Supremely easy to use • Effortless setup • High-quality lenses for a sharp image • Comfortable to wear • Affordable
Light leaks from nose cutout • Charges over microUSB • Takes 3 hours to fully charge
The Oculus Go is the first VR headset that truly makes it easy to dive into VR without the hassle of connecting a phone or PC.
I can’t think of a more messy and complicated technology in the last decade than VR.
I’ve tried just about every major VR headset released in the last few years. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, Windows Mixed Reality headsets — you name it, and I’ve strapped it on.
The problem isn’t that there’s no one single killer VR app that blows people away — there are now thousands of unbelievably immersive apps and games to pick from across the many different VR platforms — but that VR headsets are too much of a pain in the ass to set up and wear.
Running high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive means you also need powerful gaming PCs or laptops that are by no means cheap. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Gear VR, previously one of the best ways to get started with VR, is still cumbersome since you’re constantly attaching and detaching a smartphone and dealing overheating issues (since the phone is working overtime to bring you VR images with as little lag as possible).
It’s been years in the making, but the Oculus Go, is a major turning point for VR. The all-in-one VR headset doesn’t need a PC or a smartphone.
SEE ALSO: Oculus Go is the most important VR creation yet
To start shooting virtual zombies, watching Netflix on a giant screen, or any of thousands of other virtual experiences, you literally just put on the Oculus Go and, ahem, go into the virtual world.
Just as attractive as the Oculus Go’s simplicity is how much it costs: The headset starts at $199 for the headset with 32GB of storage and $249 for 64GB. Both come with a wireless controller. You can run the numbers yourself, but I’ll save you some time: The Go is cheaper than a Nintendo Switch and way lower than the price of a Gear VR or Daydream VR experience (factoring in the required phones, of course).
Just strap on and go
There’s nothing I hate more than unboxing a new gadget and having to read instructions to get started. A well-designed gadget is one that shouldn’t require much figuring out and the Oculus Go couldn’t be simpler.
Everything you need to get started in VR is included in the box. The headset’s gray color is neutral and doesn’t feel mechanical the way HTC’s Vive’s many camera and sensor cutouts look.
Oculus spared no expense making sure the Go was as minimalist as possible. There aren’t any unnecessary design elements, buttons, or ports — nothing that’ll make you wonder “What the heck is this thing for?” Every single part, from the head strap to the power button to the microUSB port (I really wish it was USB-C instead) to the headphone jack is self-explanatory.
I don’t care if you call it basic or a “VR headset for dummies.” This is what every VR headset should look like. Like an iPhone, anyone can figure out how to use the Go within seconds.
Included with the Oculus Go headset is a wireless controller. This is your typical mobile VR controller that comes with a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope. It uses a single AA battery, which is also bundled with the box. And while you may not think you’ll need it, I highly recommend putting on the lanyard and strapping it in your wrist.
There’s also a rubber “glasses spacer” that you can pop inside of the headset for a better fit if you wear glasses.
I said earlier that you don’t need a smartphone to use the Go, but that was only partially true. While the Go has a built-in display — you don’t need to slide a phone into it — you still need a phone with the Oculus app (iOS or Android) for the initial setup.
The Oculus app walks you through the setup processing for pairing the controller and connecting the headset to a Wi-Fi network. It’s also where you browse, download, and buy VR apps from the Oculus Store (although you can also do that from within the VR headset after you’ve set everything up properly).
The VR sweet spot
VR gets a bad rap because there are so many different headsets available, and a bad first experience usually leaves the uninitiated even more skeptical of its value.
At the bottom, you have the most basic VR and 360-degree videos running barebones “headsets.” These are your Google Cardboards, junky “VR glasses,” and plastic VR headsets without any kind of controllers.
Stepping up, there’s mobile VR. Samsung’s Gear VR dominates here; Google’s been struggling to make Daydream VR anything more than a passing curiosity.
And then at top, there’s the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and other PC-based VR headsets. These are the best VR headsets with most advanced hand, head, and body tracking technologies, which usually require external sensors placed in the room.
The Oculus Go falls somewhere between mobile VR and PC VR. It’s essentially running mobile hardware, but with an integrated design.
Inside of the sleek plastic headset is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip (two-year old chip tech, in case you’re keeping track), 32GB or 64GB of storage, and a lithium-ion battery that Oculus says is good for 1.5-2 hours of continuous gaming or 2-2.5 hours of continuous video watching.
The built-in 5.5-inch screen has a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution (split that in half for 1,280 x 1,440 per eye), which is sharper than a Gear VR and even the Oculus Rift and Vive, but not better than the Vive Pro. The Oculus Go’s screen also uses “fast switch” display technology, which helps reduce the screen door effect (meaning you can see the pixels) that’s often blamed for breaking your suspension of disbelief.
The headset’s also got a little sensor just above the lenses that detects if the headset is on your head or not.
Where are the built-in speakers? The first time I saw the Oculus Go, I was just as puzzled, too. The speakers are actually hidden inside of the hard side straps. There are two slits on both sides; it’s through these thin cutouts where spatial sound shoots out and into your ears. They’re quite impressive and get very loud.
Of course, if you prefer a more isolating audio experience, you can also plug your own headphones into the 3.5mm headphone jack. Unfortunately, if you’re a big fan of wireless headphones like I am (Apple’s AirPods are still amazing), you can’t use them with the Go.
But enough about the specs. How does the Oculus Go perform?
Way better than I expected.
The headset weighs about one pound, and it felt light and comfortable enough on my face even for over an hour. It’s a little lighter than a Gear VR (with smartphone).
One thing you definitely want to do is leave the Go’s top elastic on because it helps hold the headset in place. I tried wearing the Go without it for the sake of keeping my hair neat and immediately regretted it when the headset kept slipping down.
While I didn’t find the weight an issue, some of my friends did. Several of my co-workers, especially the ladies, said it was still too heavy even with the top elastic holding the headset in place.
You quickly forget the headset after you put the Go on, though. Like the Rift, Oculus Go runs on the Oculus Home interface. If you’re familiar with Home on the Rift, there’s zero learning curve on Go.
If you’re new to Oculus Home, don’t worry, it’s really easy to navigate. It’s like looking at Batman’s command center.
Multiple-connected virtual screens show your library of VR content, videos, photos, the Oculus Store, etc. Selecting these windows is a simple point and press of the trigger button on the controller. Swipe on the controller’s touchpad to scroll in any direction and hit the back button to return to the previous screen.
Occasionally, you’ll need to recalibrate the controller (the same as on Gear VR), but that’s as easy as pressing and holding the Oculus button.
Oculus says there’s over 1,000 VR apps that work with the Go. The majority of these VR experiences were created for Gear VR and then ported over to the Go so that should give you a sense of what kind of VR fidelity you’ll get.
It feels like you’re watching your movies on a theater-sized screen.
It’s been a little while since I’ve checked out new VR content on Gear VR so it was really good to see there’s a lot more to pick from now. It wasn’t hard to quickly find interesting 360-degree videos and games to play.
Oculus was generous enough to give me pre-release access to the Oculus Store, so I went kind of crazy downloading and installing as many different apps as my 32GB headset could hold.
Most VR apps are around 500-700MB, and 3D games usually clocked in at no more than 5GB. Just something to keep in mind if you’re deciding between the 32GB and 64GB Oculus Go. If you’re planning on playing a lot of 3D games, I recommend going with the higher storage model because there’s no adding more later.
The visual and aural experience from Go exceeded my expectations. Whether I was blasting zombies in Death Horizon or End Space, slowing time in DRIFT, flying a starship in Anshar Online, or soaring through the air in a virtual wing suit in RUSH, I quickly got lost in these digital worlds.
And if not for a low-battery warning or notifications from the phone in my pocket, I could have easily stayed in VR for hours. The clarity of the visuals are crisper to my eyes than on Gear VR. I didn’t feel nauseous in most VR apps, but your own experience will vary. Definitely pay attention to the app’s “comfort rating” to see how intense it may be.
Oculus Go is especially engrossing for watching movies and videos. It feels like you’re watching your movies on a theater-sized screen. I stopped using my iPad to watch videos mostly because its screen size doesn’t compare to a larger virtual one.
One thing I have to gripe about is the nose pad. I know there’s no one-size-fits-all for nose pads, but the one on the Go is too large. Even with the headset tightly secured over my eyes, light would leak in or I’d be able to see the ground. It’s not a deal-breaker if you never look down too much, but it’s probably the biggest flaw to the Go in my opinion.
A few other fun VR apps I enjoyed were B-Team, an endless runner; Catan VR, a VR version of the classic tabletop game; and République, a stealth adventure game.
Though I mostly stuck with playing games, there’s something for everyone in the Oculus Store. Netflix, Hulu, CNN, New York Times, NASA Space Explorers, music apps — way too many too list here.
The most compelling VR content for Go comes from Facebook. Yeah, I know, Facebook sucks right now and yadayadayada, but if you can put the company’s privacy issues aside, you’ll see they’re developing quite an interesting VR platform.
Oculus Rooms is to Oculus Go the way Wii Sports was to the Wii — it’ll hook you instantly.
Oculus Gallery is an easy way to stream all your photos and videos and 360 content posted on Facebook and Instagram. If you really want to get nerdy, you can set up a home media server and stream content from there right into the headset, too.
Rooms is to Oculus Go the way Wii Sports was to the Wii — it’ll hook you instantly.
My favorite VR experience for the Go is Oculus Rooms 2.0. First launched on Rift and Gear VR, the updated Rooms is like virtual hangout for you and your friends to chill in.
There are three main sections of Rooms: A “Media Area” with a giant screen where you can watch videos and view media content, a “Games Table” where you can play various games like matching cards and Reversi (more games like Boggle, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit are coming from Hasbro later), and “Your Room” where you can decorate your space by customizing things like your furniture textures, the photos on your walls, and the scene out the virtual window.
The Rooms experience isn’t photo-realistic by any means, but it’s the best showcase of social VR. Here, inside of this virtual room, you can invite your friends from anywhere in the world to come and watch a video with you. Or watch a video, while playing mini games. Or just hang out and have a conversation.
I thought it would be stupid at first, but it’s one of the most natural things I’ve ever done in VR. And even though it’s nowhere near as full-featured as Facebook Spaces for the Oculus Rift, it’s still pretty damn fun to chill in even if you’re not doing anything but kicking back and watching a video.
Rooms is the first thing I showed people when I handed them Oculus Go, and it never failed to blow them away. Even friends who were extremely skeptical of VR or had written it off as a fad were impressed. Rooms is to Oculus Go the way Wii Sports was to the Wii — it’ll hook you instantly.
But like all VR experiences, it’s impossible to truly convey to you what’s happening or how much fun it is unless you try it for yourself. These below videos of my coworkers having way too much fun (I had to pry the headset back from them) give you a good idea.
I think Seoul was wingsuiting down a canyon here in Rush:
And yeah… it’s totally not weird at all shooting zombies in your own little world in public spaces. JK, it totally is, but who cares if you don’t make it awkward. Just do you!
Oculus Rooms is reason enough to get an Oculus Go if you ask me, but it’s just the start. Soon it’ll be joined by Oculus TV, a giant viewing screen for watching content in VR from the likes of Showtime, Showtime Anywhere, Red Bull, Pluto TV, Hulu, Facebook, and even ESPN and ESPN+ by the end of the year.
Oculus Venues is another sweet-looking way to experience concerts, sports, and events from around the world in VR is another virtual experience I’m looking forward to trying when it launches later this year.
VR for everyone
“The most important technologies don’t start off mainstream,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the company’s 2017 Oculus Connect developer conference. “A lot of them seem maybe too crazy or complex to start.”
I couldn’t agree more. Oculus Go is the VR headset we’ve all been waiting for: fully self-contained. It’s super clichéd to say a product is the “iPhone of [product category],” but the Oculus Go really is.
Oculus Go is the first VR headset you can casually pick up and use without setting time aside for setup.
It’s the only VR headset that provides a good VR experience without the complexities of configuring a smartphone or PC. It’s not the most cutting-edge VR headset— that’ll always be reserved for PC VR headsets — but it’s the most frictionless way to dive into the virtual world. Oculus Go is the first VR headset you can casually pick up and use without needing to set time aside for setup.
Standalone VR headsets are the future. They’re the “sweet spot” as Zuckerberg also said at Oculus Connect. Oculus Go is an important stepping stone towards more powerful standalone VR headsets, like Facebook’s own Santa Cruz VR headset, that’ll inch us closer towards a Holodeck.
The Oculus Go is the VR headset that’ll help mainstream VR. It may still be another few more years, but this is the one that changes everything.