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Apple Vision Pro review: The first headset lacks polish and purpose

Apple Vision Pro review: The first headset lacks polish and purpose

Nearly 17 years ago, Steve Jobs took the stage at the San Francisco Convention Center and said he was introducing three products: an iPod, a phone, and an Internet browser.

“These are not three different tools,” he said. “It's a device, and we're calling it the iPhone.”

At $500, the first iPhone was relatively expensive, but I was eager to ditch my ordinary Motorola flip phone and spend the money. It had flaws – including slow cellular Internet speeds. But the iPhone delivered on its promises.

Over the past week, I've had a very different experience with Apple's new first-generation product: the Vision Pro, a virtual reality headset that resembles a pair of ski goggles. The $3,500 wearable computer, which was released Friday, uses cameras so you can see the outside world while syncing with apps and video.

Apple calls it a “spatial computer” that connects the physical and digital worlds together for people to work, watch movies, and play games.

Apple declined to provide an early review unit to The New York Times, so I bought a Vision Pro on Friday. (It costs more than the $3,500 with add-ons that many would like, including a $200 carrying case, $180 AirPods, and a $100 prescription lens insert for people who wear glasses.) That's about five days of use. After all, I'm not sure people will get much value from it.

The device feels less polished than previous first-generation Apple products I've used. It's no better than a computer for work, and the games I've tried so far aren't any fun, making it hard to recommend. One key feature – the ability to make video calls with a human digital avatar that resembles the wearer – doesn't stop a scared child during a family FaceTime call.

The headset is fantastic at delivering on one of its promises: playing videos, including high-definition movies and your own recordings in 3-D that lets you take a trip down memory lane, which is both awesome and nice.

Over the past decade, companies like Meta, HTC, and Sony have struggled to sell headsets to mainstream consumers because their products were cumbersome to wear, their apps were limited, and they looked clumsy.

The Vision Pro has a better user interface, better picture quality, more apps, and higher computing power than other headsets. But it's a little heavier than Meta's cheaper Quest headset, and it plugs into an external plug. battery pack Which lasts only for two hours.

The ski-goggle aesthetic of the Apple product looks better than the bulky plastic headset visors of the past. But videos posted by early adopters wander around The men out with the headsets — whom I call the Vision Brothers — confirm that people still look ridiculous wearing tech glasses, even if they're designed by Apple.

The Vision Pro is miles ahead of other headsets I've tested in creating an immersive 3-D interface simple for users to control with their eyes and hands. I let four coworkers wear the headset at the office and watched as they all learned how to use it in a matter of seconds.

This is because it is familiar to everyone who has an iPhone or a similar smartphone. You will see a grid of app icons. Viewing an app is equivalent to hovering over it with a mouse cursor; To click it, you tap your thumb and index finger together, giving a quick pinch. The pinch gesture can also be used to move around and expand windows.

The Vision Pro includes a knob called the Digital Crown. Turning it counterclockwise lets you see the real world in the background while keeping your apps' digital windows in the foreground. Rotating it clockwise hides the real world with an opaque background.

I liked seeing physical reality most of the time, but I still felt isolated. The headset cuts off part of your circumference, creating a binocular effect. I admit that sometimes it was hard to remember to walk my dogs because I didn't see them or hear them crying, and in another session, I slumped over a stool. An Apple spokesperson referred to the Vision Pro's security guidelines, which Advise users to overcome obstacles,

When using the headset for work, you might surround yourself with multiple floating apps — for example, your spreadsheet might be in the center, a Notes app on your right, and a browser on your left. It is a 3-D version of Windows juggling on a computer screen. As neat as it sounds, pinching floating screens doesn't make things any more efficient since you have to keep turning your head to see them.

I couldn't work for more than 15 minutes between the Notes app, the browser, and the Microsoft Word app before feeling nauseous.

The least enjoyable part of the Vision Pro is typing with its floating keyboard, which requires poking one key at a time. I had planned to write this review with the headset on before realizing I wouldn't be able to make my deadline.

There is an option to connect a physical keyboard, but at that point I would prefer to use a laptop that doesn't burden my face.

Vision Pro can also work with Mac computers, where you can mirror the screen to the headset as a virtual window that can be expanded like a larger display. In my tests, there was consistent lag—each keystroke took literally a fraction of a second to register, and the mouse cursor moved slowly. I also intuitively wanted to control the Mac by pinch, even though it wasn't set up to work that way, which was frustrating.

Next I tried out the headset in the kitchen and loaded a pizza recipe in a web browser while measuring ingredients. Moving around while looking into the camera made me feel nauseous again and I had to remove the headset. The Vision Pro is most comfortable to use while sitting. Apple advises people to take breaks to reduce motion sickness.

Video calling is now an essential part of office life, and here the Vision Pro is notably inferior to laptops with cameras. The headset uses its camera to capture photos of your face, which are stitched into a 3-D avatar called a Persona, which Apple has labeled a “beta” feature because it is incomplete.

Personas are so bad that people would be embarrassed to use them in a work call. The Vision Pro produced an unpleasant portrait of me with bare cheeks and blurry ears. In a FaceTime call with my in-laws, they said the blurriness gave off 1980s studio portrait vibes.

One of my nieces, 3 years old, turned around and walked away when she saw virtual Uncle Brian. The other, a 7-year-old girl, hid behind her father and whispered in his ear, “He looks fake.”

Video is where the Vision Pro shines. When streaming movies through apps like Disney+ and Max, you can press the corner of the video and drag to expand it to the jumbo high-resolution TV; Some movies, such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Avatar 2” can be watched in 3-D. The picture looks brighter and clearer than the quality of Meta's Quest products. The audio quality on the Apple headset is excellent, but the speakers are loud, so you'll need AirPods if you want to use them in public places.

The headset's two-hour battery life isn't enough for most feature-length movies, but in my experience, this proved moot as I couldn't watch movies for more than 20 to 30 minutes before needing to rest. Neck and eyes from heavy headset.

(a warning: Netflix and YouTube Apps Not available on Vision Pro, but their websites work fine for streaming content.)

I prefer watching movies on my flat-screen TV because it can be shared, but there are also scenarios where a headset would be useful as a personal television, such as in a small apartment or on an airplane, or on the couch. But when someone else is watching a TV show you want to watch.

Videos shot on the iPhone 15 Pro camera or with the Vision Pro's cameras can be viewed in 3-D on the headset, a feature called Spatial Video. While watching videos of my dogs eating snacks at home, I could reach over and pretend to pet them. The videos looked grainy but were enjoyable.

There aren't many games made for the headset yet. I tried some of the new Vision Pro games, like Blackbox, which involve moving around in a 3-D environment to pop bubbles and solve puzzles. It looked cool, but after the novelty wore off, I lost interest. It's hard to recommend the Vision Pro for virtual-reality gaming Meta's $250 Quest 2 And the $500 Quest 3 headset has a deep library of games.

Vision Pro is the start of something – actually, I'm not sure.

But the purpose of a product review is to evaluate the here and now. In its current state, the Vision Pro is an impressive but incomplete first-generation product with problems and big trade-offs. Apart from being a fancy personal TV, it lacks purpose.

What stands out to me about the Vision Pro is how difficult it is for such an expensive computer to share a headset with others. There is a guest mode, but no ability to create profiles for different family members to load their own apps and videos.

So this is a computer for people to use alone, coming at a time when we're trying to reconnect after years of hidden solitude. That may be the Vision Pro's biggest blind spot.



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