Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream, Standalone VR Headset with Worldsense Body Tracking, Ultra-Crisp QHD Display, Smartly Designed Mobile Headset
For a while now, there have been limitations on what you could do in virtual reality. You could walk around the room, but you were tethered to a PC. Or you could ditch the wires, but couldn’t move, and had to rely on your smartphone for power. Lenovo and Google are bridging the gap with the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream headset.
This VR headset is free of cords and smartphones that affords you limited movement by way of its integrated sensors and proprietary technology. However, VR aficionados looking for a cordless room-scale experience may feel the Solo comes up short, and the content options are lacking compared with the cheaper new Oculus Go.
At 22.7 ounces and 10.6 x 8 x 7.1-inches, the Mirage Solo is the heaviest VR headset on the market. It’s even heavier than PC-powered head-mounted displays, like the Oculus Rift (16.6 ounces, 7.2 x 4.5 x 3.5 inches) and the HTC Vive (19.9 ounces, 7.5 x 5 x 0.4~5 inches). It makes mobile HMDs like the Oculus Go (16.5 ounces, 7.5 x 4.1 x 4.5 inches), Google Daydream View (9.2 ounces, 6.6 x 4.6 x 3.9 inches) and Samsung Gear VR (12.1 ounces, 8.2 x 4.8 x 3.9 inches) seem like featherweights in comparison.
Despite the padding and the adjustable headband, you can really feel the weight of the Mirage Solo against the face shortly after putting it on. It wasn’t uncomfortable, per se, but there was noticeable pressure along the apples of my cheeks. The feeling became much more present if you wear glasses but ultimately, no big deal. Lenovo sent the VR unit with specific demos pre-loaded and no real setup. That won’t be the case for you. Similar to the Daydream View, before you start playing with the headset, you’ll have to do a wee bit of setup to calibrate the controller and headset. It takes about 4 to 5 minutes and is actually charmingly fun. Best of all, the Mirage Solo’s setup process is totally self-contained, unlike the Oculus Go that requires initial assistance from a smartphone app. One thing the Daydream platform is still missing is Voice Search, which is confusing to me since Google is putting the feature in just about everything these days, including headphones.
Just like Go, in order for Lenovo and Google to cut the cord, they had to outfit the Mirage Solo with its own processor — namely a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. The Mirage Solo‘s 835 is more powerful than Go’s Snapdragon 821 chip. It also has more RAM at 4GB, compared with the Go’s 3GB. Regarding the lenses, the Mirage Solo uses a pair of Fresnel-style lenses, similar to the Go and the Rift. Fresnel lenses, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, essentially means a series of concentric circles are etched into the lenses, offering better detail than a conventional lens. Both the Mirage Solo and the Go have 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 displays. But the Mirage Solo’s panel is a QHD IPS display with 70% colour gamut, while the Go has a WQHD, fast-switch LCD display.
Regarding resolution, both devices deliver 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye, which is better than the 1080 x 1200 per eye (2160 x 1200) provided by the Rift and the Vive. However, the Mirage Solo has only a 75-Hz refresh rate. That’s better than the Go, which can vary between 60-72 Hz depending on the app, but not the Vive or the Rift (90-Hz). Where the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream does match the PC-powered rigs is in its 110-degree field of view, which affects how immersive a VR experience feels.
That “with Daydream” logo on the headset isn’t just for show. The Mirage Solo uses the same light-grey plastic controller as the Daydream View. Thanks to its rounded sides and bottom, the peripheral fit comfortably in my hand. The controller’s beauty lies in its simplicity. The large circular depression at the top of the controller makes for a quick and responsive touchpad, with the Apps and Home buttons directly below it. A quick press of the Home button returns you to the main screen, while a longer press recenters both the controller and the headset orientation. A pair of volume buttons sit along the top right of the peripheral, and there’s a USB Type-C port at the bottom to recharge.
Alas, Mirage solo lacks integrated speakers, a feature I really enjoy on the Oculus Go. Instead, you’ll have to rely on a pair of headphones and the audio jack on the side of the device, otherwise, you’re going to have a rather muted experience. Using the included pair of earbuds, I found the HMD’s audio provided decent sound. However, we had to jack the volume up to 75% to really get that immersive feeling we were looking for. The Mirage Solo doesn’t have the spatial sound I was hoping for, but when we started shooting off the canons in The Narrows, we enjoyed the resulting sound of wood splintering as the cannonball connected with an enemy vessel.
Despite having higher resolution lenses, its lower refresh rate places the Mirage Solo in the same boat as the Oculus Go – solid visuals, but not enough to surpass the Rift or Vive. The unit displays approximately the same level of detail and colour than other competitors. But what sets the Mirage Solo apart from the pack are the integrated cameras and sensors in the faceplate and Lenovo’s WorldSense Motion Tracking technology. WorldSense enables the wearer to move around in virtual space with six degrees of freedom. That means when I was skiing downhill at breakneck speeds on an otherwise impractical course in Extreme Whiteout, I could physically duck to avoid getting clocked by a low-hanging branch.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can go walking around the room like you would in the Vive or the Rift. While the sensors map the environment, there’s no virtual barrier system like Vive’s Chaperone or Oculus’ Guardian to warn you you’re about to walk into a wall or a couch. You can move, but you are confined to one relative spot. Still, it’s a big step forward for mobile sets where you have to invest in a swivelling chair to get the most out of your VR experience
The Mirage Solo relies on the Daydream library for content. To date, the catalogue has over 350 games and apps with over 70 titles optimized for WorldSense. It’s a nice start, but it is woefully behind the Go and the Gear VR, which also share a library and have over 1,000 titles in the cache. You’ll find apps like Hulu and Netflix and games like Rez Infinite and Wands in both libraries.
Headsets like Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream put us firmly in the mid-generation of the VR evolution. In this price range, you get a head-mounted display that is truly independent of your smartphone. From the time you take it out of the box, it’s just you, the controller and a virtual world. Although, the image quality is a step below what you’d find on PC-powered headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC, the Mirage Solo goes a couple of steps beyond its main competitor, the cheaper Oculus Go, by truly cutting the cord and allowing some movement. It isn’t room scale by any means, but still a major step forward (pun intended) for the future of virtual reality.
Google is going to have to step on the gas as far as pumping out content, however. The Oculus Go and the Samsung Gear VR have the Mirage Solo severely outmatched when it comes to games and apps. The Mirage Solo also suffers from a bulky design that requires headphones, while the Oculus Go is sleeker and has built-in speakers. And while the Mirage Camera seeks to bridge the gap with user-generated content, it’s hard to imagine many consumers forking out additional costs for the privilege. Despite some flaws, the Lenovo Mirage Solo is a very good example of where the future of VR is headed — a place where wires and smartphones are a thing of the past. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
It’s very easy to get the hang of things inside Daydream’s virtual worlds, and the games are all easy to pilot with the simple controller. The menus look and feel like Android’s menus and match exactly what you see today in a Daydream headset, which makes things refreshingly familiar. The headset has a 4,000 mAh battery that lasts six or seven hours so that is plenty of gaming without a worry of cables… We’d recommend highly.