And finally here it is, my in depth review of the 2nd generation Daydream View. I have had some weeks now to thoroughly test the successor to Google’s first Daydream headset and I can directly tell you from the start: Google has done a great job here. They have indeed kept everything that was great about their first headset and improved it to eradicate the pain points of the original. But let’s directly go into detail now.
Design & Features
Google sticked with the original design language here. The headset is still made out of fabrics, however the material feels even better than last year’s. More durable and overall, the headset looks more refined if you directly compare it to its predecessor. There are two big differences in terms of design and features that both have a big impact on overal comfort and usability.
First of all Google has built a magnesium heat sink into the front flap that directly gets in touch with the back of your phone. This is a huge improvement over last years design. Instead of having to hack your own heat sink solution into the headset, for example a gel pack that you would put behind the phone, you can now simply use the headset without having to worry about overheating. In my prolonged play sessions with the Pixel XL, I would hardly run into any overheating at all. Only if I also cast my experience via chromecast, my phone would still overheat. But still, the built in heat sink is a major improvement over last year’s design and will allow you to stay in VR much longer as compared to delving into Daydream on last year’s model. Taking this into consideration it is totally fine that the motion controller is not stored within the device anymore but instead can be attached to the head strap if you would like to store it.
Then, we finally have an additional head strap that helps to take some weight away from your face. I am very happy about the extra strap because it makes the headset much less front-heavy. In last year’s design you had to wear the headset really tight around your face which resulted in quite some discomfort when wearing it over longer periods of time. If you still prefer not to use the additional head strap, that is also fine since it is easily detachable.
And of course, the new Daydream View also comes with remarkably improved lenses.
Upgraded Lenses & FOV
The lenses are probably the biggest and most noteworthy improvement over the first Daydream View. Next to overheating, the small Field Of View (FOV) was without a question the biggest problem of last year’s headset. Even though it was easy to pick up and its design was generally very well received, the headset had a hard time to compete against the GearVR which offered a much better FOV.
This new Daydream View improves immensely upon last year’s FOV. The lenses are so called Fresnel lenses which you can easily identify by the concentric rings around the lens. These lenses in general help to increase the FOV and that is also the same type of lens that is being used in the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. Google says that the FOV has improved by around 10° which will put it into the 100° area and that seems about right. The feeling of looking through binoculars has been significantly improved and that was a truly needed update.
Fresnel lenses have one big disadvantage over standard lenses though. They often have the problem of so called “god rays” in high contrast scenes. These god rays produce a certain glare that can distract from the VR experience. Fortunately god rays are not as visible in the Daydream View 2 as for example in the Oculus Rift. Google has done an excellent job with the upgraded lenses and the VR experience in Daydream is significantly improved.
Comfort and Immersion
As mentioned above the additional head strap greatly improves the comfort since the headset is much less front-heavy. You won’t need to fasten the straps as tightly around your head as compared to last year’s model which is a huge improvement. The area that comes in touch with your face also has been improved in terms of how well it fits. The upgraded Daydream View can now also be worn for longer play sessions without feeling uncomfortable around the cheek area.
Another problem of the first Daydream View was light leakage around the nose. For this year’s model there is less light leakage because the headset will overall have a tighter fit around the face, but is has not been eradicated completely. There is still some room around the nose that will allow light to come in but that is not a deal breaker at all but instead makes sure that also users with bigger noses than average can enjoy a comfortable VR experience.
The motion controller that ships with the new Daydream View 2 is basically exactly the same one that shipped with last year’s version. The only difference is that the new controller’s app button now slightly protrudes the casing, making it easier to differentiate from the home button when in VR. It’s without a doubt a quality controller, but still, I and probably most of the Daydream community would prefer an updated design that comes with a trigger button, just like the motion controller of the Gear VR. And that brings us to the…
Comparison with Gear VR
So how does the Daydream View 2 compare to the Gear VR 2017? Last year’s model simply had no chance at all to compete with Samsung’s mobile VR offering. This has definitely changed with the new Daydream View. FOV is on par now and the built-in heat sink would even give it some additional functionality that the Gear VR does not have. The Daydream View still lacks a focus wheel, however it had been designed to also work well when wearing your glasses within the headset, so that is not really a problem. Overall I would prefer the Daydream View now, simply in terms of how simple it is to use it and how much better it is in terms of design. The Daydream View indeed made a big leap forwards. However, still, the Gear VR has additional sensors built in that give it an edge over Daydream in terms of overall drifting stability when in VR.
The new Daydream View is priced at $99 which is $20 more than the original Daydream View a year ago. That price increase could easily be justified with the additional cost for the heat sink and the better lenses. Still, I personally believe in the current competitive situation with Oculus and Gear VR, it is not a good idea to increase the Daydream View’s price. Is this headset worth $99 though? Absolutely!
The new Daydream View is the best way to experience Daydream VR – Period. Google has crafted an excellent headset that is without a doubt one of the best mobile headsets out there right now. The company has indeed listened to the community’s criticism of their first headset and improved upon last year’s model in every way needed. If you own last year’s headset and wonder if you should upgrade, I can wholeheartedly answer that question in the affirmative. For all those of you who own a Daydream-ready phone and wonder if the $99 investment is worth it in order to check out Daydream VR, stop wondering and order this headset already, you won’t regret it!