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Apple Vision Pro

Should You Buy the Vision Pro?

Priced at $3,500, the Vision Pro proves to be overly expensive for the majority of consumers. Reviews suggest that integrating it into an existing workflow poses challenges. While it excels in functions like movie watching, 3D video viewing, and serving as a Mac display, many users struggle to find practical day-to-day applications for it.

Weighing over 1.3 pounds, the Vision Pro is notably heavy, leading to a quick onset of fatigue. Despite offering two band options, prolonged wear proves difficult for some individuals. Additionally, managing the external battery pack and its lack of portability, especially with Apple’s designated Travel Case, further complicates its usability during travel.

Undoubtedly, the Vision Pro stands as Apple’s pinnacle of technical advancement, showcasing impressive engineering upon initial inspection. However, prospective buyers are advised to test it firsthand at an Apple Store and conduct thorough research on its functionalities before committing to a purchase.

Given that Apple won’t release a new version of the Vision Pro for at least another year and a half, now is an opportune moment to purchase the headset solely based on its launch timeline. Anticipated updates aren’t projected until late 2025 at the earliest.

Apple Vision Pro

The Apple Vision Pro represents Apple’s foray into augmented and virtual reality headsets, a project that has been in development for over a decade. This device marks the company’s significant entry into a new product category, the first since the release of the Apple Watch in 2015. Unveiled at WWDC 2023 in June, pre-orders for the Vision Pro commenced on January 19 at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time, with the official launch taking place on February 2.

While commonly referred to as a headset, Apple distinguishes its device by labeling it a “spatial computer” due to its unique capability to merge digital content seamlessly with the physical environment. Positioned as the inaugural spatial computing device by Apple, the Vision Pro operates as a mixed reality headset, presenting augmented reality content superimposed onto the real world alongside immersive virtual content. It’s important to note that the headset does not offer a see-through experience; all visuals are digital. For augmented reality content that preserves the user’s surroundings, Apple employs cameras to capture and map the environment, integrating virtual elements into the digital image.

To facilitate a virtual reality experience, Apple deactivates the onboard cameras, enabling users to feel completely detached from their surroundings, thus directing their full attention to the content displayed on the headset’s screens. This transition between the “real” environment and the “immersive” experience is managed through an on-device Digital Crown.

In terms of design, the Apple Vision Pro resembles ski goggles, characterized by a unified piece of laminated glass at the front that seamlessly integrates into an aluminum alloy frame. A snug and flexible Light Seal attaches magnetically to the frame, conforming to the user’s face to effectively block out external light sources.

The Apple Vision Pro features Two Audio Straps equipped with built-in speakers positioned on either side of the headset, delivering Spatial Audio that seamlessly blends audio from the headset with ambient sounds from the real world. These Audio Straps are connected to a 3D knitted headband designed by Apple for breathability, cushioning, and stretchiness to enhance comfort during extended use. A Fit Dial ensures a snug fit of the headset against the user’s head, while a dual-strap design evenly distributes weight between the back and top of the head. Apple plans to offer Light Seals and headbands in various sizes, allowing users to customize these components to their preferences.

Internally, the headset houses two micro-OLED displays, each delivering over 4K resolution to each eye, resulting in a total of 23 million pixels for an immersive visual experience. Additionally, an external display named EyeSight projects an image of the user’s eyes, allowing others to discern whether the wearer is engaged in an immersive experience or remains aware of their surroundings. For users who wear glasses, Apple offers custom prescription Zeiss Optical Inserts that can be magnetically attached to the headset’s lenses for enhanced clarity.

The Apple Vision Pro operates without traditional controllers, instead relying on eye tracking, hand gestures, and voice commands for navigation and control. Users can select and open apps by looking at them and then tapping their fingers, while scrolling is accomplished with a simple flick of the fingers.

Equipped with over a dozen cameras and sensors, the Vision Pro maps the user’s surroundings and tracks their hand and eye movements. Optic ID, a feature utilizing infrared lights and cameras to scan the user’s iris, provides authentication similar to Face ID and Touch ID. This technology enables unlocking the device, making purchases, and serving as a password replacement, leveraging the uniqueness of each individual’s iris pattern.

Internally, the Vision Pro houses two Apple silicon chips, including the M2 chip found in Macs and a new R1 chip. The M2 chip powers the visionOS, executes computer vision algorithms, and handles graphics processing, while the R1 chip manages input from the device’s cameras, sensors, and microphones.

With a built-in camera, users can capture 3D photos and videos by tapping on the top button of the device. Apple promises an immersive experience for reliving these memories, along with the ability to view existing photos and videos in large scale for added immersion. Notably, when recording video, the Vision Pro indicates that recording is in progress through an animation displayed on the external screen.

Due to weight constraints, Apple did not put a battery in Apple Vision Pro. Instead, it can be powered by a braided cable that is attached to a battery pack worn at the hip or plugged into an adapter. The battery pack offers up to 2.5 hours of battery life on a single charge.

With the Apple Vision Pro, content is projected into the space around you, allowing you to position apps and windows in mid-air and rearrange them as desired, supporting multiple windows simultaneously. Apple describes this as an “infinite canvas” for organizing your workspace. Apps can be displayed within your physical environment to maintain awareness of your surroundings, or you can opt for a more immersive experience by placing content on a virtual background known as an Environment.

Running on the visionOS operating system, the Apple Vision Pro has its own dedicated App Store featuring applications optimized for the device, while also being capable of running iPhone and iPad apps. Additionally, it can be connected to a Mac, functioning as an external display. Text input and control can be facilitated through Bluetooth accessories, virtual typing, or dictation.

The main Home View hosts familiar Apple apps such as Mail, Messages, Music, Safari, and Photos, with data synced across devices via iCloud. The interface resembles that of an iPhone, allowing users to open and organize apps virtually. Apple is updating its core apps for visionOS and has provided APIs to developers, along with distributing Vision Pro test kits for app development and testing. For entertainment, the Apple Vision Pro offers an immersive experience with features such as the Apple TV app providing over 150 3D titles at launch. Content can be expanded to create a personalized theater-like environment, complete with spatial audio for an enhanced viewing experience.

FaceTime has been specifically redesigned for the Apple Vision Pro. During calls, participants appear as large tiles to the wearer, while the wearer’s own representation is displayed as an accurate digital recreation using their Digital Persona. This feature allows for collaborative document editing and app sharing, with spatial audio enhancing the clarity of speakers.

The Cinema Environment offers users the ability to watch shows and movies at the original frame rate and aspect ratio set by creators. Alternatively, users can immerse themselves in a nature-themed Environment, where the screen can feel as expansive as 100 feet wide. Apple has also introduced Apple Immersive Videos, 180-degree 3D 8K recordings that provide users with an immersive viewing experience. Streaming services like Apple TV+ and Disney+ are accessible on the Vision Pro for content consumption. In terms of gaming, Vision Pro supports Apple Arcade, offering access to 100 iPad games at launch. Gaming experiences can be enhanced with Bluetooth game controllers that connect directly to the headset.

Apple Vision Pro is priced starting at $3,499 and it launched on February 2, 2024. It is currently only available in the United States, with Apple accepting orders both online and in retail stores.

How to Buy

The Vision Pro is available in U.S. retail stores and for purchase from the U.S. online store. Apple is providing demonstrations in all of its Apple retail locations.

Pricing starts at $3,500 for 256GB of storage space. The ordering process requires a Face ID scan to help customers determine the correct Light Seal and head band fit.

Zeiss reading lenses for the Vision Pro cost an additional $99, while custom prescription lens inserts are priced at $149. A valid unexpired prescription from a U.S. eye care professional will need to be uploaded after purchase in order to get custom prescription lens inserts.

What’s in the Box

The Vision Pro ships with two bands, the Solo Knit Band and the Dual Loop Band. It also comes with a Light Seal, two Light Seal Cushions in different sizes, an Apple Vision Pro Cover for when the headset is not in use, a Polishing Cloth, a battery, a USB-C charging cable, and a USB-C power adapter.

Apple Vision Pro Cloth and Cover Feature

Additional Countries

Rumors suggest that the Vision Pro will launch in China “no later than May,” with other countries to follow before the end of the year. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that Apple is aiming to expand Vision Pro availability before WWDC in June.

Vision Pro Reviews

Overall, reviews for the Vision Pro are mixed. While reviewers are generally impressed with the hardware and the technological advancements of the device, there are concerns regarding its practical functionality, the intuitiveness of gesture-based controls, the weight and comfort of the headset, and the broader effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) experiences in general.

The Verge‘s Nilay Patel offers one of the best Vision Pro overviews. He said it is clear that Apple has the absolute best hardware introduced in a VR headset to date, but there are still major tradeoffs to deal with. Patel found the Vision Pro uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, and was not a fan of the fit because of its impact on hair and makeup.

He found the Vision Pro to be isolating, and said that the “in there” experience of VR did not come close to the “out there” experience of working in the real world with external devices like the Mac. “You’re in there, having experiences all by yourself that no one else can take part in,” Patel wrote. “I’ve come to agree with what Tim Cook has been saying for so long: headsets are inherently isolating.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern said that the hand gestures captured by cameras in the headset were intuitive, and that navigation made sense. But sometimes the eye tracking didn’t respond to movement, and Patel said he found it distracting to have to be looking at what he wanted to manipulate because that’s not the experience on a Mac or an iPhone.

The virtual in-the-air keyboard “will drive you mad for anything longer than a short message,” according to Stern. To do any “real work,” users will need a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Reviewers universally criticized the EyeSight external display, deeming it blurry, unrealistic, and difficult to perceive, with some even finding it unsettling. Similarly, the reception towards Personas was negative, with reviewers noting inaccuracies in representation and an eerie quality that bordered on the uncanny valley.

In contrast, Apple’s internal microOLED displays received better feedback, with reviewers applauding their quality, sharpness, and minimal latency, particularly for tasks like movie-watching and productivity. However, some reviewers observed limitations in color range and noted vignetting at the sides of the display due to the device’s shape.

Motion blur was also reported, and the cameras were found to be less effective in low-light conditions, resulting in blurry text and images. This issue becomes particularly problematic in augmented reality mode, where the cameras provide a live feed of the wearer’s surroundings. While considered the best video passthrough device to date by some reviewers, it still falls short of replicating the clarity of the real world.

Reviewers expressed disappointment with the lack of standout app experiences or VR games on the Vision Pro. However, they were impressed with the ability to position windows of various sizes anywhere in their surroundings. Despite this, window management was deemed unintuitive. While the Vision Pro can serve as a display for a Mac, users can only set up a single Mac display in visionOS, rather than having a setup resembling multiple Mac monitors.

Scott Stein from CNET noted the absence of seamless blending between virtual and real elements in apps or environments, despite Apple’s emphasis on AR. He remarked on the missed opportunity for virtual objects to interact with real-world furniture or surfaces, a capability already present in Apple’s ARKit on iOS.

Reviewers generally agreed that watching TV and movies was one of the most compelling uses for the Vision Pro. However, opinions were mixed regarding Apple’s 3D content. While some found it impressive, others had more reserved reactions.

Reviewers, including Stern and Patel, reported experiencing nausea while watching Apple’s 3D 180-degree videos on the Vision Pro. Patel also noted that spatial videos and content with significant motion could induce nausea. While acknowledging the impressive appearance of the videos, Stein expressed concerns about the frame rate and resolution, stating that they didn’t feel high-quality enough to achieve ultra-realistic visuals.

Regarding audio, reviewers found that the speakers provided decent sound quality but lacked isolation, meaning others nearby could hear the audio from the headset. Despite the presence of cameras for capturing photos and videos, the quality was deemed insufficient by Stein, who stated he wouldn’t use the Vision Pro for such purposes.

Battery life was generally acceptable, with most tests indicating a duration of slightly over two hours, consistent with Apple’s specifications. Given its primarily seated usage, reviewers didn’t find the battery life to be a significant concern.

In sum, reviewers characterized the Vision Pro as a clear first-generation product, showcasing some potential for future AR and VR technology advancements. While it demonstrates promise, there’s an expectation that Apple will refine and improve subsequent iterations to deliver a more compelling and polished device.

As the Vision Pro is a niche product, reviewers did not recommend the Vision Pro to the average consumer, and said that most people will not want to spend the $3,500 on it. “The Vision Pro isn’t a device I’d recommend to any of my friends or family,” said Stein.

More of reviewers’ initial thoughts on the Vision Pro can be found in our review roundup.

Issues

Some Vision Pro headsets have developed a vertical hairline crack in the middle of the front cover glass, with the crack located above the nose bridge. Reports suggest that these cracks have appeared without the Vision Pro being dropped, and there are enough of the cracks to suggest a hardware manufacturing issue.


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