Virtual reality has been making headlines for the past couple of years. A number of companies have invested in VR ever since it debuted in the market, trying to give users a walk in a digital “virtual” world. Companies like Google, HTC, Samsung amongst others have been trying to make a mark in the field and with each passing day the VR arena is getting crowded.

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Google introduced Google Cardboard which aims at providing affordable VR experience to everyone whereas companies like Samsung and Oculus offer a much premium VR experience at a very hefty price point. While Google Cardboard has become very popular, one of the issues affecting it has been the relatively poor quality of the headsets – in an attempt to keep prices down, companies tend to cut corners (something we saw with the Intex Aqua View earlier in the year).

Xiaomi has a reputation for providing good hardware at surprisingly affordable prices, and now the company has brought that approach to VR with the Xiaomi Mi VR Play headset, which has just become available in India. It tries to provide a premium VR experience, without costing too much. The VR headgear priced at Rs. 999 and is compatible with Google Cardboard, and can work with any smartphone with 4.7 to 5.7-inch display size.

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The headset is made up of Lycra material which gives it a very premium look. It comes with two zippers on the front portion of the device – the users can open the two zippers to place their smartphone inside the headset. The two zippers, not only allow you to place the phone inside the headset but also keep the smartphone from falling even when you are moving your head while in VR territory. The zippers also provide you with flexibility to connect headphones easily.

The company has also added a metal finished textured button on top of the headset which will help users to operate their smartphone when it is inside the headset. Xiaomi’s Mi VR Play also comes with detachable and adjustable straps to keep the gear in place but these are not part of the package in India, something we hope will change as they do make the experience a whole lot better. The headset sports anti-reflective lenses for image clarity and its optical-grade aspheric lens comes with 0.01 mm high tolerance interval (all right, that’s us reading out the spec sheet!). In terms of size, the Mi VR Play measures 201x107x91 mm and weighs 208.7 grams, making it pretty bulky itself.

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Although the company mentions that the device can sport any smartphone with a display size of 4.7 to 5.7 inches, we could easily fit the Xiaomi Mi Max which comes with a display size of 6.44 inches inside it – there was no room, however, for the Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra. The headset works just fine with most smartphones but smartphones with smaller displays can misbehave inside at times. For instance, the Redmi 3S Prime that comes with a 5-inch display sometimes moved within the headset when we moved our heads. We hardly faced any issues when we kept a bigger phone in the Mi VR Play (5.5 inches and above) but you have to remember to keep anything with a smaller display bang in the middle of the lenses, else it will result in blurry images and double images.

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The headset is very sturdy and provides a great cushioning for your smartphone from inside. There is foam to support the phone from the back and offer some silicone support for the front.

Adjusting the headgear on your head was a cakewalk. The detachable straps can be attached easily and one can adjust the straps as per their head size with the help of the velcro placed on the ends of the straps. As it runs on Google Cardboard, all the apps supporting Google Cardboard run just fine on it, and you can watch panoramic videos and images easily. No, you won’t get the option to see every app that runs on the phone in the glasses (unlike Lenovo’s Theater Max), but the experience is still 360 degrees.

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As the headset itself is very light, we could easily use it for an hour at stretch (before we sensed strain on our eyes or sickness in our bellies). The textured button top is a great addition and allows you to connect with your phone inside the VR headgear. All in all, the headgear offers premium looks and a fair experience of the technology at a price of Rs. 999. We, therefore, think that for those who want a good quality VR headset at an affordable price, the Xiaomi Mi VR Play is a great option.

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Feature Writer

Akriti Rana holds a degree in journalism and mass communication. She has reported on mobile technology and gadgets for My Mobile, and has interned with the Hindustan Times, India News and The Yellow Coin Communication. She loves writing, reading, dogs and food (in an order of preference that varies on deadlines and proximity) and has of late taken to tussling with cameras.