Acer Windows Mixed Reality HMD Review

Microsoft jumped into virtual reality last October with the formal launch of its Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which includes the Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) platform. Although Microsoft took its time getting there, the company does see VR as a serious computing revolution, not just an enthusiast fad.

More than 18 months after Oculus and HTC began shipping Rift and Vive headsets (early 2016), Microsoft is playing fast follower and focusing on making easier, more user-friendly solutions. For example, the company invested in creating a reliable inside-out tracking system to eliminate the need for external cameras and reduce setup complexity. Microsoft also wanted its immersive computing platform to support a wide variety of applications and use cases. Today, the Windows Mixed Reality platform supports both augmented reality and virtual reality devices.

Of course, Microsoft had its first kick at the can in 2016 with the HoloLens development kit, an augmented reality device featuring inside-out tracking. The HoloLens is too expensive for regular consumer use, but it's worth noting that the system does support Windows Mixed Reality and UWP apps. Moreover, Microsoft was able to re-purpose the HoloLens tracking technology for its more affordable VR headsets.

Rather than designing a proprietary headset for the Windows Mixed Reality platform, Microsoft partnered with a half-dozen familiar hardware companies to create compatible devices, including Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and HP. Most of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets were announced the same day as Microsoft's Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, but Acer was the first WMR partner to provide a headset for testing, so that's where we'll start our comparison of how WMR stacks up against the established Rift and Vive.

Beach House

Microsoft calls its sole Windows Mixed Reality environment the Beach House. Eventually, you'll be able to change the default environment, but this is it for now. As with the SteamVR and Oculus Home environments, Beach House is the primary hub from which you can launch apps and games.

Inside the Beach House, you’ll find a handful of rooms that are configurable for different use cases. You start outside on what can be described as the patio. On the ground in front of you, there's a bag with the Windows logo on it. When you select the bag, windows open with quick links that take you to the apps, games, and free content available for Windows Mixed Reality.

On the right-hand side, you’ll find a giant window to access the Microsoft Holograms app, which hosts items for customizing and decorating your virtual space. Some of the Holograms are static objects, such as pictures for the wall and plants for a window sill. Other Holograms are animated, and you can place the holograms anywhere in your Beach House, resized to taste.

Navigation & Locomotion

You move around in the Beach House by teleporting. This involves pressing the thumbstick forward to activate the teleport reticle and using your motion controller to place the reticle on your landing spot. Simply let go of the thumbstick to teleport. You can also change orientation as you teleport by pointing the thumbstick in the direction you'd like to face when you land.

Microsoft’s locomotion mechanics draw from Cloudhead Games’ Blink system. But unlike Blink, Microsoft’s teleport system doesn’t fade the screen as you move. Instead, the field of view shrinks in to help reduce the potential for motion sickness.

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  • steve15180
    I realize the article has a certain lead time. However, when the price dropped like a rock on these headsets last week, that changed the whole conclusion of the article. Is it
    really that difficult in an online publication to update pricing before publishing? Not
    the first time I've seen pricing off on these articles.
  • jpe1701
    I have the HP hmd and I really like it. Are all of the controllers the same for wmr? Mine fit my hand well but as you say they don't inspire much confidence that they will last.
  • ninjustin
    I can't wait to work in an office where we all look like Daft Punk.
  • kcarbotte
    Anonymous said:
    I realize the article has a certain lead time. However, when the price dropped like a rock on these headsets last week, that changed the whole conclusion of the article. Is it
    really that difficult in an online publication to update pricing before publishing? Not
    the first time I've seen pricing off on these articles.


    The price didn't drop. Amazon is selling them at a huge discount, but if you look at Microsoft's website the price hasn't dropped for any of them.
    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-mixed-reality
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I realize the article has a certain lead time. However, when the price dropped like a rock on these headsets last week, that changed the whole conclusion of the article. Is it
    really that difficult in an online publication to update pricing before publishing? Not
    the first time I've seen pricing off on these articles.


    The price didn't drop. Amazon is selling them at a huge discount, but if you look at Microsoft's website the price hasn't dropped for any of them.
    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-mixed-reality


    Amazon is a much bigger store than Microsoft. And this is not the first time the price has dropped either. $400 is just a technicality, the practical price for the headset is under $300 (as are the other Windows MR headset, apart from the much better Samsung Odyssey model).

    On another note, I think you should have put more emphasis on the lack of integrated audio. You're forced to fiddle with a separate audio headset, with its own extra cord flopping around, and often physically interfering with the VR headset. It's really a major downside compared to the Samsung Odyssey, Oculus Rift, and Vive + deluxe headstrap upgrade.
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    And this is not the first time the price has dropped either. $400 is just a technicality, the practical price for the headset is under $300 (as are the other Windows MR headset, apart from the much better Samsung Odyssey model).

    Yep, WMR headsets have been commonly available under $300 for a while. Sure, the MSRP might not have officially dropped, but the headsets from Acer, Dell, Lenovo and HP are all available in this price range online. In fact, some have gone on sale for under $250 at times. The Oculus Rift getting permanently discounted to $400 has made it necessary for these headsets on a less established platform to sell for less, particularly since most of them don't do much to be distinct from one another. I'm sure the high price of graphics cards hasn't helped either. It's undoubtedly hurting sales of the Rift and Vive too, but the higher resolution of these HMDs means even higher-end hardware is required for gaming, which is undoubtedly still their main draw.

    It might be worth at least mentioning in the conclusion that it may be possible to find the headsets for well under retail. That could change of course, if adoption of the platform were to really pick up, but I think the main thing selling them currently is their lower price.
  • SWKerr
    This is a pretty weak review especially considering that it is months after release. The cost of the actual Windows MR headsets has been between $200-300 for more than a month. Not mentioning this fact makes the conclusion misleading at best.

    I find it odd that you did not delve into the fact the Windows store has very few games and that you really need to use the Steam store for gaming. (Which is what 95% of people want these things for.) It would have been very helpful had you talked about this and mention some potential game compatibility limitations. Personally I have found the MR headsets work very well for every game I have tried but since they are not written for MR you are often looking at a Vive controller and guessing about how controls are mapped.

    Having used all available VR headsets at this point, I actually like the Windows MR the best. It is about the ease of setup. You do not end up with a bunch of wires running everywhere for the tracking and unless you have a large dedicated room for VR this is a big deal. The tracking may not be quite as good as a perfect setup of the competitors but it is functionally really good.

    Video cards: VR reviews should mention the current state of decent video cards at this time. These things will be very disappointing on anything less than a GTX 1060 6GB or RX 580 8GB. But...getting you hands on one is unlikely at any reasonable price point.

    Controllers: The reference controller could be better ergonomically but they are not uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. (Samsung actually made a better version for their headset combo.) What I find nice about the controller is that becase they have both the touch pad and stick inputs you can generally play both Vive and Rift games. The controllers are interchangeable across all the headsets and I expect someone to come out with a better aftermarket controller at some point.

    Really the Windows MR headsets are a good entry point for VR. They would not be good value at $399 but they are nowhere close to that price point.
  • kcarbotte
    Anonymous said:
    This is a pretty weak review especially considering that it is months after release. The cost of the actual Windows MR headsets has been between $200-300 for more than a month. Not mentioning this fact makes the conclusion misleading at best.

    I find it odd that you did not delve into the fact the Windows store has very few games and that you really need to use the Steam store for gaming. (Which is what 95% of people want these things for.) It would have been very helpful had you talked about this and mention some potential game compatibility limitations. Personally I have found the MR headsets work very well for every game I have tried but since they are not written for MR you are often looking at a Vive controller and guessing about how controls are mapped.

    Having used all available VR headsets at this point, I actually like the Windows MR the best. It is about the ease of setup. You do not end up with a bunch of wires running everywhere for the tracking and unless you have a large dedicated room for VR this is a big deal. The tracking may not be quite as good as a perfect setup of the competitors but it is functionally really good.

    Video cards: VR reviews should mention the current state of decent video cards at this time. These things will be very disappointing on anything less than a GTX 1060 6GB or RX 580 8GB. But...getting you hands on one is unlikely at any reasonable price point.

    Controllers: The reference controller could be better ergonomically but they are not uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. (Samsung actually made a better version for their headset combo.) What I find nice about the controller is that becase they have both the touch pad and stick inputs you can generally play both Vive and Rift games. The controllers are interchangeable across all the headsets and I expect someone to come out with a better aftermarket controller at some point.

    Really the Windows MR headsets are a good entry point for VR. They would not be good value at $399 but they are nowhere close to that price point.


    "This is a pretty weak review especially considering that it is months after release."

    I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm not going to get into the politics behind the delay in publishing, but the review was written before Christmas.

    "The cost of the actual Windows MR headsets has been between $200-300 for more than a month."

    Amazon is the only place that I've seen the headset discounted. Acer did no drop the price, and Microsoft didn't step in to subsidize the cost.
    When the price comes down at all retailers, we'll update the review. Until then, I stand by what I wrote. Acer wants $400 for the package, and unless you buy from Amazon, that's what you'll pay.

    "I find it odd that you did not delve into the fact the Windows store has very few games and that you really need to use the Steam store for gaming."

    Page 8 discusses that briefly. What would you suggest should be added?

    "Video cards: VR reviews should mention the current state of decent video cards at this time."

    We have written a lot about the current state of the graphics card market. I don't believe that has any place in a VR review because it's a temporary state of the market. Yes, it sucks to buy into VR right now because of GPU prices, but that doesn't affect the merit of the headset itself, nor the platform it runs on.

    "Controllers: The reference controller could be better ergonomically but they are not uncomfortable to use for long periods of time."

    Maybe for you, but my hands cramped up within 10 minutes of using them, and several people who tried it had similar complaints. Not everyone will have that problem, but the controllers were not designed in such a way that most people won't have problems.
    As for the Samsung controllers-- I haven't received a sample from Samsung yet, so I can't say much about that. I used Samsung's controllers for about 10 minutes and they are much better ergonomically.
  • Heliosurge
    Reguarding no integrated audio; have you considered one of the many wireless headset options? Many bluetooth ones also require no headband.

    Steam? Did you miss the "Early Access support" support in steam. Or the fact that if you are a steam user; we would see a new headset icon that represents WMR.

    Reviews usually go with suggested retail price not a retailer's sale. Now i do agree that a small addition mentioning that Amazon is having a sale on them.

    But all in all a great review!
  • Heliosurge
    Kevin

    While Intel's igpu peeformane was not good are you able to run some tests on Amd's Apus? Fm2+ & Ryzen Apus would be interesting if they yeild better results.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    It might be worth at least mentioning in the conclusion that it may be possible to find the headsets for well under retail.

    I get a magic Amazon link, showing their lowest price (currently $285) on several of the pages, if not all. Don't you? It's even directly below the verdict!
  • bit_user
    Thanks for the comprehensive review!

    Anonymous said:
    even as VR veterans, we don’t feel compelled to swap our triple-monitor array for an HMD

    I wonder if that was even their goal or, if it's as you say - to make limited use of 2D apps for the sake of convenience. Conventional apps, hardware, and GUIs have co-evolved for about 35 years. As long as you're doing something that's well-suited to a conventional desktop setup, it's hard for me to see how a VR version wouldn't be worse. Maybe not after another 5-10 years, but for the time being, I'll be using nice monitors for all things 2D.

    Maybe I missed it, but I'm wondering if Rift or Vive can be used with Windows MR software. Not that I really care, but it would be good to know... in case Win MR really takes off.

    Finally, is the controller tracking really on par with Rift and Vive? That's quite a feat, since it involves tracking the HMD in absolute space, then tracking the controller relative to the HMD. All errors in each stage should be compounded.
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    Finally, is the controller tracking really on par with Rift and Vive? That's quite a feat, since it involves tracking the HMD in absolute space, then tracking the controller relative to the HMD. All errors in each stage should be compounded.


    The Windows MR headsets all track relative to the headset. The controllers are the easiest thing to track, since they have LEDs and are a known shape.

    Unless they're outside the FOV of the tracking cameras of course. Which is why tracking is not on par with the Rift and Vive. As long as your hands are in view of the cameras (slightly wider FOV than what you see in the headset), tracking is fine, but if you try to reach over your shoulder it's not going to work. That means the majority of content is unaffected as you aren't making those motions, but there are some games that become unplayable because they rely on over-the-shoulder stuff.
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    I get a magic Amazon link, showing their lowest price (currently $285) on several of the pages, if not all. Don't you? It's even directly below the verdict!

    Actually, the Amazon links in the article list $399.99 for me. Perhaps that's due to something like a privacy extension interfering though.

    Seeing as the writer mentioned that the review had been written before Christmas, it's understandable that the conclusion might be based on pricing that might not be entirely accurate now, but that really brings up the question of why these reviews are getting posted so late. It was the same with the i3-8100 review, comparing prices as they stood months prior around the time of Coffee Lake's launch, instead of the prices as they stood at the time the review was published in mid January, which significantly affected the CPU's value relative to the other processors. They really should try to get their reviews out on a more timely basis, or at least update them based on current pricing at the time the article goes live.

    And yes, the product's MSRP is still technically $400. These discounts might just be retailers trying to offload them at lower prices once they found them to be slower sellers than expected.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Finally, is the controller tracking really on par with Rift and Vive? That's quite a feat, since it involves tracking the HMD in absolute space, then tracking the controller relative to the HMD. All errors in each stage should be compounded.


    The Windows MR headsets all track relative to the headset. The controllers are the easiest thing to track, since they have LEDs and are a known shape.

    Perhaps I wasn't clear. Let's say the controller represents a virtual gun. In order to know where it's aimed, the system must track it relative to world space. So, this means you've got to concatenate the transform from controller to HMD with the transform from HMD to world space.

    Anonymous said:
    Unless they're outside the FOV of the tracking cameras of course. Which is why tracking is not on par with the Rift and Vive. As long as your hands are in view of the cameras (slightly wider FOV than what you see in the headset), tracking is fine, but if you try to reach over your shoulder it's not going to work.

    Why not? Do you know this from experience with Windows MR? Why can't they put an IMU in the controller? It should track well enough, as long as you only require coarse gestures when it's occluded and it doesn't stay occluded for long. Once it's back in view, the camera can correct it.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    And yes, the product's MSRP is still technically $400. These discounts might just be retailers trying to offload them at lower prices once they found them to be slower sellers than expected.

    BTW, I totally predicted some deep discounts on Windows MR HMDs, in January. There's no way they were going to sell as many as I'm sure they'd hoped.

    Does anyone know if they can physically be connected to XBox One X? If so, then we're just a software update away...
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Finally, is the controller tracking really on par with Rift and Vive? That's quite a feat, since it involves tracking the HMD in absolute space, then tracking the controller relative to the HMD. All errors in each stage should be compounded.


    The Windows MR headsets all track relative to the headset. The controllers are the easiest thing to track, since they have LEDs and are a known shape.

    Perhaps I wasn't clear. Let's say the controller represents a virtual gun. In order to know where it's aimed, the system must track it relative to world space. So, this means you've got to concatenate the transform from controller to HMD with the transform from HMD to world space.

    Anonymous said:
    Unless they're outside the FOV of the tracking cameras of course. Which is why tracking is not on par with the Rift and Vive. As long as your hands are in view of the cameras (slightly wider FOV than what you see in the headset), tracking is fine, but if you try to reach over your shoulder it's not going to work.

    Why not? Do you know this from experience with Windows MR? Why can't they put an IMU in the controller? It should track well enough, as long as you only require coarse gestures when it's occluded and it doesn't stay occluded for long. Once it's back in view, the camera can correct it.


    But world space is relative to the headset, so to get the controllers right just requires tracking them compared to the headset. The hard part is tracking a floor that isn't LED-lit and might not be uniform, as well as whatever other objects might be in your play space.

    The Windows MR controllers default to rotational tracking when outside the tracked volume.
  • Dosflores
    Anonymous said:
    Does anyone know if they can physically be connected to XBox One X? If so, then we're just a software update away...


    The HMD can be physically connected, but you would need to disconnect your TV first. The controllers can't be connected because Xboxes don't support Bluetooth.

    If the Xbox One X ever gets VR support, it'll probably require new HMDs and controllers.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Finally, is the controller tracking really on par with Rift and Vive? That's quite a feat, since it involves tracking the HMD in absolute space, then tracking the controller relative to the HMD. All errors in each stage should be compounded.


    The Windows MR headsets all track relative to the headset. The controllers are the easiest thing to track, since they have LEDs and are a known shape.

    Perhaps I wasn't clear. Let's say the controller represents a virtual gun. In order to know where it's aimed, the system must track it relative to world space. So, this means you've got to concatenate the transform from controller to HMD with the transform from HMD to world space.


    But world space is relative to the headset, so to get the controllers right just requires tracking them compared to the headset. The hard part is tracking a floor that isn't LED-lit and might not be uniform, as well as whatever other objects might be in your play space.

    Sorry, there's no free lunch. The bad guys exist in world space, so they're still two transforms away from the controller.
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    The HMD can be physically connected, but you would need to disconnect your TV first. The controllers can't be connected because Xboxes don't support Bluetooth.

    If the Xbox One X ever gets VR support, it'll probably require new HMDs and controllers.

    All that would be required would be a pass-through box, just like the PSVR uses. The box could split the HDMI signal between the headset and TV, and also provide the Bluetooth connectivity via USB.