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Hands-on Gear Review
Merge VR ReviewPrice: $60 List | $47.99 at Amazon
Pros: Super easy to set up, very user-friendly
Cons: Not very interactive
Bottom line: A relatively inexpensive VR headset designed for kids that failed to distinguish itself
If you are searching for a budget VR headset that is comfortable enough for frequent use, then look no further than the Merge VR. This headset is designed particularly with kids in mind, with its soft foam material making it particular unbreakable. There are a handful of accessories available for this product, to even further increase the gaming fun. It's not the best headset around, but it's a good choice for a budget headset that works with Android and iPhone and is a little more durable and comfortable than the Google Cardboard.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This headset is relatively unremarkable compared to the rest of the headset in the group, only excelling as being one of the easiest headsets to set up overall.
To determine which VR headsets are worthy of our recommendations, we bought the best models on the market at the moment and put them through an exhaustive series of head-to-head tests, dividing theses evaluations among five weighted rating metric. The results of the Merge for these metrics are explained in the following sections.
Earning the most weight out of any rating metric, Interactiveness accounts for 35% of the final score for each product. We based the score on how easy it is to interact with the headset and the accuracy of the motion tracking. The Merge VR didn't perform terribly well in this metric, meriting a 2 out of 10 — one of the lowest scores out of the entire group.
The Merge didn't have a terribly good way of interacting with the device, only having two buttons on top of the headset — similar to the Google Cardboard.
The Merge tracks your gaze as you look around your VR environment, but like the other mobile VR headsets, it does not take into account your movement throughout the room. This motion tracking relies on the internal sensors of your smartphone, putting it on par with the Daydream, Gear VR, or Google Cardboard. However, the lack of any hand controls did hurt the Merge in this metric, dropping its score substantially.
Ranking next in terms of importance, our Visual Immersiveness metric takes credit for 30% of the final score. The Merge's performance improved slightly in this metric, earning a 5 out of 10. This score is based on the sharpness and overall quality of the image shown, the field of view, and if the headset suitably blocked out ambient light.
The Merge has a decent field of view, wider than the Daydream View or the Google Cardboard, but narrower than the HTC Vive or the Gear VR. It does feel slightly more zoomed in than other models when comparing test images side-by-side.
This carried over into our assessment of the overall image quality, costing the Merge a few points as the image would appear to be slightly distorted when compared to the other models in the group. We found it to be slightly worse than the Cardboard, but better than the Bnext. However, the Merge did do a great job of blocking ambient light, only letting in a little light through the ventilation slits.
Our Comfort metric, accounting for 20% of the overall score, consisted of evaluating if it is possible to wear glasses with each headset, whether or not your face would get sweaty after long periods of use, and if the headset is comfortable, even after prolonged use. The Merge delivered a decent performance, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its showing.
The Merge is exceptionally comfortable, with its soft and pliable construction, but couldn't quite match the Gear VR. There is plenty of room to wear glasses, on par with the HTC Vive, with only a few issues with exceptionally large-framed spectacles. However, this headset is the least breathable of the bunch and can definitely cause your face to get decently sweaty after longer periods of use, even with its ventilation slits.
Comprising 15% of the total score, our User Friendliness metric assessed each headset on how much work it took to get your smartphone set up in it, whether or not you are prone to inadvertently pressing buttons or if you have to remove the case from your phone to install it in the headset, and the amount of difficulty in attaching headphones. The Merge did very well in this metric, earning a 7 out of 10 for its top performance.
The Merge provides plenty of space to easily reach the headphone jack for most smartphones, making it a breeze to connect. It is also one of the easiest headsets to install a mobile phone into, simply sliding it in from the top.
We also had zero issues with buttons being pressed accidentally, but it is slightly more likely to occur than the Gear VR, due to the method the phone is supported. There is also plenty of room your case to remain on the phone when using it in this headset.
Ease of Setup
Our fifth and final metric, Ease of Setup, accounts for the remaining 10% of the overall score. We based this on the amount of work it took to set up the hardware, configure the software, and the system requirements to make the VR system run properly. The Merge did extremely well, earning a 9 out of 10 for its superbly easy setup.
It is only necessary to remove the Merge from its packaging and adjust the lenses to get the hardware ready to go. Once that is completed, all that remains is to download the Google Cardboard mobile app and you are finished. This headset works with all Cardboard-compatible phones — a much larger group of phones than the Google Daydream or the Gear VR.
The Merge is an alright value, as it is the best discount headset for frequent use.
The Merge is a great option when shopping for kids and teens or if you are looking for an inexpensive VR headset that is still comfortable enough to wear for longer periods of time. This headset has a wider range of compatible phones and is the best VR headset that we have tested that is compatible with iPhones.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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