Last Updated on September 20, 2019 by Michael Brockbank
As virtual reality becomes more prominent, many are flocking to cheaper alternatives than an $800 setup for consoles and computers. Less expensive units, such as the Utopia 360 VR headset are affordable and work well to give you that interactive sensation. Is it worth the cost?
I picked up the Utopia 360 VR headset from Walmart for about $15. It was something cheap that I thought my daughters would like to play around with.
To be honest, I thought it was going to be a very poor substitute for the real deal, like an HTC Vive. Although it’s not as engaging as the HTC, the Utopia 360 was a pleasant surprise.
What is the Utopia 360 VR Headset?
The Utopia 360 VR Headset turns your smartphone into a virtual reality system. By splitting the image for either eye and using the phone’s built-in motion sensing and GPS technology, you can get a feel for being inside of a three-dimensional universe.
Essentially, the Utopia 360 is nothing more than the shell which your phone sits inside. It has no electronics of its own and is merely used to place the image in front of your face using your own mobile device.
The unit we bought came with it’s own carrying case. It’s useful when you want to travel or keep it protected from drops and liquid spills. I mean, you wouldn’t want to put on a headset that was soaked in pop.
Why Would You Want the Utopia 360 VR?
In reality, this unit is great for those who don’t have the money but want some semblance of virtual reality. It’s built well and comes with a few features that make the purchase an OK investment.
The tray of the Utopia 360 is big enough to house a myriad of smartphones. I just used it a moment ago with my Galaxy S8 and we usually keep the LG G3 in it at all times. The tray is built with a spring-loaded system that separates for larger devices and is easy to remove smartphones from.
The tray itself is held up by a magnet, which does a good job at keeping the lid closed and the screen in front of your eyes. However, I had to remove my Otter Box as it was just too thick for the lid to close while in the Utopia.
Virtual reality isn’t the only thing this headset is capable of. It comes with a sliding window on the tray to use the phone’s camera. This means it’s perfect for augmented reality apps that use the camera to alter how people see the real world.
How Well Does it Work?
Although I have to take my glasses off to use the headset, the focus dials on either side of the device help tremendously. So if your Utopia 360 is blurry, start with the focus.
Normally I have to wear glasses to read and see clearly. The focus on the headset matches my needs almost perfectly.
As the headset uses your smartphone, it’s capabilities are limited to what your device can do. Graphics, blue tooth controllers and the sound rely on your own device. So if you’re looking for Utopia 360 VR games, you need to look no further than the Apple Store or Google Play.
Here’s a tip, plug your earphones in when wearing the Utopia 360. It enhances the experience exponentially.
The straps are adjustable to a certain point. However, we were able to resize it for everyone in the family very well. And if you’re eyes are farther apart than the visual screen of the smartphone, there is a knob on the top to adjust the view so you can see without a doubling effect.
Where Can You Find the Headset?
I picked our unit up from Walmart for relatively cheap. I have seen them at many other computer stores such as Microcenter and Best Buy.
If you’re keen on waiting a bit for the device to arrive, I currently see them on Amazon for $11.42.
Most Notable Features of the Utopia 360 VR
After reading over the one star reviews, I have to admit that I didn’t have any of the problems many of those people were having. It true the phone clips are a bit thin, but you shouldn’t have a problem if your not forcing the phone into the tray.
I do have a small issue with the foam padding used to hold the phone in the Utopia 360, though. If you keep a device in there for several months like we did, the foam pads begin to distort. Of course, this is true anytime you have hardware held in place by foam.
Personally, I like the focus features the most. Probably because I need glasses to see and I can use this unit without them perfectly.
Another element I appreciate is the comfort. The padding around the eye guard and the head straps were acceptable.
For $15 as opposed to hundreds of dollars, it’s not that bad of a unit.
The Utopia 360 VR headset is compatible with a wide swath of phones. Like I said, I used it beautifully with my Samsung Galaxy S8. The tray can handle a phone less than 3.5 inches wide and 7.25 inches long. Unfortunately, this disqualifies many phablets that are beyond the dimensions.
I’m not 100% sure about the plastic that is used to build this unit, however. It seems a bit on the cheaper side, more like a kid’s toy you’d pick up at Family Dollar. I have no doubt that if it dropped on the kitchen floor, it would crack.
Again…it’s $15. Don’t be violent with it and the Utopia 360 should last longer than a week.
The Bottom Line
For a VR headset that uses your smartphone, it all boils down to cost and construction. There are better units on the market, but they also cost more than the Utopia 360. In the end, it’s all a matter of trying out smartphone-based VR before investing money you might not have.
If you want to get your feet wet with virtual reality running from your mobile device, this may be a good alternative. It’s cheap, easy to use and you’re not out hundreds of dollars should your child drop it in the driveway.
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