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January 10, 2018

Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream hands-on review

by John_A

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Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream

Google debuted its plans for mobile virtual reality (VR) in 2016 with the Daydream View, a portable headset that’s powered by a smartphone. The biggest downside is that you have to use a smartphone. That means dealing with smartphone constraints — your phone’s battery will be eaten up, and you can only go into VR for an hour or two before the phone gets incredibly hot and performance takes a hit. All of those problems have been solved with the first stand-alone Daydream headset, the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream.

The Daydream software experience remains the same, but Google and Lenovo have teamed up to design a headset that isn’t hindered by a phone. In our Lenovo Mirage Solo hands-on review, we take a look at the design of the headset, as well as the improvements the Solo offers over the traditional Daydream View.

Good design, bulky headset

The Mirage Solo undeniably looks a lot like PlayStation VR. That’s not a bad thing, as the all-white headset does look smart and futuristic. It does also look and feel bulky. Worst of all, you’ll look like a robot wearing the headset because of the two circular “world-facing cameras” on the front.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The headset is supported by a headband that’s placed around your head. A rotating dial on the back lets you tighten the band for the perfect fit, and the headset then rests on your nose. The headband is comfortable, thanks to the padding all around it, but the Solo does feel a little constraining if you have glasses. It depends on how big your glasses are — we were able to use it with our glasses on — but it wasn’t as comfortable as we would have liked. There’s a lot of weight placed on your nose as well, so we can imagine it will be tiring to use the Mirage Solo for more than a few hours.

There’s a button on the underside you can press to push the headset closer or further away from your head. On the left edge of the headset is a MicroSD card slot and a USB Type-C port to charge the device, along with a Lenovo tag made of fabric. On the right edge, you’ll find power and volume buttons, as well as a headphone jack.

You’ll look like a robot wearing the Mirage Solo. 

The Mirage Solo is well-constructed, but we’ll have to wear the headset for a longer period of time to fully comment on overall comfort. The Solo offers a good fit, and it does have enough padding around your eyes to effectively block out all outside light, which helps with immersion in VR.

Put the Solo next to the Daydream View, and it looks like a gargantuan product. It’s not tethered to a PC or phone and has no wires, but it certainly doesn’t look like a device that’s meant to be portable.

Smartphone specs with WorldSense

The Mirage Solo has all the familiar components of a smartphone, just not in the rectangular form factor we’ve come to know. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor powers the headset with 4GB of RAM, there’s 64GB of storage available with support for a MicroSD card if you need more, the 5.5-inch display has a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution, and a 4,000mAh battery keeps it all going for quite some time.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The high-resolution screen is sharp, offering up a lot of detail, but it’s surprisingly not an OLED panel. Lenovo told Digital Trends the Mirage Solo has an LCD screen, and it’s one of the few LCD panels to be approved to work with Daydream VR. Still, we didn’t have any qualms with the screen or resolution.

We didn’t see any issues with performance either, but we were only shown two demos: A snowboarding game with typical mobile game-level graphics, and Blade Runner: Revelations, which features impressive graphics akin to a PC game from a few years ago. The latter game was more of a technical demo, showcasing the capabilities of the Mirage Solo, and looks great without a doubt.

WorldSense made us feel more immersed.

But what made Blade Runner: Revelations pop is WorldSense, Google’s technology in the Mirage Solo. WorldSense is a positional tracking system that doesn’t require external base stations to track you. That means you get six degrees of freedom — thanks to the two camera sensors on the front.

The Solo won’t track movement around a room like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, but it lets you duck, dodge, and lean in forward, back, and side to side. This alone immediately made us feel more immersed in the world we were in, and we can’t wait to explore it further.

Daydreaming for 7 hours straight

The best part about the Mirage Solo is that jumping into VR has never been easier. Sure, it was easy with the Daydream View, but with a stand-alone headset, there’s no phone you need to worry about. Just put the headset on, and you’ll be greeted with the Daydream home screen.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The software interface is more or less the same as the one on the Daydream View, to give users consistency, and so is the Bluetooth-connected remote. It’s reliable, and comfortable to hold.

The 4,000mAh battery and the lack of heat constraints mean you can play around in the Mirage Solo for about 7 hours, according to Lenovo. As we mentioned earlier, that may not be the most comfortable experience as the headset will definitely wear on users after a while, but it’s nice to know that the Solo can last a good deal of time.

The biggest challenge for the success of stand-alone Daydream headsets, however, is the same challenge for mobile VR — content. As of now, we’ve only seen two games that utilize the WorldSense technology. Google and Lenovo said more content that supports the six degrees of freedom is in the works, but they need to be high-quality, good games.

One of our problems with the Daydream View experience was how many games felt like your average, repetitive mobile games — they weren’t good, and it didn’t feel worth the time. If we can expect more games like the upcoming Blade Runner: Revelations, we’d be satisfied. We’ll have to wait and see what the lineup will look like closer to launch.

Price and availability

Lenovo still hasn’t figured out the price of the Mirage Solo, but the company is striving to make it affordable. Right now, the headset is listed as “under $400” — for reference, the HTC Vive is now available on Amazon for $600 (though you’ll need a gaming PC to use it). For under $400, you can get gaming consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 4 or the Nintendo Switch, both of which have a much more impressive and robust library of games. The Solo won’t just be about gaming, but it could perhaps benefit from an even lower price tag.

Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream Compared To

HTC Vive Pro

Sony PlayStation VR (2017)

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset…

Google Daydream View (2017)

Samsung Odyssey

Sony PlayStation VR

Oculus Rift

Google Daydream View

3Glasses D2 Vanguard Edition

HTC Vive

Samsung Gear VR

Homido

Google’s Daydream View headset will still be a more affordable option for people who don’t want to spend as much, as long as you have a compatible Daydream phone.

The Mirage Solo is exciting for VR, but it all comes down to content. We’ll be hoping for a solid library at or right after launch — not just for good Daydream games, but for all content that supports Google’s WorldSense technology.

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