​Lenovo Explorer first look: Lightweight headset joins Windows Mixed Reality party

IFA 2017: Team Windows is growing fast
​Lenovo Explorer first look

The Lenovo Explorer is the official name for its Windows Mixed Reality headset, as momentum grows behind Microsoft's VR play. Lenovo joins Dell and Asus in unveiling headsets at IFA 2017,

And it looks as if Microsoft has its hardware partners on a relatively short leash. The Lenovo Explorer is a decent piece of hardware, but many of its most impressive aspects also feature across its competitors, as Microsoft looks to build a standard across the hardware spectrum.

Essential reading: Best VR headsets

Let's start with the headset itself. A black plastic affair, the focus – Lenovo told us – is on weight. It's the "lightest mixed reality device around this holiday season" a Lenovo spokesman told Wareable, and at 380g (Asus weighs 400g, the Dell a whopping 589g), he has a point.

Lenovo Explorer first look: Lightweight headset joins Windows Mixed Reality party

The inside is adorned in a stiff foam for a snug fit which also lets air circulate, and the front flips up, making it easier for those who wear glasses, and easier to interact with people than taking the headset on and off to speak.

Under the hood are two 2.89-inch, 1400 x 1400 LCD panels, one for each eye, which matches the Asus and Dell headsets pixel for pixel. It offers a 110 degree field of view, which beats phone systems like the Samsung Gear VR (90 degrees) but pales in comparison to market leading HTC Vive (145 degrees).

The Lenovo also dispenses with the need for room scale, placing a pair of cameras on the front of the device, which works out your position in the room. This enables the user to move about within virtual spaces – at least as far as the 4 metre cable will allow.

Lenovo Explorer first look: Lightweight headset joins Windows Mixed Reality party

And just like its stablemates in the Windows Mixed Reality homestead, the Lenovo Explorer comes with a pair of 6-degrees-of-freedom controllers, both complete with joystick, trigger button and a Windows button built in.

We were offered a few demos, with extremely limited functionality. However, it gave us a good idea about what the Lenovo Explorer was about. First, the weight reduction makes a huge difference compared to the Oculus and HTC Vive, and perhaps makes a big stride forward to more comfortable gaming. The visuals weren't exactly jaw-dropping, but we didn't experience much lag.

Lenovo Explorer first look: Lightweight headset joins Windows Mixed Reality party

What it shows is that Windows Mixed Reality has the power to be the real deal. The neat room tracking solutions, tight grasp on hardware experiences and the power to tap into Windows and SteamVR applications has again widened the opportunity for people to access top quality VR experiences.

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