LG is diving deeper into virtual reality at Mobile World Congress 2016 with the announcement of the LG 360 VR mobile headset.
Last year, LG followed joined the Google Cardboard fun when it unveiled its own headset called VR for G3. Made specifically for LG G3 smartphones, it was given away with each G3 purchase. Then it all but disappeared into the ether.
Considering it was just a plastic Cardboard, it makes sense then that the company would try again with a flashier unit. If you’re familiar with the setup of the Samsung Gear VR – using a handset to power up a VR experience, then you’ll get the gist of LG’s latest device.
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However there’s a huge difference between the two: the LG 360 VR doesn’t require a phone to sit in front of your face. Rather, the headset plugs into LG G5 handsets via a dedicated USB-C cord.
The LG goggles weigh only 118g and delivers a resolution of 639ppi. You’ll be able to view 360-degree images and videos captured with the LG 360 CAM, as well as all Google Cardboard content. LG claims it’s like watching a 130-inch TV from 2 metres away. Not quite, LG, not quite.
Only Samsung phones work with the Gear VR and, you guessed it, only an LG G5 will work with the new LG headset. The LG reps noted that the company does want to let other handsets work with the goggles in the future though, but a specific timeframe wasn’t given. All Google Cardboard apps are compatible. LG sounds confident the goggles will release some time in April.
We now have the specs for the 360 VR – the built-in LCD display serves up 960 x 720 pixels per eye and there’s both a proximity sensor and a six axis accelerometer and gyroscope for head tracking.
The LG representative was most excited to tell me how light the device feels – and he wasn’t lying.
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Though awkward to put on at first – the goggle legs (equivalent to Gear VR straps) had to be pulled outward to place on my face – it was noticeably well, unnoticeable because of its lack of heft.
I only wore it for 10 minutes on and off, but I didn’t detect too much pressure sitting on my face and I could picture myself using it on a plane pretty comfortably. The fact that it’s also foldable and far slimmer than other mobile headsets makes it more appealing for travel.
The downside to this is that the model we used also felt a bit like it would fall apart if we knocked it about too much.
The lenses are adjustable similar to the Gear VR’s diopter but also like Sammy’s headset, the LG 360 VR isn’t good for glasses wearers. The nose pad, however, can be removed and replaced with better fitting pair. There’s also a cover that forms to your face and can be taken off for a more comfortable one.
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There are two buttons on the top right side – back and “OK” – which let you navigate the VR interface.
The cord sits in an odd place on the right side of the goggles. Instead of being underneath the goggle, it’s secured on top. I wondered if it would get caught while taking the device on and off, but perhaps the design decision will actually stop it from getting tangled. A longer period of usage is needed to test it out.
So how is it in use? We had a few problems – the main one being that we could see too much of the real world from the bottom of the goggles. It’s just not as immersive and very cheap and light Cardboard viewers are able to enclose our vision better than this.
We mentioned the build quality which we assume will get better. Then there’s the actual VR experience. It was OK, nothing special in terms of resolution or quality compared to phones but we couldn’t ever get the focus quite spot on and the Wi-Fi streaming of the 360 degree videos at the show was pretty terrible.
At the moment, we’re impressed LG didn’t go the usual mobile headset route but we’re also hesitant to say this is how we will be getting our mobile VR. By April, we’ll review the LG 360 VR to see if it’s worth considering as an alternative to cheap Cardboard viewers.
Additional testing by Sophie Charara