Magiove VR Headset Review: Best Cheap VR Headset

The Magiove VR headset isn’t going to be making headlines like the Samsung Gear VR or the Google Daydream. But for those on a budget, the Magiove’s impressive color reproduction and sharp images make viewing VR content a joy. The Magiove is also extremely light, which makes it a strong candidate for on-the-go use. At $24.99, it is arguably the best inexpensive VR headset on the market, and will turn almost any smartphone into a virtual portal.

Design

At just 10.6 ounces, the Magiove is one of the lightest full-size VR headsets that I’ve tested, and it delivers solidly on a simple design. As with almost every inexpensive VR headset, it is made of all plastic .

I can see what the company was shooting for by contrasting the white body of the headset against the black controls, front plate and rear. However, a single color would have given the device a  sleeker and more expensive look.

The head strap uses sliding buckles rather than Velcro to make adjustments, which makes  incremental adjustments easy. It is also more likely to hold up under long-term use. Perforated face padding and multiple vents keep you cool and prevent the lens from fogging up during longer VR sessions. The focus controls are flush against the headset, but still easy to locate by alone at the top and sides to tweak the pupil or focal distance.

The front plate held my smartphone in place effectively, but it lacks a guide to help place your  phone correctly. That meant I had to be a bit more careful placing my phone everytime I put it in the headset. The Magiove also misses out on some extra functionality by omitting a removable front plate for AR, or the necessary magnet button for Google Cardboard compatibility.

Ultimately, the Magiove doesn't have the best-looking design. But there are enough clever touches that boost the comfort and usability, so that I feel it is a design win, regardless.

Setup

Getting started with the Magiove is dead simple, as the headset comes fully assembled and ready to use. It can accommodate any Android or iOS smartphone with a screen between 4 and 6 inches. You just size the head strap to a comfortably tight fit,  place your smartphone in the front panel with the desired app running, and tweak the focus controls as needed.

Comfort

I found the 10.6-ounce Magiove to be one of the most comfortable headsets that I’ve tested. The relatively lightness of the unit was a big plus, especially during longer VR sessions. For those who own larger, heavier phones, opting for a lighter headset is going to be key.

The perforated padding for your face is soft and helps to avoid the heat trap effect that can happen with some other headsets. The venting directly above the lenses is another well-implemented bit of design with the Magiove. Many competitors fail to address this issue, offering insufficient or poorly placed venting.

Optics

The images delivered by the Magiove were absolutely clear and the colors remained faithful to my smartphone's screen. This was in contrast to the ETVR Virtual Reality 3.0, which matched the clarity of the Magiove, but fell short on color reproduction.

The Magiove also did the best job of any cheap headset that I tested at blocking out light, which is crucial for an immersive VR experience. This moved it ahead of the Destek VR headset,  which let light leak in.

The focal adjustments are not as prominent as on some other headsets, but are still easy enough to find at the sides of the Magiove, and can be easily operated while wearing the headset to ensure the image remains perfectly focused.

Magiove doesn’t offer any official specs on the field of view (at around 83-85 degrees),but it felt comparable with most of the other options in this price range.e Magiove has no built-in audio -- you can either rely on the sound from your phone’s speakers or use Bluetooth or wired headphones. The front panel has cutouts on both sides to allow you to plug in the wired headphones included with the headset, or you bring your own headphones.

Apps, Games and Experiences

The Magiove doesn’t have an exclusive app associated with it and isn’t Cardboard-compatible, so you are just left to look at the iOS App Store and Google Play for VR apps. Although some games and content fall in the  $5-$10 range, there’s plenty of free content available, with  options in the $1-$3 range.

Peripherals

Bundled extras aren’t a given these days,, so getting anything thrown in with a sub-$40 VR headset is kind of amazing. The Magiove comes with both wired earbuds and a small gamepad.

The wired headphones feature a volume slider, a mic and a button to trigger Siri or Google Assistant, all of which worked reliably on both my Android and iOS devices. As for the audio quality, the bass response was lacking, but it’s definitely better than using your onboard speakers for VR.
The included Bluetooth gamepad is remarkably small, weighing just 0.5 ounces and measuring 3 x 1.3 inches. It’s designed to be clipped onto your keychain when it's not in use, which is pretty clever. The trade-off for the diminutive size is that people with large hands are going to feel a little cramped. If a bundled gamepad is a strong selling point for you, the Destek VR headset offers a similar gamepad with slightly larger dimensions at 3.5 x 1.5 inches.

The controller has a single analog stick, a start button and four action buttons. I was able to pair the gamepad with my Android device without issue, but was disappointed to learn it wasn't  compatible with iOS. Once the device was paired, I found the controls worked reliably and responsively with each title  I tested.

Bottom Line

The Magiove headset is our favorite cheap VR headset, as it consistently topped the competition in virtually every category. The headset consistently delivered sharp images and vibrant color, which the light shield  helped to enhance. And thanks to the feather-light materials and the  use of sliding buckles instead of Velcro, the Magiove is just plain comfortable, especially over long periods of time. The bundled earbuds and gamepad are nice to have, and add  solid value.

If you are looking to get into VR on a budget, and your primary concern is the best visual VR experience possible, the Magiove is the top solution with a simple design that gets virtually everything right. Those willing to give up a little visual acuity for access to AR apps -- along with the expanded app and gaming options that come with Cardboard compatibility -- should look to the ETVR Virtual Reality 3.0.

Photo credit: Magiove

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