Aside from the Xbox One X, Windows Mixed Reality may just be the next big thing for Microsoft this holiday season. Many OEMs recently joined Microsoft's initiative and released Mixed Reality headsets to the market. There are options from Dell, HP, Samsung, and ASUS, but Lenovo was kind enough to send their Lenovo Explorer Mixed Reality headset for us to review. Here is a quick look and unboxing of the unit.
Retailing for $399 at the Microsoft Store and $349 at Lenovo, the Explorer is one of the lower-cost options to bringing an immersive VR experience to a larger consumer base. The headset is very easy to set up, and packs an ergonomic build, while also staying compatible with most modern Windows PCs running the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Importantly, the headset uses inside out tracking (eliminating the need for sensors in the room) and packs a Y cable with USB 3.0 and HDMI for connectivity with a PC.
Other notable specs on this headset can be seen below. Keep in mind that Windows Mixed Reality headsets feature a tiltable viewer for entry and exit during use, and you can quickly adjust the head strap with a twist knob (there's no physical button to adjust the clarity of the mixed reality projections, it's all done via software.) The Lenovo Explorer also features up to 105 degrees of horizontal field of view, and other headsets (like the Samsung Oddesy) go up to 110 degrees of view. Cable length on the Lenovo is about 12 feet.
- Display: 2(x) 2.89 inch LCD display at 1440 (x) 1440 resolution
- Dimensions: 7.3 inches (x) 3.7 inches (x) 4 inches
- Weight: Starts at 0.84 pounds
- Sensors: 2 motion sensing cameras, P-sensor, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer
- Input/Output: USB 3.0 Type A, and HDMI
Another important selling point of the Lenovo Explorer is a fancy high-end PC with fancy components not being required to enjoy the experience. Since most of Windows Mixed Reality is software based, a high-end PC will make for a better experience, but most elements of Windows Mixed Reality will still work with a standard PC. I was provided a Legion Y720 for the review experience, but Lenovo tells me the headset will work with most modern Windows 10 PCS with the Fall Creators Update installed.
If you're unsure if the Lenovo Explorer will work on your computer, please see the specs below. Please keep in mind that Windows Mixed Reality (Standard) is for common PCs with integrated graphics, and Windows Mixed Reality Ultra is for those higher end PCs with dedicated graphics cards and fancy components. On a regular PC, Windows Mixed Reality runs at 60FPS, which is the standard for most VR experiences. Windows Mixed Reality Ultra, meanwhile, will run at 90FPS, which will mean for smoother animations and visuals when wearing the headset. Ultra will also give you access to some higher-end VR games, which is an added plus.
If still unsure about Windows Mixed Reality, you can download Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality PC Check application from the Microsoft Store. This application checks your PC against the specs listed above and will give you a readout (with check marks or X) on the components which your PC have and do not have for Windows Mixed Reality.
Bundled in with the Lenovo Explorer are Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality Controllers. Coming in a pair of 2, the controllers are powered by 2 AA batteries and work via Bluetooth 4.0 technology. Importantly, the controllers offer precise and responsive tracking of movement in your field of view using the sensors in the immersive headset, meaning there is no need to install hardware on the walls in your space.
In the Mixed Reality world, the controllers allow you to interact and select items, highlight items and type on a virtual keyboard in apps like Microsoft Edge. The controllers are especially useful to have when navigating the Cliffside house in the Windows Mixed Reality experience, as it will allow you to teleport between virtual rooms if you do not have enough physical space in your own world to walk around. The set up of the controller is also very simple, and they can be turned on and off by pressing the Windows key on the controller for 2 seconds. There's also a touchpad to scroll through certain items, and a menu button to pause certain experiences.
At first try, I think this is one very well balanced and comfortable headset. It fit my head perfectly, and everything was crisp and clear without the need to constantly adjust the headset. Of course, we will be spending some more time with the Lenovo Explorer in the month ahead, so be sure to keep tuned to OnMSFT for more. We're going to be doing a full-on review of the Explorer, as well as a few how-tos.