There seems to be an endless supply of VR headsets that have flooded the internet and stores. Some trying hard to be unique and the others just dozens of copies of the exact same thing. This is where having a brand people can recognize really helps.
Some of those recognizable brands however tend to focus on a specific selection of phones. One of these is Samsung’s Gear VR. An excellent VR headset, however, you will only agree if you have a Samsung Galaxy 6 or newer device to go with it. If you own anything else, then it’s back to the drawing board. Other units tend to focus on select Android and/or iOS phones. What if you have something abstract though? Or even worse, one of those larger models that makes it hard to find anything that fits.
The Windows Phone line of devices has the popular Lumia 950XL phone for example. It’s an excellent phone, but Microsoft hasn’t launched anything just yet in the realm of VR that will accompany their phones. Other devices show preference for iOS or Android. So that means a search to find out what does pair best with such a large phone. Our Senior Editor is also a proud owner of such a phone and he pressured us until we agreed to choose it as our target device. So it looks like we have a hunt on our hands!
Since a lot of models generally prefer the other to OS (operating system) choices, it leads to a lot of Windows Phones users rushing to Google to ask “what is the best VR headset for my Windows Phone?”. Don’t worry as we have an answer for you–including the Lumia 950XL.
One thing to keep in mind is that the hardware of the headset (as long as there are no electronics involved inside the headset itself) doesn’t actually have a requirement for OS. The only requirement you are going to run into is size. You have to determine if the phone in question fits into the headset, let it be by slot, tray, or hatch. This is where it becomes stubborn about what phones fit because sometimes the headset is physically designed to only work with certain models (shape, size, etc).
However, there are headsets out there that can adapt (adjust) to nearly any model of phone. These, are the ones you want to get your hands on for Windows Phone devices. In fact, since it adapts, this would also include any model of phone, regardless of OS, if you are having trouble finding a headset that works. They come in multiple design types, just the same as others (tray, slot, hatch, etc). We got our hands on a handful of these to test against each other to see which works best for specifically, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL phone.
Most of the brands that feature the option to adjust, are names you probably have never heard of before. Mostly because a lot of them are variations of similar headsets that have been manufactured somewhere out there in the world and then rebranded with a random company name someone created to join the competition with. We could throw words out there like “China”, but…no let’s face it, most of these come from China. Thankfully, some of them work quite nicely (others, not so much).
Digging through all of these headsets, we tested the following brands: Viotek, Viivria, Leelbox, Zeiss, Sarlar, Google Cardboard, Topmaxions, and AFUNTA. You probably have only heard of 2-3 of those brands. The latter of the brands (AFUNTA) we can’t even find the headset anymore–at least the model we have sitting here. They have another model available, but it was the exact same model with a different logo silk-printed on it as other companies offering the same thing, such as “FANNEGO” and “Magicoo”.
It didn’t take long to filter a lot of these out and toss them into the corner and hand them out at one of the events as freebies. Not even worth running a contest or sweepstakes over. Two of them stood out among the others as winning choices however. One we loved for quality and the other for mobility. We recently covered one of them and had a solid feeling that it would make it, so no surprise there.
Option One – Zeiss VR One Plus (Winner)
The VR One Plus was a solid winner or us as it looks great, offers a lot of comfort, fits most of the phones we threw at it while keeping them safely locked away in a tray (nothing to accidentally come loose causing your phone to pop out and fall to the floor (which yes, we experienced that with one of the others).
Most importantly, it features lens by Zeiss inside. This is important because you want to see everything in HD. If you stick a sheet of glass between your eyes and an HD screen, but that glass has imperfections, then you are no longer experiencing “HD”. In fact, your eyes may experience increased discomfort due to them having to adjust to such imperfections. You may or may not even notice them, but your eyes will after long use. This is something you should never play games with–your eyes.
Of course, since they have Carl Zeiss lenses inside, this is going to drive the price up. You’re talking about high-quality German optics here. So although the VR One Plus took first place in performance, you have to point out that the price tag is closer to that of the Samsung Gear VR ($100+). How much are your eyes worth though? Especially, if you plan to spend a lot of time with VR.
We didn’t find many phones that didn’t fit into the headset. The only ones that gave us trouble were those too thick. There were only two of these we had lying around, and they were about 4-5 years old. So you can rest assured, your phone will more than likely fit. Just remember to take it out of its case if you have one. Especially if you’re using something like an Otterbox (yeah, it won’t fit).
Option Two – Viotek Spectre (Second Place)
Coming into second place was Viotek’s Spectre headset. This one falls into the range of all of those many headsets that feature the basics in exchange for a good price. However, they still managed to find uniqueness in design by adding a major feature: Mobility.
The Spectre headset travels quite easily due to the fact that it can collapse down and store in a decently small hard-shell case. Not only does the case provide great protection, but it fits well in your travel solution (ie, bag, purse, backpack, etc). Collapsing it down and restoring it takes mere seconds and you are ready to go.
It features a hatch-style design for where your phone would be inserted. Unlike one of the “other models” we mentioned earlier, none of the phones tested fell out of the headset due to a poor hatch design. Well, that’s a bonus!
It worked with all of the phones we threw at it including one of the two older phones that didn’t fit in the VR One Plus above. However, both of those old phones looked horrible screen-wise. You want to make sure you are using a phone with a great screen resolution else it will drive you nuts or even make you nauseous. This goes for any VR headset. Just keep in mind that you are staring at your phone’s screen from just a few inches away and then you’re magnifying it slightly with the lenses.
Are the lenses are high quality as the Zeiss headset? No. However, this one falls around the price of $29.99. So you are paying much less. How this one won second, was how well the screen looked inserted into the headset despite this fact and its excellent feature of mobility.
Both headsets offered just the right amount of comfort that you would want from a headset that you might spend a lot of time with. Weight was also an important variable since you don’t want it weighing your head down any since your phone is going to be heavy enough as it is. This adds to that comfort value.
Some of the other headsets we tested out fell within the price range of $20-40 on average and offered a basic experience. No bells and whistles, basic experience. Some of which were not as comfortable as the above two, and as mentioned, one featured a bad hatch design which resulted in one of the phones popping out. So sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Try to remember the cost of the phone you are entrusting the headset with.
Also, again, the quality of lens means a lot. The material of the lens, clarity, and so forth. Treat your eyes to something that isn’t going to stress them out. You will be thankful later on in life.
Now, if only there were more Bluetooth options for Windows Phones for remotes as well as apps that supported such. That is the only thing weighing the Windows Phone market down. The availability of apps and games. You only have a few here and there and most of them are just non-interactive (or mostly non-interactive) games. Like the Fibrum games, your participation might only go as far as staring at a lever to start a motion ride with. The rest is automated and you are just there for the ride. No Doom or Resident Evil VR potentials just yet.
If Microsoft could work a little harder at marketing their devices and push the marketplace a little harder by getting a little more personal with developers, you might find yourself having a much better time with their phones.