Google has temporarily cut the price of its latest Daydream View virtual reality headset in half, bringing the device from $99 to $49.
Google Daydream View (2017)
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The deal technically began on April 15 at the Google Store, but Google says it will run through April 28. The company says the deal is only available for those in the US on its site.
Google and other retailers have discounted the Daydream View at points in the past, but this deal ties the lowest price the smartphone-powered headset has had to date, and, at least on paper, makes it an affordable starting point for those interested in trying VR for the first time.
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What youre getting
The question is whether or not it's worth jumping in with Google's headset in the first place. The deal applies to the second-generation Daydream View headset, which Google announced alongside its latest Pixel phones last October. The device has garnered relatively positive reviews across the Web since then, but it does come with a few noteworthy caveats.
Number one is that it won't work with every phone. Google has a list of devices compatible with its Daydream VR platform on its website: the list is not incredibly comprehensive, but it does include Google's own Pixel phones, Samsung's Galaxy S8, S8+, and Galaxy Note 8, LG's V30, a handful of Motorola's Moto Z devices, and a few others from Huawei, ZTE, and Asus. Google lists the newer Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ as being compatible "soon." There's no iOS support, but given Apple's aversion to VR that shouldn't be a surprise.
Beyond that, Google's Daydream platform doesn't have the level of support as the $129 Samsung Gear VR, the Daydream View's closest competitor. The Gear VR's Oculus-powered app store still tends to have a richer suite of things to do, with a more comprehensive set of games to play in particular. This gives the Gear VR a modicum of cross-compatibility with the Oculus Rift headset as well, for those who own the latter and want a mobile complement.
That said, the Daydream View does work with a few apps that the Gear VR lacks, most notably YouTube, and its game library isn't totally devoid of quality these days. The View also tends to be seen as a more comfortable piece of hardware: it's about 80 grams lighter, which is tangible; it's a bit faster to put on and set up; and its fabric coating and well-padded liner are softer than the Gear VR's mix of hard plastic and foam.
This is still a mobile VR headset, so, like the Gear VR, the Daydream View is mainly just a holster for a smartphone doing the real work. That means its "screen quality" is largely dependent on the quality of the phone screen you put in it.
But the second-gen Daydream View does increase its field of view from 90 degrees to 100 degrees. The View is still a marked step down from more robust VR headsets like the Rift or even the PlayStation VR, but it's better than the original, which we described as being like "looking through a small porthole on a ship." The Gear VR, by comparison, has a 101-degree field of view.
The headset also adds a small heatsink which helps a hooked-up phone more easily release heat and avoid unexpected shutdowns. A top strap keeps things more securely in place, too, and the buttons on the simplistic remote that comes with the headset are a little more distinct than they were on the original.
The Daydream View doesn't do much to change the conceptual issues of mobile VR—namely, the inability to fully track a user's head and body in a 3D space—and it's still hard to say there are many "must-have" apps on any mobile VR platform. If you want a more fully fleshed-out experience that isn't the price of a HTC Vive, it might be worth shelling out more for a PlayStation VR or waiting to see how the Oculus Go shape up. Potential consumers should note that Google's annual I/O conference is next month, so there's a chance of more news on its standalone VR plans then.
Still, there's fun to be had with the Daydream View, and at $49 there's less pressure for it to be revelatory. You could do worse if you wanted to dip your toes in the VR waters. Just don't expect the level of depth you'd get for shelling out a few hundred more.