And although the Asus Mixed Reality Headset lacks some imagination in the name department, it seriously makes up for it where it matters, the design. Of all the Windows crop, which includes the Dell Visor and Lenovo Mirage, this is by far the most futuristic attractive.
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When announcing the device at IFA last week, the Taiwanese giant didn't specify a launch date. However, after we strapped the device on and went through a demo, a rep from Asus told Wareable the device now won't launch until Q1 of next year. Disappointing.
So while you'll have to wait in order to pick it up, we went under the headset to see just what Asus has cooking.
Asus Mixed Reality Headset: Design
As we've already mentioned, the design here will be the biggest pull for those looking to take a dive into the world of Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
In order to add its own touch to the headset — which are all identical in terms of performance — Asus has added a matte, polygonal 3D cover panel to the front of the headset. The two external cameras sit on either side to give you the look of having VR camera eyes, while this also helps support six degrees of freedom tracking without sensors. However, despite the Windows 'Mixed Reality' moniker, Asus told us that there are no plans yet to move past this initial VR stage.
Let's be honest, it's pretty hard for anyone to look good in a VR headset, but the futuristic Asus MR headset gives you the best chance. And not only this, but it also sits extremely well and comfortably on the head — no surprise when it weighs just 400g.
The adjustable strap is located on the back of the headset, which can be a bit of a struggle to negotiate when wearing the device, but the visor's flexibility is a nice touch — it made talking with people a much simpler process without having to take the headset off. We imagine it will be just as useful when interacting with a group of friends.
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Something that's also geared towards group use is the materials used on the inside. Asus claims the inner band is made from quick-drying materials to combat those who get the VR sweats (gross), though we'll wait for a more extended play through to see whether this genuinely offers something different to its other comfy rivals.
And as a quick note on the Windows MR controllers: the design is the same being used throughout the range, and we found them to be comfortable and responsive throughout. In essence, these look like Oculus Touch but operate more like the HTC Vive's controllers.
Asus Mixed Reality Headset: Gameplay
Let's get the specs out of the way first, seeing as though they're the same as the rest of the Windows Mixed Reality litter. The device offers two 1440 x 1440 displays with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 95 degree field of view, and offers inside-out tracking to avoid too many wires and sensors knocking.
During our demo, we worked through a version of the device's home screen in order to get to grips with the point and click movement available through the two in-hand controllers. Essentially, to move around an area, you point the controller in a direction and create a rainbow, then trigger when you want to teleport over. This felt a little finicky and square-moving, but it's not yet clear how big a factor this will be in more expansive scenes and if different methods will make use of the controllers output.
Quickly we were able to jump into a demo game, Space Pirates, which showed off some of the software capabilities. Although it's a simple game, some nice touches — such as reaching to your back with a controller to change weapon or deflecting laser beams with a held shield — felt responsive and intuitive. Peeking your head over the shield to shoot at enemy bots also worked well, and is a good sign that the inside-out tracking is well on its way to being ready for more titles.
Still, there were also some indications that there's some software issues to iron out before release. We found that grabbing things in the dashboard playground was essentially unworkable, while some jitters plagued a couple of 360-degree videos we tried to view.
Asus Mixed Reality Headset: Initial verdict
It's difficult to glean every aspect of a headset when only running through a brief demo, but the key takeaway here is that there's a reason the Asus Mixed Reality headset isn't launching alongside its brethren and in time for Christmas; it simply isn't ready from a software perspective.
That's not to say there aren't some positives here. The one game we did try out was fun and fluid and bodes well for other titles. With several to choose from within the Windows headset stable, it's worth reiterating that this is the best looking headset, if that kind of thing is important to you.
The big question for Asus now becomes how much it's hurt by launching after its rivals and holding a high price tag (the bundle will cost €449, which translates to roughly $535). We look forward to a more thorough play through next year, so check back to see our full review.
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