Conclusion: An Excellent Laptop Companion
When we evaluated Acer’s headset, we didn’t realize the implications of using a laptop to power a Windows MR device. The HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift are both compatible with gaming laptops, so we took it for granted that the Windows MR experience would be comparable to the competition. We didn’t consider the simplicity of Microsoft’s platform in this context. After spending time with the Lenovo Explorer tethered to the Lenovo Y720 laptop, we realized that these devices make perfect companions.
If your gaming system is a mobile computer, you probably wouldn’t want to lug around a cumbersome VR system unless you had to. We’ve seen dozens of trade-show setups with Vives and Rifts, and they work well enough, but the setup can be ponderous, to the point that hauling a full desktop PC doesn’t amount to much extra effort, and it could produce better results.
With a Windows MR headset, hauling a full desktop around becomes a silly exercise. You may achieve somewhat better performance from a top-tier desktop, but you really can’t beat the simplicity of putting your laptop on the table, plugging in the headset, and being ready to go. Not only will this sort of setup be easier for trade-show environs, but we believe it would give people an incentive to bring it with them when they travel. And we can see the appeal of working in the Windows MR environment while on a business trip, where we might not have access to multiple desktop displays.
Lenovo’s Explorer Windows Mixed Reality Headset would make a good VR HMD for a first-time buyer. It has a lot going for it, such as the crisp display, its lightweight materials, and its compact size. And, of course, the ease of setup is an attractive feature. However, Acer’s device also enjoys most of those merits.
The build quality of Lenovo’s headset exceeds that of Acer’s device--marginally. We noticed a creaking sound when handling the Explorer, though it doesn’t feel like a toy in the way that Acer’s Windows MR headset does. The hinge system is also marginally better, though we still worry about it long-term.
We also worry about the wireless controllers that come with the Lenovo Explorer. We couldn’t understand how these controllers passed Microsoft’s standards and how Acer didn’t think it should improve the design. We’re doubly confused as to why Lenovo would make the same mistake. The wands feel cheap, and we experienced a minor failure in our short time with the controller. With controllers like this, Sixense might actually find a market for its STEM system, if it ever manages to release its long-awaited magnetic motion-controller platform.
Despite the headset’s shortcomings, we still think the Lenovo Explorer is worth looking at. Lenovo’s MSRP is $449, which (to our eyes) is too much when compared to the Rift with Touch controller at $399. But you can often find the Window MR headsets for much cheaper than the suggested price. A $100 discount, not unheard of for Windows MR headsets, would put this headset in a much more competitive position. If you don't have the money to shell out for a higher-end headset, Lenovo's Explorer would be a good introduction to the world of PC-connected VR.
MORE: Virtual Reality Basics