Apple Vision Pro review roundup: a dazzling headset display

Apple Vision Pro review roundup
Image: Valens Quinn.

Built to ring in the era of “spatial computing”, the Apple Vision Pro is about to launch in the US, which means it’s review time.

Available exclusively in the US starting on 2 February, the mixed-reality headset is Apple’s bet on the next big thing. From our hands-on (or face-on) experience at WWDC last year, it’s undoubtedly a remarkable piece of technology.

Now, reviews from major overseas publications are landing, offering glimpses of what the Apple Vision Pro is like away from heavily-curated demos. So, what’s the overall consensus?

Predictably, Apple’s hardware is impressive and it seamlessly fits into the company’s software ecosystem. However, there’s still a way to go before it replaces conventional computers. And not just because it costs US$3,499.

What the Apple Vision Pro reviews say

Kicking off the Apple Vision Pro review cycle, The Verge’s Nilay Patel praised the device’s crisp Micro OLED display that cleverly uses the space around you. He recalled opening apps and windows in different rooms of the office, walking away, and then returning, with each window as he left it. And the way the Vision Pro integrated with other Apple devices enabled working on a massive virtual screen anytime, anywhere.

Although the gesture-based controls improve on attempts from competing headsets, Patel regularly encountered frustrations. Virtual typing was slow and cumbersome, while the need to look directly at controls to use them created friction. Above all else, Patel described the headset as “such a lonely experience” that makes it tricky to share what you’re seeing with others.

Apple Vision Pro first impressions WWDC 2023
Image: Valens Quinn.

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern felt like she was in the future as depicted in Minority Report. Like Patel, she enjoyed easily swapping between large virtual screens just by looking around the room. Stern’s review also reinforced that you’ll want to use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for precise inputs like word processing.

Other things that stood out in the WSJ review were the cinema-like experience of watching 3D movies with spatial audio, and viewing lifelike spatial videos shot by an iPhone 15 Pro. A cool use case involved transforming the kitchen into a virtual command centre, using video passthrough to place timers above different pots on the stovetop.

Stern concluded her review by recognising that while the Apple Vision Pro is the best mixed-reality headset, it’s very much the first public iteration. Heaviness, short battery life, lack of app support, and the high price were all drawbacks.

Similar criticisms came from Apple Vision Pro reviews published on CNET and Tom’s Guide. It’s an awe-inspiring headset with plenty of cross-device functionality, albeit hampered by affordability and limited third-party support at launch.

Like with any first-generation hardware, there are kinks to iron out. We’ll know more about the device’s future once it launches in the US later this week.

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