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Samsung's Gear VR headset gets a more comfortable design

Engadget logo Engadget 2/08/2016 Chris Velazco
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Samsung's new Galaxy Note 7 is neat and all, but its USB Type-C port means it's incompatible with the Gear VR headset you might have lying around. Never fear, though: The company built a new, more comfortable version of its VR face-screen that you'll be able to pick up on August 19th, the same day the phone itself goes on sale. I strapped on the updated rig for a bit of face time and, I'll tell you right now, it's pretty fantastic.

At first glance, it's clear there's something new going on here. The new Gear VR comes decked out in a handsome, bluish-black finish that looks remarkably different from earlier models. As it turns out, the change wasn't just driven by style concerns. Some users complained about images from the phone's display reflecting off the white plastic interior of older Gear VRs, so Samsung went for a darker body to help mitigate the issue.

The controls have changed a bit too. There's now a dedicated Home button to take you back out of menus, so you no longer need to hold down that Back button. Meanwhile, the touchpad on the Gear VR's right side has received some significant updates. The etched D-pad design is totally gone, leaving more room for your finger to move around. It'll take a little getting used to if you're coming from the third-generation Gear VR, but it's very similar to the touchpad setup we saw way back when on the older Innovator Edition.

Speaking of older hardware, you can use this improved version of the Gear VR with all compatible Samsung phones too. The USB Type-C connector that latches onto the Note 7 can be swapped out for an included micro-USB connector. Just unlock the adapter, slide it off, pop on the other one and you're all set.

And did I mention the Gear VR is more comfortable than ever? The padding that presses into your face is thicker and more supple than before, and Samsung made the head strap longer to better accommodate large noggins like mine. Combined, these two changes make for a headset that stayed put and irritated my face less.

Since the Gear VR doesn't seem to move around as much, it's only fitting that Samsung widened its field of view too: The company's engineers bumped it from 96 degrees to 101 degrees to help make video and games feel a little more immersive. In my demo I didn't wear the Gear VR for very long, but the change seemed pretty modest, from where I was sitting. That said, I'll take just about any optical improvement I can get. All told, the Gear VR is still the best way to get started with virtual reality on the cheap -- it's just more likely now to be a comfortable fit.

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