Watching movies with the Samsung Gear VR

There was a time when the idea of being able to watch a movie on a VR headset in your living room was either a fantasy or something to laugh at. Well, that time is definitely behind us with the Samsung Gear VR. With access to apps like Netflix now and Hulu in November, you can transport yourself to the perfect place to watch a movie. It's a uniquely immersive experience that everyone should definitely give a shot for at least a few minutes.

Let's take a look.

Netflix on Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR, like Google Cardboard, uses your phone to project through a headset. What sets the two apart is Samsung's partnership with Oculus and design to be worn for more than a few minutes. Watching movies and television through the Gear VR, while a little silly sounding at first, is a full blown immersive experience in the best way. Instead of just a screen, the Netflix app puts you in a full blown cabin with photos on the wall, a couch you are sitting on, and a coffee table in front of a massive screen.

The experience is surreal to say the least. It really felt like I was sitting in a cabin watching television — which got weird when I was sitting on a couch with a table in front of me in both the real world — with interactive parts all around me. The window to my left was constantly changing, and as the video played on the screen in front of me the "light" from the screen would play off of the magazine and cup on the table. The video quality for movies was good enough to feel like a decent screen at a distance, and thankfully I could adjust the focus by dialing back and forth on the headset. Being able to see my surroundings other than the video was also nice. With my headphones on, it felt like being in a personal theater, which is great if you're looking for a distraction on long plane rides or something.

It was nearly impossible to find a comfortable fit while wearing my glasses, so I wound up ditching them entirely.

The headset isn't particularly bulky, and it adjusts well but I ran into a few minor problems pretty quickly. It was nearly impossible to find a comfortable fit while wearing my glasses, so I wound up ditching them entirely. Even then, the headset had a tendency of digging into the bridge of my nose, and it took me a bit to get it really adjusted. The Gear was also fairly heavy, since all of the weight was at the front of my face without any kind of counter balance.

The biggest issue I ran into was how tired my eyes got. I watched an episode of Steven Universe, and had to take the Gear VR off to let my eyes readjust to the real world. This could have easily been because I wasn't able to comfortably wear my glasses. It only took a few minutes for the strain to pass, but it was noticeable. Between how heavy the headset started to get after 20-30 minutes, and the strain in my eyes I can only stand about an hour at a time. It did get easier to watch as I went, so my eyes might just need some time to get used to how close everything is in VR. Based on some conversations other editors have had with doctors on the subject, it may just be that 30 minutes is my limit for these experiences.

Gear VR movies

My roommate was more than just a little bit confused when he walked in to me watching a movie through the headset with earbuds in, but after I explained what was happening he wanted to give it a shot as well. Although the Gear VR looks weird, it's an interesting enough premise to draw people in and everyone I've shown this to so far has loved the experience. Since the audio is coming through your phone I'd only suggest using it without headphones or earbuds if you're alone, or want to be aware of your surroundings. That might be a little bit difficult with the top strap, but it really does enhance the experience.

One of the big draws for me is the feeling that you have your own personal theater.

So the real question is why watch movies on the headset, rather than just using your phone to watch them normally? One of the big draws for me is the feeling that you have your own personal theater. Unlike just watching on your phone, when you use the Gear VR the screen seems much, much, larger. That means getting the big screen feel that doesn't feel fake thanks to the high resolution screen being used to draw the images. It's not a 4K home theater by any stretch, but it's also only $100 to create this experience wherever you are. It also has the feeling of getting away, whether that's from roommates or a crowded bus or plane. Watching movies and television with Gear VR is an experience, and that experience is what keeps drawing me back in to watch. Even if you're stuck in the house, by using this tech you can feel like you are elsewhere, which can be good.

Overall catching up on your movies or television shows on the Gear VR is walking a fine line. If you're comfortable in the get up, and it doesn't bother your eyes too much, it's a fantastic way to use this technology. It was great to be able to sit in the real world, and feel like I was completely somewhere else — even if I was just binge watching my favorite shows. Even with the minor issues that I ran into, I enjoyed watching movies on the Gear VR and I'd recommend giving it a try.

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.

30 Comments
  • The resolution is still unacceptable for me. You're splitting the screen in two achieving something akin to close up viewing of a 720p 42 inch TV. Then add on the surrounding elements and it drops it down to a 480p experience. Can't wait for a VR experience with a 4K screen, better yet an 8k screen.
  • Yes, that's the first thing I noticed with the Gear VR and S6. The resolution is pretty horrible for today's standards. Unless you're outside without access to an actual TV, it makes no sense to use it for netflix at home. I guess the only other benefit is being able to lay on the bed and watch tv as if it's mounted in the ceiling.
  • Have you even tried it? The appearance is close to 720p I would say a little under.
  • How did you achieve that. Using Gear VR with note 5 make videos look grainy and pixels are as big as my freakin head
  • With the addition of a few foam pads here and there, I find the cardboard viewer is great for extended use and so inexpensive too. Just wish the YouTube 3d apps would work better. Posted via the Android Central App
  • With cardboard and the Galaxy S6 I found VR still sometimes too pixelated. Is it due to the cheap lenses in the cardboard so the experience with the Samsung VR headset is a bit better, or do we have to wait for even higher res phones? Beside that I really like VR - much more than the 3D stuff years ago.
  • I'm actually really enjoying Peridot as a character. Rebecca is great a making characters.
  • Is anyone able to verify whether or not a Note 4 could fit or be plugged into this?
  • Yes there is a Gear VR for the Niote 4 aswell.
  • That's not what I asked... I know about the Innovator Edition, which came out last year. What I WANT to know is.. can the Note 4 fit inside this new version since it's roughly the same size as the Note 5. How come no one has ever tried it?
  • According to Samsung, the new Gear VR is only compatible with the Note 5, S6, S6 edge, and S6 edge+
  • I'm well aware of what Samsung said.. but that isn't what I inquired about. I want to know if anyone has tried to plug in a Note 4. Would it fit? That's what I'm curious about...
  • Persistent, aren't you? The tiniest bit of research would tell you that no one here could do that because the consumer Gear VR has not yet shipped.
  • Duh... I know that...
  • Well considering the Note 5 does not work with the Innovator edition I highly doubt the Note 4 will work with the Consumer edition that is just my two sense, especially since Samsung didn't list it in the compatibility list and Samsung is always extremely explicit with such things. I would say 99.99% chance of them having made an accurate judgement of the compatibility list m
  • What a$$.
  • I believe it's a slight difference in size and will not fit.. although, I wonder if it's just tight (or full) and needs some coddling to get into the area?
  • Samsung Note 4 doesn't fit in the Samsung Gear VR with the USB connection. You can be creative and tape it onto the Samsung Gear VR without the USB connection.
  • I have a gear vr... just got it yesterday... my bro has a note 4 and i testd... it plugs in and is recognized... but i wont fit in... could be my thick case.. im too lazy xD
  • The world needs a blink monitor that doesn't interfere with these HMD's but provides users with prompts when the time between blinks exceeds a maximum. This would also be good for PC displays. The main source of tired eyes is dryness from inhibited blinking when looking at these things. It can actually cost you your vision. My bet is that you wouldn't actually need the device after you've trained yourself except for training boosts now and then. (I intended this as a top level comment but it seems to have been inserted as a reply to someone. What gives?)
  • Hey the price is now cheap enough to make it work for me will be picking up a VR tomorrow Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm not seeing which version of headset or phone was being used for the test. Can you please elaborate?
  • Definitely more like 720p.
  • http://gizmodo.com/samsungs-new-gear-vr-only-costs-100-1732831241 For the people asking silly ??s without bothering tobsimply Google it and bashing people who were nice enough to answer. Hahaha derp!
  • The new version will NOT work or fit a Note 4./it MUST be a Note 5 or edge 6. And it's higher resolution a bit too making it better according to reports and friends who have owned both. Google could tell you also.....quit bashing people for not answering your question even though they have and you didn't understand
  • It actually does work with a Note 4. I know of a few people who rigged their Gear VR to perfectly fit a Note 4. I use it with a S6 edge plus and I couldn't be happier. All you resolution cops can suck it. I have a 4k 60 inch TV and I find watching Netflix on the Gear VR much more enjoyable than a regular TV no matter the resolution.
    There's a million other things you can do on the damn thing other than watch videos. Games are a lot of fun on it and there's a lot of educational content on it.
    For people with Google Cardboard who never tried the Gear VR and yet bash it and claim it's just an overpriced better built Google Cardboard, just try the VR before you bash it. I tried both and I can tell you it's night and day difference.
  • There are two ways to watch your own video content in the “My Videos” section of Oculus Video. Movies you record using your phone's camera will automatically appear in the “My Videos” section.
    You can copy your compatible video files directly to your phone or SD card in any of the following directories: On your phone's internal storage (Phone):
    /DCIM/
    /Movies/
    /Oculus/Movies/ On your phone's removable SD card (Card):
    /DCIM/
    /Movies/
    /Oculus/Movies/ Learn more: http://www.hivimoore.com/2015/12/view-3d-movies-with-gear-vr/
  • Thanks - sometimes just need the nuts and bolts of where things go.
  • To watch movie on Gear VR with 3D effect, your movies will be SBS or TB. You can get your 3D movie into perfectly sized 3D mp4/mkv files with aac audio for viewing perfectly. http://www.ifastime.com/watch-3d-movies-on-gear-vr-2015.html
  • Thread Necro here, but is VR able to adjust the movie experience so you're sitting in front of a movie theater size screen, or even IMAX?