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A beginner's guide to the Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR is finally coming to a retailer near you. So if you've had an eye for this fantastic VR headset, or you know somebody who has, this is the guide for you. We'll give you the details on getting started, watching movies, and even a few great accessories. You might want to check out how smartphone-based VR works before diving into the full guide.

Create an Oculus account

To get started with a Samsung Gear VR you'll need to create an Oculus account. It's a pretty easy and intuitive process, and it looks pretty familiar. You'll need to create a Username, Password, and pin number, along with entering info like your birthday. Each screen is clear and easy to use, which makes creating your account a real breeze.

Create an Oculus account

Each piece of required information will get its own screen, rather than a large registration form that you can fill out all at once. It can make things a little bit repetitive, but does ensure that you never get confused trying to enter your information. After registering yourself, the Oculus team will send a verification email to the address you signed up with. It arrives fairly quickly, which means you won't be stuck waiting for long before diving into the Oculus store and getting a peek at everything. Validating your account brings you to the final portion of setup, where you can add a payment method. After either entering your credit card info, or skipping it, you're ready to start, and transported to the Oculus app store.

Using the Oculus Interface

The most difficult part of getting used to using the Oculus is the interface. Rest assured though, it isn't difficult at all. Like using Google Cardboard you can view your surroundings within apps by turning your head to see everything. There is a full 360 degrees of immersive virtual background even when you are just hanging out in the home menu.

Samsung has also added a few bells and whistles to make navigation even easier. The app or experience you are looking at will pop out a bit to show that it has been selected. On the right side of the headset is a touchpad, by swiping it you can move between screens and tapping it will select or open a selected app or experience. There is also a small button which will take you back a screen. Using all three of these features together makes for a superbly easy and intuitive navigation process.

Gear VR interface screenshot

There is also a menu that can be reached by pressing and holding the back button on the side of the Gear VR headset. It opens up a setting menu that allows you to make a few tweaks, or activate a particular feature. The icons pop up in a line allowing you to navigate back to Oculus Home, use the Passthrough camera, reorient the Gear VR, activate "Do Not Disturb" mode, and adjust the brightness.

The Passthrough camera uses the back camera on your phone to view the room, as the name might suggest it's a passthrough. We will warn you that while you're seeing the room around you, it can still be extremely disorienting to walk around — so do so cautiously. Reorienting the Gear VR will just readjust things around you to make the experience most comfortable. The Do Not Disturb function is fantastically helpful, it means that notifications or updates won't pop up across your screen and helping to make sure that the experience is as immersive as possible. The last option on the menu allows you to turn the brightness up or down to where it's most comfortable for you.

One thing that you should stay aware of, that can highly frustrating is the lack of a search option. That's right, for the time being there is no search function available for the Oculus store, which means you'll need to scroll to find the specific app or experience you want to download. It can be a bit of a hassle, and we're hoping that a search function will be added with later updates. You can still get around pretty easily without it, but it's strange and makes finding the one app you've been looking for slightly more difficult.

More: Where to buy the new Gear VR

Watching Movies in VR

At this point most, if not all of us, have caught a movie in 3D at the theater in the last couple of years. So your next question might be along the lines of, Can I watch movies in VR? The answer to that is yes, but it won't be a full 3D pop out experience in your living room — at least not yet.

Right now the easiest way to watch movies or television in VR is by using the Netflix app. It's got a really spectacular setup that transports you to your very own cabin to watch the television, with a full portrait of Bo Jack Horseman on the wall above it. You can settle in for a movie, or binge watching television alike, and transport yourself somewhere else while you do it.

Gear VR Netflix screenshot

Full-on binge watching might be a bit rough though. By the end of a full length movie, your eyes will probably be begging for a break — ours certainly were. There are also Oculus VR movies and experiences to check out, along with occasional tie in experiences like the first democratic debate. Not all of them work out perfectly, but it's been a blast to watch as we get more content and we should be seeing Hulu pop up as an option soon too.

Still, the ability to watch a movie and feel like you're transported elsewhere while doing it is fantastic, and it's well done too. With the headset on, and a pair of earbuds in, it can be easy to forget where you are and transport yourself somewhere else, if only for an hour and forty-five minutes. If you've got a long train or bus ride during the holiday season, it might just pass easier if you forget you're riding while catching up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Read More about Movies on the Gear Vr

Playing Games in VR

This begs the most important question for VR, can I play games on it? The unequivocal answer to that questions is "yes!" You can play a variety of games in a variety of genres, and you can do it both with, and without a controller to help you out.

If you scroll through the Oculus Store, you'll see plenty of games float by. There are quite a few free ones, along with paid games, and even a few meant to be played with friends. If you don't already have a controller, you may end up wanting to pick one up. While there are definitely some great games that don't require a controller, some of the best ones out there do. For non-controller games, most of them will explain the controls when you first load it up. You can generally be assured that it will primarily use your vision, paired with the touchpad on the side of the headset.

Gear VR games

When it comes to the type of controller you need, you'll want a bluetooth model like the Samsung game pad. Each game has a different control setup, as you might imagine, but it's no more difficult than learning the controls on any new video game. Playing with a game pad does generally means you get access to some of the larger or more expansive games. Playing VR games with a controller was little bit weird at first, primarily because you can't look at your controller during game play to make sure you are hitting the correct button. Still after some initial trial and error it becomes easy and you're good to go.

Each game has an info page, same as you'd find on any app in the Google Play Store. It'll give you all the information you'd expect to find, along with letting you know if you'll need a controller to play. The one thing we will warn you about, is that there are a ton of demos out there that don't yet have a full version of the game available. That being said, many of the more popular games in the Oculus Store, like Dreadhalls have a demo mode available so you can try it out before purchasing the full game.

  • Read More: 5 Great games on the Gear VR
  • More: 5 Controller required games on the Gear VR

Gear VR Accessories

When it comes to accessories for the Gear VR, there isn't much out there just yet. There are at least two items you should make sure you've got though, headphones or earbuds, and a bluetooth controller. The best part about VR is the ability to use it to transport yourself somewhere else, and these accessories will help to make sure you get the most immersive experience possible.

Samsung Circle

Gear Circle

Having a good pair of earbuds or headphones is always a good call, and they are even more important if you want a truly immersive experience.

The Samsung Gear Circle worked out fantastically and since they were bluetooth enabled there were no worries about getting caught in audio cables. As always you want something that is going to be comfortable for you, and having earbuds instead of full headphones was just far more comfortable with the straps from the Gear VR. Wireless headphones or earbuds also mean that you don't need to worry about plugging into your phone which makes things much easier in the long run. You're going to want headphones to really fall into the immersive experiences that the Oculus Store offers, whether it's to block out distractions while watching a movie, or seeing a whole new world with Oculus Videos.

Buy a Samsung Circle headset from Amazon (opens in new tab)

Samsung Gamepad

Samsung Game Pas

The second, and equally important accessory to keep in mind, is of course a gamepad. You'll want to make sure you find something that feels good in your hands, since you won't be able to see it while you're playing. Since your phone is sitting in the Gear VR, you'll also need to make sure that it's a bluetooth enabled controller. There are plenty of controllers out there to choose from, but the Samsung Gamepad worked very well in tandem with the Gear VR and we definitely recommend giving it a shot. A controller isn't necessary to enjoy the Gear VR, but it does get you access to some of the best games currently available in the Oclus store.

Buy a Samsung Gamepad from Amazon (opens in new tab)

Jen is a staff writer who spends her time researching the products you didn't know you needed. She's also a fantasy novelist and has a serious Civ VI addiction. You can follow her on Twitter.

24 Comments
  • Man, got the free Google Cardboard from Verizon and now I'm itching for the Gear VR, it's a super neat toy. A question! Is it possible to view the Netflix VR with Cardboard? Posted via the Android Central App
  • The only way to use any of the gear vr apps is to have the phone plug into the vr headset itself. I think the netflix vr is only available in the gear vr store, so unless(/until) netflix adds vr support to their play store app, the headset is the only way to use it.
  • Gotcha! I thought that might be the case but I wasn't sure. I mainly just wanted to try out Netflix all VR like. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hi well in short it is possible to view netflix but it take some work.
    There is a complete working solution here. http://open-gear.com/
    Basically you add a development board for the sensor to trick samsung apps to run .
    You need a oculus Account and sideloader app and you just plug in the modified board and your be able to run it not a problem hole setup cost about £50 and yes you need a phone of course. Good luck have fun
  • Sucks for you non-Samsung owners. Lol. Just waiting for my VR to ship next week. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Just got my gear last night. It is pretty cool and I spent over an hour on it.
    Just a couple points I would make.
    A game pad controller helps a lot.
    (While it is useful and I understand all game control mappings aren't necessarily the same it seems that the mappings aren't even consistent between oculus and samsung content and it would be nice if they could become consistent.
    Youtube through the beta browser is a nice way to view 3D and 360 content, but the adds at the bottom of the screen make it annoying, and I get screen drift.
    2K like everyone has said is still not enough. 4k in a year or two should be much better, but I think we are going to have to get to 8k before we have great immersion.
    Binocular affect is not as bad as cardboard viewers, but still not great. Probably will take much more expensive screens at different angels to get more FOV.
    Even with the caveats it's still pretty cool technology for $99.
  • Most third party bluetooth controllers work with this. I use the Moga Hero Pro - found it on Target.com for about $30. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thanks for the heads up guys mine is on the way . What about over heating issues Posted via the Android Central App
  • Where did you guys order it from. I ordered from Samsung last month, well on the 23 and it's still backorder Posted via the Android Central App
  • I ordered mine from Best Buy day 1 (Nov 11) of pre orders. The timestamp on the software is 13 Nov and it was shipped out on 18th. I am in Australia so I guess intl fans of the device bought this too. Gear VR has far exceeded sales expectations so far. So they started production 2 days after the first pre orders. Gives you some idea of how far behind production they must be... It will come eventually... Btw s6 edge overheats often for me in 3d scenes. It's summer here in Australia. But generally the issue is not fixed. Ipd adjustment is also lacking for a mass market launch :( Posted via the Android Central App
  • What about the Playstation 4 controllers? Any idea?
  • Hey! From what I understand it only works with 2nd Gen (or later, if they have them) PS4 Controllers. I have a launch PS4 and my controller only paired one time after several attempts, and the one time it did pair, I couldn't use it at all. I'm trying to get my hands on the MOGA HERO POWER. It appears that this would be one of the best controllers to use.
  • Do all you Nerds have any idea how utterly ridiculous you look wearing this VR crap??? Without the necessary personality skills to deal with real life (too much political correctness and sensitivity issues I presume) you wander off in Virtually Reality hoping to Discover who you truly are...just incredibly sad having to escape to this electronic wasteland. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You use it when you're in a room. You have to be the stupidest person in the world if you're using this while walking outside.
  • ... as they type on their digital key board on their smart phone...
    If you can read this, you are doing your self righteous "we are all going to virtual Hell in a digital handbasket" anti-tech rant wrong. Hehe joking. Yeah, you are right. We do look funny doing most things we have not been doing for too long. I am actually thinking about the antisocial aspect of technology however like everything else... moderation is key. P.S. VR rocks and if you get a chance to demo any fruit of the developers labours, you may just change your tune. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well done, making fun of nerds, tying in some jabs at libtards and "PC" culture. You're on an idiotic roll, well done. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Welcome to Android Central Nerd! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Caring what other people think how you look? Wow you must be very insecure person...
  • Hello , i thaught i would coment on you incoherent ramblings that what i can only assume was done on your awsome Apple iphone, lol im married with two children and both my wife and i have succesful careers, and do not RENT. You should not comment on things you know nothing about. I was a NERD then , a NERD now and will die a NERD. I found myself a long time ago, you should take some of your own advice, take the time to enjoy life and find yourself!
    P.S Taking the time to comment and poke fun of other people just makes you sound like a complete
    FU@#ING DUMB@ss.
  • Got mine this afternoon and have been playing with it all day. Here's my one sentence review: It's not as good as you might hope it is... but it's a lot better than you probably expect it is. Especially if you've played with Cardboard before, even if you bought a decent one like the Viewmaster as I did, be prepared: Gear VR is night and day better! The motion tracking is just about perfect, and it's infinitely more comfortable (though still not perfect). The software is far superior too in almost every way. Watching movies is so far the best use for it for me (Oculus Video for me is the best app for that) and there's some really awesome experiences to be had (Oculus Photos, at the top of the Eiffel tower, was breathtaking). The negatives? As many others have said, the screen resolution really isn't sufficient. You're seeing pixels way too much. It's not a dealbreaker I'd say, but no question it's not good enough. Anything with too much motion makes me sick before long, which means that most games aren't much good for me. This is obviously going to be a personal thing: my son didn't have any trouble with it at all. Generally though, things with no motion or just gentle motion are pretty much fine, in contrast to Cardboard, which makes me sick almost immediately (the sensors in the Gear VR are better than what your phone has, so it makes sense). The biggest problem I've had with it though is you can never get the focus as good as you want it to be. It's always a little blurry, even in the sweet spot of the lenses. And it's not just me having crappy eyes: everyone in my family who tried it had the same comment. Again, it's not so bad that you won't still enjoy things, but it's noticeable. Bottom line is it's plenty good enough that it should be a no-brainer purchase for any Samsung owner. No question in my mind. If you can find one, nab it! I'd say right now that VR in general isn't QUITE here yet... and I kinda doubt even the Rift is going to fulfill all the promises... but the Gear VR is a HUGE step forward and definitely makes it apparent that this VR stuff really might wind up being world-changing like some have been saying and not just another gimmick that fades away before long. We may actually be seeing a new age of human-computer interaction beginning and if so then we'll look back at the Gear VR as probably the first real entrance into that world.
  • I have the same blurry issue, that's due mostly to low resolution images. Does your family all have very wide or small IPD? Distance between eyes? There is no IPD adjustment on the Gear VR, this is another issue. The Rift will have this IPD adjustment which they say is very important (but lacking on Gear VR) so some spots may focus well but in 3d some issues arise where the image doesnt fit right for both eyes. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Only problem is that the Oculus Cinema app only supports very few audio formats.. most of movies and tv shows don't work....
  • This is clunky and unpolished compared to the one Apple invented two years from now. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You are right. Where is Marty McFly when we need him? But by then we will be using Samsung's "inVisashield S Gear VR"
    Because.....
    Where we are going, we won't need Apple "iHeadGear"
    ;-) Posted via the Android Central App