BERLIN — Virtual reality headsets these days fall in roughly two categories. There are those tethered to a computer, aimed mostly at gamers, like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, and mobile ones that combine with a smartphone, like Samsung’s Gear VR or Google’s Cardboard.
China’s Alcatel did something different last year when it launched the Alcatel Idol 4S phone, whose packaging doubled as a simple VR headset. Now, the company has taken it a step further by announcing a standalone VR headset — one that does not need a phone or a computer to work.
The advantage of this approach is obvious: You can enjoy VR anywhere, and move freely without wires getting in the way — although that comes with the caveat that you won’t want to move much without being able to see what’s around you in the real world.
To achieve this, Alcatel basically put a smartphone of its own into the headset, called the Vision. It’s an Android Marshmallow-powered device with an octa-core CPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storagae Bluetooth, LTE, Wi-Fi, accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor. It’s basically everything you expect from a modern smartphone, only hidden inside the headset. It has two 3.8-inch AMOLED screens, each with a 1,080 x 1,020 pixel resolution.
To keep the weight down, Alcatel did something smart with the design: The front part of the headset is fairly straightforward and similar to, say, Samsung Gear VR. But keeping it fastened on your head is a sort of a head brace, with the 3,000mAh battery hidden in the part of the headset that leans on the back of your head. The design is not perfect yet — Alcatel tells me the part around the nose needs more work, and it does in my case — but overall it kept the headset quite light on my head, which is arguably more important than looks.