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Oculus Go is a standalone $199 VR headset that doesn’t need a PC, a phone, or wires

“The sweet spot.” It sounds like that’s going to be VR’s new focus, as we head into Oculus Connect’s fourth annual iteration. And what is that sweet spot, exactly? Not mobile VR, not PC-based VR, but a blend of both. No wires, but the same high-fidelity experience people get from the Oculus Rift.

That’s still probably a ways off, but Oculus took its first steps in that direction at Connect, announcing its new $199 Oculus Go headset, plus giving us our first look of the upcoming “Santa Cruz” prototype with inside-out position tracking.

Let’s dig in.

[ Further reading: HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift vs. Windows Mixed Reality: What’s the difference? ]

Oculus Go revealed

Oculus Go is pretty easy to explain: Imagine Samsung’s Oculus-based Gear VR headset, but without needing a separate phone to power the experience. That’s it, really.

oculus go Oculus

And really that’s all Oculus needed. The $99 Gear VR is a great piece of hardware, but its audience was always limited by the pool of people who own a compatible Samsung Galaxy phone. Oculus Go broadens that audience significantly, and at $199 it’s set to be one of the cheapest VR headsets on the market when it releases in early 2018—and without wires tethering you to the PC.

Oculus Go also includes built-in audio, which is a definite improvement over Samsung Go. It’s not the same oversized on-ear headphones found on the core Oculus Rift, but there is support for spatial audio and the speakers look like they’re built into the headband. I’ve come to depend on built-in audio for VR—its convenience trumps the fidelity (but added clumsiness) of separate headphones.

oculus go spatial audio Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Oculus Go.

Now, whether the experience will be as good as PC-centric VR? No way. The display is a bit better, coming in at 2560×1440 compared with the Oculus Rift’s 2160×1200, but this is still mobile VR at heart. Oculus even rammed that point home, announcing that Gear VR apps will be compatible with Oculus Go, using the same control schemes.

It’s also worth noting that Oculus Go doesn’t include position-tracking for either the headset or controllers—like Gear VR, this is head-tracking only. That means no room-scale, nor even the pseudo-room scale/standing experience you can get with the basic Oculus Rift + Touch package.

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