REVIEW: Lenovo Mirage Solo VR Headset & Mirage Camera
Anyone interested in the virtual reality industry knows that great VR experiences are expensive. You’re either paying a couple of hundred euro for a VR headset for the smartphone you already own or you’re paying out more than €1,000 for a complete setup. Admittedly, some cheaper VR headsets are adequate, and affordable, but they’re hardly immersive VR. They’re more like novelties rather than necessities for those looking to get really immersed (pun intended). Lenovo Mirage Solo may change that, the device that finally brings robust virtual reality into the home.
The €399 Lenovo Mirage Solo is a clean, well-designed, virtual reality headset that’s could be the bridge to really getting VR into people’s hands. It’s the first standalone VR headset with Daydream, Google’s virtual reality system, and at launch brings hundreds of titles right into the device. After spending some time playing games, walking through cities, and swimming with a sea otter or two in VR, I can also say it’s the first VR high-end headset I could imagine buying for myself, even if the price tag is still a bit hefty.
There are three buttons on the controller: one larger touchpad, the app button and the Daydream button which acts as a main menu controller.
The touchpad launches and connects to Wi-Fi, and I had to return to that feature twice. The first time the keypad to enter my Wi-Fi password didn’t show up for me. So I turned the device off, back on, and was able to log on then. But then, that was it — I was in. I had to recenter a couple of times so the screen was level with my frame of view, and honestly that took just a few seconds.
There are 350 Daydream apps available at launch, including “Planetarium VR,” “YouTube VR,” “Google Street View” and an arts VR app which let me stroll through images from art institutions including the J. Paul Getty Museums. About 70 of these are updated with WorldSense capability — which allows you to move around with six degrees of freedom: ducking, dodging, as well as walking, for example. In the games updated for WorldSense, you can tell the difference.
“BBC Earth: Life in VR” took me to the California Coast into an animated swim with sea otters, near a coast line that looked like I was near Long Beach. The experience was really nice and educational and certainly would appeal to children.
Another title I tested was “Bladerunner: Revelations“. It’s an immersive quest game where you try to solve a crime as you search for a replicant in the dystopian landscape of Los Angeles in 2023. It’s an incredibly impressive showpiece, not only for Google’s Daydream platform but also for the unique WorldSense camera set up found on the front of the Mirage Solo headset which allows you to move your head and body around within a VR scene.
The visuals in particular are, for a portable VR title, incredible and show just how impressive Google’s ‘Seurat’ VR technology can be. You can read more about this particular ground-breaking tech here.
“Eclipse: Edge of Light” is another award-winning title I got to try out and and it has some of the best VR locomotion/movement mechanics I’ve tested with the ability to basically ‘jet-pack’ your way around the various levels. It’s gameplay was engaging and I found the story to be really interesting. it’s definitely a title you should pick up if you want to test of how good gaming can be on Google Daydream and, with the recent update to support the Mirage Solo’s WorldSense technology, the title is even more impressive and immersive.
Lenovo says the Mirage Solo is designed to reduce VR motion sickness: there’s no motion blur, even as you move your head around, and WorldSense tracks you. In other words, as you move your body, your virtual self is moving too — and that’s a big difference.
Screenshots and video capture is also possible from inside Mirage Solo, and you can also cast what you’re seeing to a Chromecast-compatible device.
Mirage Solo felt very comfortable, weighing just 1645grams. That’s a big point as most Cardboard headsets can end up extremely front heavy once you pop in a smartphone. You tighten the headset with a large dial in the back, much like the PS VR headset.
At first, because of the lack of tethering, without a wire limiting my movements too far from a computer, I was a bit concerned I would trip over things around me. But I didn’t and honestly the screen went grey when I went too far beyond the edges, similar to most virtual reality experiences.
The screen itself has a 110-degree field of view, and can show up to 16.7 million colours, and the battery is meant to hold a charge for about three hours which I found to be the case in my time testing the device. The front of the screen got pretty warm after about 10 minutes of continuous play — but I never felt it, only noticing when I took the Mirage Solo off my head. Vents around the headset actually keep your face cool while you use the device.
Adoption of virtual reality — good virtual reality — has been hampered primarily because of price. You need the headset, which even at the lower end is still priced at close to €500. Then you needed a solid gaming computer — another €500 to €700. That definitely puts a crimp in consumer pricing for a product most still see as a novelty item. There’s also the PS VR but that again, paired with a PS4 consoles is still around €699+.
Lenovo’s Mirage Solo could be the anecdote to this issue. But it’s got a problem of its own: Oculus Go, the untethered VR headset coming from Oculus, priced at €219, with access to Steam’s library, which for serious gamers is hard to combat. Mirage Solo’s dovetail with the Google ecosystem (a big plus for those in education) and Daydream VR, however, makes it a competitive option — and an excellent one to consider.
Lenovo Mirage Camera Review
On top of getting the chance to review Lenovo’s latest VR offering, we also got to test out their brand new Mirage camera. This new piece of kit from Lenovo is the first Google VR180 camera for consumers and allows you to capture 3D photos and videos in 180 degrees thanks to its dual super wide angle fish-eye lenses on the front of the device which basically act like two human eyes allowing you to capture things in 3D.
The Mirage camera has very simple controls. It has a power button, a shutter button and a Function / mode button. Unfortunately, there’s no digital viewfinder so you’ll need to use the accompanying app to set up your shots but seeing as you’re capturing 180 degree field of view, if you’re holding the device in the general direction of what you want to capture, you’re more than likely going to get it.
The Lenovo Mirage can connect to either an iOS or Android phone (check for compatibility) and connecting is pretty easy. After installing and running the VR180 app*, just turn on the camera. The app will be able to find the camera automatically. You then have to hold down the shutter button to enter pairing mode, and then press the shutter when prompted to confirm the connection. After the camera has been paired, the app can automatically connect to the camera as long as the camera is turned on.
*we had to side-load it as it wasn’t available on our Google Play Store at the time of review.
We found the Mirage camera provides pretty good photo and video quality. I also like the natural-looking colours and contrast of the photos and videos. Below are some screenshots of images captured with the mirage camera and, once you’ve download your photos and videos from the camera to your phone via the app, you can view them back in either 2D or 3D. For viewing in 3D, all you have to do is have the Google Photos app on your phone, go into the images you’ve downloaded from the camera, tap on them to open them up into the 180 degree mode, tap the little ‘Google Cardboard’ icon in the bottom right corner and pop your smartphone into a VR headset.
Owners of either the above Mirage Solo headset or any Google Daydream enabled device and Google Daydream View headset can use these to also view your photos and videos in 3D.
So, you may be asking, “who is the target market for this device?” and it’s a valid question. Avid videographers and content creators are definitely going to want to check this out as it offers a innovative new way to capture images and footage and, for the future thinking parent who wants to capture their young ones growing up in 3D/180 for watching back in years to come, this is also something worth checking out.
Irish availability and pricing is yet to be confirmed but you can expect an RRP of around €299.