Tuesday, November 7, 2017

First Impressions: Samsung Odyssey HMD

If you've got a gamer in your life and have heard them talking about eventually wanting to dive into VR (virtual reality), this post is written by the Mr to give you his thoughts on his latest purchase.

(Not the headset but this is what you're gonna look like with this thing on!)

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been researching virtual reality headsets and saving up my money. When these things were first released, they were expensive. And, while they still aren’t necessarily “cheap” they have not only come down a lot in price, but there are also more choices now than ever before. You see, Microsoft recently introduced what they are referring to as Windows Mixed Reality and, with it, have introduced virtual reality headsets from several partners including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Samsung that are more affordable than what has previously been available on the market. They also provide controllers that represent your hands in the virtual environment. This kind of setup used to cost as much as $800 just a year ago, but now you can get into VR for the starting price of $399 for the Acer (affiliate link) (with the controllers included, $299 without) or you can spend a bit more and get the Lamborghini of Virtual Reality headsets – the Samsung Odyssey HMD, at $499. Since I’d been waiting and saving, I decided to go for the Samsung as it has several features that make it stand out above the rest. Such as a higher resolution, built-in spatial audio headphones, built-in microphone, AMOLED screens, as opposed to LCD, which are easier on the eyes and offer better color range, and the ability to adjust the lenses with a mechanical selector instead of via software which is actually very helpful in making the experience that much better. The Samsung headset released November 6th (yesterday).   However, it’s been on pre-order for a little over a month now. I had pre-ordered mine on October 3rd from Samsung and was all set to get one – until Friday when I received an email from Samsung saying it was on backorder. Don’t you hate when that happens? After reading some comments online I learned that this is something Samsung does a lot, apparently. Needless to say, I was bummed. So on Monday, I decided to make some phone calls and I found out that the Microsoft Store actually has them in stock. I did one of those “pick up in store” purchases online and next thing I knew I was going home with it!

It was very easy to set up and within minutes I was immersed in virtual reality. I only have a couple of games so far but one of them is called Space Pirate Trainer and it’s about as close as I’ve ever been to playing the old arcade game “Galaga” but with the entire world surrounding you and everywhere you look there are things attacking. You also use the controllers to shoot at the enemies coming at you and they have vibration feedback that really sells the effect. You also have to dodge their lasers and it gets really fun and interesting really fast when they start coming at you from all directions. The other game I have is a game where you build a snow fort and find yourself in a snowball fight with a snowman who, I have to say, is relentless. When you look down at your “hands” in the game, all you see is two little mittens and it’s such an odd feeling, but it’s so funny to see these little mittens floating where your hands are and “picking up” snowballs to throw at the snowman who is attacking you (Or in my case, the little helpful fox that is teaching you how to play, it’s too fun to throw snowballs at him and have him say, hey stop that!). Games are not the only thing on offer here though. When you first plug in your headset and jump into VR, you find yourself in what is called The Cliff House. This is basically a virtual representation of your Windows 10 interface. You can walk around using the controllers and as you enter certain areas you might hear the sounds of birds or waves in the distance. You can even walk over to the edge of the cliff and look down at the ocean. But the coolest feature so far was something that I didn’t actually get to do. The Mrs. got the chance to walk with Penguins and visit Macchu Picchu using a VR video experience and we both did a stroll in the sewers with Pennywise.

I am really happy with my purchase and am excited to get even more experiences. I think one of the things I am looking forward to most is the idea of being able to watch a rock concert and be on stage with the band and just kind of look around and enjoy the show from any angle. But of course I am a gamer first and there are some great games coming soon that I will be waiting to get my hands on. So if you don’t know what to get your family, spouse or even yourself this holiday season, consider getting something that can take you to new worlds. It’s not just for games and you might be surprised at just how amazing the experience can be. One small word of caution though, it can require a higher end PC if you plan to do the full gaming experiences. So keep that in mind. If you do have questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer them as much as I can.

Edit:  He took it back because the earpiece dislodged and he had to Gerry rig it back on and the cable kinks up with little resolution.  After an online search, others reported the same problem.  On to the next headset.  Though after him breaking one of my work items, I'm not sure VR is gonna work in our shoebox.  Doing it in a somewhat confined space is NOT advised...especially if you're looking to keep the "happy wife, happy life" thing down.

Are you or someone you know into virtual reality?

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  1. Thank you Mr. Very helpful. I was considering a vr system for my husband but was overwhelm as I am not a gamer or techy person. I have the odyssey in my cart from Microsoft now but now I'm wondering if compatible with his laptop. What are the minimum requirement is laptop should have for the $499 vr package to work?
    Does it come with games you described?
    Is the Microsoft store online the best and only place to get it?
    Thank you for helping me out.

    1. I meant to respond to your question about games. So far the Microsoft Store online only has a few games for it. However, SteamVR support is coming soon, and what that means is that the entire Steam virtual reality game library will soon be playable with the Windows MR headsets. Steam has a huge library of games and this will make a huge difference once it's available. They say this coming holiday it should be ready. I can tell you that it already works because I happen to have a developer code for it and am able to play it in beta, so I don't see them needing to delay this aspect and the sheer amount of games is overwhelming there so no shortage of playtime once that is open to everyone.

      And one other thing to mention. If you or anyone in your family wear glasses, you might consider a different headset than the Samsung. The Samsung manual says not to wear glasses with the headset on. But if you cannot see without them then that could be a problem, obviously. I did try my Samsung with glasses on and, while it works fine, it does put more pressure on the face as a result. I found it very uncomfortable after a short time. Other headsets, like the Acer, HP, etc. Do not have the same mounting type and might be better for glasses wearers, so that might be worth consideration for some people. Since I also wear contacts, it is not a problem for me but wanted to mention that.

    2. Oh, and the Samsung comes with 2 free games. One which is out now and one coming in December. The games I mentioned, however, are sold separately. Space Pirate Trainer was $14.99 when I got it and the Snow Fortress game was $5.99, so not too bad.

    3. Thank you Mr. I just ordered it on the Microsoft website. I'm still not a 100% sure his pc is up to spend but he is the techy of the family he can figure it out on Christmas ;) I don't want to ask to ask him to many computer questions it is so suspicious for me to be interested in computers. Haha. Thank you for the post and the thorough and quick replies.

    4. You're welcome. He will love it, I know it's a surprise I wouldn't have minded getting! And the nice thing is even if he cannot run it at full power right off the bat, he'll have a good reason to upgrade later on and it will grow with the system.

  2. This link has the spec listing:

    They list 2 modes, regular and Ultra. Ultra is the spec that you would want to meet for gaming as it has the highest frame rate.

    Generally speaking, VR requires a beefy computer. But Microsoft has done a good job of lowering those requirements somewhat. However, this means you get those 2 experience options. If you have a laptop or desktop that does not have a graphics card, then it may run but will run at a slower refresh rate, which limits gaming possibilities and also can make some people sick. So be aware of that.

    As for the best place to buy one right now. Microsoft store. They seem to be the only place you can currently get it in stock as it just released yesterday and even Samsung direct is back-ordered right now.

  3. This came at the perfect time - my kids are both super gamers. They will love getting this!! Thanks Mr.!!!

    1. So glad to see that. They will love it. You just might too!

  4. What a great post, Mr.! I'll be showing this to my husband who will take great interest in this. He does his video games now and then, but he's always interested in the VR stuff when he sees stuff on TV. This is very cool!

  5. Great! Glad to hear that. Microsoft is new to the VR game and are not doing much in the way of marketing yet but the more word we get out the better!

  6. What I really want to know is... Was it worth the cold the Mrs. blames on test driving this thing?

    Seriously though - this is really cool. I'm not a gamer, and it's out of Santa's price range for my son - but it's really really cool. I love the idea of the penguins and Machu Pichu, and a tour of the sewers with Pennywise almost had me pulling out the ol' credit card.


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