Samsung HMD Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality Headset Review: MR Goes Premium

Samsung was late joining the Windows Mixed Reality party, but when it finally stopped by, it showed up with the fanciest toys. Samsung's Odyssey HMD is, in some ways, the Cadillac of Windows Mixed Reality headsets. It boasts a higher resolution than other Windows MR HMDs, and it includes built-in headphones that are tuned for 3D audio. It also features moisture-proof leather cushions, and to top it off Samsung redesigned Microsoft's controllers with more thought for ergonomics. If you’re looking for a high-end Windows Mixed Reality headset, the only metric where the Odyssey doesn’t compete well is the price.

Arrived Late With All The Fancy Toys

In late 2016, Microsoft announced that it would be bringing Windows 10 into the immersive computing age. The company revealed Windows Mixed Reality, a platform that encompasses the spectrum of immersive computing. Microsoft boasted that Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Windows Store would be compatible with the 3D Windows Mixed Reality environment, and that you would be able to do your daily computing tasks while fully immersed in a 3D space.

Along with the announcement of the Windows MR platform, Microsoft revealed that it wouldn’t be making Microsoft-branded headsets. Instead, the company fostered relationships with several PC hardware makers to create Windows Mixed Reality head-mounted displays (HMDs). Microsoft set the hardware specifications for certified devices, and it created a reference design from which to build.

However, Microsoft left it up to its partners to decide what changes they wanted to make to differentiate their device from other Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Microsoft revealed the “Spectrum of HMD Design Freedom,” which outlined the range of specifications that HMD makers could implement. These included minimum resolution, refresh rate, and video and data interface compatibility requirements.

Windows Mixed Reality Windows Mixed Reality Ultra
Operating systemWindows 10 Fall Creators UpdateWindows 10 Fall Creators Update
CPUIntel Core i5-7200UIntel Core i5-4590 or AMD Ryzen 5 1400 3.4GHz or better
GPUIntel HD Graphics 620 or greaterNvidia GTX 960/965M/1050 or AMD RX 460/560 or better
Display DriverWindows Display Driver Model 2.2 or laterWindows Display Driver Model 2.2 or later
MonitorExternal or integrated VGA (800x600) monitorExternal or integrated VGA (800x600) monitor
USBUSB 3.0 Type-A or Type-C (with adapter), minimum 900mA powerUSB 3.0 Type-A or Type-C (with adapter), minimum 900mA power
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0

Better Specifications

When Microsoft revealed Windows MR in December 2016, Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo were already signed on to build headsets, and they all share relatively similar specifications. Samsung, however, didn’t announce its participation with Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform until October 2017, but the company brought its A-game when it finally did join the Mixed Reality mix. Samsung disregarded Microsoft’s “Spectrum of HMD Design Freedom” and went for a higher specs altogether. Of all the Windows Mixed Reality devices, the Samsung Odyssey boasts the most premium features. Really, it's in a class of its own.

Most Windows MR headsets feature a pair of 1,440x1,440-resolution displays, whereas Samsung’s displays feature 1,440x1,600 pixels. Also, other Windows Mixed Reality headsets feature LCD panels, while Samsung employs its own AMOLED tech for richer colors and deeper blacks. And Samsung’s Odyssey is the only Windows Mixed Reality HMD with adjustable lens spacing and integrated headphones and a microphone. Samsung is also the only Windows Mixed Reality hardware partner that put the extra effort into refining the motion controllers to make them more comfortable and more robust. Let’s take a closer look.

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