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November 13, 2017

Google Daydream View 2 vs. Oculus Go — which will be the better VR experience?

by John_A

The market for mobile-based virtual reality is getting big rather quick. One of the first tastes was served up through Google Cardboard for Android phones years ago. It was soon followed by the Gear VR a premium experience co-developed by Facebook’s Oculus VR, to be used exclusively with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones. Not to be bested, Google opted for a premium experience of its own: the Daydream platform for VR baked into Android, and the accompanying Daydream View headsets.

On the other side of things, we’re about to be bombarded with a group of standalone VR headsets, which aren’t reliant upon either a PC or a smartphone. These standalone headsets might end up filling the middle-ground between entry-level mobile VR experiences and full-on PC-driven, premium setups. One of the first out of the gate will be the Oculus Go, which is set to come in “early 2018.”

With all the different options out there, planning your entrance into VR content might be a little confusing at this point. Hopefully, our Google Daydream View 2 vs. Oculus Go explanation will help ease some of the mental pain and provide some clarity about which is best for you.

Specifications

Daydream View 2
Oculus Go
Display:
Depends on phone
LCD, “fast-switch”
Resolution:
Depends on phone
2,560 x 1,440
Refresh Rate:
Depends on phone
Unconfirmed
Software Support:
Android 7.0, Daydream, Google Play
Oculus Home
Field of View:
Depends on phone
Unconfirmed
Tracking Area:
Seated, Standing
Seated, Standing
Built-in Audio:
Via phone
Yes
Built-in Mic:
Via phone
Yes
Controller:
Yes, motion-sensing (included)
Yes, motion-sensing (included)
Sensors:
Depends on phone
Unconfirmed
Connections:
USB Micro Type-B
3.5mm audio jack
Requirements:
Asus ZenFone AR
Google Pixel
Google Pixel 2
Huawei Mate 9 Pro
Huawei Porsche Design Mate 9
LG V30
Motorola Moto Z
Motorola Moto Z2
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8+
ZTE Axon 7
Stand-alone device
Price:
$99
$199
DT Review:
4 out of 5 stars
N/A

It’s raining cats and dogs

It’s first important to mention that comparing the Google Daydream View with Facebook’s Oculus Go is like comparing a dog to a cat. They’re both domesticated animals that live within the house, but they don’t use the same approach to get their attention requirements met. Like a puppy, Google’s Daydream View is a $100 mobile VR headset that highly depends on a central source for everything it needs, specifically an expensive smartphone.

Meanwhile, the upcoming $200 Oculus Go is a self-contained device that has everything it needs, purring along without the added high-priced smartphone. Unfortunately, we don’t have the official specifications for the Oculus Go just yet given it’s not launching until early 2018. But even if you own a Daydream-compatible phone, the Oculus Go may be a better solution for reasons we will explain later.

Design

Sold in Fog, Coral, and Charcoal color variants, the Daydream View headset measures 6.6 (L) x 4.6 (W) x 3.9 (H) inches, and weighs 0.58 pounds. It sports a lightweight exterior covered in soft fabric complemented by an adjustable head strap, and an adjustable top strap with a similar color. The headset also includes a soft, removable facepad surrounding special lenses that look into a compartment mounted in the front of the headset. It’s this compartment that holds the compatible smartphone, so you don’t have to.

To some degree, the Oculus Go is similar in design. There isn’t any fabric covering the outer shell, but it does provide soft, adjustable head and top straps for a comfortable fit, and what appears to be an extremely soft facepad so the headset doesn’t dig trenches deep into your face. Inside are two updated versions of the lenses used in the PC-based Oculus Rift headset.

Because this is a self-contained unit, you won’t find an empty compartment on the front of this headset, or the associated door. Instead, you’ll find the power and volume buttons on the top along with an LED to indicate that the headset is powered on. A USB-C port appears to be mounted on the left side for charging the device when it’s not in use.

By comparison, Samsung’s Gear VR headset includes a touchpad, an Oculus Home button, and a Back button on the right side of the device. You won’t find this on the Daydream View and Oculus Go versions, as these inputs were moved to motion-sensing controllers. Samsung recently did the same when it introduced the Gear VR controller although the inputs still remain intact on the latest Gear VR model.

Winner: Draw

Display quality, field of view

For Google’s Daydream View headset, the display quality depends on the compatible smartphone. Technically, there are only 11 smartphones that currently support this headset, and here are their resolutions:

Device
Resolution:
Asus ZenFone AR
2,560 x 1,440
Google Pixel
1,920 x 1,080
Google Pixel 2
2,880 x 1,440
Huawei Mate 9 Pro
2,560 x 1,440
Huawei Porsche Design Mate 9
2,560 x 1,440
LG V30
2,880 x 1,440
Motorola Moto Z
2,560 x 1,440
Motorola Moto Z2
1,920 x 1,080
Samsung Galaxy S8
2,960 x 1,440
Samsung Galaxy S8+
2,960 x 1,440
ZTE Axon 7
2,560 x 1,440

On a technical note, these screens are divided in half. Both sides provide a snapshot of the scene for each eye, only they are slightly different from each other so that the brain is fooled into perceiving depth. Plus, each side blacks out areas of the display not seen through the headset’s lenses to eliminate unnecessary rendering by the smartphone.

Thus, Google’s Daydream platform for Android is designed to only work with Daydream View headsets, and the VR platform created by Oculus for certain Samsung Galaxy phones only work with Gear VR. The only exceptions to this rule are the two Galaxy S8 phones that support both Gear VR and Daydream View. But even with those phones, you can’t play Daydream-based games in the Gear VR headset, and vice versa.

For the Oculus Go, the device includes a built-in LCD screen with a 2,560 x 1,440 display. And because Oculus VR developed the platform powering Samsung’s Gear VR headset, all games created and distributed for that headset will work on Oculus Go right out of the box. We suspect Oculus VR had a hand in the design and placement of the Gear VR’s lenses.

According to Oculus VR, the Oculus Go‘s “fast-switching” LCD display was optimized for mobile VR to reduce the “screen door” effect. That’s caused by the physical spaces between each pixel, which are highly visible as “lines” when magnifying a display just inches away from your face. You can clearly see these lines on phones with a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution and a pixel density of 534ppi, thus reducing this effect would require a high number of pixels crammed into every inch, similar to what Japan Display accomplished in late 2016 with its screens for VR headsets.

As for field of view, Google won’t state any actual numbers for its Daydream View headset just yet — except that it is above 90 degrees. That vagueness may be tied directly to the Daydream-compatible smartphones given they’re not identical in size. Meanwhile, we don’t know the official field of view number for the Oculus Go, but the PC-based Oculus Rift provides a field of view at 110 degrees (as does the HTC Vive). The latest version of Samsung’s Gear VR for its Galaxy-class phones is 100 degrees.

Winner: Oculus Go

Controls and tracking

Thrown into the Daydream View kit is a small rectangular controller with rounded ends measuring 4.1 (L) x 1.3 (W) x 0.6 (H) inches, and weighing 1.4 ounces. Shown above, it includes a nine-axis inertial measurement unit for tracking your motion, similar to the original Wiimote for the Nintendo Wii console. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and provides four inputs: a Home button, an App button, a Volume button, and a clickable touchpad. It can be slipped into a special holster mounted on the back of the head strap for storage.

For the Oculus Go, Facebook’s motion-tracking controller sports an ergonomic, gun-like design that fits more comfortably in your hand. As shown above, it includes a wrist strap so you’re not sending the device through the window, and what appears to be a clickable touchpad mounted just below your thumb. There appears to be a trigger button too along with a Back button, and an Oculus Home button. KAPOW!

Winner: Oculus Go

Performance and requirements

Most phones supporting Google’s Daydream platform rely on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon family of processors, namely the 820, 821, and 835 chips (Huawei uses its own in-house Kirin 960 chip in its two phones). That said, you’ll likely see performance variations across the 11 devices due to processor speed, how well these chips can juggle background tasks in addition to rendering smooth VR experiences, and the amount of system memory on hand.

The problem with the likes of Daydream View and Gear VR is that that they rely on devices built primarily for communication, not VR. Phones are handling multiple tasks simultaneously, including a long list of apps that stay connected to the internet. Phone processors deal with requests from Android, Google services, carrier-based services, and so much more. Throw VR rendering for each eye on top of that, and your phone will start to heat up from the massive, heavy load.

The Oculus Go will be different. It will supposedly be based on the Snapdragon 835 mobile processor, but it won’t have to deal with all the burdens associated with smartphones. Given its compatibility with Gear VR applications, it will likely be based on Android, but don’t expect pre-installed Google services on the device. What you can expect is high-performing VR experiences because that will be Oculus Go’s sole purpose, eliminating all performance bottlenecks associated with demanding smartphone-based tasks.

Even more, Oculus Go will sport integrated spatial audio, meaning the source of a sound will adjust its position as you move your head, sustaining the illusion of depth and placement on an audible level. You can share the audio with your friends too although the provided press images only show the audio directed inward towards the wearer’s ears. For Daydream View, you can either plug earphones into the smartphone’s audio jack, or turn up the phone’s audio so others can hear the experience.

Winner: Oculus Go

Software

Google’s Daydream View depends on the Daydream platform built into Android 7.0 Nougat and later. VR experiences are delivered through the Daydream app on Google Play and include VR-enhanced versions of Google Photos, YouTube, Netflix, HBO Go, and more. It’s not just the basic Android apps though — you’ll also get access to all sorts of other VR experiences such as Hello Mars, VR Karts: Sprint, Virtual Rabbids, Need for Speed: No Limits VR, and so on. You can also install all Daydream-focused Android apps outside the Daydream app, as seen here on Google Play.

Again, we are betting that Oculus Go will be based on Android, but users will likely enter the Oculus Home platform immediately after booting up the device. It’s expected to be similar to Oculus Home on the Gear VR, providing a living room-style virtual space with access to floating panels for browsing apps, accessing your installed library, and socializing with friends on the Oculus Home platform. All applications will be delivered through this interface.

Winner: Oculus Go

Pricing and availability

Right now, Daydream View costs $99 for the headset and motion controller, but that’s in addition to the cost of your smartphone. Meanwhile, the Oculus Go will have a starting price of $199 early next year for the headset and included motion-sensing controller. Currently, there only seems to be one color for the Oculus Go, but that could change before it’s release next year. Unfortunately, we don’t have an exact release date just yet.

Winner: Daydream View

Overall Winner: Daydream View

If you have a smartphone that doesn’t appear on the Google Daydream View list, your device will never be compatible. Google and manufacturers have no plans to bring older phones into the Daydream View fold, so if you’re looking for a great mobile VR experience, the upcoming Oculus Go still may not be your best ticket.

Why? Because standalone mobile VR headsets are just now hitting the scene. Problem is, Google and Qualcomm collaborated to create a standalone Daydream View headset that tracks your movements through physical space. In other words, you get full room-based tracking without the need for external motion detection sensors as seen with the PC-tethered Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. HTC and Lenovo are expected to produce standalone Daydream View headsets in the United States before the end of 2017.

Right now, there’s no sign that the Oculus Go includes this type of positional tracking, and Daydream View smartphones aren’t physically equipped for the job. That said, you might want to wait and see a full Oculus Go hardware disclosure before making any purchases. You may also want to wait and see how stand-alone Daydream View headsets with full-body motion detection perform in real-world scenarios before taking a financial plunge into mobile VR. More than anything else, the Daydream View is the only of the two options that you can actually go out and get today.




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