Latest XR hardware review

COVID-19 had dominated the year 2020 like no other. Most of the countries were forced to go into a full lockdown to prevent the widespread of that horrible virus. A silver lining here is that online communication tools became the sole viable method to communicate and interact with each other. Thanks to that, applications such as VR Chat gained a lot of popularity. Moreover, to substitute the missing physical presence, virtual reality technologies were used to host ceremony and conferences around the world. For example, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay used a virtual reality solution to host a convocation ceremony.

Unlike the traditional media, to consume XR (extended reality) contents, hardware such as head mount displays or glasses are required. Fortunately, based on my research, there are many options available for various platforms with respective price ranges that fit everyone’s needs. To help fellow enthusiasts, who don’t yet own an XR device and want to experience this amazing technology, I have listed down a few latest VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality) devices that are great in my opinion.

Latest VR devices

DevicePrice (USD)ResolutionRefresh RateFOVAudio
HP Reverb G$5992160×216090 Hz114ºOff-ear speakers
Valve Index$4991440×1600120 Hz130ºOff-ear speakers,
audio jack,
Oculus Quest 2$299 1832×192090 Hz90ºIntegrated stereo speakers, 3.5 mm headphone jack
Oculus Rift S$3991280×144080 Hz110ºIn-line audio speakers
1x 3.5 mm audio jack
HTC Vive Cosmos$6991920×108090 Hz110ºIn-line audio speakers

If I am to buy a VR device right now, I would definitely go for an Oculus Quest 2. Despite being the latest release of the Oculus Quest product line, Oculus Quest 2 is surprisingly affordable with the starting price of only USD 299 for 64GB version, which makes it a no-brainer choice for a starter VR device. On top of that, Occulus Quest 2 is highly portable since it does not have to tether to a VR capable machine to work. It has a high resolution (1832×1920 pixels per eye) and comes with built-in audio speakers. It is also equipped with 2 non-rechargeable touch controllers that provide great comfort for gaming.

Oculus Quest 2

The downsides of Oculus Quest 2 is that you need a Facebook account to use it, and it only has access to a limited number of games on Quest Store right now. However, creating a Facebook account is free and by tethering with a single USB-C cable, Oculus Quest 2 can also function as PCVR which has access to a bigger game library. Although the controllers are not rechargeable, using rechargeable AAA batteries does the trick. All in all, Oculus Quest 2 is a solid choice for both starters and veterans who are looking for an upgrade at the start of 2021.

Latest MR devices

DevicePrice (USD)ResolutionFOV
Magic Leap One$2,2951280×196040º
Microsoft HoloLens 2$3,5002048×108052°
Nreal Light$1,0001920×108052°

Among the listed devices, my perferred choice is Microsoft HoloLens 2. Since it is a successor of the original HoloLens, it has access to the wider range of programs. Having wider field of view than most of the devices, it also support more intuitive gestures that fit around natural interactions used in day-to-day lives; think pinches, pulls and drags, unlike the original HoloLens. Being developed by Microsoft, the developer ecosystem is relatively stronger. Dynamics 365 integrations, just like office 360 integrations, will soon be available too.

Microsoft HoloLens 2

That being said Microsoft HoloLens 2 is very pricy and slightly bulkier than my confort level. It may simply because the target auidence of the devices are industry workers and the benefits for user business seems justify the cost of it. I hope that in the near future more advanced and slimer devices for mixed reality become available.

A Quest for the Best VR and MR Devices

Upon being given this assignment, the first question I thought was how was I supposed to give a concrete and accurate review of a headset without owning one myself? Even so, having used several of them in public demonstrations and going through passionate online reviews in hopes of buying one myself eventually, I had an idea of what I would like for my first headset. There are many different kinds of headsets built for different platforms with their own unique features and purposes. For this, there are several categories of specifications that I have considered while choosing my preferred headsets such as, the price, comfort and ease of use, space needs, productivity and performance, as well as how immersive it feels.

VR, AR, MR, we are spoilt for choice in every category.

VR Devices Considered:

There are many kinds of VR headsets that I have considered, the first of which being Google Cardboard due to its cheap price and extreme portability. This made me consider other mobile VR headsets as well such as the Homido and Zeiss VR One. They are one of the most light-weight headsets under the $100 price range and also do not require any space or lengthy procedures to set up which makes it really accessible. However, headsets such as the Google Cardboard have simple but clunky controls, most include turning your head and staring at a button for some time to click it which isn’t exactly the smoothest experience that you can get. As an entry-level headset, it is still a decent choice that requires little commitment and budget.

It also comes with so many different designs and customizations.

Preferred VR Device: Occulus Quest 2

One of the best VR headsets that are currently available which I would love to own, would be the Oculus Quest 2. It has a very beautiful white design and built-in speakers which are really great. This provides a really immersive experience, eliminating the need for external speakers or additional headsets. Its sleek controllers are also one of the best in terms of comfort and battery life, lasting even longer than the headset’s battery itself. Another feature that I really love about the Oculus Quest 2 is that it has no need for external tracking base stations like the Valve Index. You can set up your playing area by just drawing it which makes it really flexible in my opinion. Its weight has also improved from the previous Oculus Quest along with an affordable price tag of USD 299 to 399.

The best parts of Oculus Quest 2 has got to be the fact that it can be used both as a standalone headset as well as a PC VR headset that is accessible using a fiber-optic cable called the Oculus Link which makes it extremely versatile. Occulus also has one of the greatest software support behind it with a store full of amazing games that you can play as a standalone device. The developers make constant updates with the graphics improving and getting crispier every version. Its resolution and refresh rate is also one of the best in VR devices with at 1832 x 1920 and 90Hz as well as 6 degrees of freedom allowing for greater freedom of movement. In a nutshell, these amazing features make it one of the best choices available in the market right now as an all-in-one VR headset.

A clear improvement in graphics from version 1 to version 23 in Occulus Quest 2.

MR Devices Considered:

The GodView 5K Glasses, an impressive name for such a small device and one of the best in terms of design that I have come across. For one, it does not look like you are wearing a huge block on your head but instead more like a pair of sunglasses which is also what the industry strives for as headsets get lighter and less bulky each year. It is also multi-compatible with most devices and claims to sport a 5K high resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels. In terms of environment tracking however, it is almost non-existent and is more suited for watching a movie on a big TV screen as it is literally just a screen in front of you. In terms of purpose, it would be perfect as an extended screen that you can use on the go. However, after further research, I found out that this device actually has really bad latency and image quality with a blurring effect on the edges of the video. It also has really bad heat problems which makes it bad for long-term use therefore I’ll be passing on this one as it seems like it still needs a lot of improvements and is too early in its development stages.

The God View, great design but still too early in most aspects.

Preferred MR Headset: Microsoft Hololens 2

After seeing multiple demos and reviews of MR headsets, I have to say, the Microsoft Hololens is one of the absolute best as of current. Firstly, it has one of the best ergonomics and looks extremely comfortable to wear compared to some of the bulkier headsets such as the HP MR Headset. This is also one of the most important categories for me when looking for an MR headset, as bulkier headsets will not allow for long hours of use and an immersive user experience. Moreover, it also has an impressive 2K resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels. In terms of environment understanding, it has improved spatial mapping capabilities compared to the first Hololens which means it will be able to understand at a faster rate. This, as well as 4 visible light cameras which means that it is able to track more movements, allowing for more interactivity with the environment.

Although I believe that the Hololens 2 is one of the best MR devices currently, I still feel that it is slightly too expensive being priced at $3500 and understandably so, as it is targetted at companies, for business use. Other similar devices such as the Magic Leap One also costs at least a few thousand dollars which is why I feel that they still have ways to go before reaching the consumer market.

All in all, I am excited to see what the industry has to offer in the future and surely we will see leaps and bounds in the development of VR, AR, and MR technologies in the years to come.