If you’ve wanted to get in on the smartphone-powered VR game without using a relatively ginormous Samsung Galaxy Note 4, your day has come.
Samsung has released pricing and availability info about its new Gear VR headset that’s compatible with Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones.
The Gear VR Innovator Edition for the S6 and S6 Edge (that’s the name!) is available for preorder online at Best Buy starting Friday, April 24. It goes on sale online in a couple of weeks, beginning May 8 on Samsung’s Gear VR site and the Best Buy site. It’ll hit Best Buy retail stores on May 15. The price stays at $200, just like the previous Gear headset.
The new wearable, which we first got wind of last month, is smaller, has newly designed face-straps, and has a built-in fan. Like its Note 4-compatible counterpart, the new Gear VR will essentially be a comfy facemask into which you slide the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge, then watch in stereo vision as your phone runs VR apps. The headset itself doesn’t compute any of the VR craziness, but it has a touchpanel on the side of it for navigating menus on the phone. There’s a MicroUSB dock you slide a phone into to activate the handset’s VR antics. All the experiences are driven by the phone; the headset is just there for security, comfort, and magnification of the screen during prolonged VR sessions.
Using the headset with the newer S6 lineup may work a bit better, too. The new flagship Samsung handsets may have the same resolution screen as the Note 4, but the pixels are packed in tighter due to a smaller screen (577ppi versus 515ppi). Processing power is also different between the phones, as the Galaxy S6 lineup packs an eight-core Samsung Exynos processor versus the Note 4’s quad-core Qualcomm chip.
Despite the differences, the S6 phones will have the same features as the Note 4 when used with the facemask. Content will be available through Samsung’s Milk VR service as well as the Oculus Store. You can browse and download free and paid content to the device while using the phone in the VR headset.
In the best case scenario, this is a decent step forward for VR. This isn’t the move that makes VR a mainstream must-have, of course. The content coffers are still pretty barren beyond short-form experiments and demos, and that’s a big barrier. VR really needs an essential title or two to drive it forward. But having a decently priced facemask that works with a hot-selling phone like the S6 makes the initial jump to VR less intimidating. People will buy the S6 anyway, and once they have it, an extra $200 to turn it into a fun face-computer is a modest investment.
Of course, there are a few headsets that have been designed to work with a wider array of phones—and they’re cheaper. The $99 Zeiss VR One has an adaptable tray that works with the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5, as well as CAD models that let you 3D-print trays for other phones. And there are free cardboard housings that are even more forgiving in terms of phone type, although those are likely to get uncomfortable during an hours-long immersion sesh.