One of the biggest issues facing the virtual reality market is the cost of admission. While there is certainly interest in virtual reality as a form of entertainment, only the most hardcore of early adopters are willing to spend the hundreds of dollars necessary for what is essentially first-generation technology. This Google Cardboard headset review seeks to determine whether Google Cardboard is an entry point for new users, considering its low price, and if its features are worth it.
Google Cardboard Headset: Specs
|Headset Type||Smartphone VR|
|Resolution||Depends on phone|
|Field of View||Depends on phone|
The Google Cardboard is an entry-level way to try out virtual reality, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a true virtual reality headset. Instead, think of it as a preview of the idea of VR – a quick taste of what one might experience with a larger investment. It is, quite literally, a cardboard box that can be strapped to some fairly inexpensive lenses. You can actually build one of these devices yourself if you have the time – and it’s probably going to give you an identical experience.
Despite its relatively inexpensive construction, the product does manage to put something similar to VR in the hands of those who wouldn’t usually be able to afford a proper VR system. This is somewhere between a stopgap and a demo, but it serves its purpose admirably.
In short, this headset is the perfect start for those who want a basic VR experience. If you don’t want to drag cords around, or invest in an expensive gaming PC, this is probably a good place for you to start. However, if you’ve long been entranced by the possibility of VR, you won’t get what you are looking for here. This is a device that is purely for beginners.
Pros & Cons
Google Cardboard Headset: Design & Requirements
One of the hardest things to get over when talking about Google Cardboard is the design. What you’re looking at really is just a cardboard box with an attached pair of glasses. However, it’s still amazing for those who are not very familiar with VR. If anything, it shows how easy virtual reality can be attained.
If you want to use Cardboard, you’ll need to have a relatively good cellphone. There’s a fairly wide range of Android phones that can be used with the product, as well as the newer iPhones. Remember to use the second generation model if you plan on using a larger phone – the first generation is a bit smaller.
Google Cardboard Headset: Controls and Display
This is another area where it’s hard to give specifics. The Google Cardboard headset depends entirely upon your phone for control and display. In theory, the better your screen, the better your experience is going to be. Definitely look for a phone that has HD resolution, to get the most out of this device.
In terms of movement, controls are pretty much as simple as the tilt controls on your phone. In theory, you could probably use some sort of Bluetooth controller on certain models of Android, but it’s unlikely that you’ll do anything more than tilt your head to experience the apps.
Google Cardboard Headset: Setup
Setting up your headset is as easy as sliding your phone into the device. You’ll need to make sure that your screen is clean, though, as the lenses tend to magnify smudges and scratches fairly well. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure that you already have headphones plugged in – the speakers on most phones are a bit too weak to give you the full experience. Beyond that, set-up will be relegated to the individual app – this is really more of a plug and play experience.
Google Cardboard Headset: User Experience
User experience is hard to pin down when it comes to the Cardboard, because it’s either the most amazing thing in the world, or a bit of a joke. If you haven’t spent time with a device like the Oculus Rift, you’ll probably be blown away by what you can experience with such a simple device. There are some truly amazing applications available that work with Cardboard, and you’ll get a view into a world that’s not usually within your reach.
If you have used other VR headsets in the past, though, you won’t get much out of this product. It’s as basic as they come, and most of the apps have a very low level of appeal. With that said, there’s a sense of wonder that comes with using Cardboard for the first time – something that’s very hard to replicate.
The Bottom Line
Google Cardboard is not going to compete with any other of the up-and-coming players on the VR scene. In fact, it’s likely to be forgotten as soon as there is a real budget alternative on the market. For now, though, it’s one of the best ways to get a taste of VR without investing in heavier, more expensive tech. It’s not perfect, but it certainly is a good start. Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about Google Cardboard below.
Recommended read: 10 Best VR Headsets under 50 Dollars in 2017