Microsoft thinks mixed reality – a mixture of virtual and real reality is the way to the future. PC makers including HP, Acer, ASUS, Dell and Lenovo think so too as they are taking the Microsoft reference design and giving it their slant.

Asking me to review it is a bold move for both HP and me. I am of that era that I don’t play games, and VR/AR/MR etc. simply does not interest me. Fortunately, I had a few gamers on hand to help so apologies if this review is not comprehensive.

I first saw Microsoft HoloLens about two years ago, and I was sold – the ability to mix real and virtual held so many possibilities. The elegance of the totally wireless solution was only offset by the price – and eye-watering A$7,269.

Fortunately, HP’s solution is only $799, but it does require a powerful Windows 10 PC (no Macs), a corded 3.5mm plug stereo headset/mic and above all a commitment to learning to use it.

Let’s look at the PC first. HP provided a $3,000 Omen 17” gaming notebook to demonstrate. It had 32GB RAM, an i7-7700HQ processor, PCIe NVMe SSD, and an 8GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics processor. That is a lot of grunt, and we heard the fans whirring overtime in most VR sessions.

I suspect serious users will invest in an upgradable desktop and monitor instead.

Next, you need a 3.5mm corded gamers stereo headset with boom mic. Any brand will do but remember that it goes on your head over the 830g headset, so a light-weight one is best.

The Headset.

  • Display Size: 2.89″ diagonal (x2)
  • Resolution: 1440×1440 per eye (2880×1440 combined) – no smartphone screen required
  • Refresh Rate: 90Hz (HDMI 2.0 port), 60Hz HDMI 1.4 port
  • Field of vision: 90 degrees (100 degrees in Windows Ultra PC)
  • Connectivity: 2–in–1 HDMI 2.0 + USB 3.0
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope, and proximity
  • Dimensions: 338.84 mm (W) x 176.02 mm (L) x 127.76 mm (H)
  • Weight: 834 grams
  • 5mm combo jack

Microsoft Motion Controllers x 2

  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Uses 2x AA batteries
  • Windows button
  • Menu button
  • Trigger
  • Joystick control
  • Touchpad
  • Proximity sensing, optical tracking and accelerometer

OK on with the review

Gadgeteer and avid gamer Steve led the discussion. “These are great, but I get the feeling there is so much more to come, so much more to be developed.”

What he was referring to was the need to ‘set it all up’ – it is not an easy out-of-the-box experience. Despite HP providing the demo laptop it still needed exploration to find out what it could do.

Setup

Download the Microsoft Mixed Reality Viewer and Portal – about 2GB. It will test your PC. My Surface Book, an i7-6600 failed as the NVIDIA GeForce/Intel HD Graphics 520 was not up to spec.

Connect your headset – this is via a combo HDMI/USB3.0 cable.

Trace out the “area” you can move in by moving the headset around it – it does not have to be square but make it as large as possible – at least 2 x 3 metres. Pair the controllers, and you see a virtual ‘house’ desktop.

As Gadgeteer Steve said, “It is great that you can move around so much. Traditional VR is so limiting. But watch the four-metre cord – it will twist you up.”

The head size adjustable headset allows you to wear glasses and seems quite comfortable despite the weight and the headphones. It does get a tad warm wearing it.