The Google Daydream mobile VR platform has finally launched - but how is it different from Google Cardboard and which is best?
Google DayDream is a new, high-end VR platform designed to run on mobile phones running Android 7.0 and higher.
The DayDream mobile VR platform was announced at the Google I/O developers conference in May 2016 and the first compatible phone with the additional hardware required to run DayDream – the ZTE Axon 7 – went on sale in the US last summer.
Now several more Android 7-powered phones from Google and Lenovo have joined the DayDream team. In the UK, the phones are:
- Google Pixel
- Google Pixel XL
- Lenovo Moto Z
- Lenovo Moto Z Droid
- Lenovo Moto Z Force Droid
Apart from running Android 7, these high-end phones all have to adhere to the minimum hardware requirements to be Daydream compatible. The must-have specs are as follows:
- processor must have at least 2 physical cores.
- must support sustained performance mode.
- must support Vulkan Hardware Level 0 and should support Vulkan Hardware Level 1.
- must support H.264 decoding at least 3840 x 2160 at 30fps
- must support HEVC and VP9, and be capable to decode at least 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps
These are pretty steep requirements which is why only the handful of phones mentioned above have met them. This hardware benchmark is the single biggest difference between Daydream and Google Cardboard – the latter having far lower minimum requirements which means it could be compatible with far more Android phones.
Those Google Daydream ready phones don’t come cheap either. Prices start at a hefty £499.99 for the entry level Google Pixel and Lenovo Moto Z phones. Prices rise sharply if you want a bigger screen or a larger SSD.
Google has also announced its own branded VR headset, the fabric textured, machine washable DayDream View. The DayDream View is available and comes in three colours: slate, crimson and snow. More importantly it comes bundled with a motion sensitive controller.
The DayDream View is competitively priced at £69 – about the same price as the best Google Cardboard-compatible headset: the Samsung Gear VR.
The first Daydream VR games and apps have also been released, although its fair to say the release rollout is more of a trickle than a flood.
Google has said that Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, Asus and ZTE will also support the Daydream platform with their mobile phones although it’s not clear yet which of those companies will make compatible VR headsets.
So far, the following games and apps have been announced for release on Daydream VR this autumn:
- Need for Speed No Limits VR
- Underworld Overlord
- Google Street View
- Eve: Gunjack Next
- HBO Now
The main differences between Google Daydream and Google Cardboard
- Daydream is Android-only – starting with Android 7.0 Nougat. iOS devices will not be able to work with Daydream apps and VR headsets
- There is a minimum reference standard for the Daydream VR headset – including motion sensors in the headset
- The minimum standard for Daydream phones including processor, graphics co-processor, heat dissipation, RAM and display size and resolution. This will ensure that image quality, responsiveness and lag times are significantly better than existing Google Cardboard VR hardware.
- Daydream defines a multi-button hand-held remote controller to let the user to interact with the VR world. The Daydream controller includes a clickable touchpad as well as 2 buttons called App and Home. This controller must be included with any Daydream-certified VR headset