Google and Oculus are competing like never before.
As cool as it is to be able to put your phone in a simple headset and be transported to another world, sometimes you need your phone to be a phone. It's inconvenient to get to the end of the day and be unable to enjoy VR because your phone is nearly dead, or to have to take the protective case off of your phone every time you want to enjoy VR.
The solution, according to Google and Oculus, is to make headsets which have the hardware baked in. Google's platform, called Daydream Standalone, allows multiple manufacturers to build headsets free from using your phone as a brain. Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream is a prime example. The same can be said of the upcoming Oculus Go, which was announced late last year during the Oculus Connect conference. With both of these headsets expected to land this year: The Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream on May 11th, and the Oculus Go later this year. So, now is the best time to see exactly how they compare side-by-side before considering a purchase. Here's what you need to know!
At first glance, Oculus Go is immediately recognizable as an Oculus product. The straps designed to hold the computer-y bits to your face are distinctly Oculus, and that's a good thing because we already know they work well. The back straps are designed to hug the back of your head from multiple angles, while the front sides of the straps sit on rails that make sliding the headset on and off your face nice and easy. Unlike the Oculus Rift headset, which has separate headphones you pull down over your ears, Go has a pair of small spatial audio speakers on these rails designed to give you sound wherever you are. You can still use headphones if you choose, but this other option is always there.
Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream more closely resembles its Windows Mixed Reality headset than it does either of the original Google-made Daydream headsets. There's no fabric anywhere — using plastic instead — and the single halo-style strap for the headset is designed to be tightened onto your head with the adjustment wheel in the back of the headset. The advantage of this design is a better distribution of weight and less pressure directly on your face, which is nice when you want to use the headset for a long time. Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream includes a pair of cameras on the front of the headset for Google's WorldSense features, which allow you to move around in a room instead of the typical seated VR experiences expected from phone-based VR experiences.
Here's a quick look at how the specs break down:
|Feature||Oculus Go||Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream|
|Dimensions||Unknown||8.03" x 10.61" x 7.08"|
|Field of View||90 degrees||110 degrees|
|Processor||Snapdragon 821||Snapdragon 835|
|Audio||Internal speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack||3.5mm headphone jack|
|Storage||Unknown||64GB onboard storage, microSD slot|
|Display||LCD display (2560x1440)||5.5-inch LCD display (2560x1440)|
|Sensors||3DoF Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer||6DoF WorldSense cameras, P-Sensor, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer|
|Controller||3Dof Controller||3DoF Daydream Controller|
|Wireless||WiFi Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/n||Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/n, 2x2 MIMO Dual Band|
|Bluetooth||Unknown||5.0 + BLE|
While it's clear we don't currently have all of the Oculus Go details, in a lot of important areas the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream is a more capable headset (at least on paper). In particular, the limitation to Three Degrees of Freedom (3DoF) on the Oculus Go means you're not going to be walking around with the headset on. In fact, with no camera on the front like you get with the Samsung Gear VR you're likely to only want to use this headset while seated.
While it's true both of these headsets are going to offer some of the first phone-free, truly wireless VR setups, the software is going to be very different. Not just because Oculus and Google maintain their own digital stores, but because the approach to how both of these headsets will function is going to be very different.
Oculus Go is being built to be its own platform with its own games, but Oculus is also making it possible for developers who wrote Samsung Gear VR apps to port those apps to this new headset. Since Oculus Go is Android-based, it's expected that this process will be very easy. That means you can expect many Gear VR apps to eventually make their way to Oculus Go, but there will also be lots of new apps made specifically for Oculus Go. When you go to actually play these games, it will become quickly clear there is very little difference between the Gear VR experience and the Oculus Go experience. In effect, Oculus is making a Gear VR that can be used anywhere without your phone.
Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream is functionally more capable than the standard Daydream experience. The addition of Google's WorldSense capabilities means there will be games that directly encourage you to jump around and duck like you would a PC-based VR system. Google also plans to make all 250+ of the current Daydream apps and games available on the Mirage Solo at launch, but the long-term plan allows developers to build apps and games with physical space in mind. Eventually, it's likely there will be more Daydream Standalone apps than standard Daydream apps, and while these experiences won't be visually superior to your average Daydream experience they will allow for a lot more interactivity.
It'll be a while before anyone is able to say which headset is going to offer the best games, but it's clear the plan for Daydream Standalone is considerably more advanced. That having been said, Oculus has a long history of scoring amazing games as exclusives for its platforms.
Which is best?
If you're looking to spend money on a phone-free VR headset this year, both the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream and Oculus Go are going to offer some great experiences for two very different kinds of users.
Oculus Go is clearly focused on delivering the existing Gear VR experience without needing a Samsung phone, and Oculus folks have said repeatedly this headset was priced to make it easy for anyone to jump in and enjoy VR. There's no doubt this is going to be the best standalone VR headset you can get for $199 this year.
What Google is offering with Daydream Standalone through the Lenovo Mirage Solo is something more than what you can already get with a Daydream headset and your phone. WorldSense is all about being able to walk around in your VR world and move as though you are a part of it. You can't do that with a Daydream headset right now, and you won't be able to do it with an Oculus Go, either. That tech comes at a price, which is why the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream is going to be priced "under $400" when it is available later this year.
Choosing which headset is for you really depends on the kind of experiences you want. If all you want is a way to watch VR video and play simple games from your chair, Oculus Go is going to be great. There's a good chance I won't ever get on an airplane again without one of these headsets. If you're looking for something a little more interactive, and you don't have the space or the cash for a full PC or PS4 VR system, you're going to want to take a closer look at the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream.
Update April, 2018: We've updated this article with information on release dates as well as the new name for the Google Standalone