Microsoft's Mixed Reality platform is taking shape, with Asus and HP having made their headsets available as development kits, and confirmation that SteamVR content will run across all the systems. We also now know Dell's Visor headset will be available 17 October, priced at $359.99 - or $459.99 if bundled with Microsoft's MR controllers.
I got to try the headset on at a press event this month, and while what I saw inside the helmet was similar to what we saw when we tried the Acer HMD, the headset itself was different. An enthused Dell rep demonstrated in great detail how much effort had gone into the design of the Visor, and by the end of my demo I had to admit it was the most comfortable VR headset I've so far tried on.
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The trick, you see, is all in the weight distribution. At 0.59kg it weighs more than the offerings from Asus and Lenovo, the weight is spread so that you don't get the feeling of it bearing down on your face. There's cushioning all around the inside too, and Dell has also made it very easy to adjust with a scrolling wheel on the back to tighten/loosen the strap.
Meanwhile the front of the headset can be easily flipped up any time you need to snap back to reality for a brief moment. While the PlayStation VR doesn't let you do the same, the Dell is most visually similar to Sony's virtual reality HMD.
Also, extra points for running the cable down the back of the headset and not the side, Dell. Good thinking.
Inside the goggles are two 1440 x 1440 LCD screens, while on the front is a pair of cameras for room positioning, which also happen to make you look like some type of cyber-bug. The Dell headset offers a 110-degree field of view, which isn't up to the Vive, but better than what you'll get on a smartphone VR headset.
Sadly I was told there are no plans for the passthrough cameras to show the outside world. For now, Microsoft's Mixed Reality is really just VR, with a neat trick of booting up your computer's desktop inside the Cliff House virtual space.
I also got to test out Microsoft's MR wand controls, which look like Oculus Touch but operate more like the HTC Vive's controllers. I managed approximately three minutes of Cliff House with the wands before the entire thing crashed. It was a fleeting demo, but enough to see everything running smoothly together (for a moment). Without the external cameras, I'll be interested to see how well the Visor can keep a track on the controllers.
One of the biggest upper hands Dell has here is the ease of setup. With no external sensors to calibrate, getting the Visor up and running is just a matter of a few clicks.
While $359.99 isn't a bad price point for Dell to come in at, remember that both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have had price cuts of late, bringing them down to $499 and $599 respectively. The smaller margin to move up to the Rift may be worth it for some, though Mixed Reality has a lower entry point on the necessary PC specs.
It depends whether you want the most premium VR you can get your hands on/access to the Oculus ecosystem of exclusives, but Dell's VR is not to be sniffed at. The bigger question is whether it can stand out from the litany of other Windows MR systems. If it's a competition of comfort, I know who my money's on.
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