Here are the Windows Mixed Reality headsets coming this fall – CNET

Those more affordable Windows virtual mixed reality headsets Microsoft teased nearly a year ago are finally here. Well, not “here” here, but there are developer editions available now from Microsoft and the rest of us should be able to get our hands on them in mid-October. 

Made by Microsoft’s PC maker partners — Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo — the designs for the new headsets were shown at the end of August at IFA Berlin, one of the world’s biggest consumer technology trade shows. Prices start at $299 (roughly £250 or AU$400 converted) for the headsets, but expect to pay an additional $100 to get them bundled with motion controllers. That’s not exactly cheap and still isn’t impulse-buy territory for many, but it is less than bundles for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Also, unlike Oculus and Vive, Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) headsets (the name is meant to encompass augmented and virtual reality and anything in between) use a pair for front-mounted cameras and a set of built-in sensors to map your physical position. Called inside-out tracking, the design allows for six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) movement tracking without the need to buy external sensors and set them up in a dedicated space. They’re made to be plug-and-play for the most part, too, so you can be up and running in minutes just about anywhere. 

However, since they’re all designed to meet Microsoft’s specific requirements, there aren’t huge differences between the headsets. The first five headsets announced have the same basic set of specs:

  • Two high-resolution 1,440×1,440-pixel LCDs with up to 90Hz native refresh rate 
  • Front-hinged display for quickly lifting the viewer up and out of the way
  • Built-in 3.5mm jack for audio and microphone support  
  • Single cable with HDMI 2.0 and USB 3.0 for video and data
  • 4-meter (13.1 ft) cable

What the differences come down to, at least for this first batch, seem to be the overall design. And even those don’t vary too much.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset

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Acer’s headset was the first one we had a chance to test out back in April. Though it’s priced at $299 (equivalent to £250 or AU$400), that doesn’t include the motion controllers, which you’ll be able to get with the headset for $399

Read our first impressions

Asus Windows Mixed Reality Headset

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Certainly the most interesting-looking headset of the five, Asus said its designers used technology normally used to create digital architecture to make the pattern of hundreds of 3D polygons. It’s lightweight at about 14.1 ounces (400 g) and balanced to take pressure off the nose and cheeks. No US pricing or availability was announced, but the European price is 449 euros, which converts to $535, £415 and AU$675. That’s pricey, but includes motion controllers.

Dell Visor

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Dell designed the headset so that it’s comfortable and easy to adjust for different users. A thumbwheel on back lets you quickly adjust the well-cushioned headband, and the balance and extra padding on the face take pressure off your nose and cheeks. Its antistain coating helps keep the headset from getting gross after your friends and family use it. When it’s available in October it will be priced at $349 (roughly £270 or AU$440 converted) for the headset alone or bundled with controllers for $449, which is about £350 or AU$565.

Read our first impressions

Before you buy a WMR headset, consider these points:

Will I need a new PC?

Maybe. A big plus for the WMR headsets is that you don’t necessarily need a superpowerful PC to drive them for all uses. According to Microsoft, there will be WMR desktops and laptops with integrated graphics starting as low as $499 (approximately AU$630 and £390 converted) that will run the headsets at 60 frames per second, while WMR Ultra PCs with discrete graphics will run at 90fps. 

Headsets aside, the more demanding the games or content you want to experience, the more powerful — and pricier — your PC will need to be. HP has a list of recommended system requirements for its developer edition headset that you can use as a baseline for what components to look for to get the most from the headsets. Also, one thing you definitely will need is the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

What games and apps can I use?

For starters, you’ll be able to use all 20,000 Universal Windows apps in mixed reality. Basically, the headset will act like a monitor attached to your face. Again, that’s why you won’t necessarily need high-end components in your PC to use the headset for everything like watching 360-degree videos or regular movies for that matter. 

The headsets will also work with HoloLens apps, and Microsoft announced that it’s “working with 343 Industries to bring Halo experiences into mixed reality.” Gaming company Steam will be compatible with Windows Mixed Reality hardware, too.

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like Acer’s, HP’s headset is currently available in a developer edition from Microsoft, but for $30 more at $329, which converts to about AU$415 and £255. HP said the additional cost goes toward extra design touches like a knob on the head strap for quick fit adjustments (the Acer has a sliding buckle). It also has more head strap padding and, HP claims, a bigger cutout for your nose. 

Read our first impressions

Lenovo Explorer

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Lenovo’s entry into the headset market is perhaps the most boardroom-ready in appearance. The Explorer follows the same design and feature sets as the others. One nice little extra, though, is that Lenovo will have a set of its own apps available for use with the headset through its own entertainment hub. The Lenovo Explorer will cost $349 alone or $449 with a set of motion controllers. Those convert to £270/£350 and AU$445/AU$570.

Read our first impressions

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