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Review: Hyperkin GelShell HTC Vive Skins

VR is going to be an accessories gold rush. After all, you can shoot guns, swing light sabers, paint with VR brushes and more. It’s like Rock Band on 3D steroids.

While there aren’t many VR accessories at the moment, Hyperkin, makers of silicone gaming covers, is quick to market with their HTC Vive Gelshell protective skins.

And as anyone who has followed the Reddit VR forums know, VR controllers kill TVs. If you forget to attach the strap, chances are your sweaty gamer hands will accidentally release the controller at the perfect moment to just obliterate your expensive TV.

So grippers make a ton of sense.

I received the $15 blue controller and $15 gray headset outfits. Both are made from thin but durable silicone. The controller kit comes with two skins while the headset is, naturally, just one.

Now, when it comes to accessories like this, I’m a pretty big skeptic -- back in console days, I think I purchased every stupid accessory on the market.  Game Shark? Gimme. Power Glove? Yessir. Adjustable rate mortgage? Wait, that’s something else, but, yeah, sign me up. 

Alas, anyone who has thrown money down the nonsense accessory hole knows most hot products barely justify the price.

Thankfully, it’s easy to write reviews when the products are great. Let’s quickly go through the pros and cons of the Hyperkins:

Quality: High, actually, which is pleasant considering all the cheap accessories out there. Material is the right thickness -- any thicker and it’d be heavier and cumbersome, any thinner and it could tear. I like these mucho better than Razer’s Xbox grips which are way more expensive.

Install: Super easy, just pull them on.

Fit: Perfect. Years of making Xbox controllers shows they know how to make skintight skins.

Color: The blue looked fantastic and the color saturation was deep and fancy. The gray is a bit transparent so the effect wasn’t as nice as the blue. My guess is silicone dyed blue with a black background is one of the better color combos while light colors probably don’t appear as nice.

Performance: For the controllers, the grips actually do grip. The Hyperkin skins aren’t textured with millions of tiny nubbins. Rather, they’re more like latex medical gloves or silicone grips used on bikes.

Comfort: The downside of some grips is you can get Nintendo thumb or Playstation palm or any of the extreme sports related injuries plaguing the esports community. Because the Hyperkins are smooth silicone, there’s practically no negative friction. Meaning your baby smooth gamer hands stay the consistency of whipped butter.

Protection: Because the GelShells are thin, I wasn’t expecting much protection. And, really, I didn’t see a point in buying the headset skin. But when putting the headset down on a glass table or hardwood floor, there was an appreciated bit of squish. Where the bare headset and controllers clink and makes you worry, the GelShell gave a not insignificant cushion of protection.

Improvements: I’d like to see more colors, like hipster teal or yellow. Also, the controller skins cover the buttons, for newbs it’s hard to know where the buttons are. Sure, you’re in VR land and can’t see your hands anyway, but the cover masks the feeling of the buttons a bit. A few minutes with the controllers and it’s obvious where the buttons are. But I’d love to see some markings or texture outlining the top and side buttons.

Overall, the Hyperkin GelShells are at the top of the list for Vive accessories, especially considering the $15 price point. Hyperkin also sells a VR carrying bag that looks fantastic which I didn’t get a chance to try. I did try their disposable mask to protect from VR plague, but it's really uncomfortable for anything other than public demos. The Hyperkin controller skins are practically a Vive must-buy -- $15 is worth it for a performance upgrade and the little extra peace of mind to keep controllers flying into flatscreens. Check them out.