Today’s market offers many VR headsets you can choose from. The prices and the quality sometimes are contradicting, but if you do your research well, you will find the VR product that suits you the best. While some people do not care about the money they spend, others think twice before they spend their dollars, especially when it comes to products like VR headsets. Thankfully you do not have to necessarily spend hundreds of dollars on starting your VR journey. Google took this huge step into making the VR experience accessible for everyone out there.
If you are a total beginner in the virtual reality realm, Google Cardboard is probably the right device for you. This is the easiest and the cheapest VR device on the market. The device earns a Best Buy award with its minimalism and affordability. If you are looking for a device that is immersive and comfortable, then this is not the one, but for the price it comes, it does offer a decent intro into the VR realm. Google Cardboard comes with a price that is literary a fraction of the price of the other headsets. Therefore, if you have a small budget or you do not want to spend big money on a VR device, Google Cardboard is the one for you.
- Very cheap
- Supports Android and iOS
- Solid app ecosystem
- The design is flimsy
- Cardboard isn’t the most durable material
- No head straps
Overview of the device
I bet, at some point, you have considered getting a VR headset, but you have no clue which one to pick. As a beginner, you probably do not want to spend a lot of money on a device you are not sure if you are going to commit to. Many of the headsets on the market are the developer’s kit, and they cost a lot of money, like the Oculus Rift, for example.
Other headsets, like the Samsung Gear VR, do not offer enough content and on top of that are pricy as well. So far, there is no other headset that is more accessible than Google Cardboard and also a very easy one to use. The price is understandably low because you are paying for a couple of lenses, Velcro or a tape, and of course, the cardboard.
You can get your own Google Cardboard from a variety of vendors for about 20 bucks. Google does not sell these kits anymore. Also, you can download the instructions to make this headset from scratch.
If you are a hard-core virtual reality fan, this headset is not for you. The Cardboard is mostly for those who want to take a look at the VR world but do not want to spend big money and are not that into this experience.
Things to consider before buying
It was expected when people thought that Google was joking with this headset when they unveiled it back in 2014. Today, they have sold millions of this model, and yes, they still look dorky when you hold them on your face, but it appears that people like this product.
It is clear that Google did not make a mistake when they thought that there would be a market for this headset. The success of the Cardboard provoked some other companies to copy this product only a few years after it came on the market. We also must ask ourselves if the Google Cardboard deserves to be called a VR headset, as we know other cheap headsets offer a lot more than this device.
Did we mention you should watch out for dizziness, headaches, and nausea? Yep, they are going to happen eventually.
If you want to use the Cardboard app, you need to load it up, go from icon to icon by turning your head right or left. You will get a tutorial demo that will show you how to use the product. You will need to slide and release a magnetic ring on the side of the headset if you want to “click” on something, and you will need to tilt the headset 90 degrees if you want to go back to the home screen.
Cardboard comes with some basic demos. There is the Tutorial and a Tour Guide, which allows you to tour the Palace of Versailles. There is also an Exhibit demo allowing you to view African face masks and other demos.
One of the more interesting demos is the one about the Earth, which flies you over some famous cities and locations. The quality is not like on some other headsets, so do not expect an immersive experience, but still, it is good enough for the price you paid.
Bear in mind that having to place your smartphone so close to your eyes and try focusing on the screen through the plastic lenses will be a challenge. Experiencing nausea and vertigo is almost inevitable. This means that you won’t be able to use this device for a long period. The headache will lurk in, and you won’t be able to use this device in a way that you would use any of the other VR headsets.
Features & Benefits
The name of this device literary tells you what to expect. The Google Cardboard is made from cardboard, thus why it is so cheap. The design is very basic, and the headset does not have a head strap that would keep it firm on your head. Therefore, you will need to hold it with your hands the whole time, making it more of a VR viewer rather than an actual VR headset.
There are two flaps at the front of the device that are coming out and are attached to the top and sides with Velcro. The two pieces attached on the sides are there to block the outside sources of light when you use the headset. And, the flaps on the front of the headset are a sort of enclosure for your smartphone. You can fold the flaps down, put your smartphone in, and fold it back up. You will find a lowered area on the top right corner, which can function as a button for some of the Cardboard apps.
On the inside of the headset, there are two lenses and a dent, which you use to rest the device on your nose. In the middle of the headset, you will find a guideline that will help you place your smartphone properly.
It is up to you to make the whole experience comfortable. This is because there is no head strap, and you will need to hold the device on your face. Also, there is no padding on the headset, and having a Cardboard on your face might not be pleasant, but you do not have to press the headset to your face to achieve the wanted effect.
The worst part about this headset is that you need to hold it the whole time you are using it. The Google Cardboard is very light, but no matter how light it is, your hands will eventually get tired of holding it. Therefore, watching a movie on this headset will be a struggle.
Google’s official headset does not require any setup because it comes fully constructed in the box. All you will need to do is fold out the front and the side flaps. If you want to start using the official Google Cardboard app, you will need to scan the QR code that is on the headset. Then, simply adjust your smartphone in the front and use the Velcro to keep it in place.
Google Cardboard doesn’t have a feature that allows you to change pupil or focal distance. You can only hope that the default options are good for you. The lenses are the same ones found on every cheap VR headset on the market. The lenses have a minor dimming effect on your phone’s screen, which can mute the colors. You will notice the dimming effect on vibrant games like Magiove or Lamper VR: Firefly Rescue.
For short VR sessions, the whole experience seems acceptable, but for little extra money, you will get a lot more with some of the other cheap VR headsets on the market. If you want to avoid outside light getting in the headset, you will need to press in tight on your face, which after some time will get uncomfortable.
It would be a miracle if this headset had integrated audio. Luckily there is enough room for you to plug in a wired pair of headphones, or you can use the audio from your smartphone.
Games, Apps, Experiences
The iOS App Store and the Google play offer thousands of VR apps; still, the Google Cardboard app is the best starting point especially if you are a VR beginner. There you will find a curated list of games, apps, and experiences. You will also find content that is designed to work specifically with Google Cardboard and is compatible with its strengths. You will find many apps that offer exploring locations that you will hardly ever get a chance to visit in real life.
Google’s Expeditions can take you on a trip to places like Antarctica, Machu Picchu, the International Space Station, and many other cool places. If you happen to be vising any cool place and you want to capture it, the Cardboard Camera will allow you to capture the scene in 360 degrees.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The interactive level that most of the VR headsets on the market have is undoubtfully lacking on the Google Cardboard, and the comfort is also a big issue, especially for longer sessions. Yet, it does get the job done, and you will get a decent introduction to the VR world. The price is great, and it is the clear choice for VR beginners or people who want to take a look into the VR realm.
The setup is very easy, and it will take only a few minutes. Something rare about this headset is that it is compatible with the iPhone; not many headsets can brag about this feature. Still, not having a head strap makes this headset uncomfortable, especially if you plan to use it for a longer period, like watching a movie. If you plan to watch movies on your VR headset, maybe you should consider other cheap options like the Merge VR which is more comfortable than this one.
What do we like about this headset?
Google Cardboard is fun and cheap. It is a smart choice if you want to try the VR waters, but you are not ready to spend hundreds of dollars on headsets like Samsung Gear VR, for example. If it only curiosity that makes you want to buy a VR device, Google Cardboard is the one for you. The price is almost ridiculous, and you get a fair number of apps on the headset to play with.
What do we not like about this headset?
It would be very ungrateful to number the things we do not care for about this headset. I mean, what should one expect from a headset that costs less than 20dollars?! That being said, we would advise you not to expect an immersive VR experience from the Google Cardboard.
Google Cardboard turned out to be an amazing way for a beginner to introduce themselves to the VR world. This is mostly thanks to its price, which is less than 20 dollars and also to its ability to support both iOS and Android apps. The interface is intuitive enough for you to experience some cool VR games. You would get a decent VR performance for such a low price that it would be a mistake not to give it a try. We can say it is the perfect way to enter the VR realm without digging a hole in your wallet. The success of this headset was so big that other brands copied the entire concept.