Reviews You Can Rely On

Google Cardboard Review

This bare-bones headset is the best way to experience VR on a budget
Google Cardboard
Credit: Google
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $25 List | $25.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, easy to setup
Cons:  Uncomfortable, not as immersive or interactive
Manufacturer:   Google
By David Wise and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Sep 21, 2017
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45
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 10
  • Interactiveness - 35% 1.6
  • Visual Immersiveness - 20% 5.3
  • Comfort - 20% 4.2
  • User Friendliness - 15% 7.2
  • Ease of Setup - 10% 9.3

Our Verdict

The minimalistic Google Cardboard earned our praise for being the best VR headset on a tight budget. This product isn't the most comfortable or immersive of the bunch, but it is a fantastic value, offering a decent introduction to VR at a fraction of the price of the other models. For those on the smallest of budgets or want to try out VR without a huge investment, the Cardboard is a clear choice.

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Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $25 List
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Pros Inexpensive, easy to setupVersatile, easy to use, very immersiveGreat visuals, easy to set up, fluid trackingSuper easy to set up, very user-friendlyCheap, easy to set up
Cons Uncomfortable, not as immersive or interactiveCould be a little more comfortableIncompatible with glasses, a strong PC neededNot very interactiveNot interactive, not user-friendly
Bottom Line This bare-bones headset is the best way to experience VR on a budgetIf you are searching for the best of the best when it comes to VR, we think this product is hard to beatA high-performing headset, with great immersion and tracking, designed for Windows integrationThis relatively inexpensive headset designed for kids is compatible with many different types of phonesThis low-cost VR headset is easy to set up, but that's the end of our praise for a product we don't recommend
Rating Categories Google Cardboard Oculus Quest 2 HP Reverb G2 Merge VR Bnext VR
Interactiveness (35%)
1.6
8.0
8.0
1.6
1
Visual Immersiveness (20%)
5.3
8.2
9.4
4.8
4.2
Comfort (20%)
4.2
6.4
6.3
6.1
4.8
User Friendliness (15%)
7.2
9.1
9.1
6.9
2.4
Ease Of Setup (10%)
9.3
9.0
6.8
9.3
9.3
Specs Google Cardboard Oculus Quest 2 HP Reverb G2 Merge VR Bnext VR
Field of View 90º 92º 114º 95º 100º
Tracking type Phone Onboard cameras Onboard cameras Phone Phone
Resolution Phone dependant 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye Phone dependant Phone dependant
Phones that fit Most 4" to 6" phones N/A N/A iPhone 6 and newer, Galaxy S5 and newer, HTC One M8 and newer, LG G4 and newer. Compatible with most iOS and Android devices from the last 2 years and fits iPhone 5 to iPhone 6 Plus in size. iPhone 5 and newer, Galaxy S5 and Note 4 and newer, Google Pixel and other 4" to 6" phones
Adjustable Lenses No, need to move the headset around Slight IPD IPD Only side to side Lenses slide left/right and back/forth
Sound Phone Integrated Integrated Phone Phone
Available Controllers / Remotes No Yes Yes Yes, Merge Cube No
Refresh Rate N/A 72Hz, 80Hz, 90Hz 90 Hz N/A N/A
Room For Glasses? Less snug than the Merge VR Glasses get pressed against the face Very little Less snug than Bnext Snug

Our Analysis and Test Results

Though the Cardboard lacks the level of interactiveness that other models have and is not at all comfortable to wear for long periods, it gets the job done and delivers a decent VR experience. It's a great value and is the clear choice for an introductory VR setup that won't cost a ton of cash and won't be a huge investment in time to set up. It is also compatible with iPhones — a bit of a rarity for VR headsets. However, the lack of a head strap makes this product somewhat uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods. If you are planning on frequently using your VR headset, you may be better served by upgrading to a more comfortable model that doesn't require you to hold the headset in place.

Performance Comparison


The Cardboard is one of the simplest introductions to VR of any...
The Cardboard is one of the simplest introductions to VR of any product we've tested, and we appreciate its suitable price tag.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Interactiveness


Taking credit for the largest portion of the overall score at 35%, our Interactiveness metric assessed how easy it is to interact with each headset and how accurate the motion tracking of both the headset and the remote is, if there is a handheld remote. The Cardboard didn't do particularly well, meriting a subpar score.


There is only a single button on the headset itself, placed on the top and reminiscent of a camera shutter button.

This offers limited control, but it did work reliably. This headset can track your motion as you look around in all directions, but won't monitor any motion as you walk around. The motion tracking as you looked around seemed reasonably accurate. However, this headset also lacks a handheld remote, so no method of interacting with it there.

There are no straps for the Cardboard, so you have to hold it up.
There are no straps for the Cardboard, so you have to hold it up.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Visual Immersiveness


Next up, we had our Visual Immersiveness set of tests. These tests took credit for 25% of the total score for the Cardboard, based on the sharpness, resolution, and overall image quality for each headset, as well as if it sufficiently blocked out ambient light. The Cardboard scored alright in this metric, earning a 6 out of 10.


The Cardboard does not have any form-fitting material around the area your face contacts, so it does let in a decent amount of ambient light — enough where it could be distracting. The resolution and sharpness of the image are dependent on the phone used, but we found that it was quite good when using a Google Pixel XL phone. The overall image quality is quite good, though the field of view is a little on the narrow side, about 90°.

Cardboard isn't very comfortable to wear on your face, especially...
Cardboard isn't very comfortable to wear on your face, especially the edge of it.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Comfort


Next up in our testing process is our Comfort metric, comprising 20% of the overall score as well. We evaluated the level of ventilation present, whether or not you could wear glasses when using the headset, and how comfortable it is to wear the headset for a long period. The Cardboard didn't do amazingly well in this metric, comparing unfavorably with the rest of the headsets in the group.


The Cardboard isn't terribly comfortable to wear, but you have to hold it against your face, which grows tiring. Furthermore, the edges of the cardboard will press into the sides of your face uncomfortably.

This headset provides ample room for use while wearing glasses.
This headset provides ample room for use while wearing glasses.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

However, there is a reasonable amount of room for glasses and more than adequate ventilation to keep the lenses fog-free.

The Cardboard can accommodate phones with cases as long as they are...
The Cardboard can accommodate phones with cases as long as they are not too large.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

User Friendliness


This next metric assesses how much work it was to get the headset ready for use, whether or not you needed to take your phone out of the case to use the headset or if it is easy to inadvertently hit a button on the phone, as well as the difficulty in getting headphones hooked up.


It was quite easy to hook up headphones to your smartphone when using the Cardboard, as it did not obstruct the audio port at all. The cover folds out, making it a snap to insert your smartphone, but the phone does rest on its side, making it possible to press one of the side buttons accidentally while in use.

However, this never happened to us throughout our course of testing. The Cardboard also allows you to leave most cases on your phone, though it is a little snug for some of the more rugged cases.

The rubber band at the bottom and the clear plastic grip help keep...
The rubber band at the bottom and the clear plastic grip help keep your phone from sliding around.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Ease of Setup


Our final metric accounts for the remaining 10% of the total score, taking into account the difficulty of installing hardware, configuring the software, and the amount of required hardware to run the system properly to determine the scores.


There is practically no assembly required with the Cardboard, essentially ready to go right out of the box.

As its name implies, it is actually made out of cardboard.
As its name implies, it is actually made out of cardboard.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The only software install required is downloading the Google Cardboard app, though it isn't necessary to do this to start watching YouTube videos in VR. The Cardboard is compatible with a wide range of phones, with more being added all the time.

Value


The Cardboard is an exceptional value, offering decent VR performance at a price that can't be beaten.

Conclusion


For those searching for an acceptable VR experience and who don't want to spend much to try it out, the Google Cardboard is a clear choice.

Simple and affordable, this product is a low-commitment introduction...
Simple and affordable, this product is a low-commitment introduction to the world of VR.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

David Wise and Austin Palmer