Windows Mixed Reality headsets are here and they’re affordable – CNET

Those Windows mixed reality headsets Microsoft teased nearly a year ago are now shipping with the rollout of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Made by Microsoft’s PC maker partners, 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. 

Although the pricing was initially more affordable than competitors, once the Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) headsets are bundled with controllers they cost the same or more than the current $399 Oculus Rift bundle. They are still cheaper than HTC Vive, however, and they don’t require a super-powerful PC to run them. (Head to the end of this article for more details on necessary PC specs.)

Also, unlike Oculus and Vive, WMR headsets (the name is meant to encompass augmented and virtual reality and anything in between) use a pair of 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

Samsung’s Odyssey headset offers a slight variation to the formula by using 1,440×1,600-pixel AMOLED displays and skipping the flip-up design. Otherwise, at least for this first batch, the differences seem to come down to overall design. And even those don’t vary too much.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset

acer-mixed-reality-headset-030.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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 bundled with the headset for $399

Read our first impressions

Now Playing: Watch this: Acer’s building affordable VR headsets, and ones you…

Asus Windows Mixed Reality Headset

asus-ifa-mr-headset-2
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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 (400g) and balanced to take pressure off the nose and cheeks. There’s still no US pricing or availability, but the European price is 449 euros, which converts to $535, £415 and AU$675. That’s pricey, but includes motion controllers.

Dell Visor

Dell Visor HMD 2017
Sarah Tew/CNET

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. It’s available now for $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

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset

hp-windows-mixed-reality-headset-12.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Like Acer’s, HP’s headset is currently available in a developer edition from Microsoft, but it runs $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. It also has more head strap padding and, HP claims, a bigger cutout for your nose. The one made for you and me is now available as a bundle with controllers for $449

Read our first impressions

Lenovo Explorer

lenovo-explorer
Sarah Tew/CNET

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 is available now for $399 with a set of motion controllers

Read our first impressions

Samsung Odyssey

samsung-odyssey-headset-01
Screen capture by Josh Goldman/CNET

Samsung went beyond the specs of the other WMR headsets by using dual 3.5-inch AMOLED displays with 1,440×1,600-pixel resolution. It also has built-in premium AKG headphones for 360-degree spatial sound, so you don’t have to bring your own headphones as you would with the others here. There is a slight tradeoff, though: The visor doesn’t flip up from in front of your eyes. The Odysseys are also more expensive at $500 bundled with controllers and two games. They’re expected to ship on November 10. 

Read our first impressions.

Now Playing: Watch this: Samsung Odyssey: The premium mixed-reality headset

What else you should know

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. Microsoft has an app you can run to check if your PC is WMR ready

screen-shot-2017-10-16-at-4-52-58-pm

WMR minimum PC hardware compatibility guidelines.

Microsoft

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *