3SIXT Virtual Reality Headset review
The cheapest VR headset
- A few build-quality/design issues
- No buttons or controls
For $40 this is the cheapest and easiest way to get into VR. It will work with most modern phones. There are no buttons for advanced applications but there's still plenty to experience. Enjoy!
VR is no gimmick and it’s thriving among early adopters: both in the world of powerful computers with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and also in the phone-based space where almost any modern phone is a potential VR gateway.
The problem with most phone-based virtual reality headsets (and there aren't many) is that they only suit particular phones – Samsung’s $150 Gear VR headset can work with non-Samsung phones but only if they're of a similar-size plus there's the added complication of a USB connector to consider. The free headset that comes bundled with the Alcatel Idol 4S will unlikely fit other phones because the clasp is so thin (in order to hold the thin phone snugly).
For everything else there’s been Google Cardboard which is a very down and dirty way of setting up a phone-based VR rig. So we were excited to see that 3SIXT has launched a one-sized-fits-all headset that theoretically works with everything else.
[Related: Google Daydream VR full, in-depth review]
But immediately there are issues. Despite the padded, leatherette goggles, there’s not much give in terms of face shape. If you’ve a big fat head like me they won’t sit snug and you’ll be able to see through the nose gap quite easily. Also, the headband, while tight, is attached to a very flimsy piece of plastic: one of ours snapped as we were adjusting the length, so be careful.
3SIXT says that it will work with any smartphone from 4.7-inch to 6-inches - but it's not always comfortably. A phone like the iPhone 6S Plus is represents the upper limit for the clasp and you’ll be struggling to get it in and out.
The main issue though is that the four point clasp grabs the phone right where the power and volume buttons tend to be. While the placement maximizes compatibility it can be a struggle to get the phone sitting correctly without the buttons being pushed. Fortunately, most phones we test have quite rigid buttons but if yours are loose you’ll have constant issues.
However, once we’d got everything aligned it all worked nicely and the flap at the front closes up snuggly with a magnetic lock. This magnet doesn’t feel too strong but we waved our head around in a variety of apps without it falling open. The magnet is welcome when you need to open and navigate around the phone quickly and frequently – any kind of catch would be annoying. Gaps at either side of the opening flap allow for headphone cords to pass through without causing any issues.
Once everything is enclosed you can use dials to further adjust things like moving the phone back and forth and also the two, aspheric optical lenses closer together or further apart. While you’ll always see some of the surrounding case, this is fairly inevitable in the technology. Fortunately, you do forget it’s there when immersed in the various apps, games and videos – when they’re good.
And there’s a lot of great content out there now. Whether its demos from the likes of Google Cardboard, all-encompassing photographs from Nvidia's Ansel game scenery viewer, if you’re riding a virtual rollercoaster, sitting through a horror movie where you're the star, whether you’re playing immersive games like Deep Space VR or *cough* you accidentally stumble across adult content from high-profile adult sites accidentally – there’s something for everyone and your phone is now a Star Trek-like Holodeck.
There are no buttons or controls as with more-premium VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, but there still aren't too many applications which make use of those and the price increase for having them is high. So missing them is no deal breaker.
Ultimately, we’d like better build quality and the clasp placement seems misguided but, ultimately, this works, it's comfortable and at $40 it’s great value. The main issue you might have is supply - it's only available at News Link, Optus, Virgin and Telstra stores and it's hard to find online. If you want the same-thing-rebranded and have easier access to JB HiFi, check out the 360fly Mobile VR Viewer variant which is identical but for different cosmetics and a more-robust strap holder - although it's $29 more. Elsewhere there's a far more robust, and higher-quality Zeiss VR One Plus. But that costs $200.
There’s literally a new world of entertainment out there for everyone who owns a half-decent phone, and this is the easiest gateway into it.
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