Apple Vision Pro review: first-generation headset falls short

Apple Vision Pro review: first-generation headset falls short
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Seventeen years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, a groundbreaking device that combined an iPod, a phone, and an internet browser into one. At $500, it was pricey, but its innovation justified the cost, despite some initial flaws.

Fast forward to today, and my experience with Apple’s new Vision Pro headset, priced at $3,500, has been less than stellar. This virtual reality headset, reminiscent of ski goggles, aims to blend the physical and digital worlds. Apple touts it as a “spatial computer” designed for work, entertainment, and gaming.

Without an early review unit from Apple, I bought the Vision Pro myself. Including essential add-ons like a $200 case, $180 AirPods, and $150 prescription lens inserts, the cost quickly escalates. After using it for five days, I remain unconvinced of its value.

The Vision Pro feels less polished than previous first-gen Apple products. It doesn’t outperform a traditional computer for work, and the games available are lackluster. One unique feature, video calls using a digital avatar, even scared children during a family FaceTime.

The headset does excel in video playback, offering high-definition movies and personal 3D recordings that make reliving past memories both eerie and fascinating. However, companies like Meta, HTC, and Sony have struggled to make headsets appealing to the general public, and the Vision Pro faces similar challenges.

While the Vision Pro offers a superior interface, better image quality, and more apps than its competitors, it’s heavier and relies on an external battery with just a two-hour life. Its ski goggle design is more stylish than past headsets, but users still look awkward wearing them.

A better interface

The Vision Pro stands out with an intuitive 3D interface controlled by eye and hand movements. Colleagues quickly adapted to it, finding it similar to using an iPhone. App icons appear in a grid, and selecting one involves a simple pinch gesture.

The Digital Crown knob allows users to switch between seeing the real world and focusing on digital content. While this feature is helpful, the headset still limits peripheral vision, causing me to forget about real-world tasks and occasionally stumble over obstacles.

Using the Vision Pro for productivity involves surrounding yourself with multiple apps, but this setup isn’t more efficient than a traditional computer. After about 15 minutes of juggling apps, I felt nauseous. Typing with the floating keyboard is tedious, and while a physical keyboard can be connected, it negates the headset’s portability.

The Vision Pro can mirror a Mac’s display, but there’s noticeable lag, and the instinct to use pinch gestures for control leads to frustration.

In the kitchen, using the headset to follow a recipe made me nauseous due to the movement. Apple advises taking breaks to prevent motion sickness, but the headset is most comfortable when used while seated.

Video calls and entertainment

For video calls, the Vision Pro’s 3D avatar feature is awkward and unflattering. My avatar resembled a low-quality studio portrait, and my family found it off-putting. Even young children were unsettled by the virtual representation.

However, the Vision Pro shines in video playback. Streaming movies through apps like Disney+ and Max provides a superior viewing experience compared to Meta’s headsets. The Vision Pro’s speakers deliver excellent sound, but the battery life is insufficient for most feature films, and extended use causes neck and eye strain.

While the Vision Pro can serve as a personal TV in specific scenarios, like on an airplane or in a small apartment, I prefer my flat-screen TV for shared viewing experiences.

The headset supports spatial video, allowing users to view 3D recordings. Despite some graininess, these videos are enjoyable, especially for reliving special moments.

Limited gaming and final thoughts

The Vision Pro’s game library is currently limited. While some new games like Blackbox offer novel experiences, they quickly lose their appeal. Meta’s Quest headsets, with their extensive game libraries, remain a better choice for VR gaming.

In conclusion, the Vision Pro is an impressive but incomplete first-gen product with significant issues. Its high cost and lack of clear purpose beyond being a luxury personal TV make it hard to recommend. The inability to easily share the headset with others highlights its isolationist design at a time when people seek to reconnect.

Ultimately, while the Vision Pro hints at potential, its current state leaves much to be desired.

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