Product review: Ling VR vs. Ling VR 1S

I first reviewed the LingVR headset back in October, and back then it was my favorite Google Cardboard-compatible headset.

My only quibble with it was how hard it was to open and close the latch in order to get to the smartphone. Since Google Cardboard doesn’t come with a decent operating system, you can’t install or switch applications from within the virtual reality viewer, or fiddle with settings. Instead, you have to take the phone out of the viewer, do what you have to do in the traditional way, with the touch screen, then put the phone back in the viewer and the viewer back on your head.

This turned out to be deal breaker, and the Ling VR, despite its sleek looks and otherwise great features, wound up sitting on the shelf next to the dozen or so other viewers I never use, while the Baofeng Mojing 3 and the Samsung Gear VR became my two go-to headsets.

Ling VR 1S

Ling VR 1S

Well, today in the mail I got the new Ling VR 1S, an updated version of the Ling VR headset.

Disclosure: GearBest sent the headset to me for free, in the hopes that I would review it.

So let’s get started.

It comes in two boxes. A smaller one with a Bluetooth controller and battery, and a larger one with the headset itself.

The big shipping box had two smaller boxes in it. The one on the left has the Bluetooth remote and the battery, and the one on the right has a second orange box inside it with the headset.

The big shipping box had two smaller boxes in it. The one on the left has the Bluetooth remote and the battery, and the one on the right has a second orange box inside it with the headset.

The inside box was in the company’s signature orange color, and had a nice magnetic closure.

The headset came well-protected in a couple of layers of packaging, and the white plastic surfaces covered in easy-to-remove protective tape. There was also a small instruction booklet, a lens cleaning cloth, and a replacement foam pad. The booklet is all in Chinese and the QR codes provided lead to the Chinese app, not to the Google Cardboard setting.

This is a significant problem with all the Chinese-made headsets I’ve tested so far, and some of the ones from other countries as well. Obviously, manufacturers would rather steer you to their own apps, but that’s not very useful if you don’t read Chinese.

The QR Code from the first Ling VR headset seemed to work fine, however:

LingVR QR code

Ling VR QR Code for Google Cardboard calibration

At first glance, the two headsets look identical, except that one has a black face plate and the other one has a white one.

The original Ling VR is on the left and the new Ling VR 1S is on the right.

The original Ling VR is on the left and the new Ling VR 1S is on the right.

According to my kitchen scale, both weigh 12.5 ounces. The size specifications of the two headsets are the same, and both have adjustable head straps and lenses. According to the manufacturer, they’ve retained the basic design but upgraded the individual components.

For example, on the Ling VR 1S, the lenses now have an anti-fog coating.

The interpupillary distance adjustment has also changed. Previously, the two lenses moved apart smoothly, but now there are three positions they snap into. The company says they crunched a lot of numbers to come up with the three positions, and the idea is to improve convenience and to reduce “ghosting.” I take it this is what happens when the lenses get moved unintentionally.

Similarly, the focal adjustment knob on the side of the headset is supposed to move less smoothly so people don’t accidentally change the focus. I, personally, couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

The latch on the Ling VR 1S, on the right, sticks less and is easier to open.

The latch on the Ling VR 1S, on the right, is narrower, sticks less and is easier to open.

The latch has been slightly redesigned and no longer threatens to remove your fingernails when you try to open it, but inserting a phone is still a cumbersome, two-step process that requires both hands. I have a thin case on my smartphone, and it fits into the headset with the case still on, so that’s a big plus.

Both headsets have a field of view of 90 degrees, which is decent and a good fit for virtual reality games. It’s almost as good as the Samsung Gear VR when it comes to the field of view.

Samsung Gear VR, on left, and the Ling VR 1S, on the right.

Samsung Gear VR, on left, and the Ling VR 1S, on the right.

Both of the Ling VR hedsets look decent next to the Samsung Gear VR — you won’t be embarrassed using it in mixed company.

The big difference between the two is that the Gear VR has a track pad on the side and a couple of buttons and some extra sensors. The Ling VR has no additional functionality in the headset at all, not even a basic button.

In addition, the Gear VR comes with its own app store with a much smaller — and pricier! — selection of apps. The Ling VR, by comparison, can run all the 1,000-plus Google Cardboard-compatible virtual reality apps in the Google and Apple app stores.

One usability difference, which is an issue for a lot of people is that the padding that touches your face is wider on the Gear VR than on the Ling VR, meaning that you can wear glasses with the headset. My glasses would not fit into the Ling VR or Ling VR 1S.

For the next iteration, I urge Ling VR to get rid of the latch altogether and replace it with a simple magnetic closure that makes it easier to drop the phone in — and to widen the face area to fit glasses.

Bottom line

If you are choosing between the Ling VR and the Ling VR 1S pick the latter for the anti-fog lenses. On GearBest, the price difference is just $3, so a no-brainer there.

However, if you already have a Ling VR and are considering upgrading, the Ling VR 1S is not a substantial improvement.

Instead, if you are looking to upgrade, and have a late-model Samsung phone, the Gear VR is where you want to go next. But keep the Ling VR around, so you can still play the Google Cardboard apps, too.

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maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Elaine

    Hi Maria, I’m back (I’m the one who asked about the AntVR). I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my AntVR any day now, but in the meantime I couldn’t resist also ordering the ViewBox from Evomade. This was a bit of a leap of faith as I can find almost nothing about it apart from many, many postings from the company trying to advertise it on various forums. I noticed you commented on one of their threads asking to review it, did you ever get a chance to try it out? I’d love to know your thoughts if you have, you seem to be quite the expert on VR glasses I’ve noticed through my online travels 😉

    • Sorry, haven’t tried out the Viewbox. From the YouTube video, it seems to be a very stripped-down, plain Cardboard-like headset, but made of fabric, and with straps. I don’t see a way to adjust the interpupillary distance or the focal distance but, on the plus side, getting the phone in and out seems easy enough.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQwo0pfoFls

      Personally, I think $35 is pretty steep for a set like this. For just about the same price, you can get the Baofeng Mojing 3, which I consider to be the best Google Cardboard-compatible set out there: http://www.gearbest.com/virtual-reality/pp_253254.html

      The View Box does fold flat, though, and that might be an advantage for some folks.

      • Elaine

        I appreciate your thoughts. I’ve only tried two headsets, Hootoo and a Teefan that looks identical but I hoped for once the specs that claimed a weight of 5 ounces weren’t lying (but they were). My experience is quite limited therefore, but I’ve zeroed in on weight being a big factor in my enjoyment and how long I can stand to wear the things. Both the Hootoo and the Teefan are around 14 ounces, which subjectively feels like ten pounds pressing on my cheekbones (the Baofeng apparently weighs twice as much? That’s a dealbreaker for me!) That’s why I went for the AntVR (at 5.6 ounces) and the Viewbox looks lighter and softer.

        Re: the Viewbox, there’s conflicting information (which is why I was hoping you might have experience with it). After visiting multiple sites and comment threads, I think there’s the Kickstarter beta version that didn’t have adjustable IPD and people complained didn’t really support the weight of a phone, and a consumer version that I’m really hoping addressed those complaints (I believe the finished product does feature adjustable IPD, at least).

        I’m not looking to own a dozen sets of glasses (though I’m envious of your job getting to try them all), I’d be happy with just one I can use more than a few minutes without them becoming painful 🙂 It’s a shame I have to go through the tedious online order/return process just to try them out.

        Thanks again!

        • Ah, the joy of being an early adopter! LOL

          It doesn’t help that everyone’s head is a little different and a headset that might sit very comfortably on my head, might not sit as well on someone else’s, which can result in headsets of the same weight feeling very different when you wear them.

          Ideally, you should be able to walk into a store, try on a bunch of different sets, and buy the one that fits best. If you’re in the Albany area, I’m bringing my entire collection to a conference next month.

          Once more people have these headsets, you should be able to try on ones that your friends have, and see if you like them, too. Meanwhile, my only advice is, don’t spend more money than you can afford to lose. And if there’s a headset you like, but seems really expensive – just wait for the price to drop. 🙂

  • Vijay Kumar

    Hi Maria, I am enjoying your VR related posts. I am thinking of buying one of them, can you help me to decide between Baofeng Mojing 3 and Ling VR? I heard Mojing-3 comes with extra pair of lenses. Can you please do a brief review for me?

    • The Mojing 3 does come with an extra pair of lenses, for watching movies in a narrow field of view. Useful if you have an older, lower-resolution phone. I have never used these lenses — they seem like too much of a pain to figure out.

      For the Ling VR, I love everything about it except the latch. That stupid, stupid latch. You don’t just open the front plate, drop in the phone, and close it. No, you open the front plate, then pry open the latch, then drop in the phone, close the latch, and close the front plate. If you need to navigate to a new app, you can’t just open the front plate and get immediate access to the phone, no you just see the back of the phone — you need to open that latch again to get access to the screen.

      This seems like a minor quibble but when you have to keep doing this whenever you switch apps or videos it gets really really annoying.

      The only other usability issue I have with the Ling VR is that it doesn’t fit over glasses. Otherwise, I do like the headset very much and if you don’t wear glasses, and don’t mind undoing the latch, I’d say go for it.

      And the Ling VR latch is a joy compared to the Gear VR or Freefly VR system for holding the phone in place!

      • Vijay Kumar

        Hi Maria, thanks a lot for sparing time and doing comparison review exclusively for me :).
        yes, I wear glasses, but I thought with lens adjustment I should be able to use them without glasses,
        wouldn’t that work?. I won’t mind doing/undoing the latch as long as it holds my phone firmly.
        My main expectation is immersive video experience, and wearing comfort.

        I have Google Cardboard, which really impresses me with it’s FOV, and the experience is totally immersive.
        The drawback is, I have to keep it holding (it doesn’t have head straps), and it’s flimsy (although it’s cheap).
        I then decided to buy a sturdy plastic version of the cardboard, and found this VR-BOX 2.0 on AliExpress.
        http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Davyci-Professional-Edition-3D-Virtual-Reality-Video-Glasses-Google-Cardboard/2031280931.html
        It’s a total let down in terms of video experience, feels like peeping through a black square window.
        Also, I didn’t like the phone holding mechanism, it often snaps off, and dropped my phone couple of times.
        Comfortability wise, it’s good with face padding and all, and fits well over my glasses.

        So, either Mojing 3 or Ling VR gives me that immersive video experience like cardboard, I’ll be more than happy.
        BTW, I use Cineveo app for watching movies, I totally love this app, it gives theater like experience with giant virtual
        screen and theater ambiance.