Even to those who only lightly follow the virtual reality (VR) industry it should be fairly clear that 2018 will see a change – or should that be addition – to the norm, with standalone headsets due to make their rise into the market. It was a natural synergy that was always going to take place, smartphone power inside an easy to use, all-in-one body that needed no wires. Last year Google made plans with HTC and Lenovo on two different headsets that would use the search giant’s Daydream platform. As we now know HTC eventually went off on its own, creating Vive Focus, while Lenovo stuck with Google, building the Mirage Solo in the process. During CES 2018 VRFocus got to spend some time with the headset to see how the partnership panned out.
First impressions upon seeing the Lenovo Mirage Solo are good, with Google’s Daydream reference design proving to be well made and relatively compact. What’s instantly noticeable is the PlayStation VR style head band, placing most of the weight on the forehead with an adjustment wheel on the back to ratchet the whole thing tight. It’s a system that’s been proven to work very well, providing a comfortable fitting for even long durations of gameplay.
Whilst this is true with the short amount of time VRFocus spent with the headset, due to its all-in-one design the device isn’t the lightest of head-mounted displays (HMDs). Sporting all that battery and processing power means the Lenovo Mirage Solo clocks in at 645g, while PlayStation VR weights 610g, HTC Vive is 470g, and Oculus Rift comes in at 470g.
The overall design of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is that of simplicity, with a clean form factor that features a couple of buttons on the right hand-side. Inside, the headset has a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 110 degree field-of-view (FoV) and sports a resolution of 2,560 × 1,440 – so very similar to that of smartphone VR headsets. The actual image quality is equally on par, if not slightly better than smartphone brethren, with decent clarity and sharpness provided by the lenses. Where the Mirage Solo shines however is with its inside-out tracking thanks to the two forward facing cameras.
Using a technology developed by Google called WorldSense, users can wander around fully tracked within the virtual world without the need for external sensors or cameras. In the dark, limited space demo area the tracking performed admirably, with little noticeable latency or moments of uncertainty. Whilst this will certainly aid immersion, the headset only comes supplied with the basic Daydream 3 degrees-of-freedom (3DoF) controller. This really only gives you the flexibility to point and select objects and items in menus and experiences.
Lenovo Mirage Solo’s menu will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s tried Daydream, as it utilises the same design configuration. One benefit is access to Daydream’s ecosystem which is attracting more and more developers.
So the overall headset works very nicely, the question is would you spend almost $400 USD on one. Lenovo has already said the Mirage Solo will retail for under that price, just not how far under. That puts it in the same price range as Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, way above Samsung Gear VR, and still significantly more than Oculus Go. Whilst the latter two are wireless, they don’t feature inside-out tracking, and the two high-end units can produce better visuals they just need external processing. This puts the Mirage Solo in a grey area that was once black and white, mobile VR or tethered VR.