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Google Daydream View Review

google daydream view review

It’s November 10 and Google’s Daydream View headset is now available for purchase. I’ve been able to spend most of the past week with one to familiarize myself with the virtual reality headset and take in some content, like games and other experiences. As of today, Daydream View may only work with Pixel and Pixel XL, but it’s off to a great start for the mobile VR category.

Let’s take a deeper look in our Daydream View review. 

What is Daydream View?

Daydream View is a mobile virtual reality (VR) headset from Google that is powered by your smartphone (today, only the Pixel and Pixel XL). Think of it like a more refined Samsung Gear VR experience where you place your phone inside the viewer to utilize the screen for the VR experience. What helps View standout out, though, is its handheld controller for more precise interactions. I would even argue that the controller will help Daydream View separate itself from the rest of the mobile VR units available because it really does make the experience that much more enjoyable.

The viewer is covered in soft material, features a single adjustable strap, and costs just $79.

Daydream View Links: Verizon | Best Buy | Google Store

google daydream view review

google daydream view review google daydream view review

How does it work?

Well, you’ll need the Daydream app from Google Play, which can be found here. Once installed, all you need to do is open up your Daydream View, unlock your phone, and set it in the viewer. Through what I’m assuming is NFC, the phone will then launch the Daydream app and tell you to close it into the viewer with the elastic strap. Once the phone is in, you adjust it to your head and walk through the tutorial, which involves setting up the remote and familiarizing yourself with the controls.

After the short tutorial, you then have Google Play ready from within Daydream to help you get apps, games, and other experiences installed. To do so, you use the remote as a pointer to select things and the motion trackpad to click them. Trust me, once you go through the tutorial, that will make more sense.

With apps installed, you can then launch into them and start enjoying VR content.

google daydream view review

Is Daydream View any good?

I actually think it’s pretty sweet! And that’s coming from someone who also owns HTC Vive, which is very much the best-of-the-best when it comes to a VR experience. In other words, I feel like I know my VR stuff and am impressed by what Google has done here. While Daydream View can’t and won’t ever match up to Vive (because it’s limited to being powered by your phone), it’s my favorite mobile VR experience by a long shot. Let me tell you why.

First of all, the headset is quite comfortable and light. Instead of being a hunk of futuristic plastic, the sweatpant-like covering really does feel nice as you wear it for extended periods of time. Plus, if you get the cover sweat-nasty, Google says you can hand-wash it. I like the clever way that Google lets you attach the remote to the inside of the visor when done, as well.

I think what I really like about View so far is the fact that Google is launching it with a handful of decent games that are high quality. Games like Danger Goat, Mekorama, VR Karts Sprint, and Hunters Gate are all very well made and look fantastic through a Pixel XL. Outside of games, you have choices of content viewing from the likes of the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Guardian, and of course, YouTube VR. And even if games and straight content aren’t your thing, you have custom built VR experiences like Google Arts & Culture VR, Star Chart VR, Rose, or IdeaSpace. By the end of the year, Google expects there to be around 40 titles available for Daydream.

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Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the remote is kind of the real game changer here. With a handheld remote, you get to immerse yourself in the VR experience, pin point items you want to control, and interact more with everything. The controller features volume buttons, two other input buttons, and a touchpad that doubles as a button. It pairs over Bluetooth to your phone and then can be seen on screen moving as you move it. So not only do you have better controls, the controller being in view as your hand moves it helps you feel closer to the VR environment as if you are really interacting with surroundings, much in the way that Vive does.

The controller comes with a wrist strap, so that you won’t fling it across the room, charges via USB Type-C cable, can be used in either right hand or left hand modes, and seems to last for hours on a single charge. In my week of using View off and on, I have only had to charge the remote one time.

The only real downside to the controller is that you basically hold it at waist level and point or turn it depending on the app. That’s an issue, only because it would go super-next-level if there was a sensor that could realize as you extend your arm and the remote out away from your body. That would probably require an additional set of sensors and would certainly increase the price and wear on the battery life.

Either way, the controller is what has helped set Daydream View on top.

google daydream view review

With the Pixel XL powering this headset, I haven’t had issues with performance at all. The games and apps I’ve tested all worked well, the frame rates and amount of detail all are better than I expected. Sure, you can see some of the pixels on the device, but not in the obnoxious way you do with Samsung’s Gear VR headsets. Google seems to have found a proper magnification through the lenses in the viewer to give you a good experience without going overkill.

What about apps and games? Any suggestions?

If you are picking up a Daydream View or have a free one coming, thanks to your Pixel pre-order, my recommendations for games would be Danger Goat (3D puzzle game with a goat), VR Karts Sprint (like Mario Kart in VR), Mekorama VR (similar puzzle game to Danger Goat and Monument Valley), Hunters Gate (3rd person shooter, sort of set up like Gears of War), and maybe even Twilight Pioneers for some first person action (and it’s free).

For non-games, I’d definitely pick up Fantastic Beasts (because all things Harry Potter world are fun), Star Chart VR (exploring the galaxy), Rose (an immersive VR film experience), and YouTube VR. YouTube VR is great because there is actually quite a bit of content there for VR (“360 Videos”). It’s not always the sharpest in quality, but there is a long list of stuff to consume.

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Any issues?

I have noticed the Pixel XL that was given to me by Google for review gets quite hot after lengthy periods of Daydream usage. It’s not up to burn-you levels, but it’s noticeably hot and you should be careful if you do get into a VR realm for more than 30 minutes.

The lack of content for now is real, though Google does seem to have waves of apps and games coming. Will that continue? We sure hope so because this is packable VR that can be done from anywhere that actually looks and performs well.

Also, keep in mind that this is a $79 mobile VR unit – this isn’t Vive or Playstation VR or Oculus Rift. This is a headset that is powered by your phone, not a high-end computer. It’s not ever going to be the most immersive, jaw-dropping experience, but it is good for what it’s trying to be – affordable VR.

Other than that, I haven’t noticed much of a battery hit just yet. With that said, I haven’t exactly been doing detailed battery testing, since the unit I’m using for testing isn’t a daily phone. I would imagine that if you spent a good amount of time in Daydream, your battery life will drop fairly quickly, so be careful if you have a long day ahead.

NOTE: Someone in the comments asked about the viewing experience from Pixel to Pixel XL and if the difference in resolution is noticeable. It is, unfortunately. With the regular Pixel, because it’s only 1080p, you can see more pixels and the picture just isn’t as sharp. On the XL, it looks pretty great.

Overall

Daydream View feels like one of those accessories that all Pixel owners should probably buy if VR is of any interest. At $79, it seems like a bargain for the VR experience you are getting, thanks to the high-quality headset and remote. We’ll need to see the VR app catalog grow, but even with upwards of 40 titles by the end of the year, Google seems to be creating a nice little catalog. Some of the early games and apps are well worth a look.

Daydream View Links: Verizon | Best Buy | Google Store

  • Rick Blasberg

    I read that the Daydream View will work with Cardboard apps if one turns off the NFC. Has anyone tried this?

  • Drew Landgrave

    @kellex:disqus Is the UI locked to to one plane? E.g. say your wife is sleeping next to you and you want to lay in bed and watch netflix / youtube / etc while laying down. Does the UI shift with you?

  • Godzilla

    Cant wait to check out VR porn

  • J Harrell

    As someone with vertigo, I’m curious how nausea-inducing this is. Cardboard-level? Playstation level?

  • Ryan N

    Hopefully it’s comfy enough to endure 4 years of “Alternate America: VR”.

    • michael arazan

      More like we are in The Dark Timeline

  • mcdonsco

    The differences between the pixel and pixel xl should have been a bit more front of stage than the side note towards the end :-/

    For instance, is the pixelation (pun not intended) not as bad or worse than on a samsung vr with the s7 when using a regular pixel?

  • tabguy2

    How do I clean the part that touches my face? If the last person using it was sweaty or smeared makeup on it I don’t want that crap touching my face.

    • person

      You can take the pads off and hand wash them

      • tabguy2

        I’m not so sure how convenient that would be at a party.

        • Jesse Lear

          well being a germaphobe at a party doesnt sound very conveient either.

    • Pedro

      You could always put a plastic bag over your face.
      But you’d want a clear plastic bag. So you’d be able to see the VR experience. For the rest of your life.

  • Thanks for the great review. I’m now really excited about this!

  • yummy

    I live in usa, so already have trumped up vr experience for free when I wake up in the morning.

  • HybridAndy

    How is it for consuming standard youtube content? I usually find myself laying in bed watching some random youtube content (usually old documentaries or stuff about old gaming machines) holding my phone. I like my MotoX Pure because the front facing speakers but does get awkward to hold after about 30 minutes. I was thinking this might be nice to just load up and relax.

    Other than super old VR in the 90’s the only experience I have was getting 5 minutes to play with a HoloLens but seems like it would be good for this.

  • Justin

    Does it only work with Pixel Phones? what would happen if you put a S7 in place of the pixel?

    • JRUIV

      Won’t work. Phone needs to be Daydream ready

      • Jeff718

        Correct. And only Pixel phones are Daydream ready at this time.

        • Biga173rd

          That sucks and stupid from Google just saying.

          • Why is it stupid when these devices doesn’t offer the needed sensors?!
            Stupid comment I would rather say.

          • Biga173rd

            It’s not stupid comment jerk off it’s an opinion I know they’re not compatible with other devices because if it was I would not opinionated anything . Google could have made it compatible with flagship devices there is no such thing as it’s impossible. It’s pair of VR googles for mobile phones not Oculus. This is a marketing tactic to boost sells for their crappy pixel phones .

          • It IS stupid – and when you can’t read the comments you are too.
            Google could NOT made it compatible if the devices doesn’t have the needed sensors for Daydream onboard!
            Google wants to deliver a great VR experience and if your crappy devices doesn’t fulfill the requirements it’s not Googles fault.

          • Biga173rd

            Right

          • That’s what Cardboard is made for… That’s like being upset that the Gear VR only works on Samsung phones. More phones will be Daydream ready, google just happened to make the first one. (technically second)

    • Yuma55

      S7 doesnt have the sensors onboard, so no go.

  • Julian Cardona

    Has anyone got the Promo Code they promised when preorder a Pixel Phone?

    • not yet

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Google said 4 weeks after. They want to make sure you’re pass the return period

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    “Oh? People still care about VR…lame” – Tim’s Review

  • lol @ the last screenshot watching Sausage Party.

  • demarcmj

    The play store listing for the Daydream app shows a “Home Run Derby VR” game. How is that gonna work if all you can do with the controller is “basically hold it at waist level and point or turn it depending on the app.” I was kinda hoping for something like Wii Sports. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2d54ad8f8563e357874692a9b32cfefc44ce38f855375ab0fcd3f052ae138bd0.png

    • person

      The Daydream controller is almost exactly like the Wii motion plus. How it integrates with games is up to each game.

      • demarcmj

        The Wii system has that sensor that you put in front of your TV. This system doesn’t have that. I’m not sure what sorts of motion the in-controller sensors are responsible for vs. what requires the additional sensor, but there has to be a line somewhere, right?

        I assume this is kinda what the author is referring to in the article where he says
        “That’s an issue, only because it would go super-next-level if there was a sensor that could realize as you extend your arm and the remote out away from your body. That would probably require an additional set of sensors and would certainly increase the price and wear on the battery life.”

        Time will tell I guess. We’ll have to wait for content to actually show up for the platform before being able to judge it.

        • person

          The IR sensor is for the on-screen pointer as an accelerometer alone wouldn’t be very accurate. When the Wii motion plus was introduced, it allowed continued tracking when the sensor bar was outside the controller’s field of view. In either case they were capable of simple gestural input when pointed away from the screen. The Daydream controller’s sensors make it more than capable of being an accurate pointing device without a sensor bar (with a calibration workflow if something ever goes awry) and when not being used as a pointer, the capabilities are identical to the motion plus with sensor accuracy being the primary differentiator (in the Daydream controller’s favor, I’d imagine).

          As for how they integrate into games, when used as a pointer the integration is the same. As far as the system is concerned they’re just static objects that are rotating in place. The only difference is that with the Wii remote you can see the controller in your hand vs only being able to see the system’s static impression of the Daydream controller. If you were using the Wii remote as a pointer with the VR headset, it would look the same as the Daydream controller.

          When it comes to gestural input, again, they are identical. They both use an inverse kinematic system that simulates your arm, tracks the orientation of the controller and moves the on-screen representation in space as per how your arm would be positioned for the controller to be oriented that way. If the controller is facing downward, then your arm is likely lowered; upward, then raised and so on.

  • LucasMonroe

    Is WatchESPN available on VR? If not it needs to be.

  • Suicide_Note

    Tl;dr VR is fun for a few minutes, but that’s about it.

    • Ben

      Whelp, he hasn’t reviewed any VR porn. That would add a few more minutes!

      • SHunter

        like 5 more min maybe

    • michael arazan

      Movies would be cool I’d think

      • Suicide_Note

        At first, yeah, but i can’t imagine sitting on the couch with Daydream strapped to my head, trying to watch the extended editions of The Lord Of the Rings.

  • mikewilson1021

    Using the white Pixel XL, did you notice the bezels at all while viewing anything?

  • MJ

    This review does not make me excited for my Daydream VR headset that will come someday…

    VR is still a couple of years away from truly arriving and even than who really wants to strap a BDSM device to your head and face for long periods of time? VR right now is more a gimmick and something to just play around with when drinking with friends for a laugh.

    All the games seem to be at the demo stage and the apps are a run once to check out kinda thing. YouTube VR? Why? I can already watch all the videos on my big screen TV so why do it in VR and get a headache?

    My real question is when is the holodeck coming?

    • the_real_patrick_bateman

      I’m not super excited either, but hey, it’s free. I’ll give it to my kids for Christmas, haha.

  • AnotherAndroidKid

    Two questions. How does it feel with glasses on? I’ve only used the Oculus Rift and the glasses were rather pushed against my face a bit too much causing fogging. Also, how does it perform with only one eye? Is the experience ok, or the same with one eye closed? Nowhere have a seen any mention of this. I unfortunately only have one working eye.

    • Tried it with my glasses and it certainly worked. It wasn’t uncomfortable by any means, but I didn’t wear glasses for very long periods of time. You should also be able to use it with a single eye. You get a more funneled view, but it should stop you from consuming content.

      • AnotherAndroidKid

        Thank you Kellen

      • SHunter

        “shouldn’t”

  • trevorsalienarms

    It gets noticeably hot, but no battery hit? That’s something.

    • Yeah, for 30-40 min sessions here and there it would get hot, and I assumed the battery was just shot then. But it never seemed to fully kill it in 15 minutes like I thought.

  • Brandon

    About to purchase the Zte Axon 7. Any news when it will be able to work with it? I know it’s a Daydream ready phone. Is it just waiting for the nougat update?

    • JRomeo

      why did you buy the Axon over the Pixel ?

      • Brandon

        Price. The Pixel is double the cost. I haven’t bought it yet but am about to this weekend.

        • JRomeo

          t-mobile is giving away $325 discounts for the Pixel, and Verizon also has a fantastic black friday sale. so this’ll help you keep the price down on the Pixel to be more in line with the Axon prices.

          • Brandon

            Wish I could. I am on a family plan with a company discount that is no longer offered at Verizon so I am having to switch to At&t to get it. Unfortunately T-Mobile doesn’t have the coverage that a couple of people on my family plan need, at least last we checked. I will check again but not getting my hopes up.

          • steadymobb

            The Axon is a great phone for the price. I would 100% choose it over the PIxel if price is a concern. The Axon is more than capable.

          • Jaymus Lonestar

            I’m currently a t-mobile customer and would love to take them up on their Pixel promo. Unfortunately it is not an instant discount/rebate but instead a 24 month bill credit.

            We actually considered switching to Verizon a week or so ago when they were running that short lived SAVE20 promo but didn’t pull the trigger fast enough. While the leaked Black Friday Verizon deal does sound good (only $10/month) it appears it only be for the smaller Pixel. There is no word on any XL deal. Hopefully that’ll change.

    • Not sure we know how that will work because I can’t recall Google telling us when Daydream will be on more phones. Wish I knew more, sorry.

      • Brandon

        No problem. Looking forward to hearing more as it develops. The phone specs look good so whether or not it ends up with it eventually, I think I will be pleased with the phone no matter what. I currently have a Note 3 so hopefully it will be a good bit of an upgrade.

      • Jaymus Lonestar

        If you’re interested in the Daydream certification process, here’s a quote from a ZTE developer (see post #28 by jyee).

        https://community.zteusa.com/thread/12933?start=15&tstart=0

        Or I should say this is the process ZTE is having to go through for the Axon 7.

    • ozzyager

      I had a chance to play around with an Axon 7 the other day – I thought it was pretty sweet

      • Brandon

        Great to hear. I am looking forward to it. I am on a Note 3 right not so it will be a pleasant upgrade.

        • Jaymus Lonestar

          To answer your original question Brandon… yes, the Axon 7 can not support Daydream until it receives the “N” update. Otherwise everything else meets all the necessary requirements. A good source of info for your pre-purchase questions is the ZTE Axon forums. They are well participated in by actual ZTE personnel & developers.

          https://community.zteusa.com/community/forums/axon/activity

          I was impressed overall with the phone in most aspects. The ZTE skin is not that bad and except from some settings quirks here or there, resembles stock Android (just be sure to pick the Stock Launcher during setup). The display looked good, even when outdoors. The sound from this thing is AWESOME, both in volume and quality. But… that camera. It was ok for most situations with decent lighting and the “live photo” feature was very cool. But low light or unsteady scenes struggled more so than on other phones I’ve had. Video struggles some too with any movement or zooming even though the device is listed as having both OIS & EIS. It just wasn’t conducive for trying to shoot a very active one+ year old.

          However, IMO it was impressive enough that I would consider it again if the suped up S8 rumors don’t pan out or I don’t fall for a big Black Friday Pixel XL deal.

    • Jaymus Lonestar

      To answer your original question Brandon… yes, the Axon 7 can not support Daydream until it receives the “N” update. Otherwise everything else meets all the necessary requirements. A good source of info for your pre and post purchase questions is the ZTE Axon forums. They are well participated in by actual ZTE personnel & developers.

      https://community.zteusa.com/community/forums/axon/activity

      I was impressed overall with the phone in most aspects. The ZTE skin is not that bad and except from some settings quirks here or there, resembles stock Android (just be sure to pick the Stock Launcher during setup). The display looked good, even when outdoors. The sound from this thing is AWESOME, both in volume and quality. But… that camera. It was ok for most situations with decent lighting and the “live photo” feature was very cool. But low light or unsteady scenes struggled more so than on other phones I’ve had. Video struggles some too with any movement or zooming even though the device is listed as having both OIS & EIS.

      However, IMO it was impressive enough that I would consider it again if the suped up S8 rumors don’t pan out or I don’t fall for a Black Friday Pixel XL promo.

  • Larry Simpson

    Oh look, another product niche product from Google. How long before Google abandons VR development? VR is a such rip off in all applications right now. You’re literally handing over hundreds for a trumped up VR experience.

    • JRomeo

      hundreds? the thing only costs $79. Everyone said the chromecast was a niche product before it blew up. I think Daydream VR is here to stay.

      • demarcmj

        He’s probably including the price of the phone. Obviously, that’s a flawed argument from the get-go in that case… since nobody is buying this phone *for* VR, but whatever.

      • Larry Simpson

        Hundreds, yes. You have to buy the Pixel phone…without the phone you’ve got a paperweight

        • demarcmj

          But then you’re not “literally handing over hundreds for a trumped up VR experience.” You’re handing over hundreds for a phone, and $79 for a “trumped up VR experience.” You’re just being dramatic.

        • JRomeo

          I didnt buy the Pixel phone because of the VR. but it’s nice to know that for others just like me, that VR is only an additional $79

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Trumped up?… I see what you’re trying to do

    • Overused joke is overused.

  • Do you have any thoughts on DayDream with the Pixel vs Pixel XL? How much does the bump in resolution matter? Better battery life and/or performance with the Pixel due to driving fewer, um, pixels?

    • Yeah I should make a note of that. I do notice pixels more often on the regular Pixel, for sure. Image quality just isn’t as sharp on the lower resolution. The XL resolution makes for a much cleaner viewing experience.

      • CabbageHeadCat.

        Good to know. Is it severe or just noticeable?