Samsung VR controller pairing. Gear VR with Controller Review

Gear VR with Controller Review

When it comes to smartphone-based VR, there’s isn’t a lot to choose from. There’s Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and Samsung’s Gear VR. If you wanted high-quality mobile VR content, you would choose the latter two of the ones I mentioned.

Samsung VR 2015 to 2017 Comparison

I tested out the Gear VR with Controller alongside the Galaxy S9 and it’s easily one of the best mobile VR headsets you can buy (as long as you have a compatible Samsung phone).

Design Hardware

The Gear VR has a plastic design in a blackish/blue colour. The right side of the device has a touchpad with a Home and Back button. There’s also a USB-C port that allows for power, 3rd party controllers and USB-C drives that are OTG. There’s also an adjustable headstrap for added comfort.

To get started with the Gear VR, all you have to do is insert your Samsung smartphone into the correct connector (either USB-C or microUSB) and you’ll be taken through the setup process including pairing the controller over Bluetooth. When you connect your device to the headset, you can still can access the headphone jack to hook up some headphones for a more immersive experience. If your phone is running out of juice while you’re using the Gear VR, you can just connect the charge to the Gear VR’s USB-C port.

When using the Gear VR, the battery doesn’t drain that much but your phone will get warm when playing graphically intense games in VR.

The Gear VR works with Samsung devices that have either a microUSB or USB-C port and the headset comes with interchangeable phone connections to properly connect your phone to the headset. Some devices that are compatible include the Galaxy S9, S9, Note8, S8, S8, S7, S7 Edge, Note5, S6 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, A8 and A8.

The headset has a 101-degree field-of-view which allows you to see more of whatever content you’re viewing. The headset does allow you to adjust the distance between the lenses, so it’s better for your eyes. There’s also a gyro sensor and proximity sensor.

The controller for Gear VR has a touchpad, home key, volume rocker, back button and a trigger button on the bottom. The controller does come with a wriststrap but it is a pain to attach to the controller. You can use AAA batteries to power the Gear VR’s controller and the Gear VR headset itself is powered by your smartphone.

The Gear VR with Controller is available from a number of retailers in Canada for 199 CAD but you can find it for much less. That’s almost twice the price of Google’s Daydream View headset, which the Galaxy S9 S9 is compatible with. You can buy the Gear VR with Controller from, and Samsung’s website.


The Gear VR is powered by your Samsung smartphone. All the software is through the Gear VR app and Oculus app on your phone.

The interface for Gear VR with your phone is connected looks similar to how it would be on Oculus Rift but with some slight tweaks to make them optimized for Gear VR. You’ll find Oculus software like Oculus Rooms and Parties which allow you to connect with your friends.

The interface within Gear VR is fairly easy to navigate especially with the controller.

Samsung says there are 1000 apps and games available for Gear VR and counting. That might be true but it also doesn’t mean they’re all that great. Out of the apps and games I tested, I was able to try Coco VR, which puts you into the colourful world of the Pixar film, Temple Run VR, Intel True VR, Samsung #BeFearless, Disney Movies VR, Netflix for Gear VR, Tomb Raider VR: Lara’s Escape and Samsung Droid Repair Bay.

There’s a good selection of apps and games for Gear VR, many of which are also available for Daydream VR. But there are some apps like Coco VR, Temple Run VR, Disney Movies VR that are exclusive to Gear VR.

However, there are a lot that cost money but you’ll still be able to find a couple that are good and free to download.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Gear VR with Controller was fun to use and works well if you have a compatible Samsung device. It is more expensive than other mobile VR headsets but there are a lot more high-quality apps and games available for it, some of which are exclusive to the platform.

  • Comfortable to wear
  • Interface is easy to use
  • Good amount of content of the platform
  • Wide field of view
  • Supports a good amount of Samsung phones
  • Larger and more expensive than Google Daydream View
  • Controller is not rechargeable
  • Some content can be expensive

How to set up your Samsung Gear VR

Jumping into VR with your new headset is super easy, but there are a few quick things you need to do before having fun in another world. This guide will show you everything you need to do before putting on the headset, so you’re guaranteed to have a good time!

How to assemble your Gear VR

Your Gear VR comes in a few pieces. You should have:

  • One plastic visor
  • One long strap
  • One short strap with a plastic hook
  • One elastic tag with Samsung across the bottom
  • Two AAA batteries
  • One motion controller
  • One wrist strap for a motion controller
  • One micro USB adapter
  • One USB-C adapter (attached when shipped)

Here’s the best way to assemble the head straps.

  • Take the short strap with the plastic hook, and attach the plastic end to the small metal bar on the plastic visor with the open side of the hook facing the front of the headset
  • Slide the elastic tag onto the long strap so the Samsung logo is right-side up
  • Insert the two sides of the long strap into the slots on the sides of the plastic visor so the velcro parts face outward
  • Attach the velcro side of the short strap to the middle of the long strap
  • Place batteries in the motion controller
  • Attach wrist strap to the motion controller by threading it through the hole under the battery cover then reattach the battery cover
  • Insert the Gear VR Controller into the elastic tag on your side strap

Congrats, your head strap has been assembled! This will need to be adjusted a little when you put the headset on so it fits you perfectly.

How to install Gear VR software on your Galaxy S8 or S9

Your phone doesn’t come with the Gear VR software already installed, so you need to download it. To do that, you need to:

  • Insert your phone into the Gear VR
  • Wait for a voice instructing you to remove the phone
  • Remove your phone from the Gear VR
  • Read the Agreement on the screen and tap Agree, then Next
  • Tap Install to download the Gear VR software

Important note: If your phone uses micro USB rather than USB-C you can swap the adapter on the headset by switching the adapter to unlock, removing it, and replacing it with the micro USB version.

You did it! Once the software is ready to be used, you’ll see the Oculus App in your app launcher.

How to set up your Gear VR software and pair your Gear VR Controller

Now that you’ve set up the hardware and installed the software, it’s time to create an account and have some fun!

  • Open the Oculus App on your phone
  • Sign in with your account
  • Tap Update Now to get the latest Gear VR software
  • Tap Pair and hold down the Home button on your Gear VR Controller to connect
  • Calibrate your Gear VR controller using the on-screen video guide
  • Tap Left Handed or Right Handed to set Gear VR Controller preference

And you’re finished! Your Gear VR is now fully ready to be used.

Important Note: The Oculus App requires your Gear VR use the highest resolution setting in order to show you things in VR. You will see a prompt asking you to enable WQHD on your phone, which is a display mode that consumes more power while it is in use. When you are not using the Gear VR, you may want to return your resolution to the default FHD that you phone uses when you take it out of the box. To make this change:

  • Pull down your notification drawer and tap the Settings gear
  • Tap Display
  • Tap Screen resolution
  • Slide the green dot from WQHD to FHD

Now what do I do?

Your Gear VR comes with a free app, Oculus Prologue, that shows you how to use the new Gear VR controller to have some fun. When you’re finished with that, here are a few other things you can try!

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How to use Samsung Gear VR with unsupported smartphones

While the Oculus Mobile SDK might eventually spread to other smartphones and accompanying virtual reality hardware, for now it remains relegated to Samsung’s Gear VR. In turn, the Gear VR is designed (both in terms of physical construction and software) to work with only one smartphone from Samsung’s stable of many: the Galaxy Note 4. Obviously, that leaves a large majority of the Android-toting population squarely stuck in their non-virtual realities. What if there was a way to get the Samsung Gear VR to work with other devices?

Inspired by a post by Pure Engineering on Android Forums, we decided to investigate. It turns out using an unsupported phone is not completely out of the realm of possibilities, but it comes with a few major caveats. The Oculus Mobile SDK is currently only optimized for the Galaxy Note 4, its processing suite, and embedded sensors. Using another device will not provide the true Gear VR experience, providing limited control and not taking advantage of the headsets more unique features and software-specific enhancements.

Fitting the phone

First and foremost, the Gear VR is built to connect via Micro USB to the Note 4 and hold it snugly in place with a clamping mechanism. In order to fit another device into the Gear VR, the phone must be generally the same size as Samsung’s phablet, which features a 5.7-inch display.

Any phone should also have a Micro USB connector centered on the bottom of the device. The USB port will strictly be a matter of fit, as the connection will serve no function due to the lack of software link between a device other than the Note 4 and the Gear VR. One benefit of connecting to the USB port is it will help hold a smaller smartphone in place. It is possible to finagle a device without the proper USB port placement into position (especially if it is smaller), but there may be the potential for damage to both your device and the Gear VR headset.

Some devices that we tested and more-or-less fit include:

In general, if the phone is smaller than the Note 4 it should fit, so you might add devices like the HTC One M8, LG G3, and Moto X to the above list. Most of these devices being too small for the clasping mechanism to function properly, you might utilize a case or get some felt or other soft material for added padding. The Nexus 6 is a bit too large to fit properly, but the OnePlus One slots in without any additional padding.

Once you fit your device, the Gear VR will be used more or less in the same fashion as Google Cardboard or a similar low-cost virtual reality substitute, utilizing the Gear VR’s stereoscopic lenses only.

Installing the right software

Since your unsupported phone will not take advantage of the Gear VR’s special Oculus software, you will need to install the proper applications to create 3D and VR content.

Google Cardboard is perhaps the most full featured of these options, providing stereoscopic viewing experiences to create three-dimensional environments that can be explored with the movement of your head. Google Cardboard includes a number of neat demos as well as the ability to view YouTube in a virtual theater and also import your own content.

Another option would be to use a stereoscopic video viewer like VR Player. VR Player does not include all the bells and whistles that we find in Google Cardboard, but it does offer 2D and 3D video playback tailored to viewing with a set of VR goggles like the Gear VR.

What works, what doesn’t

In the case of using a device other than the Galaxy Note 4, the Gear VR is being utilized for its mounting hardware and lenses alone. As long as your device has a screen similar in size to the Note 4’s 5.7-inch display, you will get pretty accurate 2D and 3D viewing of video, games, and photos. Since the lenses are designed to work most accurately with the Note 4’s display, smaller (and larger, if they will fit) devices may provide a less than perfect experience. The Gear VR’s manual FOCUS wheel can also be used to physically move the display nearer or farther from the eyes to adjust clarity.

The head tracking and VR experience will largely be dependent on the software used. The Oculus technology and software utilized by the Note 4 and Gear VR will not be available, so touchscreen controls (or a Bluetooth controller) are required to navigate menus and perform other actions. The Gear VR’s touchpad, volume controls, and other buttons will not function. You will not have access to the Oculus Store and VR content available exclusively to the Galaxy Note 4 when paired with the Gear VR.

A neat trick, but should you buy the Gear VR for your unsupported smartphone?

It has been demonstrated that the Gear VR can indeed “work” with an Android smartphone other than the Galaxy Note 4, but after evaluating the result we can’t whole heartedly say it’s a very worthwhile experience. Unless you plan on upgrading to the Note 4 in the near future, at 200 the Gear VR is simply too expensive when compared to cheaper Google Cardboard holders that will produce an identical experience.

The real value is in the Oculus software included with the Note 4. It is one of the more refreshing, exciting, and immersive experiences to grace the Android ecosystem in quite some time. Again, that won’t be available on unsupported smartphones, but if you own a Note 4, by all means think about picking up the Gear VR (we’ll have a full review soon).

If you want to see what other early adopters are up to as they explore the ins and outs of the Gear VR Innovator Edition, be sure to head over to our Gear VR forum for all the latest, tips, tricks, hints, and revelations.

UPDATE: Here is Samsung’s official comment on using the Gear VR with other smartphones, from Nick DiCarlo, VP GM of Immersive Products and Virtual Reality:

“The Gear VR Innovator’s Edition was designed to provide very smooth motion tracking and a high quality ‘presence’ experience for VR enthusiasts. This can typically be measured by ‘motion to photo’ time and the threshold Gear VR has met is 20milliseconds. This quality threshold has the potential to make VR more comfortable for a wider population of users and help grow the use of VR. Creative approaches to creating a VR headset, such as fixing a phone into the Gear VR to benefit from the comfortable straps and lenses can improve the experience, but that approach doesn’t take advantage of the tracking hardware and other hardware and software optimizations that have been done on the Galaxy Note with the software that was developed with Oculus. As VR enthusiasts, we all know that, but we wanted to clear things up for the rapidly growing group of friends who are more new to VR. We are honored to be part of the VR community and look forward to advancing the potential of VR together.”

samsung, controller, pairing, gear, review

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Samsung Gear VR review

For virtual reality newcomers, the new Gear VR with controller is one of the best options on the market as well as one of the most affordable. If you own the latest Samsung phone, or one released two years ago, this headset and controller combo is the best option available.


  • Lighter and more comfortable
  • Supports two year’s worth of Samsung phones
  • Controller is well made


  • – Larger and more expensive than the Google Daydream View
  • – Controller batteries not rechargeable

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Samsung Gear VR in 2023- does anyone still use it?

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Update: Samsung has been fairly quiet about VR recently, but it’s offering Gear VR owners a free adapter to make it compatible with the Galaxy Note 9, so it’s definitely not forgotten about it. Rumors of a new headset have been circulating for a while, but we’ve yet to see anything concrete from the company.

The Samsung Gear VR is one of the best and cheapest ways to experiences virtual reality if you own a Samsung smartphone. And, now that you can pair it with a motion controller, it’s feels a lot more immersive.

The newest Gear VR for 2018 touts a streamlined, slightly improved design and features a USB-C connector that hooks directly into the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. However, the big draw here is the included wireless controller in the box.

samsung, controller, pairing, gear, review

It’s a small remote that looks similar to an HTC Vive controller, elevated touchpad, punchy trigger and all. And, while it may not get points for originality, it just works. Placed in either the right or left hand, this controller is simple to pair to your phone, and the motion controls add a new level of interactivity that was sorely missing from the Gear VR suite.

Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View

Altogether, with the robust and ever-growing collection of VR content and the new controller, the new Gear VR is a painless recommendation. It’s lighter, more comfortable and cross-compatible with older Samsung phones, too. However, if you already own a previous version of the headset, you can pick up the controller separately.

Samsung Gear VR price and release date

The new Samsung Gear VR is available now to the tune of 129 (about £100, AU117) and includes both the updated headset and its new accompanying controller. If you hunt, you can find it for cheaper online.

For those already rocking a Gear VR headset, Samsung plans on selling the controller separately for 39 (about £30, AU50).

samsung, controller, pairing, gear, review

And, if you’re looking for a deal on the Samsung Gear VR, you’re in luck. Right now on Amazon in the US, you can pick up the Samsung Gear VR for just 86.99 (about £68.61, AU116.52) with a controller.


The look of the new versus the old Samsung Gear VR isn’t night and day, though it has shed about a quarter pound in weight. When compared to the sleeker, smaller Google Daydream View, it’s still rather monstrous, but its size advantage yields unique benefits over Google’s one-size-fits-all headset.

First off, the optics inside can be adjusted using the top-mounted dial to make the picture easier to see for your eyes. Google’s headset comes at a fixed position and it may take some extra effort to see a clear image.

Keeping the light out is something that the Gear VR has always been good at and the new model is no exception. A welcome area of improvement is the breathability of the headset. On the first iteration, things would get steamy after a few minutes of use, rendering the lenses foggy like a mirror after a hot shower. But by adding a few more air vents beneath the eyes, I no longer find this to be an issue.

Compared to the older model, the cushion that rests around your eyes and nose is noticeably cozier and more supportive. Included in the box is a controller holder that can be installed into the head strap for easy storage.

The buttons and port location are familiar on the new headset, though they have received some tweaking. To match the layout of the new controller, the new headset’s touchpad now features a home button to take you straight out of any app or game that using you’re using.

Confusingly, Samsung steamrolled the directional pad-shaped indicators on the touchpad. Sure, if you’ve used the Gear VR before, you’ll probably adjust easily to the change. But VR first timers might be put off, as the new solution doesn’t present the most intuitive control scheme.

Instead of the microUSB port found on bottom of the original Gear VR that was used for keeping your phone charged, the new headset features a USB-C port that can do the same. Samsung touts it as a multifunction port, so it’s very likely that we’ll see more accessories coming that expand its capabilities, much like how the controller has done.

Samsung includes a swappable microUSB connector, which enables compatibility with the following devices:


The little controller is certainly the highlight of the show, so let’s dig into it. The motion-enabled wand matches the dark aesthetic of the new Gear VR, though it also goes nicely with the older model.

Powered by two AAA batteries, the small controller features a volume rocker, as well as a circular touchpad and the back and home button duo to mimic what’s found on the side of the headset. On its back, there’s a single trigger, which is nice to have for the inevitable onslaught of first-person shooters.

There are a handful of games that offer controller compatibility and they work in a manner that you’d expect if you’ve played anything on Google’s Daydream headset or even the Nintendo Wii. You can aim the controller around in the virtual reality world to select, shoot or pick up objects. Compared to other experiences, Samsung’s controller feels and performs on par.

For many early pre-order adopters of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, the new headset and its controller will come free. But even at 39 (about £30, AU50), the controller is a welcome, well built addition to the Gear VR family.

Samsung has made the controller compatible with the backlog of apps and games that are already available to users. Both the trigger and touchpad execute the same simple “confirm” command, but the motion capabilities are otherwise turned off.