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Review: LG Stumbles With 360 VR

LG enters the VR pond with its VR 360 lightweight headset but fails to make a splash. The South Korean heavyweight has been on somewhat of a comeback lately, delivering both solid handsets and impressive OLED displays.

However, the company’s first major attempt at a VR offering doesn’t quite come together.  

Compared to the bulkier headsets we’ve seen from Samsung, Facebook and HTC, the LG’s effort looks more like a pair of sunglasses. On an aesthetic and design level, LG’s 360 VR feels like it could be just the right kind of alternative approach to VR the company needs to carve out their space in the emerging tech space. At least, at first glance. 

Unfortunately, the experience of wearing and using thee 360 VR quickly devolves into tedium and frustration. The slim headset has its competitors beat when it comes to size. However, when it comes to the experience of actually wearing the 360 VR it falls and it falls hard.

It’s only a little less weighty than bigger headsets but markedly more uncomfortable to wear. The concept of a headset that’s thinner and more accessible – even just on a visual level – than the typical goggle-like designs other companies have put out is an admirable one – but LG just aren’t up to the task of delivering on it. 

The company boast about the 360 VR’s ergonomic design on their website but the reality falls short. While the flexible nose-grip proves a valuable inclusion, the slim headset feels uncomfortable on your face. On top of this, the plastic arms on the device dig into the side of your head to find a grip lack something of a soothing touch.

There’s some room for customisation here. The spacing of the two lenses able to be configured by pushing and twisting them. However, this can only be done when the VR 360 isn’t in use – making adjustments a minor hassle. 

If there are any silver linings here it’s that the buttons used to navigate the 360’s VR experience feel impressively responsive. I also quite liked how the VR 360 conserved battery life by using sensors to detect when the headset was and was not being worn.

Of course, these strengths don’t really hold up when balanced against the VR 360’s major light leakage problems. Even with the thin and flexible plastic add-on to the frame that helps shield your eyes from some external light, it’s just not as immersive as it needs to be.

In addition, as someone who wears glasses, I found that the 360 VR was very incompatible with even a  modestly-sized frame – leaving me with the option of further worsening the light-leakage issue by wearing them underneath the headset or removing them and compromising the 3D effect.

Of course, even these missteps could be overlooked if LG’s VR experience had the software to back it up. Hell, it’s early days for VR – even a single good user experience on that side would make the difference here. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t compete with stuff like Gear VR or even Google Cardboard. It feels clunky, slow and tedious. In short: it’s everything you don’t want for VR. 

LG’s UI feels sluggish and uninspired and the even when your smartphone connects to headset via USB-C, it’s a connection that feels tenuous at best. In addition, most of the apps cover a lot of the same ground. You can watch videos in a cinema or load up 360-degree footage. Disappointingly, you can’t connect the headset to LG’s 360-degree camera. You have to drag the raw footage taken with the camera onto your phone first.

It’s easy to root for LG’s 360 VR – but hard to maintain that initial excitement for very long. This headset is far cooler in concept than it is in practice. It’s uncomfortable to wear. Light leakage constantly compromises the experience and even when everything else works, it offers up virtual reality that’s sub-par at best. 

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