Two premium Virtual Reality Headsets for iPhones.
When the mailman came by and dropped off the Merge VR I was really happy because this is one of the headsets I really have high expectations of. I like the design, the color and the fact that it has Google Cardboard v2 compatible buttons so I can play my favorite games.
I immediately started to unbox it, as my girlfriend was looking at me like I'm a little child who got my new toy, she's right, it must have looked like that.
The packing looks like it contains a finished product and you can partially see the Merge VR waiting inside. Together with the headset comes a cleaning tissue, a small instruction manual and an extra strap to create a 3-way head-strap.
After unpacking the headset it is ready for use: I scanned the QR code (which I found on the inside of the head-strap), slided in my iPhone 6, adjusted the IPD just a little bit and started playing my favorite game at the moment: InCell. The iPhone 6 fits in well and there is no need to adjust its position. Also thanks to the foam material of which Merge is made there is literally no chance of scratching or damaging your phone. It won't fall out and its to soft to scratch you iPhone in any way.
The next day I went and bought a Zeiss VR One. Let me recollect that these were the two winning VR Headsets on our latest poll: Which VR Headset Next? So now it's time to reward the voter with what they asked for...
The Zeiss VR One was sold out and therefore I bought it second-hand (including a iPhone 6 tray. One time used X-mas gift I think), for 60€ (approx. 65$) and an hour drive. It could have come with the mail but it didn't want to wait and I just like to drive...
It is probably good to know that this VR One is the old version, the VR One GX is already on pre-order on the VR One webpage. The GX does not add anything new if you're an iPhone user. So I prefer the old head-strapped version.
I came home and started unpacking the VR One. VR One comes in a good quality, simple but well designed packing, as I would expect from Carl-Zeiss and the price one pays for it. Inside the packing there was the Zeiss VR One, fully assembled including a manual and a third head-strap. The iPhone 6 tray has to be bought separately. An iPhone 6(S) plus wont fit.
Again I started by scanning the QR code which is on the outside of the box, inserted my iPhone 6 into the tray. The tray is especially designed for the iPhone 6 and it is a perfect fit, it's easy to insert and there is an opening for your back camera enabling AR and camera usage. The VR One has a black transparent cover but you can take pictures anyway. well done Zeiss!
The tray slides smoothly into the VR One and clicks in to position. It feels like German precision and I have no fear what so ever my phone will fall out or move out of position at any moment. There is also no risk of damaging or scratching my smart phone, just be carefull when you remove your phone from the tray... it kinda like pops out.
Ok, now both VR Headsets are ready to use. The QR codes are scanned, phones are in place, InCell is loaded and I'm ready to test these VR Headsets. I also play FastHit VR and End Space VR. All 3 games have a very different gameplay and give a good idea of the VR Headsets capabilities.
Merge VR and Zeiss VR One both have big lenses. The largest lenses I ever used on a VR Headset or cardboard. I think they both used 41mm diameter lenses and if I'm not mistaken they use the same lens size and focal length as the Oculus Rift does.
Both come with high-quality lenses, crystal clear vision and it feels like you are very close to the screen. You can see the pixels, a retina display is just not enough to zoom in like these lenses do. The field of view is about 85 degrees on a iPhone 6 which is reasonably good compared to other high-end headsets.
On the Merge VR I notice some lens distortion. It does not bother me, but it is there. This could be the lens itself or it could be the Google Cardboard QR code. I don´t know but the Zeiss VR One has no noticeably lens distortion at all.
Merge VR is quite large and weights 340gr which is average, about the same as a VRizzmo and a bit heavier than a Freefly VR, however Merge does not bother or weigh heavy on my head at all. It's a very comfortable device and does not let a lot of outside light through either and the lenses do not get fogged at all. These are really important characteristics.
The Zeiss is a different story. It weights about 440 grams and it feels like 440 grams, a bit heavy and the device tends to eat my nose which fogs the lenses. Not much but it tends to happen some times. Another downside to the Zeiss VR One is that you can not adjust IPD. For me this is not a problem but I asked some others to try the devices and one of them sees double in the VR One because his IPD is not average. On the Merge VR (after adjusting the IPD) he did not have this problem at all. He is going to buy a Merge VR.
On both devices I recommend using the third head-strap, it takes the load off your jaw-bones especially if your playing for a longer period.
I tested Merge VR with my iPhone 6 and iPhone 5. You can use it with an iPhone 5 but the FOV is much smaller so I do recommend using a medium or large smartphone in this headset. I could not test the Zeiss VR One with my iPhone 5 because it only came with the iPhone 6 tray. There are a few other tray's available for Samsung Smartphones (S5 and S6) and some 3D printable tray's. An iPhone 5 tray is not available at the moment.
Let me start by being very clear: both VR Headsets are great! Of course they come with a price tag which is higher than most VR Headsets, but you can not compare these two with cheaper headsets or cardboards. If you want premium quality and are willing to pay for it than pick one of these.
The real limitations are today's smartphones. I wrote about these limitations in one of my posts last week and I can not mention it enough. I will not bash Apple or any other smart phone manufacturer because the need for VR capable sensors and screens simply did not exist when they started developing these smartphones.
We can only hope that the next generation of iPhones (7?) will be VR friendly, and if they wont then we will always have innovative headsets companies like ION VR and Cmoar that try to solve the issue's by thinking outside of the box and creating new VR solutions. ION VR has really surprised everybody at CES 2016 with its MotionSync Tech and it's partnership with Microsoft and it's RealSense tech. Very promising and I'll certainly write about this in the near future.
Back to the topic: A Winner
Merge VR. If you want no lens distortion what so ever and like the mature design go for the Zeiss VR One. If you need the Google Cardboard App Ecosystem button, want more facial comfort, if you have more than one iPhone model and want to pay less: than Merge VR is the answer to your needs. Merge VR is my personal favorite and the new Zeiss VR One GX with outdated magnetic button (iOS incompatible!!!) headset will certainly not change my opinion.
Both Headsets are made from good materials with nice finishing details, they have great lenses, are AR capable, have 3-way adjustable head-straps and ventilation holes. They are not very portable and have no case but fit in a backpack.
Merge VR is compatible with iPhone models 5, 5S, 5C, 6, 6S, 6 plus, 6S plus.
Zeiss VR One natively supports iPhone models 6 and 6S when you order the iPhone 6. There are other trays available but not for Apple devices.
- Big and high quality lenses
- Google Cardboard button support
- 2 buttons
- IPD Adjustable
- Overall quality
- Buttons are not very responsive
- No case
- Some lens distortion
Website: MergeVR.com (on Amazon.com)
Country of origin: United States
Zeiss VR One
- Big and high quality lenses
- iPhone 6 tray has perfect fit
- No lens distortion
- IPD Adjustable
- Overall quality
- No adjustable IPD
- No case
- No Google Cardboard buttons support
Country of origin: Germany
To check all specs please go to our VR Headset Database and don't forget to join our mailing list to keep up with all VR iPhone related news.