The Mirage Solo: Yay or Nay?

Image Copyright: Lenovo (Used under Fair Use Rationale)
Image Copyright: Lenovo (Used under Fair Use Rationale)

The Lenovo Mirage Solo joins an ever-growing list of standalone VR headsets. In other words, you don’t need a computer or a smartphone to use this headset. It is purpose-built to do mobile VR and nothing else.

On balance, this means that these headsets can do a better job of mobile VR while at the same time being much cheaper than the flagship phones you generally need to get a good experience. So does Lenovo have something interesting to offer this new market segment?

Pricing and Specs

First things first. The Mirage Solo costs $399. That’s about twice what an Oculus Go will cost you. Now we can’t just make a judgement based simply on these numbers. The Solo might very well justify that price difference, but such a relatively high price waltzes this product straight into the mid-tier smartphone segment. The Go is priced just right to get people to invest in it. Time will tell if this was a mistake on Lenovo’s part.

When it comes to specifications, the price tag begins to make a little more sense. At the core of the system is a Snapdragon 835 VR system on a chip. That’s to be expected since this is a Google Daydream-powered HMD and that’s the reference chipset.

The original 835 was already built with mobile VR in mind, but this variant is even more specialized. Since this headset is not meant to do duty as a phone, that’s also to be expected. Phone likes the Galaxy S8, PIxel 2 and Xiaomi Mi 6 feature this chip. For comparison, the Oculus Go is sporting the Snapdragon 821. As you can read here on Androidcentral, there’s a big technological leap between these two systems.

The Solo has a 5.5” screen using LCD technology. It has a 75Hz refresh rate and 2560×1440 resolution. Not mind-blowing, but very solid. There’s 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage and an SD slot that can take up to a 265GB card.

The killer feature of this headset has to be it’s inside-out tracking. The same sort of technology that we’ve seen with the tethered Microsoft headsets. Most mobile VR solutions can’t produce 6DoF tracking. Without an external tracking camera, there’s no way to track the Z-axis. Here that’s not an issue. The software looks at the outside world as an anchor and tracks relative to it. Overall this looks to be one of the most technically advanced standalone HMDs today. Not that there’s much competition at this point.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

The Mirage Solo looks mighty enticing. I think the price difference between this and the Go will give plenty of people pause. Most users who don’t really care about the finer details will be happy enough with the Go’s experience and rather save the two hundred bucks.

The question is whether VR enthusiasts should go out and buy it. The price is less of an issue in this market segment. After all, we’ll drop twice that on a tethered HMD and then twice that to buy a computer that will drive it. The big question has to do with the Daydream App ecosystem. If there’s a dearth of apps then the HMD is useless, no matter how advanced. With the Go, Oculus and Facebook have prepped a mountain of apps to be ready for launch. So really anyone should wait until a killer app or apps come out that warrants plonking down this amount of cash. So in short, Lenovo seems to have built a phenomenal premium standalone HMD, but only time will tell if anyone will support it and Google’s larger Daydream plans.

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