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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.

Solo mis­sion

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

Mid­dle ground

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.

See­ing things

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?

Tough choice

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.


STEREO VI­SIONThe two cam­eras can de­tect ob­jects and depth, so the head­set can warn you about nearby walls be­fore you FRPH WRbD KDUG VWDQGVWLOOð The 110-de­gree ĆHOG RI YLHZ LQ WKH 0LUDJH 6ROR LV MRLQW ZLGHVW LQ WKH PDUNHW EXW LV VWLOO IDLUO\ FRQĆQHG BAND TO­GETHER The ad­justable head­band is a lot like the PlayS­ta­tion VRs, and puts weight on the fore­head (rather than the nose), mer­ci­fully

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

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