Smartphone VR is in an interesting place at the moment. While it doesn’t get nearly as much hype as PC VR, it’s arguably penetrating the market to a much more relevant degree. Right now, the struggle is to determine what shape smartphone VR is going to take. Is it going to be like Cardboard, with an inexpensive shell that houses the smartphone, or will it be like the Merge VR headset, which attempts to provide a certain degree of presentation? The purpose of this review is the figure out whether the Merge VR headset is really worth the money, by looking at its pros, cons, specifications, design, setup, and more.
Merge VR Headset: Specs
|Headset Type||Smartphone VR Headset|
|Field of View||~ 85 degrees|
|Controls||Dual input buttons compatible with VR apps, no need for controller|
|Platform||Android and iOS|
It’s very easy to put the Merge VR in the subset of ‘fancy Cardboard’ headsets, a group of VR headsets that take the core concept behind Google Cardboard, and attempt to make something a little more solid and a little more impressive out of the same technology. At the end of the day, Merge is basically a smartphone attachment, albeit one that does an impressive amount of work with what it brings to the table.
As you might be able to tell from the specs, using the Merge headset isn’t necessarily going to provide much technical power to your VR experience. After all, you’re looking at a device that essentially holds a smartphone and allows it to do much of the work. As such, there is a huge difference in the experience of Merge users, if they have different phones.
Pros & Cons
If you notice, the list of pros and cons here is consistent with most of the other Cardboard-like headsets. It works well and will provide you with a great deal of fun, but it’s still not the most immersive experience on the market. The cumbersome nature of the headset and the relative lack of depth in the app field makes it hard to call this a perfect VR product.
Merge VR Headset: Design & Requirements
Merge really scores points when it comes to design. The purple shell is far more stylish than the basic Cardboard set up, and the whole package is remarkably sturdy. It’s hard to damage the unit, and the only real drawback is the need to take the phone in and out of the unit whenever you change apps.
Merge VR supports virtually any smartphone that can work with VR apps. That means you’ll generally be looking at an iPhone 6 or later for Apple, and an equivalent model for Android phones. The better the phone you buy, the better your overall experience will be. As with most VR headsets, you’re going to want to take a few measurements to make sure that newer, larger cell phone models will still fit.
Merge VR Headset: Controls & Display
Merge VR doesn’t have much in the way of controls, unfortunately. It sports a pair of buttons on top of the unit, which work as levers to press buttons on the touch screen. As you might imagine, this means you won’t be playing many games that use anything but accelerometer controls when you use the device. It’d be nice to see it support proper controllers, but that’s not likely for such a low-end device.
The display is, of course, entirely dependent on your phone. If you have an older phone, expect to see a fair degree of pixelation when you run your apps. The newer the phone, the better your experience will be.
Merge VR: Setup
Merge VR is, thankfully, very easy to set up. Once you have taken it out of the box, you’re pretty much done. All you need to do is scan the QR code, place your phone in the headset, and adjust the straps so they fit your head snuggly. From here, you’ll do a little bit of in-app calibration, and you’ll be off to the races. It shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to go from unpacking to playing your favorite VR games.
Merge VR Headset: User Experience
User reviews of Merge VR are fairly positive across the board. There have been a few noted issues like lens scratches on shipped units, but nothing that isn’t easy to take care of with a quick RMA. Users who understand they’re getting a Cardboard-style device are usually happy. Negative reviews tend to come from those who don’t quite understand how the product works.
The biggest realistic complaints come from users of the iPhone Plus models. The device just isn’t a great fit for the 6 Plus or 7 Plus. Stick with a traditionally sized phone for the best experience.
Merge VR Headset: Comparison
The Merge VR headset is another good, but not perfect, entry into the world of smartphone VR. It’s not going to dissuade anyone from buying an Oculus Rift, but it’s also a perfectly fine alternative to many of the other products on the market. It’s certainly a good purchase if you know what you’re getting into. Have you used the Merge headset before? What did you think? Let us know about your experience with this device.