Samsung’s Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality Headset has some impressive specifications and is pitched at the premium end of the VR market. But… is it any good?
The last few months have been kind to VR hardware. With Microsoft’s partners launching a slew of headsets (check out reviews of the Acer and Lenovo incarnations), the Oculus Rift dropping to a more reasonable price point and HTC announcing enhancements to the Vive, it is a good time to dip a toe into the virtual world.
Since the Odyssey is not available in the UK, I took one for a test drive in New York, courtesy of Microsoft.
The headset itself is made of shiny black plastic, with the compulsory twin cameras front and centre. It is light and has a comfortably padded band to hold it in place on the wearers head with a rotary dial at the rear to adjust tightness. While initially pleasant, I did find the padding material became quite warm after a while. As with the other Windows Mixed Reality Headsets I have tried, the plastics themselves seem a bit cheap, which is disappointing on a premium device.
The controllers are nearly identical to every other Windows Mixed Reality device (I had to look hard to spot the difference between the Samsung offering from those of Acer and Lenovo.) They also share the same vaguely cheap feel in terms of build.
Thanks to those cameras on the headset, the Samsung does not require sensors to be scattered around the room for the full 360-degree effect (unlike the Rift and Vive), making set-up simple and adding a degree of freedom only really found in the Microsoft Mixed Reality offering.
Unlike much of the rest of the Microsoft range, Samsung have opted to include some impressive spatial headphones, giving a great surround sound experience that, subjectively, improved on that of the Oculus Rift. The party trick, of course, is the display. At a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye (up from the 1440 x 1440 of devices like the Acer and considerably better than the 1080 x 1200 of the Oculus Rift) this is very much the state of the art until the HTC Vive Pro appears later in 2018.
Those extra pixels do indeed make a difference – while the screen-door effect of the OLED matrix is still preset, the visuals are considerably sharper, particularly when rendering text or using apps in the Microsoft Cliff Top House. For games I am a little less convinced – I didn’t notice a huge amount of difference in fast-moving titles such as Space Pirate Trainer, although slower games that required examination of the environment definitely benefitted. Watching video was also improved, although I must confess that after a while, I simply removed the headset and looked at the screen instead.
Samsung claim a 110-degree field of view, which would put this on a par with the Oculus Rift. However, having tried both side by side, I would have to say the Oculus still has the edge here. Not that a user would be disappointed with either once accustomed to the ‘looking through a diving mask’ sensation that is shared by all VR headsets.
If you live in the US and are in the market for a Windows Mixed Reality headset, this is the one to go for if money is no object. In the Microsoft store, it is priced at $499 (at time of writing), up from the $399 of the Acer headset. With its wider range of titles (including 6 that come with the headset) and a similar $399 price, the Rift still has the edge overall. However, the Samsung Odyssey is without doubt the superior hardware platform.
To muddy the waters further, at time of writing, some of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets have had some substantial price cuts from retailers such as Amazon with devices such as the Dell down to a bargain $229. It is hard to tell if that is a good or bad sign as far as the future of the platform is concerned but is something to consider when dropping $499 on the Odyssey.
Spaceflight enthusiast and tech hobbyist.