increase FOV then they’ll have to increase the resolution as well otherwise it’ll look pretty bad.

      • OgreTactics

        This is not how it works. Plus what the hell are you talking about the Galaxy S7 and Note 7 have the highest resolution available for consumer VR, paradoxically more than pseudo higher-end HMDs.

        There’s not even Screen Door Effet on the Gear (although there’s something I call Led Curtain Effect).

        In fact, the S8 is probably going to have a 4K (upscaled) screen so what are you complaining about?

    • Bernard Cozier

      You might want to try the BoboVR Z4 android headset it has 120 FOV and reviews are great.

      • OgreTactics

        Yup I was thinking about the BoboVR that’s the reason I don’t understand why a new GearVR wouldn’t have higher FOV, at least 120° anamorphic lenses.

  • Kaldar8215

    I just got gear vr for fathers day. i have had s6 it works great but it kept overheat and drain battery fast! i meant really fast….and just pre ordered note 7 i was going wait for s8 but i realized i needed a pen because im deaf and need a pen to communicate..not wanna bring pen and papers all the times…is there a way to trade in original gear vr for new gear vr for Note 7? just asking lol

  • Ronnie DiMaio

    The additional USB C port atop the unit will probably add a device that will allow positional tracking to come to the Gear VR.

  • jadmorffier

    I’m hoping the USB C up top can be used to charge your phone while it’s in the Gear VR. I have the Innovator Edition Gear VR for the Note 4 and that was the one thing missing, a charge port. I hope they didn’t mess this up again?!?

  • Gary

    I’m getting the feeling mobile vr might actually achieve 4K before VR headsets such as Oculus O_O

    • Justos

      That much is obvious. Too bad the gear isnt powerful enough to make good use of it. The Rift has a lower res screen but the pixels are used so much better its not even comparable.

  • Dominic

    Will the new Note 7 work with the previous Gear VR?

    • Joe Chemo

      The Note 7 comes with a Micro-USB to USB-C adapter, so I’m guessing it would.

      • Jarek Azevedo

        This is false to put it bluntly. The Note 7 only works with the new black/blue VR.

        Source: I own an S6 and a Note 7 with both versions of the VR (Not the original Innovator Edition).

        • Cashman McDonald

          This is true don’t let them BS u at the store about the adapter to make the note 7 compatible. The adapter makes the note 7 to large to fit in the older gear vr. I fell for Verizon B.S. and found out the hard way.

  • ribbitz

    Did you experience any of the juddering that I am with the Note 7 Gear VR? Didn’t have any of this with the Note 5, and it’s.. pretty dramatic.