Alcatel Vision first look: This standalone headset needs apps and games quick

No smartphone or PC needed here - just more stuff to do please
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Alcatel just couldn't keep away. We're expecting just about every tech company to make a VR headset but instead of simply making Daydream-ready phones and Daydream viewers, Alcatel has struck out on its own with the Vision.

It's a completely standalone VR device - wireless, with its own dual displays, processor and battery. That puts it in a very exclusive category but not necessarily the winning way to go. Here's how we got on with the Alcatel Vision during our first play at IFA 2016.

Alcatel Vision: Design and comfort

Alcatel Vision first look: This standalone headset needs apps and games quick

Alcatel has chosen a pretty standard Gear VR/Oculus Rift style design for its large Vision headset. It's fairly comfortable and doesn't feel too heavy on the face. Plus the one oddity is the headrest setup which we couldn't get to fit correctly. This is where the battery sits, which is a clever way to balance the weight but it's not a perfect design. I was told the headset isn't adjustable and it's best to get it as far down below the base of your head as you can.

Read this: The best VR headsets you can buy right now

The fact that I was trying the Vision for the first time and struggled to get the right fit might explain the fact that it felt too loose. I could also see the show floor below me due to the gap.

The big draw here of course is that this is an untethered headset but - this being IFA - I was tethered to the stand via the charging cable so I wasn't able to really enjoy this aspect. (There's a 3,000 mAh on board that will apparently offer two to three hours of gameplay but we don't know if that's accurate yet). The headphone jack is, actually quite conveniently, placed at the back of your head. Plus, it's not like Alcatel is offering room-scale VR like HTC.

Otherwise, it's all standard. There's a large, smooth Gear VR-style trackpad on the right hand side, a large button on the top to go back a screen and a cushioned pad to rest on your forehead. More unusual is the vent on the top to stop the Vision overheating - we didn't have any problem with that during our brief play with the headset.

Alcatel Vision: Picture and apps

Alcatel Vision first look: This standalone headset needs apps and games quick

I was able to view a few Jaunt videos, play a game with the trackpad and check out Baobab Studios' charming VR animation Invasion! for the millionth time. That was helpful because I was able to compare it to rival headsets. In short, the picture from the two 3.8-inch 1080p AMOLED displays on the Alcatel doesn't offer much of a better VR viewing experience over the Gear VR (with a Note 7 in).

The games and videos looked pretty good, don't get me wrong. The picture just didn't seem as sharp as it could be - I've viewed this CG short on the Oculus Rift too - and there was a noticeable screen door effect.

One thing it has in its favour is the wide 120-degree field of view, which means the Alcatel has 20 degrees horizontally over the Rift and Gear VR. Still, as we found with the 210-degree StarVR headset, FOV isn't everything.

Now, if Alcatel can manage to grow their own VR apps, games and videos store, we'll be impressed. It's already a crowded market and in our demo, we saw just four options.

Samsung, Oculus and Google - with Daydream - are all already months into building big, exciting VR stores so it will be hard for upstarts. If we were thinking about spending $600 on this headset, we'd wait to see what other content partners Alcatel can rustle up.

Alcatel Vision: Initial verdict

Alcatel Vision first look: This standalone headset needs apps and games quick

Like we said, this Alcatel VR headset doesn't need a phone or PC, it's a standalone device with its own displays, octa-core processor and 32GB of storage, Wi-Fi, LTE and Bluetooth. That's impressive in itself.

And hey, there's a bunch of reasons you might want a wireless VR headset that isn't powered by your phone. Phones get cracked and smashed. Phones need storage for your own pics and videos, not just VR apps. Phones need battery for the rest of the day and that'll drain real quick with a mobile headset.

If you're nodding along to all of that, the Alcatel Vision might be worth considering once you've got a heads on with it yourself. Otherwise that $600 is much better spent on a Gear VR + a new Samsung Galaxy, a Daydream viewer + a new Android or - if you're a PC gamer an Oculus Rift or (most of) a HTC Vive. Look out for a full Alcatel Vision review when we get a headset into the office to play with.


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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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