Microsoft's mixed reality concept sounds good. Who wouldn't want an infinitely customizable workspace where you can place apps wherever they're most convenient to access? You'd think that removing the restriction of a fixed display would be liberating. However, we found that using a 3D environment for 2D tasks was more difficult than a traditional monitor. With just four apps open, we found ourselves surrounded, which made the virtual space feel claustrophobic. When headsets sport resolutions that make small windows practical to read, Microsoft’s virtual environment will likely be much more compelling.
Working in mixed reality isn't terrible, it’s just impractical. The more time we spent in Microsoft's 3D environment, the more we got used to its limitations. However, even as VR veterans, we don’t feel compelled to swap our triple-monitor array for an HMD.
From a hardware perspective, there’s a lot to like about Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality Headset. In some respects, it’s a better device than the Rift or Vive. Acer’s headset is light, comfortable enough for moderate use, and capable of producing a crisp, clear image. We're also impressed by the inside-out tracking system's fidelity. It's spot-on, and as long as the controllers are in view, they track just as well as the Vive wands or Touch controllers.
However, we’re not impressed with the build quality of critical wear points, such as the visor’s hinge. Its construction seems questionable, and we believe it'll break long before it should. The controllers also have us concerned about their longevity. Let's be honest: when you’re fully immersed in a virtual space, accidents happen. We already see signs of wear with one controller's battery cover. These things just weren't built to last.
We would also have preferred a replaceable cable. We’ve already damaged the cable from one Vive, and our Rift's cable is showing signs of wear. With either of those HMDs, you can order a replacement if the existing cable breaks. Given Acer's design, though, if the cable gets damaged, the whole headset has to go back to Acer for repair.
The shortcomings of Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality Headset would be easier to overlook if the hardware was less expensive. Indeed, when Acer announced its pricing, the WMR Headset seemed like it'd be the most affordable option out there. But Oculus crushed Acer’s advantage days before it started shipping by slashing the price of a Rift with Touch controllers to $400—the same price as Acer’s device.
If Acer’s headset was $100 cheaper than the Rift, it would be a tremendous value. However, we cannot recommend the WMR Headset over the Oculus Rift at a similar price point. Acer's advantages (a higher display resolution and no external sensors) do not make up for Oculus' superior build quality and bundled content.
MORE: Virtual Reality Basics