More than virtually fun

Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset is now on sale

The virtual reality craze begins today. Samsung is now selling its Gear VR headset in the U.S. at the expected $199 price tag, though it is only compatible with the Galaxy Note 4.

[company]Samsung[/company] developed Gear VR in collaboration with [company]Oculus[/company], which is currently only selling developer kits for its upcoming Rift headset. The Gear VR uses the Note 4 as its screen, while the Rift will integrate a next-generation Samsung OLED screen.

Why are the two so willing to buddy up? Aside from Samsung getting Oculus’ expertise and Oculus getting Samsung’s new screen first, the two headsets will initially have very different focuses. Samsung is pitching the Gear VR as a media experience. Last month it announced Project Beyond, a 360 degree camera that will allow Gear VR wearers to experience live events. Oculus will be much more gamer focused (though there will be plenty of other content from which to choose).

Initial videos available for Gear VR include a Cirque du Soleil performance and a Paul McCartney concert recorded by 360 degree video startup Jaunt.

If you own a Galaxy Note 4 and aren’t sure if you should wait it out for Oculus Rift’s release, consider these points:

  • Their prices won’t be very different; Rift will sell for $200 to $400.
  • While a Rift release date in 2015 is fairly likely, it’s not a sure thing.
  • Oculus Rift needs to be plugged in at all times. Gear VR is wireless.

It’s a tough choice that will probably come down to use. Are you more interested in a power-intensive gaming experience or a portable source of entertainment? I personally am holding out for Oculus because I don’t have a Note 4, though there are plenty of other inexpensive phone-based headsets on the way.

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