The BoboVR Z5 is the successor of the highly acclaimed BoboVR Z4, which was one of the very best Cardboard headsets out there. The Z5 however does not want to be just another Cardboard headset. Instead it was developed for Daydream and aspires to challenge Google’s Daydream View headset, the top dog and actually the one and only available Daydream headset out there. Therefore the $30 BoboVR Z5 comes with a Daydream compatible motion controller and a design language that closely resembles that of the Daydream view. Can the BoboVR Z5 live up to those aspirations? I will find out for you in this review.
Let’s have a look at the headset first. The main part of it has a striking resemblance with the Daydream View. It is not completely made from fabrics like Google’s headset but at least it has some fabric coating above the plastic shell, which also comes with the familiar grayish color like the original. It does not feel quite as fabricy as the View, but as we know by now we should not judge how comfortable a headset is by its looks.
The BoboVR Z5 is not a cheap knock-off though. It comes with quite a number of features that sets it apart from the Daydream View. Actually the BoboVR Z5 tries to address the big weaknesses of Google’s headset. It offers a focus wheel that allows users to adjust focus and even compensate for their short- or farsightedness. Moreover it allows to change the IPD setting which is great news for all of you whose interpupillary distance does not conform to the human average. If your eyes are further away from each other than the norm, you will feel that something is off when wearing those fixed IPD headsets like the Daydream View. On the BoboVR Z5, you can personalize this setting to fit your specific needs and that is great.
On top of that the BoboVR Z5 does away with elastic straps to keep the headset in place and instead introduces a firm headband not unlike that of the PSVR. Heck, it even comes with attached headphones that are adjustable in position, but more about that later.
The BoboVR Z5 has one big advantage over the Daydream View. Instead of having to press the headset against your face using the elastic straps, you can wear it more like a crown thanks to the rigid headband that can be tightened around your whole head. Just like Sony’s PSVR this system works well. Of course it comes with the disadvantage that it makes the headset less portable, since you cannot just fold the headband away. But if you don’t plan to carry it around with you wherever you go I am sure you can live with that. It’s great to be able to distribute the headset’s weight evenly around your head instead of having to use elastic straps that pull it against your face. With its 350g the headset is not heavy by any means but the mechanism to keep it in place does a fantastic job in making it feel much lighter. There is also nearly no pressure on your nose since your smelling organ plays no role whatsoever in keeping the headset in place.
Let’s talk about the attached headphones. First of all, they cannot be detached. So no matter what, if you want to use this headset, you are stuck with the BoboVR Z5’s headphones. That is fine though because they do a good job in allowing you to immerse yourself into the virtual worlds. The front section houses a 3.5m audio jack that you simply plug into your phone and you are good to go. Since this section is about comfort though I won’t talk about the audio quality but more about how comfortable the headphones feel on your ears. And in that respect I have no complaints whatsoever, especially since you can adjust the headphones’ position. So no matter where mother nature attached your ears to your head, you will be fine.
The BoboVR Z5 is definitely a comfortable headset. Is it the most comfortable headset I have tried so far? No, it isn’t. The area that touches the user’s face could be quite a bit softer in my opinion and even though it uses a similar head strap as the PSVR, it does not come anywhere near its comfort. But for a $30 headset, it is quite impressive what the BoboVR Z5 has to offer!
In terms of design the BoboVR Z5 does an excellent job at resembling Google’s original headset. When I first unboxed it I was really surprised. Especially because the headset also sports some fabric surface that is not unlike the Daydream View but also note quite the same as what its quality is concerned. You can even take off the headset’s face mask and clean it, just like the original. A big difference as compared to the Daydream View is the front flap though. Instead of covering the full front, the BoboVR Z5 only covers a small part of the front side. That design is probably beneficial in terms of heat dissipation and allow for longer playing times with less overheating. Also for any AR applications that might come up in the future, this design won’t cover the phone’s camera which is an advantage.
Focus adjustment wheel and IPD adjustment knob are well integrated into the overall design and both do their job well.
We have already discussed the headphones as well as the headband. Both are well designed and on top offer the expected functionality. Overall, the BoboVR Z5 is a well designed headset and for the price offers a surprising quality.
The built-in headphones feel comfortable on the ears and as mentioned above they can be adjusted in position. The sound quality is definitely acceptable and especially for the moderate asking price of the headset I was positively surprised. Don’t expect high fidelity audio quality but these headphones sound well enough to keep you immersed in VR. However, what the BoboVR marketing team meant when they said the headset could deliver 720° surround sound will forever stay their secret…
Immersion is the most important category when reviewing a VR headset. So far the BoboVR Z5 had all boxes ticked. Let’s see how well it does in real world use.
BoboVR claims that the headset has a Field of View of 120°. The higher the FOV the better. If the BoboVR Z5 really had such an FOV it would mean that the headset would have the very best FOV of all available headsets, including such headsets as Vive, Rift and PSVR.
The FOV will not only depend on the headset, but also on the phone that is being used with it. The larger the screen, the larger the FOV will be. In my case, I used the phone with the Google Pixel XL, which has a 5.5″ screen. With this setup I measured a respectable 102° FOV. A far cry from the advertised 120° but still quite a good result.
Unfortunately though these 102° did not make the experience more immersive when compared directly with the Daydream View which in comparison only offers an FOV of around 90°. In the BoboVR Z5 the virtual worlds seemed to be farther away from you while in the Daydream View it seems as if you are really within the action. Also everything looks smaller when viewed through the BoboVR Z5. Let me give you an example. When playing Daydream’s signature game, Eclipse – Edge of Light, it does feel like the helmet that you are wearing in game is too big for your head and it looks like as if it is like 10cm away from your head. It is strange. When playing the same game on the Daydream View though, everything looks perfectly natural and therefore much more immersive.
The reason might be that all the games have been developed with the Daydream View in mind. Also, whenever you use the Daydream View, the actual output that is rendered on the phone’s screen is perfectly tuned for the optics of the Daydream View. It is the perfect result every single time.
For the BoboVR Z5 that is not the case, which completely breaks immersion. And that brings us to the next category.
Let’s get straight to the point: The BoboVR Z5 is NOT Daydream compatible. Bummer! Unlike the Daydream View that has an NFC chip built in that signals the phone to start up the Daydream app with the correct optical parameters, the BoboVR Z5 does not contain such a chip. That means that you either have to run the Daydream app with the optical parameters of the Daydream View or you have to pair the viewer to your phone using the Z5’s QR code. If you go for the former, you will experience unbearable distortions when in VR because all of the BoboVR Z5’s parameters differ from those of the Daydream View. It is a bad experience.
If you scan the BoboVR Z5’s QR code which contains all of these parameters and adjusts the video output to match the Z5’s lens setup, the experience will get better. Still, everything does look smaller and further away as described in the section above. On top of that the Daydream app will let you know that you are using an incompatible headset which does come with quite a few inconveniences when using Daydream. Right of the bat, some apps simply won’t work. One prominent example is Netflix which requires you to use a compatible headset. Or the incredible Google Street View app which simply won’t work. To be fair though, I have to say that most apps and games will work with the Z5. Just when you start them, there will be a pop up that tells you that the headset is not compatible. You can ignore this pop up though and repeatedly tap on the screen to enter the app. However, for some reason you will often just get to the splash screen of the app or game and once you really click the option to start the actual game, the phone will become inactive and you will have to get it out of the headset and wake it up again, with all the pop up ignoring and screen tapping involved like before. It’s not a smooth experience and I can hardly recommend using Daydream like that.
The Motion Controller
The Daydream motion controller that comes with the Bobo VR Z5 works just as expected. It is about the same size as the original, has all of the same buttons and the clickable touch pad on the top. Just like the Google’s original controller it is being charged via a USB-C port. The buttons feel good when clicked. It just seems like the touch pad is a bit harder to click than the original and the device feels a bit cheaper in terms of material and overall build quality as compared to the original Daydream View motion controller. Overall, it is a solid 3rd party Daydream controller though that just works as advertised.
The BoboVR Z5 is being advertised as a Daydream headset. As such, unfortunately it is a failure. It is not Daydream compatible and does not even come close in delivering a similar Daydream experience as Google’s Daydream View headset. Even though it offers a larger Field of View, the headset feels much less immersive than Google’s original headset.
Is it a bad headset though? No, it is not. For only $30 you get lots of bang for your buck. It’s a well made headset that is comfortable and offers focus as well as IPD adjustment options. It even comes with attached headphones and a Daydream motion controller that works just as well as the original. If you are looking for a cheap replacement of your Daydream controller and would like to get a great Cardboard headset on top of that, you can absolutely pick up the BoboVR Z5.
If you have a Daydream-ready phone though and would like to delve into Daydream, do yourself a favor and invest an additional $30 to pick up the original Daydream View headset instead.