Zeiss VR One Plus Virtual Reality headset review
Should you buy cheap or expensive VR goggles?
- High-quality optics
- No control buttons
- Much cheaper competitors
It's a very good general-purpose VR viewer. But high-end optics are currently wasted in a world of low-quality content and you can get a similar job done for one-fifth of the price.
VR is taking off – whether it’s watching ultra-immersive videos or utilising apps on your phone, or embedding yourself into whole new worlds with the help of a monster PC – it will soon be normal.
The Zeiss VR One Plus is a VR phone headset which means you put your phone in it and watch special split-screen VR content through two binoculars-style lenses. We recently reviewed a competitor, the 3SIXT Virtual Reality Headset which costs just $40 but is far more cheaply constructed. The Zeiss VR One Plus is like a super premium version of that. Neither have any controls or buttons (they’re only viewers) but this isn’t a deal breaker in the current market. So is it worth paying the huge price difference?
[Related: Google Daydream VR full, in-depth review]
The first difference we see is the mounting mechanism. Whereas the 3SIXT has a cheap, sprung clasp which annoyingly puts pressure on the phone’s side-buttons, the VR One Plus has a separate tray for the phone. This tray is generally compatible with phones from 4.7 to 5.5 inches. We had no trouble using a Google Pixel XL and iPhone 6 Plus but you’d struggle with anything bigger. Usefully, the tray has a notch in the middle to help you line the phone's screen up so it's exactly in the middle of the lenses.
Slotting it in is relatively simple but we found the tray could cover corners of the screen where some settings are usually positioned. It’s not a huge annoyance but it means sliding the phone out and maybe moving it around to get at the controls sometimes. We’ve yet to see a perfect phone clasp system. But this one is certainly less likely to draw blood than the cheap, sharp-edged 3SIXT.
The VR One Plus feels better constructed and will likely last longer – we broke a cheap clasp on the 3SIXT when setting it up. But both are equally comfortable with their padded surrounds when wearing them although the VR One Plus is made from higher-quality materials.
The main difference is the optics. Instead of plastic lenses in the 3SIXT the VR One Plus has Carl Zeiss glass lenses. The improvement in sharpness is immediately clear when switching between the two. But there’s a problem. Even top phones like the latest Pixel XL, Samsung S7 Edge and iPhone 7 Plus still exhibit the screen-door effect when looking through a VR headset – basically you can still see the individual pixels. Even when watching Full HD videos and using Full HD apps everything looks a bit low res when magnified. Consequently, the benefit gained by looking at poor-quality content is very minimal indeed. Once you’re set up and immersed, there’s not a significant difference to be had.
We suspect this will change over the coming months and years as screens become even higher definition and so does the content to appear on them. But for now, we really can’t justify paying more for the luxury Zeiss model unless build quality and robustness is important to you or you’re only watching very high quality content in your VR. If you've got a Samsung Galaxy phone then the Samsung Gear VR is a better buy with it's built-in electronics, glass lenses and (roughly) $75-lower price. If you can't find the 3SIXT, check out the 360fly Mobile VR Viewer, which is the same thing rebranded - it costs $69 but is easier to find.
The score may rise down the line, but right now it loses out for value as you can buy five competing headsets for the same price.
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