Back in 2014, before Google launched its Google Cardboard V2 with iOS compatible button, some VR pioneers had already released their Virtual Reality headsets.
This was the beginning of a fast growing mobile VR-gear market. Among a few others Homido VR, Freefly VR and Durovis Dive (2013) came with their vision of a VR-headset for smartphones.
These were premium iPhone compatible Virtual Reality headsets but they had a downside for gamers. No user input: no access to the touchscreen and no action buttons. Some came with a Bluetooth controller but functionality on iOS devices was limited.
When iOS 9 was released these controllers became obsolete and stopped working on iPhones. Game developers had to reinvent the way gamers interacted with Virtual Reality Games. Still today there are many approaches, most of them offer game control by looking at objects. For some games this works fine, for other game types like FPS and racing this approach just doesn't seem like a viable option.
It wasnt until Google presented its second version of the Google Cardboard at the IO 2015 that a integrated iOS compatible button was introduced with the launch of the Google Cardboard V2. The first Google Cardboard had a magnetic button which is not compatible with iOS devices (iPhones and iPads).
One button does not sound like a lot but before that iPhone VR gamers had two choice: buy a controller with very limited compatibility or only play VR games that did not need a gamepad nor screen touch input.
From that moment on almost all VR Game developers started using the Google Cardboard SDK (today renamed to Google VR SDK) to develop their VR Games.
As more and more games need a Cardboard V2 compatible input button more gamers started to buy headsets and cardboards which have a V2 button or give access the touch screen, like most little portable VR goggles do (Homido Mini, 2VR, Pocket 360, etc). Most of these devices have other downsides like the lack of a head-strap or their quality.
Merge VR was one of the first premium Virtual Reality goggles I got my hands on that has iOS compatible conductive buttons (aka Cardboard V2 buttons).
That's probably the reason both Homido and Freefly just released improved versions of their original VR Headsets modifying them to comply with today's standards. In this post I will review the new Freefly VR Beyond. Proteus Labs send me a sample for free like some others do. I always reply mentioning that my reviews are unbiased.
Freefly VR Beyond
Freefly VR Beyond comes in high quality soft case, similar to its predecessor, but with an orange zipper. The case is quite big but will certainly protect the headset.
After opening the case you'll see the headset, a Freefly sticker, a good manual and a textile cleaning tissue for the lenses.
Freefly VR Beyond, just like its case and all accessories feels like a premium headset. No cheap plastic of bad finishing. A solid and mature VR product.
Freefly VR Beyond
In many ways this headset gives me a deja vu. The case and the headset itself are almost identical to the original Freefly VR. The way you lock in the smartphone and msot features are unchanged.
A PR-staff member from Proteus VR Labs told me that it in fact is the original Freefly VR improved with the feedback they received from users.
The old version of this headset was already a good product. Comfortable, compatible with many smartphones and with a good Field of View.
So what did they improve? Well for starters, two iOS compatible buttons were added. These are called Crossfire button, I'm not sure why. Beside this indispensable new feature the headset now has larger lenses and more air vents to prevent fogging lenses. The design only changed slighty by adding the color orange probably to distinguish both headsets.
I tested the buttons on my iPhone 6 and I find that the button response could be better. You really have to press hard which makes the buttons a little slow when playing fast-paced games. The response time can be compared with the Merge VR buttons. I sugest improving this when/if a third version is developed.
Proteus VR Labs Freefly VR Beyond is not the first VR headset that contains the two button approach. The American Merge VR and the Spanish Lakento MVR also both have two (touch screen/conductive) button. The Google Cardboard/Google VR SDK only supports input for one button so you won't find many games using two button. I can imagine that two buttons come in handy when you have a strong preference for your left or right hand.
Pro´s and Con´s
- 2 iOS compatible buttons
- value-for-money / overall quality
- large 40mm lenses
- no adjustable IPD and Focal length
- not AR-capable (Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality)
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Price: 56,84€ / 69,70$
Check out Freefly VR Beyond in our VR Headset Database