The Samsung HMD Odyssey Motion Controllers
Microsoft created the reference design for the Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers, and it gave its hardware partners the freedom to improve the design as they saw fit. The company didn’t put much effort into creating a comfortable, durable controller. We suspect that Microsoft thought its partners would improve upon the base design, but for the most part that wasn’t the case. The vast majority of Microsoft’s partners stuck with the standard reference controller. Samsung is the only company that went the extra mile to create a unique controller design.
Samsung's Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers aren’t dramatically different from Microsoft’s controller design, but the changes that Samsung implemented make all the difference in the world. Samsung’s controllers still feature a thumbpad and a thumbstick, along with a trigger button, a grip button, a menu button, and a Windows button. The controllers also share a similar shape as its competitors, with a halo of LEDs attached to a controller handle. However, Samsung didn’t just rebrand a pair of reference controllers. The company picked up where Microsoft left off and built an impressive input device.
The Most Ergonomic Motion Controllers Yet
We’re not big fans of Microsoft’s standard Windows MR Motion controllers, which by extension means that we don’t care for the input devices that come with the Acer, Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Asus Windows MR headsets. However, Samsung’s controllers are in the running for the best on the market, period.
The shape of the handle is the first thing that we noticed about Samsung’s motion controllers. The handles on Microsoft’s reference controllers are somewhat square, which isn’t a comfortable shape to hold in your hand. Samsung’s controllers are much more ergonomically shaped. The handles feature soft, round edges, and the handle has more girth, which we found prevented the cramps that we encountered while using the standard Windows MR motion controllers. Many people praise the Oculus Touch controllers for thier ergonomic shape, but we've always had trouble using them for long periods without our hands cramping. Not so with the Samsung controllers. We used them for hours at a time without any discomfort.
Samsung also corrected the button layout of the standard controller to make its controllers more comfortable. Microsoft’s design features side-by-side thumbstick and trackpad, but we had a hard time reaching both without adjusting the position of our hand. Samsung added a slight bend to the top of the controller, which enabled it to offset the placement of the thumbstick and trackpad, to making them both easier to reach. The company also re-calibrated the position of the trigger and grip button so that you can reach every button from the natural grip position. The Windows button is the only one that we found slightly uncomfortable to reach, but we’d rather deal with a slight burden to press that button than find ourselves pressing it unintentionally on a regular basis.
When we were evaluating the Acer and Lenovo Windows Mixed Reality headsets, we noted that their controllers felt somewhat flimsy and potentially prone to breaking. We don’t have the same concerns about the Odyssey’s controllers, though. Samsung appears to have molded its motion controller with a stronger plastic than Microsoft dictates for its reference controllers, as they feel more robust. Samsung's controller doesn’t creak when we squeeze the handle, and the halo attachment is much sturdier on Samsung’s controllers than it is in Microsoft’s reference design. In short, the Odyssey wands feel like they can take a good pounding.
The one element of the controllers we could stand to see improved is the battery covers. Like the reference design, Samsung’s controllers house two AA batteries in the handle. And like in the reference design, the battery cover on the Samsung controllers is somewhat loose and feels like it could wear out prematurely.
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