Social media buffs will also be thrilled to learn that the new 360 can finally livestream 360-degree video at 2K resolution, a feature that was sorely missing from the original. Samsung put together a quick demo for us prior to Unpacked, and while latency was an issue -- it took about 10 seconds for changes to register on the Galaxy S8 watching the stream -- the feature definitely worked.
These achievements are neat and all, but to get everything in place, Samsung reconfigured the Gear 360's optics package in a big way. Whereas last year's Gear 360 had two 15-megapixel sensors with their own lenses on either side of the camera's round head, this year Samsung went with a pair of 8.4-megapixel fish-eye cameras. These yield 15-megapixel still photos when you shoot with both at the same time. That's down from 30-megapixel max still resolution on the original Gear 360. In fairness though, I haven't seen any still images shot with the new camera, so I can't yet comment on how the photo quality stacks up.
While I'm glad more people will be able to use Samsung's 360-degree camera, I'm not thrilled about all the changes. Since the battery is now stored in the camera's body rather than the head, it's a little smaller than the one on last year's device. Think 1,160mAh versus 1,350mAh. It's not clear what kind of hit the battery life has taken as a result, but suffice to say, I'm skeptical. And while the all-in-one body looks easier to hold, I miss the chunky tripod from last year's model. If you want to prop up this new Gear 360, you have to rest it on a little inner tube-like ring that comes with it. That might technically allow for more flexibility with your angles, but the one I played with seemed to make for too precarious a setup.
So yes, I have my fair share of concerns, but the only way to allay them is to take a consumer-ready model for a spin. Hopefully Engadget will get a chance to do that sooner than later.
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