Despite being a cheap Virtual Reality headset, the Cygnett GateWay VR performs strongly. This wallet-friendly alternative to the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR was enjoyable to use, and we would recommend it for Christmas.
While it doesn’t provide the most immersive experience – it’s limited by the smartphone you have, for a start – it is by no means poor quality, and it fits the old cliché: “you get what you pay for”.
Available in all-black, the GateWay looks more expensive than it is, rather than a cheap gimmick. This is one area where it definitely trumps the Cardboard, which many people dismiss due to its ugliness, and for a budget-product, Cygnett have done well with the design on the whole.
- Highly compatible
- Button is useful
- Lens adjustments are fiddly
- Resolution depends on phone
- Port access isn’t great
The head straps are a little on the tight side, with less range for adjustment than the Gear VR has, but they’re still substantially better than the one-strap Cardboard. Overall it fits well on my head, with no discomfort experienced yet.
However, the headset is very large and weighs quite a lot, so with an extended period of use this could become an issue. I haven’t experienced any discomfort as a result of its weight, but others have found it to be too heavy when they tried it out. Unfortunately this is an issue which varies from person to person.
The inclusion of a magnetic action button on the left-hand side allows you to interact with compatible apps, but while it functions well, there aren’t a huge number of VR apps yet which allow you to utilise it. You’ll still need to open the front and access your phone most of the time whenever you want to load up a new app, annoyingly.
How well the Cygnett GateWay VR headset works depends partly on the smartphone you own. With my Samsung Galaxy S7, I can get really clear, vibrant images and videos, thanks to a pixel density of 577 ppi in addition to a fairly large screen size.
To use the GateWay, you need to open the louver (front cover) and place a smartphone onto the sticky nanogrip surface, which thankfully doesn’t damage your mobile at all. This holds it in place when you close the louver, positioning your phone screen in front of the lenses. You’ll need to load up the VR apps before you do this however, which is a bit inconvenient.
So far, so good. But then it came to putting the GateWay on my head, and adjusting the lenses.
Not only was this fiddlier than any other VR headset I’ve worn, I never felt like it was quite right, no matter how much I adjusted them. You can change the width (to match the distance between your pupils) and also the distance between your eyes and the lenses, but not once did it feel like the lenses were in the correct positions. Admittedly this could have just been me failing miserably at it, but I did try to find the right positions for quite some time, with little success.
Once I was done with this hassle, and made do with a slightly-off ‘view’, I got to actually use the headset properly, and was pleasantly surprised.
While the picture wasn’t quite right, the head tracking worked very well throughout, and I had no problems using the magnetic action button, switching between 360-degree YouTube videos easily, or zapping monsters on a space-fighter app.
VR apps for the GateWay
There are no special apps exclusive to the Cygnett Gateway VR, like the Gear VR has. As a result, the user experience is not as tailored as more expensive options.
However, there are still many fun apps out there, the majority of which are free. We recommend downloading Google’s Cardboard app, searching for 360-degree VR videos on YouTube, and simply searching “VR” within the Play Store or iTunes store. There’s a wide-range of topics covered, from horror videos to kids games, so you’re sure to find something that interests you.
One of my favourite activities to do with VR is shoot my own 360-degree photo (i.e. a panorama) with the sound recorded too. I took one atop a large hill, and so not only did it leave me with a great view of the surrounding area, but also the noise of the wind. Watching it back on the GateWay was a really cool experience, and a great way for you to show off holiday photos to friends and family when you get back home.
Google Street View is another cool app to use, with many people around the world submitting high quality 360-degree shots of locations, which you can then view. Load up the Eiffel Tower for example, and save yourself a few hundred pounds on flights and a hotel!
Because of its incredibly low price, it would be unreasonable to seriously compare the Cygnett GateWay VR headset to the high-end HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR. These are astoundingly good, but cost hundreds of pounds.
I will always prefer the Samsung Gear VR over the GateWay because it doesn’t cost too much more, and provides a much more immersive experience, with a greater range of high-quality apps. If you own an Apple iPhone, then unfortunately you won’t be able to use the Gear VR, so you should consider the GateWay instead.
It’s a definite improvement on the Google Cardboard, which works similarly well but is very uncomfortable, especially with prolonged use.
Is my phone compatible?
One major positive for the Cygnett Gateway VR is the wide range of phones that are compatible with the headset.
If your smartphone is between four and six inches, then it should be fine to use. Some older smartphones may not have the software capable of running VR apps, but the headset is much more inclusive than the Samsung Gear VR, which (unsurprisingly) only works with the latest Samsung phones.
Conveniently, Cygnett include a cloth to clean the lenses, and you can also use it on your phone screen. This is a helpful inclusion because if your screen is covered in smudges, it can really lower the display quality when you’re using the headset.
At the time of writing, the Cygnett Gateway VR costs £19.99 from the company’s website, which is a great price for the opportunities it grants users.
The HTC Vive costs around £750, and you’ll probably need to purchase a powerful new £750 computer too for it to work. While it’s certainly incredible – and one of the coolest products I’ve ever tried out – there’s no way I would be willing to spend that sort of money on VR.
This therefore provides an excellent alternative for people operating on a budget, but still wanting to get a taste of the latest technology craze.
This is the perfect gateway (sorry) for many to enjoy the incredible world of Virtual Reality on a low-budget.
More comfortable and immersive than the Google Cardboard, the Cygnett GateWay VR headset can be a great Christmas present for your friends or family.
While the performance isn’t quite on a par with the Samsung Gear VR, which is powered by Oculus, it’s still a good-entry level performer, and saves you money to spend on other gifts.