For the past three years, Samsung and Oculus’ Gear VR mobile-based VR headset has only been compatible with two types of Samsung smartphone: the flagship Galaxy S series and the enlarged Note series. But that changes with the release of the new Galaxy A8.
The recently-announced Galaxy A8, a more affordable mid-range smartphone, will be the first of its kind to support Gear VR when it launches on January 6th in Vietnam (other countries TBA), as will the enhanced A8+. Samsung’s official product page for the handsets confirms as much. Like other entries in the A series, the A8 and A8+ are designed as cheaper alternatives to the leading S series (which itself will likely be updated in the next few months).
No official price for the US and UK has been confirmed yet, though the A7 cost $499, and you can expect the A8 to be in a similar region, with the A8+ likely costing $599.
So is the A8 a good smartphone for VR? Obviously, you shouldn’t expect Galaxy S8 quality here; the base model has a 5.6-inch screen (6-inch on A8+) with a 1080×2220 Super AMOLED display (the S8 has a higher resolution of 1440×2960). Instead of running on Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon 835 chipset like the S8 does, both phones use an Exynos 7885 chipset with a slightly slower 2.2GHz octa-core CPU too. Comparatively, it should be a bit faster than 2015’s Galaxy S6 but just a touch slower than 2016’s Galaxy S7.
The A8 features 4GB RAM while the A8+ holds 6GB RAM. Both come in 32GB or 64GB models with expandable memory up to 256GB via microSD card.
All told, then, the A8 might not be the best choice for a Gear VR smartphone; several older apps like Lands End should run fine but newer games and experiences that take advantage of the latest Samsung hardware might pose a challenge, especially when the successor to the S8 launches. That said we haven’t been able to test the support out for ourselves just yet; we’ve reached out to Samsung to ask exactly which models of Gear VR the phone will support.
Either way, it’s exciting to see Gear VR’s reach expand beyond the S and Note series.