LENOVO MIRAGE SOLO
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The next big standalone VR headset is here, and it’s way more advanced than the Oculus Go. Is it the next big thing?
As much as VR feels like the future when you try an HTC Vive or PlayStation VR, it’s pretty clear that getting tangled in cables powering the headset from an expensive gaming box would always keep it niche. Phone-based headsets weren’t going to solve the problem, because even slotting your phone in is too much hassle. To take off, VR needs to be easy, convenient, not interfere with the rest of your life, and affordable. That’s where standalone VR headsets come in: all the good stuff, totally wireless and self-contained.
Like the Oculus Go, the Lenovo Mirage Solo basically has an Android phone built into it. It’s powered by Google’s Daydream platform, which the best phone-slotting headset uses – this means it’s ready to go with a wide range of apps and experiences immediately.
It’s a pretty advanced system too, that promises to let you do VR the way it was meant to be: tracking in threedimensional space thanks to sensors inside and out means you can move around the environment. It’s even comfortable enough for long VR sessions every so often – not something every headset manages.
Getting it to this standard does come with a trade-off, though, and in this case, the cost is… well, the cost. At approx. `30,000 , it’s straining against the idea that mobile VR should be budget. The Oculus Go can be had for roughly half the price, but that’s less technically advanced. An HTC Vive set with sensors and controllers is `69,990, and that offers an even higher-quality experience – but you also need a gaming PC that
So, it meets its remit of being cheaper than the high-end sets, but it’s still a big chunk of change more than the Oculus Go. There are enough extra technical enhancements jammed in here that we think it’s actually worth it for those looking for something future-proof for the world of VR that’s coming. But Google’s Daydream platform still needs to grow considerably to make this a truly tempting purchase for the mainstream audience over what the Oculus Go has. Especially when this looks so much more ‘techy’.
The Mirage Solo is almost like the love child of the PSVR headset and the Google Daydream View – it’s bright and cheerful, but with two cameras on the front like googly eyes, and a big solid headband, it lacks the casual lifestyle look that the Oculus Go nails.
That said, the fact that everything is stuffed into the headset itself makes the comfort levels here really impressive. The weight sits partly on your forehead, with a twisting knob for adjusting the fit around your skull correctly. The display housing can move back and forth without distorting the image, so if you find that light’s seeping in around the edges, you can easily fix it.
Those cameras on the front are for WorldSense, Google’s technology that gives the Mirage Solo its impressive 3D tracking. Like the HTC Vive, this headset makes a map of your environment and warns you when you’re about to step outside of a safe zone. Except unlike the Vive, you’re not bound to your VR-ready room full of sensors. You can take this literally anywhere… that you’re comfortable wearing a headset that cuts you off from the world. Even in a large open areas, Daydream OS seems to limit most experiences with a boundary of about six feet in either direction.
It’s not a massive headset in the scheme of things, but it’s still tough to fit into a bag for travel, or toss into a drawer to hide away. Again, the Oculus Go tops it for convenience.
The package includes Google’s Daydream remote, which is how you’ll interact with Daydream OS, as well as games and apps.
Unplug and play
We usually have to set aside a whole swathe of a VR headset review to talk about setting it up. Even the Oculus Go, vanguard of the convenient future, still has a whole set of steps to take from your phone. But the Lenovo Mirage Solo is as easy and breezy as it should be. Give it a charge, put it on, start it up with the controller
in-hand, and after going through a few easy steps in Daydream OS, Google’s dedicated VR operating system, you’re done.
Finding something to do on it is as simple as firing up the Google Play Store, which will show you only compatible apps and games. Google does a pretty decent job of pushing cool new stuff to the front. Some is free, most costs under a tenner, and it’s of varying levels of quality, as you might expect.
Daydream OS itself is a bit like a games console, in that when you hit the home button during a game, you’ll see a screen that lets you adjust settings and switch between other recently launched apps or games.
We tried a load of WorldSenseenabled experiences, from the old (the remarkably clever Virtual Virtual Reality) to the new (Blade Runner: Revelations, and The Chinese Room’s narrative-driven So Let Us Melt). It doesn’t take WorldSense to make a VR game good, though its safety features mean it’s useful to have there even if whatever you’re doing doesn’t technically require it. But the tracking accuracy takes the whole experience to a new level for both new and older games. In Blade Runner: Revelations, which is a good time anyway, we got a lot more out of it by being able walk around the environment and analysing clues and characters up-close. The WorldSense safety bubble felt frustratingly small at times, but there’s huge potential here for proper high-end VR experiences for a lot less money.
Everything we did on the Mirage Solo was smooth and slick – the phone-like innards seemed to be more than up to the task of VR.
In terms of visual fidelity, there’s not much to complain about. The 110-degree field of view matches the likes of the Oculus Rift, and the 5.5-inch 2560x1440 display is suitably high-res, matching the Oculus Go, and almost as sharp as the HTC Vive Pro. It’s plenty bright, the colours look great, and the all-important refresh rate (locked at 75Hz) mean it’s impressive overall. The only downside is that its blacks aren’t very black (it’s not OLED), which is more noticeable when it’s right up against your face.
It comes with 64GB of storage built into the headset, which should keep you going for a while. There’s a microSD slot that can take it up to 256GB too, so you’re sorted either way. Lenovo is also making a matching VR camera – the Mirage Camera, of course – that can shoot in the new VR180 format. Swapping a microSD card from the camera to here lets you view the images in their immersive glory. It’s a nice touch.
Being totally wireless means a battery, naturally. Lenovo claims it’s good for 2.5 hours of continuous use, but you’re rarely going to test this to its limit. A more reasonable half hour of games usually brought it down by about 25 per cent for us, and leaving it for a day on standby dropped the battery by roughly 15 per cent, so you can get decent amount of sporadic use from a single charge. Charging every couple of days, or each day after more pronounced use, seems good to us.
Given that there’s no shortage of VR headsets across the whole price gamut now, the biggest questions are: how much money do you want to spend, and what do you actually want to do with a VR headset?
The elephant in the review is the Oculus Go. While similar in their top-level approach to cutting the cord and ditching the phone, Lenovo’s option is really in a league of its own by comparison, but that applies to both features and price. The Mirage Solo is almost double the cost of the Go, but is advanced enough to warrant the difference. Those differences are best for experiences and games where you want to move around. If you want something for primarily viewing VR videos and images while slumped on a sofa, the Go is great.
If you want high-end gaming experiences, you still need a PC headset or PlayStation VR, though the Mirage Solo makes a great case against them too. With the microSD slot, it’s more versatile than the likes of the Vive, and it’s higher-res than the PSVR. And it’s much cheaper all-in.
Lenovo has hit a sweet spot of VR capability and price, but the slightly clunky design and still-fairly-high price may hold it back from being a mainstream hit. It will be supported by the Daydream platform either way, so it’s still a safe and excellent buy.
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SNAP AWAYThe Lenovo Mirage Camera is an optional accessory. It’s made super-simple, so it’s easy to take 4K video and stills that work on YouTube VR (and the Solo) 7KH ZKLWH ĆQLVK PDNHV WKLV ORRN OLNH WKH L3RG RI 95 ZKLFK LW NLQG RI LV IN CONTROLThe Mirage Solo’s controller is simple: motion control and buttons, but QRQH RI WKH DGYDQFHG ĆQJHU VHQVLQJ RIbWKH 2FXOXV 5LIW
&RPHG\ YLVRU H\H HIIHFW /HQRYR )HWFKLQJ MXPSHU PRGHOèV RZQ EXPLORE THE SPACEYou’ll need a chunk of empty space to move around in for the full effect, but the Mirage Solo will warn you of impending disasters in smaller spaces