After a week’s worth of leaks, rumors, and speculation Samsung is today officially announcing the newest version of the Samsung Gear VR headset, alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
By December, two full years will have elapsed since Samsung and Oculus first partnered to release the first Samsung Gear VR: Innovator Edition. That headset was only compatible with the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, and was mainly released to developers for the purpose of spearheading application development.
Today, the Gear VR line is evolving into its most advanced form yet. The new model will be forgoing the white and grey color scheme of its predecessors for a black and navy look. Besides being a cosmetic change, the darker look is also intended to reduce the amount of light leakage and reflection taking place around the lenses inside the headset itself.
The new Gear VR is slightly larger than its most recent predecessor as well — jumping from a 96 to a 101 degree field of view. This is slightly less than the 110 degree FOV that was reported during last week’s batch of leaks. A 110 FOV would pull the new Gear VR even with its big brother, the Oculus Rift, but the actual increase is not quite as significant.
There are a few ease-of-use changes on the new Gear as well. There will now be a dedicated Oculus Home button to travel quickly back to the main menu, as well as a separate in-app menu button that no longer requires a multi-second hold to bring up a list of helpful options during an experience. The headset’s touchpad is also larger now and no longer grooved.
The new headset will be compatible with the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 7 through a USB C connector, while also being backward compatible with older handset models through a micro-USB adapter that comes included in the box.
UploadVR had the chance to try the new Gear VR at a press event in San Francisco. The expanded FOV, while somewhat marginal, was immediately recognizable and, combined with the darker color scheme, really made experiences feel notably more immersive. The increased performance power of the Note 7 also went a long way to making this new Gear VR the most powerful mobile headset yet.
The Note 7 boasts a 5.7 inch, quad-HD, super AMOLED screen that packs quite a wallop inside of the Gear VR. It also features 64 GB of storage alongside a QUALCOMM Snapdragon 820 quad core processor and 3,500 mAh battery. The Note 7 will both run Android Marshmallow out of the box.
Perhaps these device’s most notable new feature where VR is concerned, however, is the built in use of the new Vulkan API. Vulkan allows developers to squeeze every drop of graphical power they can out of the phone’s limited hardware.
The new, black Gear is launching simultaneously with the Note 7. Both will be available for pre-order on August 3 and global availability will begin on August 19. Pricing is to be announced by individual carriers.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly mentioned a second phone announced by Samsung today. Samsung only announced the Note 7. We apologize for the error.