The Samsung HMD Odyssey+ Windows Mixed Reality Headset (which we will here-forward refer to as the Samsung Odyssey for the sake of brevity) is one of many VR headset options to flood the market in recent years. Whereas most of it’s WMR brethren have been discontinued due to low sales as compared to more mainstream headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive lines, the Samsung Odyssey is still performing relatively well.
Sim racing has been on an aggressive upswing for a few years now, and an increasing number of game developers have been adding VR support to their racing sims; a few are even going to the extent of crafting a virtual reality sim racing experience from the ground up. As VR racing matures and starts to really shine, we wanted to take a close look at the Samsung Odyssey and evaluate its performance as a VR headset for sim racing.
What to Consider Before Buying a VR Headset for Sim Racing
Sim racing and VR are not quite synonymous just yet, which is surprising to some given that it is one of the few traditional gaming genres that translate well to virtual reality. There are a number of factors that can explain away why, precisely this merger has yet to result in breakthrough experiences – but they’re outside of our control and we’re highly confident that this will be changing in the very near future.
What concerns us is being prepared for all of the awesome VR racing experiences that are coming down the pipe; the following are the big considerations our readers will need to bear in mind when shopping for the best VR headset for sim racing now and in the future:
Transitioning from gaming on TVs and monitors to VR headsets can present a number of challenges for the user as well as the PC that’s pushing the graphics. The biggest hurdle that many will need to overcome is their GPU; after all, the illusion of virtual reality depends on being able to show you two nearly-identical images simultaneously in order to create the illusion of depth, and therefore requires double the computational power. Assuming all other aspects of your gaming rig is up to snuff, the next big consideration is the quality of the headset itself .
In addition to more obvious considerations such as refresh rate and resolution, VR headsets introduce a hurdle colloquially known as the “screen door effect” that can dramatically impact immersion and image quality. HMD manufacturers have been steadily improving their tech in order to minimize the perceived screen door effect and things are getting much better. For now, make sure to pay close attention to reviews and user comments before purchasing a VR headset in order to ensure you’re buying one with low SDE.
While there aren’t any especially noteworthy VR-exclusive racing experiences at present, it’s only a matter of time before they start hitting virtual shelves. For now, there are some extremely compelling VR modes in existing games and more are being implemented into our favorite and upcoming games as we speak. Some notable sim racers with current VR support are Assetto Corsa, Project Cars, Gran Turismo and iRacing – which will be more than enough to hold us over while we wait for that first transformative VR experience.
Sim racing enthusiasts commonly have a dedicated play area, as racing peripherals such as steering wheels, pedals and seats require a lot of space in order to use. It stands to reasons that this group of gamers should have an especially easy transition to adding an HMD (head mounted display) into the mix, but it’s worth noting that some VR sets require more space than others for optimal experiences.
Most common VR setup experiences entail mounting tracking equipment at strategic points in your play area for head and hand tracking, but manufacturers are starting to integrate much more practical tracking solutions that don’t require outside sensors.
Different racing games utilize motion tracking in different ways, and most of them make such features optional or eschew them altogether. Some don’t use motion for gameplay functionality and instead use it to enhance immersion by, for example, 1:1 tracking your hands to give the illusion that you are actually holding the in-game steering wheel.
The Samsung Odyssey
The Samsung Odyssey headset is a Windows Mixed Reality Headset, which is a somewhat obfuscated way of saying that it meets a set of guidelines set forth by Microsoft in an attempt to standardize certain aspects of the VR experience, ostensibly creating a more stable and progressive industry for developers and consumers alike. It appears as if the WMR label isn’t going to around for much longer, but the Samsung Odyssey nonetheless stands tall amongst its brethren and competes with many other top VR headsets on the market.
What’s in the Box?
In addition to the HMD itself (the features of which we will expand upon later), the Samsung Odyssey package also includes:
- lens cleaner
- user manual
Bundle packages are available as well, which also include:
- L/R controllers
- wrist straps
- 4 AA batteries
Note that the Samsung Odyssey is compatible with pretty much any motion controllers or even standard console controllers and, for the sim racer, can be used in conjunction with your existing racing gear as well.
Features & Benefits
Now, let’s take a look at some of the key aspects that make or break the Samsung Odyssey’s performance as a sim racing headset:
The most important component of any HMD is its display (or in some cases, displays). Samsung is perhaps most well-known for its display technology that finds its way into products from other manufacturers of all sorts of electronic devices from iPhones and Pixels to laptops and in-dash navigation systems, so it’s no surprise that the Odyssey is fitted with a pair of custom 3.5″ Samsung AMOLED displays.
These great displays combine for an ultra wide “3K” resolution (2880 by 1600 pixels) and provide a 110˚ field of view for an immersive experience. The display produces the best blacks of any VR headset to date, and Samsung’s SDE solution is among the best out there as well. Furthermore, the display outputs at a smooth 90Hz refresh rate with compatible titles and 60Hz elsewhere. Needless today, your PC is more likely to be a bottleneck to performance than is this headset, especially in sims with high end graphics settings such as iRacing.
Like most high-end headsets in recent times, the Samsung Odyssey eschews the complexity and constraint of external tracking in favor of inside-out tracking. That is to say, the HMD itself houses sensors that receive, process and transmit sensor data in order to interpret your movement and translate it to your games.
Simply put, there is no need for light houses, sensor bars or any other hardware in order to facilitate head/hand tracking in your games. This feature is especially welcome to anyone with limited space or who simply doesn’t want to have sensors and wires all over their gaming room.
Sound is a huge element in games, and sim racing in particular benefits from accurate sound reproduction to an enormous degree. As VR edges closer to emulation of real life racing, so too should our sound systems. So how do the Odyssey’s headband-mounted speakers perform?
AKG and Samsung have done a decent job of integrating spatial audio into the HMD, but this solution leaves a lot to be desired – notably, the offset speakers aren’t especially loud and their open design means they’re more akin to little loudspeakers than a headset.
Herein lies what will be an Achille’s heel of sorts for some prospective Odyssey owners – the HMD display’s speakers are not removable, nor does the headset have a 3.5mm headphone jack to facilitate easy use of your own solution. There are a number of ways to work around this limitation – the most common workaround is to simply disable audio output to the headset and route it instead to your own headphones – but most will require purchasing an extended audio cable for your headphones.
This shortcoming is, ultimately, quite simple to work around – but it’s frustrating that it even has to be worked-around. Nonetheless, we can look past it considering all that this HMD does so well.
The VR headset is quite crowded nowadays; for better or worse, most products in this category are quite easy to dismiss for one reason or another. Here are some that you should absolutely not dismiss, as they may be a better fit for your cockpit than is the Samsung Odyssey:
Despite lacking the one big feature many users were hoping for, the Valve Index did not include inside out tracking and instead relies on external lighthouses for tracking. Aside from this one (arguably severe) transgression, the Valve Index is a nearly perfect HMD. The gorgeous display has the same pixel count as the Odyssey, but displays at up-to a blistering 144Hz refresh rate for the smoothest graphics of any VR headset to date. This headset is considerably more expensive than Samsung’s offering, but it likely is the only one available that we would say is definitively better as an overall product that the Odyssey.
Oculus Rift S
Despite retailing for roughly 1/3 the price of the Odyssey, the Rift S is a surprisingly great sim racing headset that doesn’t have many downsides. Aside from a slightly lower-quality screen, it can do everything the Samsung headset does for a fraction of the cost, and we would actually recommend it to most users except for one pretty big caveat – the Facebook-owned Oculus has stated that beginning next year, owners of the Rift S and their other headsets will be required to link their headset with a Facebook account and log-in to use the headset. The implications of this are concerning to some, and worth considering before opening your wallet for the Rift S.
While we think the aforementioned alternative products represent compelling alternatives, they each take a step in undesirable directions that leave the door open for competitors – and the Samsung Odyssey makes a strong case for itself with it’s gorgeous screen, inside out tracking and versatility.
The Samsung Odyssey is a solid VR headset that is a worthy addition to your racing rig.
Last Updated on January 23, 2021