Oculus Go cuts the cables yet outperforms both Daydream VR and Gear VR.
Oculus Go was the big headline at last year’s Oculus Connect event but its promise has taken a while to reach fruition. This isn’t a wireless version of Oculus Rift – that’s coming later on – instead, it’s Oculus’ answer to the sort of portable VR experience offered by the Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream View and the forthcoming HTC Vive Pro.
The chief question is, does the Oculus Go actually offer up anything interesting? Is it really a worthwhile alternative you should invest in? Thankfully, I was able to go hands-on at GDC 2018 and now I’m ready to spill the beans on this year’s most interesting VR product.
In terms of design, Oculus Go takes a lot of design cues from Oculus’s first headset, the Rift. It has the same silhouette and, despite the fact there are no headphones built in, from afar you’d be forgiven for thinking this was simply a grey version of the original.
If that sounds like a bad thing, it’s not. Instead of the clunky plastic shell of the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go feels sophisticated and expensive product; something you’d want to pick up and use time and time again. The premium fabric finish of Google’s Daydream View evoked the same feelings but Oculus Go is just that bit slicker.
Along the top, you’ll find discreet power and volume buttons that are easy to find and use during gameplay. A headphone jack and micro USB charging slot are located on the left-hand side of the headset.
And, although the Go’s controller is nowhere near as fully featured as an Oculus Touch controller, it does share some design similarities, namely how it feels in your hand. The top surface is a clickable thumbpad and there’s also a single trigger that’s not too dissimilar from the bigger trigger on the Touch. All it lacks is the finger depth sensor.
Built in partnership with Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi and US chipmaker Qualcomm, details about the Go’s internals are a little sketchy. We know it’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and uses a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel LCD screen. It also comes equipped with new lenses that offer the same field of vision as the Rift but with significantly less glare.
There’s also 3D spatial audio build into the unit, with Oculus stating this forms part of the headband, although I wasn’t able to spot anything overly obvious in regard to the headband design that would offer that.
First impressions with truly cable-free VR
If you’ll pardon the idiom, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating with products that promise the world. And, having now used Oculus Go for myself, I can safely say that it’s a very tasty dish indeed.
Let’s start with the fit. It’s is more than big enough to fit over my glasses, something the Rift, Gear VR and Daydream aren’t able to boast. And, once fitted, the difference in the lenses is clear. Picture quality is sharp and bright, there’s no smudging or blurring around the edges and – despite the lack of focal distance adjustment – details such as text appears largely clear and sharp.
Both head and hand tracking are clearly rudimentary compared with the Rift, however, neither are actively bad. There’s no positional tracking, for instance, but Oculus Go is still aware of head movements towards and away from objects, while turning, nodding and tilting your head are all accurately replicated. The Go controller also does an excellent job of tracking your hand movements even if it can’t sense exactly whereabouts in space it’s being held.
Oculus Go should also be praised for its audio capabilities. Even on the busy GDC show floor, I was able to hear everything wonderfully clearly without having to plug in a pair of headphones.
As I said earlier, I couldn’t see any clear indication of where the integrated audio was coming from but it almost sounds as if the audio is inside your head and it’s positional, too. When something is happening behind you, that’s exactly where the sound appears to come from and it gets clearer, cleaner and louder as you turn towards the source.
Clearly, Oculus plans to outdo itself with Go.
Release date and price
Currently, Oculus Go is slated for release sometime in 2018, with a sign-up form sitting on the Oculus website for anyone who is interested. Pricing information hasn’t been made available but the company’s stated target is $US199.
If Oculus can bring something as fantastic as Oculus Go to market for as little as that – and with Facebook’s money backing the project I think that’s a realistic proposition – then this could be a real driving force for the adoption of VR in 2018.