Hands on: Samsung Gear VR Controller review

The most popular mobile VR headset has a controller to call its own

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Our Early Verdict

The Samsung Gear VR Controller finally brings a gamepad to the popular virtual reality headset, and it's better late than never. It includes all of the buttons that are mounted to the side of the headset, so you're no longer tapping your temple to move about in VR. It also has promising motion controls.

For

  • Comfortable, one-handed remote
  • New motion controls are promising

Against

  • Not a two-handed full controller
  • Requires two AAA batteries

The Samsung Gear VR Controller is poised to give the popular virtual reality headset the one feature it’s always been missing: a VR remote.

It’s Samsung’s official Bluetooth controller that’s compatible with all Gear VR headsets, new and old, and it has over 70 compatible titles in development, according Oculus.

What it means you’re going to get a more familiar a VR gaming experience right away thanks to this palm-friendly controller.

You won't have to learn additional buttons besides the existing touchpad and buttons on the right side of the headset – it’s an exact mirror of what you already have on the headset. 

It has a circular touchpad, back button and home button. But it stealthy includes extra sensors including an Accelerometer, Gyroscope and Magnetic Sensor. 

Motion controls are going to make Samsung Gear VR games more interesting in the future. The controller itself feels like a cross between the Google Daydream View remote and the HTC Vive controller.

It our hand, it felt like a lightweight controller, even with the required two AAA batteries installed. But the buttons and the touchpad felt clicky and satisfying. We’re still waiting to use it with VR games to see how it performs in everyday gaming situations.

You’re not getting any additional buttons besides the existing touchpad and buttons on the side of the headset – it’s an exact mirror of what you already have in this regard. 

It has a circular touchpad, back button and home button. But it stealthy includes extra sensors including an Accelerometer, Gyroscope and Magnetic Sensor. That’s going to make Samsung Gear VR games more interesting in the future.

Early verdict

The Gear VR controller is the missing link we’ve really needed from Samsung's  virtual reality headset. It's going to make the VR experience more enjoyable.

The fact that the newer Google Daydream View has a remote only increased fan pressure of Samsung to release its own one-handed controller. It's here now, and we've played around with it. 

Its success or failure is going to come down to a few factors, including how many games – new and old – take full advantage of the motion sensors, and how the battery life holds up. It’s a bit surprising that Oculus went with two AA batteries, not USB-C like the Daydream.

We’re bound to hear more about the Samsung Gear VR Controller and the slightly refined Gear VR headset at Samsung Unpacked on March 29. That’s when we also expect to see the Samsung Galaxy S8 launch, so hopefully we'll see a price and release date for both.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2017 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.