I was excited to receive a rather nerdy product to review as part of the Argos Testers community several weeks ago. The Stealth VR 360 Virtual Reality Action Pack!
In the official Argos review there’s several things I’m not allowed to talk about, such as delivery, customer service and the price of the product. In fact I have very little space to conform any kind of review. These 2 paragraphs alone would probably have already seen me exceed my review characters! Here I will go into even further depth and touch on any of the above subjects if necessary.
Stealth VR have been selling headsets for a while now, all are designed for placing your mobile phone in and using VR apps to view content.
This particular package includes the VR100 headset, but doesn’t come with the in ear headphones or Bluetooth remote that the stand alone VR100 headset comes with. 🙁
The main player in this kit, is a 360 degree camera for recording your own VR content.
There’s a hell of a lot of accessories in the box too, including the necessary straps you might need to attach the camera to your head or to your chest. As well as a small tripod with flexible legs and a selfie stick for a more simple task of just walking around with the camera.
2 batteries are included which is excellent, it advises that the batteries take 1.5 hours to charge, they are Li-ion batteries so do not leave to charge overnight, instructions state no longer than 8 hours. Each battery offers 2 hours of recording when fully charged so 4 hours in total, as you can only charge each battery via the camera itself leave yourself 3 hours to charge. It charges via USB. Yet another device to use your USB plugs with, if you haven’t considered getting your plug sockets changed to include USB, now really is the time to get a gangway with USB included or buy a 4 port USB plug adapter. Although always check the power going to each USB port, as not all devices like fast charge! I’ve literally got USB charging devices coming out of everywhere these days. I wish they would supply plugs with the products too.
The Tripod seems a little sad, it doesn’t really offer much height, I’m not entirely sure what the point of including it is. Even if you wanted to record VR stuff from your desk (weird), it doesn’t seem to have the necessary height. You can attach the selfie stick to it to gain more height, but the selfie stick is not adjustable, so you’re left with it being low, or a little bit taller. If you’ve got better tripods available you’re much better off using one of those instead.
There’s various mounting kits supplied, one specially designed for push bike handlebars and the others to attach to the straps. How to assemble the mounting kits is left for you to work out, there’s no instructions on how to do this.
There’s also a waterproof casing to put the camera in, so if it’s a rainy day or you fancy recording water sports, you’re covered.
Clearly there’s a case here of trying to get into the market Go Pro has dominated for a while, and I can also see the advantages of wanting to use a 360 camera with a drone also. Sadly I didn’t have one around to try it with, and my friend had recently sold his.
The build quality of the VR headset is pretty good, its primarily plastic, has some nice soft rests for where your head goes and the nose cut out is also large enough to not hurt your nose. Compared to DIY type google cardboard lenses this is luxury. The headset is not computer compatible, so if you wanted to review your videos from a PC rather than a smartphone you’ll need to get a PC compatible headset.
The camera itself is a small looking device, with several buttons to simply power on and navigate the small menu system. There’s not a whole lot to change settings wise, perhaps the only one being to disable the auto power off, which I’ll explain why shortly.
What you do need to provide yourself is a Micro SD card to record content too, this slides in by the USB charger port just be careful you don’t try and force it in the incorrect way.
What immediately lets the product down is the included instructions. They are very poor. It took several hours of faffing around until I felt comfortable with how the product worked and what each accessory was and how it fitted together. As already mentioned the various mounting kits come with no instructions what so ever, so you’re left to work it out for yourself. A remote control is also included, which is not even touched upon in the instructions and there’s also nothing mentioned about it on their site either.
As it turned out after spending a fair while trying to find information on how use the remote control, the one in the box was faulty. I opened up the back just to check if I did need to supply my own battery, one was already there so I tried re-seating it, no go, I then tried another battery, and still nothing. In replacing and re-seating the batteries I may have even damaged the circuit board, the fitting is very tight due to how the remote has been soldered. I contacted Stealth VR to see if they would replace the remote control, which they duly obliged to do within just a few hours of me emailing them, and the replacement was received the following day by Royal Mail Special Delivery. So customer service which I wasn’t allowed to touch upon in the official Argos review, is quite good and speedy if required.
The remote is extremely handy and just works, does not require any pairing and if you’ve got the camera strapped to your head, chest or inside the water proof compartment makes life a hell of a lot simpler and is much easier to use than the smartphone app for starting to record content. To take a photo, simply press the photo button. However to start recording, you need to hold the button down for several seconds and wait for the display to indicate recording has started. Obviously if it’s on your head, you may want someone else to confirm the recording has started or if on your own commence the recording before you place it on your head and use some basic video editing software to then cut all the footage at the beginning off that is not required before you share it. Again a long press is required to stop the footage. You’d be utterly gutted if you just did a simple press thinking recording had started and went off and did your thing and nothing had recorded.
The instructions do tell you to download the app for your phone. It didn’t fill me with confidence when the app had such poor reviews on the Apple app store, it seems to be a generic Chinese app to control a number of 360 cameras. Setting off recording video seems to be ok, but when it comes to reviewing the video content and changing the viewing angles it likes to crash a lot. Explains the poor reviews!
Due to the instructions being so poor I recommend you give the welcome video which can be scanned in via a QR code on the inside of the box a watch. It at least gives some examples of how you might use the camera. Also by watching the video it reveals there’s also a Windows and Mac version of the same software that you can get for your smartphone! This is good because it means it frees up your phone from being used to control the camera or to get the content off the camera.
When you insert the micro SD card into your PC, There is a notepad file which gives you links to the Mac and PC versions of the software, again, you wouldn’t know this existed until you put the card into your PC, and why would you? The instructions are throwing smartphone apps in front of you. However the links are to mega.co links, and guess what, they no longer work! Why couldn’t they have just given links straight to the Stealth VR website instead? Truly bizarre! The instructions do mention the PC and Mac versions, but only once you give the back page a glance! Why it’s not mentioned on the actual section instructing you to download the smartphone app is a mystery.
It’s worth noting the file sizes this camera creates are pretty large. 5 minutes of video comes in at about 1.5GB, so these are not the kind of videos you’re going to want to keep on your smartphone, you’re going to want to get them elsewhere ASAP, so why the Windows and Mac versions of the software are not mentioned in the instructions properly seems a silly one. As mentined previusly you need to supply your own Micro SD card to record the content too. I would recommend at least a 32GB Class 10 card which should get you a full batteries usage. If you intend to use both batteries in one sitting, then a 64GB card is probably better.
The Stealth VR website is not much help either when it comes to the questions you really want to ask, like how do I assemble this, what does this do and so forth. Nothing, nadda.
In fact all that seems to be there is an even worse quick start guide to the one that came in the box.
After much faffing around I did a walk around of the house on the selfie stick. The steadiness of the selfie stick left something to be desired. You can’t seem to fully screw the unit down, at least not without trying to rip the skin off your fingers, which kind of leaves it jiggling a little on the stick. Not really ideal, when you’re doing this sort of content you at least want the camera to be stable, not jiggling all over the place. Although when you do walk around with it on the stick, it doesn’t seem to jiggle around as much as you think it might, but it still does a little, which won’t help with motion sickness when reviewing the content back for anyone that might be of that disposition.
If you decide to put the camera in the waterproof casing, it’s not easy to get back to the buttons, in fact it’s impossible. So this is why I recommend you disable the auto turn off option in the settings, as if you have a bit of trouble getting it back in the case, and then mounted correctly on whatever it is you want to mount it on, it’s turned itself off! Very frustrating.
The audio quality from the camera mic is the only thing that let’s the camera itself down. When it’s in it’s casing, you may as well not be talking at all. It barely picks up what you’re saying, and when the case is off, it’s not really that much better either. Which is a shame, if you did want to try and sneak this into a concert to record for a friend you’d be let down by the audio quality.
As already mentioned file sizes are huge, just a couple of minutes footage is 500MB+ You are not going to want to transfer this size media to your phone, but then, how else can you play it?? You’ll need a dedicated PC VR headset if you want to view it from your PC! So the only other straightforward option is to upload to YouTube.
However this poses another problem. Unlike viewing the videos via the smartphone app where you can access all the different views, and it’s the VR menu you really want in order to get a proper immersion experience of what you’ve just recorded by the way. Again no mention of this in the instructions, you have to work it out for yourself, and if you’re not very technical you’re probably not going to work it out, because once you’ve got the phone in the headset you obviously can’t touch the phone to change settings!
Whilst on the subject of reviewing the content on the headset with your smartphone. I can only speak for the iPhone X, but it’s not very stable when it’s in the headset. It doesn’t really fit with a case on, so you need to take it out the case. Due to how the various side buttons now also work on the iPhone X, once you’ve got the phone secured in the holding, the side buttons obviously get pushed in. First you have to deal with Siri, and then try not to end up either shutting the phone down, or accidentally calling emergency services. This is probably going to be a problem with most smartphone based headsets when it comes to the iPhone X however. Also be very careful when you re-open the front of the headset, your phone will likely be loose and come flying out, if you’ve had to remove it from a case, the last thing you need is it then flying on the floor. Especially if you have an iPhone X!!! Oh and like most VR headsets if you wear glasses, you’re going to have to take them off, so if you’re near sighted, this may be a problem.
So once you’ve figured out how to watch the content in 360 VR via the app, how on earth do you do that with YouTube? Thankfully at least YouTube offer instructions on how to do this, because again, you’re not given any instructions on how best to share your content with your friends.
You need to download a small application to your computer which will then insert some metadata into your mp4 file, you can then upload that file to YouTube, and you’ll notice you’re then able to use the keyboard or the on screen controls on your computer to mimic moving your head around. Once you know you’ve got that process done, you can put your phone back in the headset, turn on the google cardboard setting in the YouTube app, and away you go, a fully immerse VR video online. However, what a lot of effort!!
Thankfully YouTube does offer a private option for your videos, so if you don’t want the whole world to see your video then you can set it to private and just give out a link to the people you want to see it. Of course assuming they also have a VR headset of some sort!
Those valuable YouTube instructions to turn your video into 360 degree content, can be found here
Going back to the app, it only works by connecting your phone to the cameras Wi-Fi network. The camera does not join your local Wi-Fi, but instead broadcasts it’s own. So your phone needs to join that Wi-Fi network in order to connect to the camera. My iPhone X occasionally despite saying it was connected would not discover the camera when launching the app, multiple force closes of the app and turning the camera on and off eventually got it to work. You can then download your videos to the phone for local viewing should you wish too, and of course, if you have enough storage space on your phone!
The Stealth VR website does give links to a lot of content you can download and view via your smartphone, once you’ve created an account on their site that is, obviously the majority of the products the company sells is headsets, so it makes sense that most the content available is based on the viewing experience rather than the creating experience and with a lot of these products likely to be sold for Christmas that’s probably wise. You can subscribe to a newsletter, and also follow them on Twitter for app updates.
However the whole Stealth VR experience with the camera action pack for people that want to create content seems a really poor one. The company has obviously delivered a number of headsets now and has got that content nailed, however the documentation both in paper form and online is poor for the 360 action pack, there’s no useful additional content or help online, nothing. The whole thing seems an after thought and is the kind of experience I expect to get when I purchase from a Chinese company, not from a company based in Bolton. It makes me think that this is probably just a Chinese product that’s been re-branded.
Once you’ve spent the time to figure out all the accessories, the best ways of using the camera, and how to use the smartphone/PC apps, you will probably get some good mileage with the product in the long term, especially if you’ve got a drone or such like to attach it to or are a keen action/sports person. I really wanted to record more videos in the time I had available to review the product but sadly other things got in the way, but I will update this post with content if and when I get around to it. I’ve attempted to be fair in this review on how I intend to use it long term, and not just over the first 7 days. I’d love to have the camera on whilst riding some roller coasters, driving a fast car, doing a footplate experience on a stream train, or doing some country walks or taking photos inside some stately homes. (I’m sure most would stop me in my tracks at recording a VR tour of a house before I got chance to get fully round as they are normally quite fussy about such things) If you’re an out and about person who doesn’t mind looking a fool with a camera either on a selfie stick, strapped to your head, or strapped to your chest then you’ve got some great potential for future footage. You won’t get much mileage however if you’re a couch potato. So if you’re buying this as a gift, think long and hard if the person you’re gifting is going to get decent usage of the camera perhaps over a 12 month period.
I was really excited about the product and once you get the knack of how to use the camera itself it’s actually quite good. I’ve not had to talk about the camera itself that much, because the camera does it’s job apart from being let down by the audio quality, the actual footage quality itself is pretty good and the accompanied remote control makes starting recordings and taking photographs a relative breeze. The head strap and chest strap’s feel secure as well to give confidence when out and about.
It’s let down however in so many other forms. Very poor instructions which doesn’t make the product easy to just unbox and get going with as the company claim. The instructions may as well not be there. The tripod is poor, the selfie stick doesn’t secure the camera enough so it’s not stable, the other mounting kits could have been featured on an episode of the Krypton Factor. The smartphone app is clunky, its ok for starting off recordings, but it crashes all the time when trying to review footage, at least on an iPhone X which is the main use of the app. You’re not given any instruction on what settings to use on the app when reviewing footage via the headset, unless you change it to the correct ones manually you’d just think you’d recorded an odd sphere shaped video that gave you an impression of how a cross eyed person must view life everyday. The iPhone X doesn’t fit very well in the headset and all the side buttons get pressed once it’s secure, Siri goes off, you almost turn off the phone, accidentally call emergency services, or end up turning the volume right down or up. Apart from that the headset is good quality and a hell of a lot more comfortable than any Google Cardboard alternative, however it doesn’t come with the headphones or the bluetooth remote that the standard headset package on it’s own includes, which is a shame! They don’t tell you there’s a PC/mac version of the software unless you review the marketing material, stumble across it on the website, or happen to glance at the back page of the instructions where it’s fleetingly mentioned, you might think, well that’s loads of times it’s mentioned, but it’s not mentioned in the key place it needs to be! There’s no mention of how to correctly upload a 360 degree video to YouTube unless you google it for yourself so you can share your content with your family and friends.
The idea of this kit is right, and at a good entry price point which will be attractive to a first timer, the execution of it however is poor. For the most part the kit that’s supplied does what’s required. Figuring out how to use it all is a frustrating experience that a none tech savvy person will give up on and end up returning the product as being garbage. If you’ve got the patience to figure out how it all works, and you might need a full day to yourself without kids running around your feet to do that, then you’ll probably get some use out of it.
I would not recommend this product as a gift to someone unless it’s something they have specifically said they want.
My final score is going to be separated into 3 different scores depending on the type of person the primary user is going to be.
1/5 if you have no patience what so ever or are aged under 16.
2/5 if you have the patience to figure all the above out and have some ideas of why you want to use this kit.
3/5 if you have the patience to figure all the above out and want to use the camera to record action scenes such as mountain biking, skateboarding, watersports, or in fact any kind of sport or action or want to dip your toes into 360 degree photography.
This item was supplied to me by Argos (because I am a registered Argos Tester) so that I could review it. It has an RRP of £129.99.
If you would like to take a further look at this product here is the link to the Argos website.