The Acer Mixed Reality Motion Controllers
Acer's controllers ship in a box that doesn't include any padding. Each Windows Mixed Reality wand fits on either side of the box, with a piece of cardboard separating them. Acer tucks AA batteries for each controller (two each) in the packaging, too.
The WMR controllers feature a thumbstick, a trackpad, a trigger button, a grip button, a menu button, and a Windows button on the handle for input. The backside of each handle opens to reveal a slot for the batteries. We noticed that this compartment includes eight pogo-pin contact points, suggesting that it may be possible to install rechargeable packs in the future. A Bluetooth Connect button is also located under the battery compartment cover.
At the top of each controller is a halo ring with 18 white LEDs, which provide reference points for the camera-based tracking system. The controllers include IMU and magnetic sensors as well. These serve as backup for Acer's primary system, keeping the controllers in line whenever they're outside the headset camera's visual range.
Acer went with Microsoft’s reference controller design, which offers plenty of input buttons, but lacks ergonomic refinement. Manufacturing quality leaves much to be desired, too. We're left wondering how the controllers made it past the prototype stage in this from.
Microsoft is obviously no stranger to building input devices. It arguably makes the best gamepad money can buy in the Xbox One controller. In fact, we expected Microsoft to equip the WMR controllers with components from its Xbox One parts bin, or at least to leverage its experience in designing comfortable gamepads. This doesn’t seem to be the case.
Instead, we found the WMR controllers surprisingly uncomfortable to use for even moderate lengths of time. The handles are narrow and thin, mostly rectangular, and therefore a poor match for the shape of a hand. The handle's base pushed into our palms when we held on firmly, and our fingers cramped up even with a loose hold on the device. A little more girth in the handle, similar to HTC's controllers, would likely help.
We weren’t impressed with the placement of the buttons, thumbstick, and trackpad. We often had to adjust our grip to reach the various elements. The trigger's position would be fine, except that the controller has a bulge to make space for the trackpad, which affects how you place your finger on the trigger. The trigger has a nice springy feel, but the action is too short and it doesn’t have the smooth click feel you get from an Xbox One gamepad.
The grip button's placement is good. However, you might have a different experience if your fingers are particularly long. Depending on how we held the controller, we could either press the grip button with our fingertip or the middle of our finger. With longer fingers, you may not find a comfortable position at all.
The trackpad and thumbstick are too high on the handle for us to reach comfortably. If we placed our hands where we could reach both the trigger and grip buttons, we couldn’t reach the full trackpad with our thumb, and the thumbstick was just barely within reach. We were able to manipulate the thumbstick from our natural grip position, but couldn’t get our thumb fully over the stick. This removes precision control. The controller's thumbsticks are accurate and smooth, but they lack any form of texture to keep your fingertip planted.
To reach the thumbpad, we had to slide our hand up the handle so far that we could no longer reach the trigger button, forcing us to squeeze that button with the inside of our large knuckle. All factors considered, it becomes quite a nuisance to work with any application that requires trackpad and thumbpad input, such as the Windows Mixed Reality home environment.
We have no qualms with the menu button's placement, but we don't like where Microsoft put its Windows button, which is located exactly where our thumb naturally rests when we hold the controller most comfortably.
The Vive wand and Oculus Touch controller can take a beating, which we know because we've inadvertently slammed them into walls, bookshelves, display cabinets, ceiling fans, and the floor. We’re not convinced that Acer's controllers will stand up to similar abuse, though. Our primary concern is the piece that holds the handle to the tracking halo.
The tracking halo is secured to the handle with a plastic bracket. This bracket is rigid, but the attachment inside the handle is flexible and seems weak. There's enough flex in the attachment that the handle wiggles whenever you place the controllers on a surface halo-side down. We don’t have much confidence that it would survive a good smack against a solid wall.
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