You can think of the Oculus Go as a self-contained version of the Gear VR. They both have large plastic shells that house their lenses and hardware, but the Go is a huge step forward when it comes to comfort and ergonomics. The faceplate material has a generous amount of foam and is covered in knit mesh. It reminds me of what you'd find in athletic clothes, and it serves a similar purpose: wicking away sweat. (There's one thing you'll learn quickly when you spend time in VR: Your face will get real sweaty.) The Go's three head straps are made of spandex and secured with Velcro. That makes them easy to adjust and stretch over even the biggest of heads.
Since it's not housing a whole smartphone, the Go is surprisingly lightweight, at just over a pound. That's a bit less than the Gear VR with a Galaxy S9 attached. Under the hood, it has the same hardware you'd expect from a mid-range smartphone, including a two-year-old Snapdragon 821 processor and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. It also features a 2,560-by-1,440 fast-switching LCD screen, instead of an OLED panel, which is kind of surprising. OLED has pretty much become the standard in every VR headset, due to its responsiveness, but Oculus claims that this LCD technology is similarly speedy. And, of course, it helps keep costs down.
The speakers built into the headset are amplified by the contours of the faceplate. They're surprisingly loud and clear, but don't mistake them for headphones -- everyone around you will hear what you're playing. If you want some privacy, you'll still have to plug in headphones.
Like the Gear VR, the Go supports three degrees of freedom, meaning it can track your head movements. It can't monitor your position in space, like higher-end VR offerings, which offer six degrees of freedom tracking. You'll have to wait for the Oculus Santa Cruz to get that feature in a wireless and self-contained headset, and there's no word yet on when that'll arrive.
The Go feels sturdy overall. Credit for that goes to both Oculus and its manufacturing partner Xiaomi, a company that's made a name for itself by building reasonably priced hardware that feels more expensive. You'll still want to use some sort of case if you're traveling with it, though. Those screens are just too delicate to leave exposed. And, unlike with a smartphone, you can't really use a VR headset with a cracked display.
The included motion controller feels like an evolution of the Gear VR's -- it's light and fits into the contours of your hand. There's a trackpad on the top, which doubles as a button, as well as back and home buttons below. Your index finger sits on a trigger, something that's an essential feature for interacting with VR environments.