Carphone Warehouse's own virtual reality headset turned heads earlier this year – and for good reason. The Goji VR takes a spot firmly between the premium Samsung Gear VR and the budget Google Cardboard headsets, offering a quality build while trimming some of the extra frills.
While it won't compete with PC peripherals like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, smartphone VR technology is an extremely cost-effective way to explore virtual worlds or enjoy 3D entertainment.
We've already been impressed by Google Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR – but what makes the Goji VR stand out from the other smartphone headsets available? Today, we're finding out!
Having tinkered with a couple of VR headsets previously, I couldn't wait to open the packaging and take the Goji VR for a spin.
As soon as I unwrapped the headset I was pleased to see firm, well-moulded plastic – and not one but two elasticated straps to help secure it around your head. This is quite an important feature for any headset, as smartphone VR relies on two lenses focusing on the screen from a fixed point – and the more your headset moves around on your head, the less effective your VR experience will be. The Goji's straps fit around the top and back of your head and can be adjusted to fit different users.
The two focusing lenses can be adjusted independently of each other by moving two sliders on top of the headset, which move the lenses forwards, backwards and side-to-side. This accommodates for a variety of head shapes and eyesight levels means you should be able to enjoy the headset even if you normally wear glasses or have differing vision in each eye.
Popping open the front of the Goji VR reveals the phone compartment, where your smartphone will sit when in use.
A sticky non-slip mat can be found already seated on the lid of the Goji VR, which holds the phone in place and without leaving a sticky residue. Around the edge of the phone compartment are small holes in the casing, which allow air to flow through the headset preventing your phone from overheating while in use – particularly useful as certain phones can get very warm when running virtual reality applications! These airholes can also be used to insert your USB charging cable, to make sure your phone doesn't run out of power mid-way through a game or movie.
The Goji VR is advertised as being a 'universal' VR headset, and for good reason.
Not only does the Goji fit pretty much every size of Android smartphone, it also supports iPhones too. This immediately sets it apart from its closest competitor, the Gear VR, which only supports recent Samsung devices.
In terms of software, most of the VR features for smartphones currently come through the cross-platform Google Cardboard software, which is one of the most popular VR apps for smartphones and acts as a library for most of the virtual reality apps and games you'll be installing.
As for the hardware, the Goji VR's plastic casing is firm and unyielding, and should stand up to the rigours of being used by children – even grown-up children. I particularly like the soft padding which sits around the visor: rather than being made of thick foam, we're treated to a sweat-friendly cushion with decent airflow through it.
Like most smartphone VR headsets, there's a magnetic button on the left of the device which slides up and down in a fixed position. This allows you to control your smartphone while it's inside the Goji headset, and works by changing the polarity of another magnet found inside the plastic. When the polarity changes, your phone's internal compass registers the change and treats it like a screen press.
Because the interal magnet is fixed to the Goji, there's no chance of losing it - although you'll need to keep an eye on the magnet on the outside, as this can end up sticking to other metallic objects when you're storing it somewhere.
After installing the Google Cardboard app on my smartphone and loading it up with some interesting apps and games, I opened the app and fitted the phone into the headset.
At first I found it challenging to seat the phone in the centre of the sticky pad, but once a VR app was open it was easy to see the central line of the phone and match it to the dividing plastic of the Goji VR. If the half-way point doesn't line up with the headset, you'll have a poor VR experience at best! This is an issue you're unlikely to face with the Gear VR, which is fitted to suit a couple of Samsung smartphones snugly and in the correct position by default.
It's important when installing your phone into the Goji VR that the top of the phone is pointing towards the left of the headset. This is due to the magnetic button of the Goji VR needing to be in close proximity to your phone's compass, which in most cases is found at the top of the phone. Once I'd put the phone in the right way around and made sure it was lined up correctly, I was ready to go.
It's advisable to use headphones when playing with virtual reality apps, but the design of the Goji VR does let sound travel from the phone to your ears without much interference. I enjoyed a few videos filmed in VR without needing to change my sound settings – although I did have the volume set to full already.
I tested a few games with great success, until after around 15-20 minutes of use when the sticky pad holding the phone in place lost some of its stickiness due to the heat. The effect was only temporary, though, and after taking a short break to let my phone cool down and charge up, I was able to continue using the headset without issue.
One of the best features (and possibly the most underrated) is the adjustable lenses of the Goji VR. While you're wearing it, you can easily find the adjustable sliders on top of the headset and operate them without looking.
Moving the lenses from side-to-side lets you seat the lenses right in front of your eyes, and adjusting them forwards and backwards lets you fine-tune your view. The lenses are also quite firmly held in place, and you won't have to keep readjusting to move them back into position.
This is a really useful feature, and one that's lacking from the Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Everybody's head is different, and this kind of flexibility makes the Goji a truly universal device.
Modern virtual reality tech has been around for a couple of years now in various forms – and while some premium headsets, like the HTC Vive, are paving the way for truly immersive, high-end VR experiences, there's plenty of room at the bottom of the VR market for smartphone headsets and apps.
Of course, it's unfair to compare the graphics and functionality of a computer-based VR machine to a smartphone one – especially as the cost of a premium headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive can be almost 20 times the cost of a Goji VR!
While you won't get the same experiences or even the same games on the Goji as you would on a high-end PC headset, you get access to all VR apps available through the Google Play Store, as well as from various websites like YouTube and Chrome Experiments.
In my opinion this is actually a better offering than the Samsung Gear VR, which is restricted to only accessing a trimmed-down version of the Oculus app store. The apps on the Oculus store may be a little more powerful, but there are noticeably fewer apps available for it than for the Goji VR or any other Cardboard-based headset.
It may not be a perfect VR solution, but if you're looking for a cheap yet impressive venture into the world of virtual reality the Goji VR is sturdy little device which will stand up to a lot of use.
Having used other headsets like the standard Google Cardboard and Gear VR, I would definitely recommend the Goji VR for not only having a longer lifespan than a cardboard headset but also being extremely affordable!