Microsoft has jumped into the VR scene with Windows Mixed Reality, the company’s combination of VR and AR technologies. Windows Mixed Reality headsets are being made by several companies such as Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo.
But since the basic design blueprint for these devices has already been decided by Microsoft, what separates them? And why are there so many choices when all of them should perform exactly the same?
That’s something we’ll be looking into in this article. We’ll be checking out the different Mixed Reality headsets currently being offered an attempt to draw comparisons because on the surface there shouldn’t be any difference between any of the WMR devices.
If you are unfamiliar with all the differences between virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality check out our post of the use cases of virtual reality in the future.
Best Mixed Reality Headsets
The ASUS HC102 immediately stands out from the rest of the WMR crowd due to its unique polygonal design pattern featured on the front of the visor. And that’s not where the differences end because ASUS have gone their own way when it comes to the display inside this headset.
Popular VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive feature two displays inside the headset, one for each eye. This arrangement has proved to be pretty successful in delivering an immersive VR experience but ASUS reckon a single high-resolution display will do the job just as well.
Inside the ASUS HC102 headset is a single 2880×1440 pixel ‘3K’ display. This design decision lends the ASUS headset a comparatively lightweight and as a result, it should be more comfortable when worn. The weight counts when you consider the fact that your neck will be supporting the majority it.
ASUS has also made an effort to make this headset easy to clean and hygienic in general. The headset uses a special antimicrobial surface for its lining which is said to dry easily, something that’s important to consider because you’re bound to get it damp with sweat. What’s more, the lining is actually said to be better at not inducing sweat as other materials.
The HC102 costs a bit more than the rest of the WMR bunch, with a price tag of $449. That’s $49 more than the Oculus Rift, which arguably leads the PC VR headset market right now.
Is the price premium justified considering the HC102’s focus on ergonomics? That’s a very tough call.
While we appreciate ASUS’s determination at making this the most comfortable headset, the fact that it costs more than an Oculus Rift is sure to raise some eyebrows. Still, we think the comfort aspect might appeal to some people which could give it the edge it needs in order to warrant a purchase over the Oculus Rift.
If you have your mind set for the ASUS HC102, you might have to wait for some time as the device is slated for a Spring 2018 release.
The Lenovo Explorer offers the cheapest way to buy a WMR headset, costing just $399 complete with motion controllers. There’s another option if you want to buy a WMR headset at a similar price point, the Acer WMR headset.
But we think that Acer has made some considerable compromises in build quality that makes that headset hard to recommend, even if it’s the cheapest.
The Lenovo Explorer, on the other hand, feels much sturdier, with an industrial design that’s very typical for the company. It’s definitely not as light as the ASUS HC102, but that’s to be expected given its use of two screens instead of one.
On the hardware specs front, it’s pretty much business as usual. As with the rest of the WMR headsets, there are two 1440×1440 pixel displays in the headset which provide a combined resolution of 2880×1440. The display runs at 90Hz which should provide you with a smooth and blur-free VR experience.
Lenovo has also made an effort to make this headset comfortable to wear. The company has paid attention to airflow in particular. Poor airflow can fog up the display lenses; definitely not something you’d want when enjoying an immersive VR experience.
The headset has extensive venting in order to promote better airflow by letting the air flow through the vents when you move around. This certainly isn’t a headline feature but it can certainly become a deciding factor if you find other headsets fogging up too often.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Lenovo Explorer is the cheapest out of all WMR headsets, with a $399 price tag which includes motion controllers as well. Mind you, you can get an Oculus Rift with motion controllers at this price point as well. The Lenovo doesn’t have any standout feature, it’s just a WMR headset that does what it’s supposed to do in a very comfortable and relatively affordable package.
Most Mixed Reality headsets currently being offered feature the same hardware specs and general layouts. There’s nothing really to differentiate between them, except for price and the way they’re built.
The Samsung Odyssey HMD follows the general MR headset blueprint but makes some very notable improvements. Samsung has taken things up a notch by equipping the Odyssey headset with its own high-resolution AMOLED panels, versus the LCD panels fitted on other WMR headsets.
Speaking of resolution, each of the Odyssey’s two displays features a 1440×1600 resolution, which adds up to a total of 2880×1600 pixels, which is wider than the rest of the WMR devices.
A wider resolution means that there will be more to see on the Odyssey. The lenses on the Odyssey are able to deliver a wider field of view as well. While these are certainly impressive features, it all depends on actual game developer support in order to be truly successful.
We hope Samsung is working to get game companies to notice this headset as it looks to be quite a formidable competitor to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The improved hardware in the Odyssey doesn’t come cheap. You’ll be paying $499 for the complete package, which is $100 more than the Oculus Rift. But the inclusion of Samsung’s world-class AMOLED screens is a feature worthy of the price premium this device commands. All it needs to truly shine is solid developer support.
Why Choose WMR Headsets Over the Oculus Rift?
With the price of the Oculus Rift dropping down to $399, there’s little reason to go for any other virtual reality headset.
Microsoft’s Mixed Reality effort is quite impressive but without any official support from major developers, it remains a weak rival to the Rift.
That said, however, we do think that WMR could have its own audience. WMR headsets require one less USB port, making them better suited to laptop users who usually have a limited number of ports. The system requirements are lower as well, but only very slightly.
Windows Mixed Reality is good news for consumers as it has brought competition to the dominance of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets. While the current set of MR devices are priced dangerously close to the Oculus Rift, we could see price cuts soon, which could force Oculus and HTC to do the same. A major drawback of virtual reality technology is its lack of affordability.
The current crop of WMR headsets aren’t affordable by any means, but they provide further options for consumers.
If you are on the verge of deciding whether to buy a mixed reality or a virtual reality headset, check out our best beginner friendly virtual reality headsets guide.