View-Master VR starter kit review

View-Master VR


Build quality






Experience apps





  • Nostalgia for us that remember the original
  • Well made
  • Educational Experience packs
  • Good price for headset
  • Best Cardboard device I've used


  • Experience packs could be more interactive
  • Experience packs could be more immersive

view-master vr headsetMattel’s View-Master VR (virtual reality) headset might look very familiar to people of a certain age, but this classic optical toy has been given a 21st Century make-over.

The View-Master has been a classic childhood toy since the 1940s. Me and my brother had one with its low-tech, drop in a photo disc, look through the lenses, and marvel at the static 3D image, click the lever and move on to the next. This might not sound like amazing stuff but we had a Spiderman one which we practically wore out. You could, of course, get more educational sets that would have cities of the world, or dinosaurs.

View-Master has now taken on a new guise and now utilises smartphones to display interactive educational VR experiences on topics like space, wildlife, and destinations.

View-Master VR design

view-master vr headset front angleThe View-Master VR definitely takes its aesthetic cues from the classic reel-viewing toy. The strong-feeling plastic is playfully coated in glossy red, white, and black, and looks exactly how a toy should.

It measures 9.5 x 3.2 x 5.5 inches so is quite chunky, but I like that and it will still be perfect for smaller, perhaps less dexterous, hands.

view-master vr clickerYou even get an orange lever which is used as the input button and the latch has been designed to mimic those original disks too!

view-master vr loading spaceThe biggest difference is that this View-Master is hinged and, as the front swings down, there’s a huge space inside to accommodate your smartphone.

view-master vr business endThe eye-pieces have a nice, black, comfortable rubberised coating as well as performing the duty of keeping out any unwanted light.

View-Master VR performance

View-Master VR set-up

The View-Master VT uses Google Cardboard 2.0 and can therefore play nice with a wide array of devices (including iPhones), and supports up to 6-inch screens.

Your handset snaps into a very snug plastic grip which will adjust to take that range of handsets. There is an adapter for the smaller-screened iPhones.

It happily took my Nexus 6P, HTC One M9 and the Huawei Mate S. I had no worries about locking any of those phones away inside the sturdy body of the View-Master.

view-master vr loading cardboardBefore shoving your phone in to the View-Master use a QR code reader (I use QR Scanner) and scan the code inside the View-Master. That will take you to the app store for your mobile so that you can download Google Cardboard.

Once that has been installed you will need to find the View-Master app you want to try out first. So, off the Google Play Store once more to download and install View-Master Space.

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The Starter pack includes one viewer, one preview reel, one adaptor for your smartphone and a user guide.

You can, of course, use Google Cardboard apps with the headset too.

View-Master VR experience

If you have used any of the other Google Cardboard viewers out there then you will know what to expect, although having the View-Master against my face felt like a higher quality than the card and plastic versions I have tried before.

What was fun is the reactions this gets from people who haven’t tried VR out before.   For me, this is worth the £30 alone, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

view-master vr starter kit contentsIn yet another nod to the classic toy, the View-Master VR still uses reels and, once more, these have taken on a new modern role. These now have augmented reality markings, so you’ll stare at a plastic disc via the phone’s camera and see a little digital diorama appear. It’s a neat effect, and it leads to further virtual reality experiences within which will probably amaze kids more than adults but it’s still a neat thing.

view-master vr starter packMattel currently offers three Experience packs: Destinations, Space, and Wildlife. These each come with three reels and an associated Android and iOS app. View a Wildlife reel, for example, and you’ll be transported to the Amazon rainforest. Pick one from the Space pack and you can examine and explore a 3D space shuttle. I think the Space one is the best personally.

view-master vr spaceYou can explore the demo versions of each of the Experience apps but, to get to the extra bits, you need to either pay for the in app expansion or buy one of the ‘hard copy’ packs. Each one of these comes with an “access card” that you have to hold against your phone screen the first time you use it in order to activate the app.

I could imagine the younger end liking this as it is a little bit like using an ID swipe card to access a secret something. That’s what I thought – purely in my role as a reviewer, obviously.

The experience packs feature interactive content. In the space pack, for example, the viewer can not only tour the solar system, but go from planet to planet, manipulate planets, pull up facts, and even play a mini-game that demonstrates the varying gravitational pull of different celestial bodies. You can also explore the ISS and the Space Shuttle as well as constellations and the Solar System.

view-master vr space shuttleThe Space pack garnered the most Oooooos and ahhhhs it must be said. The control is quite intuitive as I only had to give the broadest outline of how to navigate around to complete novices and they were away. I am sure anyone of 7 years old and over will take to this even quicker.

The accompanying audio comes through some slots in the headset so this really depends on your phone and where its speakers are. Thankfully, the HTC and Nexus have front firing speakers so they weren’t too bad. The Mate S, not so well. I should imagine iPhones will also fall in to the latter category. This is where the option of a headphone port might work. I slightly cheated and used Bluetooth cans and that works like a charm.

View-Master VR review conclusion

The View-Master is a little bit larger and certainly brighter than the Cardboard viewers I’ve come across so far. It has definitely been built to withstand the drops and general mistreatment by little darlings.

I dare say that it is also more comfortable to use than many I’ve used too.

It is a shame that there is no headphone jack but at under £30 to get kids (and adults) their first experience of virtual reality, I think the View-Master is a sound option.

The fact that, as this uses Google Cardboard, if your kids aren’t using it to learn about Space or animals, you can use it for any of the other Cardboard apps available.

View-Master VR price and availability

The View-Master VR Starter Pack has a RRP of £23 and each experience pack should be around £8. Available now.

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