Today’s the day. If you hadn’t realised already from the vast amount of coverage on VRFocus and everywhere else, Microsoft has now officially entered the realm of virtual reality (VR) with the launch of its Windows Mixed Reality headsets. While the name may confuse some these new devices will still be going head-to-head with products like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift even though there’s a slight difference in tech. So today VRFocus will clear things up whilst giving you a comprehensive rundown of these new head-mounted displays (HMDs) and what content they currently offer.
For today’s launch – if you pre-ordered the headsets will be shipping today – there will be four devices on offer with a further two coming relatively soon. Microsoft teamed up with a range of manufacturers to build the HMDs rather than build its own, creating a core specification design that they’d all adhere to, whilst the body aesthetic could be different. Hence why there’s the Dell Visor, Acer Windows Mixed Reality HMD, HP Windows Mixed Reality HMD and Lenovo Explorer out now and Samsung Odyssey and Asus Windows Mixed Reality HMD still to come.
Whilst touted as mixed reality (MR) by Microsoft initially the headsets will lean more towards VR. Comparing them to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the biggest difference between these two and Microsoft’s offerings come down to tracking. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both use what’s called outside-in tracking where users need to have external sensors to monitor headset and controller movement. Windows Mixed Reality headsets have inside-out tracking where the two cameras located on the front track where the user is and where the controllers are. Whilst this system is great for ease of use – no sensors to setup – and portability, the cameras are limited to their field of view (FoV). So if you move your hands behind your back, or over your shoulder – as some VR titles do to grab weapons – the tracking will no longer work.
Now lets look at the headsets themselves, their prices and availability.
Acer Windows Mixed Reality HMD
Acer’s entry was the first device in the range to be unveiled and comes in at the cheapest price for just the headset alone, retailing for $299 USD, or with the motion controllers the cost comes to $399. The headset comes equipped with two LCD displays with a resolution of 1440 x 1440, a 95 degrees horizontal FoV and a 4.0 meter cable. This can be ordered through the US Microsoft store or the UK store.
HP Windows Mixed Reality HMD
Next there’s HP’s version. This features exactly the same spec as the Acer just in a different body design. On the US Microsoft Store it costs slightly more for the headset and motion controllers, retailing for $449. While on the UK Microsoft Store it sells for £399.99 GBP.
Dell has gone for a more striking design, with a sleek white minimalistic look. Just like the two previous HMDs specs are virtually identical with one difference, the Dell Visor has a 105 degree horizontal FoV. It’s priced at $449 on the US Microsoft Store but there’s no listing on the UK store. At present UK customers will need to go to Dell’s website where the headset and controllers are sold separately.
The last headset that’s available to purchase now is the Lenovo Explorer. This has the same specifications as the Dell Visor, with a 105 degrees horizontal FoV, alongside the resolution of 1440 x 1440 and 4.0 meter cable seen in the rest. You can buy the Lenovo Explorer on the US Microsoft Store for $399 including the motion controllers. Again UK customers will have to go elsewhere with retailers like Currys PC World stocking the headset for £399.99.
Asus Windows Mixed Reality HMD
While the Asus HMD was revealed at the same time as the rest a delay was announced last month, pushing the release date of the device until Spring 2018. Specs are the same as the Acer with two LCD displays with a resolution of 1440 x 1440 and a 95 degrees horizontal FoV. The Asus does have one of the most visually interesting designs with a 3D polygonal shell. Currently only a European price of €449 EUR has been announced although it didn’t specify if that included the motion controllers.
Appearing out the blue earlier this month was Samsung Odyssey which appears to be the daddy of the group. Having already created the Samsung Gear VR, the company has used this experience to differentiate its headset from the rest of the pack with a few tweaked specifications. So the Samsung Odyssey’s resolution is better, coming in at 1440 x 1600 per eye, rather than 1440 x 1440, an FoV of 110 degrees, integrated AKG headphones and an OLED display rather than LCD.
With all these extra’s the Samsung Odyssey comes in at $499, the most expensive of the lot. It can be pre-ordered here with a release date of 6th November 2017.
PC Specs for Windows Mixed Reality
So you’ve seen the headsets so what about the PC to run it on? Well Microsoft has ensured that they won’t need a massively powerful PC, with the minimum being an Intel Core i5 7200U processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 10GB of free disk space, and an Intel HD Graphics 620 or DX12-capable GPU. These specifications will provide 60 frames-per-second (FPS) performance. If you go up to the Ultra PC specs below you’ll get 90 FPS. You can also check your PC if unsure with Microsoft’s PC Check App.
Windows Mixed Reality Content
So you’ve got your new headset, now you’re going to need some content to play on it. Microsoft has ensured that there’s a few videogames and apps available to start you off, with more on the way thanks to Steam compatibility.
- Arizona Sunshine – £33.49 / $39.99
- Superhot VR – £20.99 / $24.99
- Fantastic Contraption – £16.74 / $19.99
- Skyworld – £33.49 / $39.99
- Space Pirate Trainer – £12.49 / $14.99
- Form – £12.49 / $14.99
- Ghostbusters VR – Now Hiring Episode 1 – £5.79 / $6.99
- Halo: Recruit – Free
- Heroes of the Seven Seas – £5.79 / $6.99
- Dreadhalls – £8.39 / $9.99
- Stunt Kite Masters – £8.39 / $9.99
- inVokeR – £12.49 / $14.99
- Land of Dinosaurs VR – £2.49 / $2.99
- Racket: Nx – £16.74 / $19.99
- Tee Time Golf – £12.49 / $14.99
- BingoClass – Free
- HeadSquare – £4.19 / $4.99
- Dark Legion – £14.24 / $16.99
- Headbutt Factory – £16.74 / $19.99
- Hypercade – £4.19 / $4.99
- vTime – Free
- Pixvana 360 Video Player – Free
- Sliver.tv – Free
- Ryot – Free
- Littlestar VR Cinema – Free
- Inception VR – Free
- NextVR – Free
- Free The Night – Free
- theBlu: Season 1 – £8.39 / $9.99
- MoveStudio – Free
- The Rose And I – Free
- Films & TV – Free
- YouKu VR Pro – Free
- Holograms – Free
Ok that’s your lot, well almost. There’s one important issue that VRFocus hasn’t covered and that’s the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. You’ll need this to make the headsets work and the rollout begins at 10am PT/6pm BST today. Handily Microsoft has released a blog post to walk you through manually checking if your device is part of the first phase rollout.