Windows Mixed Reality headset comparison

Microsoft has launched a new platform that brings its existing augmented reality technology such as HoloLens and a range of new virtual reality headsets under the one banner.

Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform is a bit confusing to understand at first. You’d be forgiven for thinking that something coined “mixed” reality would be a device that can operate in both augmented and virtual reality – similar to what the HTC Vive headset is capable of with its forward facing camera. However, this is not the case.

Mixed reality, as used by Microsoft, is an overlying term used to describe all the work it is doing in the space between the physical and the fully digital worlds. This includes the company’s augmented reality headset the HoloLens, a number of software features released as part of the Windows 10 Creator’s updates and a range of virtual reality headsets.

When I asked Microsoft to clarify the term, I got the following response:

“We believe that mixed reality represents a spectrum spanning everything in between full physical reality and full digital or virtual reality. While the upcoming Windows Mixed Reality headsets are closer to the full digital end of the spectrum, they do begin to incorporate elements of the physical world, such as environmental awareness and full 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) hand input via motion controllers. Furthermore, Windows Mixed Reality is a unified platform that spans the entire spectrum, enabling the upcoming headsets to elegantly interface with devices closer to the physical reality end of the spectrum, such as Microsoft HoloLens. Our platform encompasses the entire mixed reality spectrum between the fully physical and fully digital, enabling devices and experiences that span that continuum, which is why we call it Windows Mixed Reality.”

Think of Windows Mixed Reality in these terms and you will just muddy the waters. There’s not a single purchase that gets you everything. If you want virtual reality, you need a VR headset. If you want augmented reality, you need the HoloLens. Windows Mixed Reality is the software underneath the hood in Windows 10 that allows both of these features – and others – to work, much in the same way that Windows Media Player allows songs and movies to work.

Choosing your Windows Mixed Reality headset

As a result of the above, using the term Windows Mixed Reality headset to describe the six pieces of hardware compared below feels inaccurate. These headsets do not allow for mixed reality – they allow for virtual reality. So do you want a virtual reality headset? Here is what you need to consider.

  1. All the headsets connect to your Windows 10 device in the same fashion: with two 4m cables, one USB 3.0 and one HDMI 2.0. You obviously don’t need a monitor or TV in the equation as you engage with the experience through the headsets. Connecting to one of these is optional and only required if you want someone else in the room to see what is going on.
  2. Field-of-view is an important factor. This defines how much of the virtual world you can see at any one time. The wider the field-of-view, the more immersive the experience.
  3. Weight can be a concern for virtual reality headsets and it can be exasperated by the design and the shape of your head. Depending on the quality of the headset and how that weight is distributed, it might sit top-heavy or otherwise unbalanced when worn. This becomes particularly problematic in experiences that require a lot of movement, or prolonged periods of use, so is something to consider.
  4. You need Bluetooth connectivity between your PC and the wireless controllers, which isn’t a feature natively built into most desktops. Make sure you check this, as you may need to get a Bluetooth USB adaptor.
  5. Apps that work with Windows Mixed Reality need to be available on Windows 10 through the Microsoft store. Virtual reality experiences released through the Steam VR platform will also work.

Minimum PC specifications for Windows Mixed Reality

The basic Windows Mixed Reality experience is built for mid-range PCs. As Windows Mixed Reality runs natively in Windows 10, it’s not as big a performance hog as a third-party application. However, this is app dependent. Top-end game experiences, for example, will be far more resource hungry than watching Netflix as the game itself needs to run as well as the Windows Mixed Reality software. So if you intend on doing a lot of gaming, you should aim for the Ultra PC specs below. Where the Basic specs will run at 60 frames per second, the Ultra specs will run at 90 frames per second, which is suited to higher-end gaming.

$599.00: HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition
$599.00: HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition

Microsoft Store

Buy the Dell Visor Windows Mixed Reality Headset
Buy the Dell Visor Windows Mixed Reality Headset

Microsoft Store

Basic use Windows Mixed Reality PC specs:

  • Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
  • Intel Core i5-7200U dual-core processor with Hyper-Threading Technology enabled
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 10GB of free disk space
  • Intel HD Graphics 620 or DX12-capable GPU
  • HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2
  • USB 3.0 port
  • Bluetooth

High-end gaming Windows Mixed Reality PC specs

  • Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
  • Intel Core i5 4590 (fourth generation) quad-core processor or AMD Ryzen 5 14000 3.4Ghz quad-core processor
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 10GB of free disk space
  • Nvidia GTX 960/965M/1050 or AMD RX 460 graphics card
  • HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2
  • USB 3.0 port
  • Bluetooth

A Windows Mixed Reality headset comparison

There are currently six third-party hardware manufacturers making Windows Mixed Reality headsets, with varying levels of availability at the time of writing. They are Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung. Microsoft itself does not make a headset, so there is no “official” device to choose from. Below you will find an overview of what they offer:

Acer WMRASUS HC102Dell VisorHP WMRLenovo ExplorerSamsung HMD Odyssey
Number of Screens212222
Resolution2880 x 14402880 x 14402880 x 14402880 x 14402880 x 14402880 x 1600
Refresh Rate909090909090
Field of View95-degrees95-degrees110-degrees95-degrees105-degrees110-degrees
Motion TrackingSix-Degrees of MotionSix-Degrees of MotionSix-Degrees of MotionSix-Degrees of MotionSix-Degrees of MotionSix-Degrees of Motion
Sensor PositionInternalInternalInternalInternalInternalInternal
SensorsAccelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and proximity sensor.Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and proximity sensor.Accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.Accelerometer, gyroscope, and proximity sensor.Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and proximity sensor.Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, proximity sensor, and IPD sensor.
Audio3.5mm combo jack3.5mm combo jack3.5mm combo jack3.5mm combo jack3.5mm combo jackIntegrated AKG headphones, in-built microphone array
PortsHDMI 2.0, USB 3.0HDMI 2.0, USB 3.1HDMI 2.0, USB 3.2HDMI 2.0, USB 3.3HDMI 2.0, USB 3.4HDMI 2.0, USB 3.5
Cable Lengths4m4m4m4m4m4m
Dimensions195.8 mm (W) x 94.8 mm (L) x 106.59 mm (H).TBC210 mm (W) x 330 mm (L).338.84 mm (W) x 176.02 mm (L) x 127.76 mm (H).185.1 mm (W) x 94.8 mm (L) x 102.1 mm (H).202 mm (W) x 131.5 mm (L) x 111 mm (H).
Weight350 grams399 gramsTBC834 grams380 grams645 grams
Release DateOut NowTBCOut NowOut NowOut NowOut now

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