Kayla recently wrote an excellent article about Google’s ambitions with the Daydream platform. You should go read it. Unless you have a Google Pixel phone, however, you are currently excluded from the Daydream ecosystem. Samsung phones have access to the Samsung and Oculus collaboration, the Gear VR. Those of us that aren’t in either of those groups still have access to Cardboard, Google’s low-spec VR system. Cardboard viewers made from actual cardboard can be had for as little as $6 (with Prime shipping). Today, though, I’ll take a look at two of the more advanced Cardboard viewers from Bestrix and Canbor. They’re both made from sturdy plastic and offer advantages over the basic paper Cardboard viewer. Keep reading to find out if they’re worth the $15-$35 premium over a basic viewer.
This article won’t cover what Google Cardboard is in any great detail and we won’t be reviewing Cardboard apps. Basically Cardboard is a system that uses your phone and a specially designed viewer to provide a poor-man’s VR experience. The higher spec and resolution your phone the better your experience will be.
BESTRIX VR HEADSET FOR CARDBOARD
The VR Headset from Bestrix is the lowest cost option of the two up for review today, coming in at $20 at Amazon. It is made from durable plastic and feels quite sturdy. There’s a slide out tray to hold your phone (up to 6 inch phones are supported). I had a heck of a time figuring out how to get the phone into the Bestrix Headset but once it works it holds your phone securely. There’s almost no chance of the phone falling out of the viewer – this has been a problem on some of the viewers I’ve used in the past.
There’s a pillowy sponge pad around the edge where the headset rests on your face. The cushion did the best job of the three headsets and made the Bestrix unit the most comfortable of them. It’s nice and thick and holds up well. Around back of the unit is an adjustable hook and loop strap to hold the viewer on your head. It’s simple to adjust and worked great for everyone I tested it with. There are also sliders to adjust the position of the lenses. I never needed to change these to get a clear view of the screen but for those with vision issues its a nice option to have.
The biggest negative for this headset is the complete lack of a trigger. Some Cardboard apps and games require a trigger to work properly. With those apps, the Bestrix VR Headset will be useless without the addition of a separate controller. Most apps make allowances for viewers without a trigger, however, so this isn’t as much of a negative as I thought it would be.
CANBOR VR HEADSET FOR CARDBOARD
Going into this review I thought for sure that the Canbor unit would be my favorite. It shares the same sturdy construction as the Bestrix headset. It has a well cushioned face. There’s adjustable strapping for a comfort fit. It has adjustable lenses like the Bestrix unit. And it ships with a Bluetooth “VR Controller” that has buttons for home, volume, trigger, etc. The phone is held in place by a magnetically closed enclosure. It seems like a no-brainer that the Canbor should be the better unit as it has everything you’d want in a Cardboard viewer.
In practice, however, the advantages it offers disappear. First among the let downs is the Bluetooth controller. It connected easily enough to my phone. I could use it on the home screen to navigate and select. Media mode worked and I could play/pause/skip songs. I never got it to work in an actual Cardboard app, though. No apps or games recognized the trigger button as a selector. It failed in every app I tested against. It was basically a worthless accessory for me.
The controller isn’t the only failing, though. There’s also the face padding. It collapsed and left the hard plastic pushing up against the bridge of my nose. It was uncomfortable and made wearing it a chore. The other concern I had was the enclosure that holds the phone. It is held closed by magnets but they are very strong. I was always fearful that the door would open and my phone would fall out. This never happened but I definitely modified my behavior while using it to prevent it.
The Canbor and Bestrix units are pretty similar. They’re both solid devices that give you relatively low-cost entry into the VR space. Both worked well with Cardboard apps and had plenty of options to adjust for a good fit. The Canbor includes a Bluetooth controller but it never worked properly for me. Removing the controller from the equation leaves the Canbor on the same footing as the Bestrix but at twice the price. Given the more comfortable padding and lower price I can recommend the Bestrix VR Headset. It’s only $20 to gain entry to a surprisingly good Cardboard 3D VR ecosystem. But you should stay away from the Canbor unit. It’s overpriced and no better than competing units.
***NOTE: We were also provided a unit from HooToo for review. It’s very similar to the other units except that it has an integrated magnetic trigger. The unit is no longer available from Amazon so we have removed mention of it. The trigger didn’t work for my test devices (this is a complaint in many Amazon reviews of it also) and I wouldn’t recommend it over the Bestrix, though it was the most comfortable to wear for long periods.