Hands on with Xreal Air 2 Ultra -- The would-be Apple Vision Pro competitor

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in Apple Vision Pro

As Apple Vision Pro prepares to launch, competitors are lining up to capitalize on its massive price tag. That includes Xreal who had its latest wearable on hand to demo at CES, where we got to try it out.

The Xreal Air 2 Ultra mixed reality glasses
The Xreal Air 2 Ultra mixed reality glasses



Apple stole the show at CES 2024 -- without even being there. Apple Vision Pro is up for preorder on January 19, with shipping beginning only a week later.

It's the topic everyone discussed, but its $3,500 price tag will surely put it out of reach for most users. That's where devices like the Xreal Air 2 Ultra come in to play that are much more affordable.

The Xreal Air 2 Ultra boasts many impressive-sounding features and in many ways, it does seem like a viable alternative to Apple's first spatial computer.

Xreal Air 2 Ultra: Hands-on with the new hardware



We've tested other models of the Xreal glasses and were generally impressed with their performance at such a low cost. The Air 2 Ultra looks even better.

Showing the sensors inside the glasses
Showing the sensors and screens inside the glasses



These new glasses bring back 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) for movement, 120Hz refresh rate on the dual micro OLED 1080p panels, and increased field of view to 52 degrees from 46.

The extra hardware, though, did increase the weight just a little. To help keep that weight down, Xreal uses a new titanium frame that looks sleek and premium around the lenses.

Holding the Xreal Air 2 Ultra
Holding the Xreal Air 2 Ultra



Finally, two front-facing 3D sensors are for both environment and hand tracking. They're hidden and not readily apparent when someone looks at you.

Titanium frames of the Xreal Air 2 Ultra
Titanium frames of the Xreal Air 2 Ultra



They still plug in over USB-C, which routes out of the left arm and can run to whichever source you're using, be it an iPhone, a Mac, or something else.

Xreal Air 2 Ultra: Demoing the new glasses



Several dummy experiences were running on Xreal Air 2 Ultra. In one, you had a workspace running full of widgets, media players, image viewers, and more running together.

Visualizing what you see in the glasses
Visualizing what you see in the glasses



A secondary one was more about media and experiences. You could be taken to a snowy landscape with floating data points of the weather or a movie theater to watch a series of 3D films.

The third was about hand tracking, where you could pick up a little tile with several different bugs crawling around on top of it. It was very creepy and realistic with very minimal movement.

Work environment inside Xreal Air 2 Ultra
Work environment inside Xreal Air 2 Ultra



There were minor physical interactions with these, though there was some brand of smart light in the corner that you could control. Just looking at it brought up an adjustment slider where I could pinch and drag to change the light.

The pinching was a little funky and it was tough to select the exact hue I was going for, but it was a very natural feeling interaction.




At another station, the glasses connected to a PC. It extended the desktop, giving me multiple viewing options from the laptop screen below to the extended screen in the air.

This is one of the features we are looking forward to using Vision Pro for, so it was a great demo to try.

I could look around while the virtual display was stationary, and I instantly felt I'd be able to be much more productive without the need for a physical monitor.

All of these demos were carefully curated, but faltered at times. During one, it mirrored the virtual experience to a notebook so we could see what the wearer saw.

Xreal Air 2 Ultra logo inside the right arm piece
Xreal Air 2 Ultra logo inside the right arm piece



This demo froze, requiring a restart of the PC to get it going again. That said, the glasses never stuttered and were working the whole time.

Xreal Air 2 Ultra: Compared to Vision Pro



To put it bluntly, in terms of quality, Xreal Air 2 Ultra is in no way comparable to Apple Vision Pro. Yes, many features overlap but Apple has packed an insane amount of technology into Vision Pro to make it the best possible spatial computer on the market.

Despite the overlap in features, Vision Pro is unquestionably the better-performing headset. But again, it's five times the price.

If Apple Vision Pro is out of your price range, something like the Air 2 Ultra is a passable alternative. The demo was impressive, the movies looked fantastic, and you could still extend your workspace when connected to a computer to get work done.

Xreal does need one thing, though, to be more successful -- and that's developer support. The Air 2 Ultra is geared towards developers who need to build out the ecosystem before they can take off.

You could say 3D movies are a good example. There's not much of a digital marketplace at the moment to find them.

Apple Vision Pro headset
Apple Vision Pro headset



They're standard side-by-side stereoscopic 3D movies, but the most common method of getting them digital is to own the Blu-ray copy and rip them to your computer manually. That's quite a hassle.

Xreal is bullish though and if the interest at its booth is anything to go by, many are excited about what's to come.

Until then, Apple Vision Pro is still arguably without a direct competitor.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,341member
    Very interesting to know about alternatives, particularly one that is a) cheaper and b) just (augmented) sunglasses in styling.

    I could see a product like this doing well for people who would like to try out “spatial entertainment” (as seems to be its focus) without having to spring for a Vision Pro, which at least for now seems more oriented around work/productivity uses.

    This is still something you’d want to wear at home or office rather than out on the street but it seemingly does the basic job. Nice to see other companies recognizing that wearables have an even brighter future than we first thought.
    dewmejony0
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Nobody will ever call an Apple Vision Pro user a Glasshole. But this Xreal device is basically Google Glass. 
    9secondkox2
  • Reply 3 of 17
    Nonsense- “competing” with Apple is not just about tech specs. When there is a robust developer network, app ecosystem with millions of ready to go iPad apps, and AppleCare level support maybe. But on specs alone, who cares?
    dewme
  • Reply 4 of 17
    Just wondering how many products would carry the moniker „Air“ without Apple using it. 
  • Reply 5 of 17
    I don't think xReal is trying to be a competitor to Vision Pro.  For one thing, the first version, the nReal version, was released months before Vision Pro was even announced.


    grandact739secondkox2jony0
  • Reply 6 of 17
    The would-be Apple Vision Pro competitor”

    There’s a click-bait headline if ever there was. Just because someone makes a pair of glasses with built-in displays and speakers that can display what’s on your phone doesn’t make it a “competitor”.

    I’m not saying it’s not of interest (I considered a purchase when I first read about their more basic Xreal Pro 2 model & I could be persuaded to buy something which could provide a huge screen in my tiny lounge) but take it on its own merits, not as a Vision Pro rival which it most assuredly is not.
    grandact73jony0
  • Reply 7 of 17
    charles1 said:
    Nobody will ever call an Apple Vision Pro user a Glasshole. But this Xreal device is basically Google Glass. 
    We will call them "Vision snobs", "Apple sheep" etc.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    These are a competitor to the Vision Pro like a unicycle is a competitor to a McLaren. Seriously. It’s a DisplayPort head mounted display with built in gyro. End of story. It’s not even that good, the field of view is insufficient, the resolution doesn’t begin to compare, processing is done on the phone (or computer). I mean, it’s not crap, but it’s barely good enough to watch movies on. I know they’re trying real hard to ride the coattails of the Vision Pro marketing buzz by positioning it as an AR device but… Be serious.
  • Reply 9 of 17
    brianusbrianus Posts: 164member
    It's certainly not a direct competitor in terms of specs or features, but in terms of what it actually does, Xreal's products are a lot closer to what I want to see from Apple in this space than what Apple is actually offering.

    I bring their current glasses (Xreal Air.. 2 I think?) with me everywhere as an alternative to a portable MacBook display for places where there's no room for one (planes, busses, tiny coffee shop tables), and they're excellent for that purpose. An Apple version of this, with non-glitchy hand tracking, super high resolution (Xreal is stuck at 1080p) and direct OS support could be amazing for productivity. 

    Really think Apple dropped the ball on making Vision Pro a productivity device. All we get is screen mirroring from a Mac, plus iPad apps blown up to gargantuan size so you can't fit all that many in front of you at once, and then you have to awkwardly position them.. bleh. Coulda been so much cooler. 
    9secondkox2beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 10 of 17
    RespiteRespite Posts: 111member
    If a controlled demo was "glitchy" then colour me unimpressed.
  • Reply 11 of 17
    Wish these were reviewed on its own merits rather than the senseless comparison to AVP. Seriously…

    one comment about it being like comparing a unicycle to McLaren was about right. But more to the point when Toyota comes out with an updated Camry, do the auto mags post in the reviews “but it’s no comparison to a Porsche blah blah blah”? No, because that would be ridiculous - and so is the comparison made in this “review” which wasn’t even a review. I’m more irritated about this now the more I think about it. Why did you shit all over XReal’s accomplishment (which no doubt started development before Apple announced their AVP intentions) just because?

    i guess you get paid to weave in an Apple angle as much as possible especially for something new on the horizon.
    edited January 16 beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 12 of 17
    brianus said:
    It's certainly not a direct competitor in terms of specs or features, but in terms of what it actually does, Xreal's products are a lot closer to what I want to see from Apple in this space than what Apple is actually offering.

    I bring their current glasses (Xreal Air.. 2 I think?) with me everywhere as an alternative to a portable MacBook display for places where there's no room for one (planes, busses, tiny coffee shop tables), and they're excellent for that purpose. An Apple version of this, with non-glitchy hand tracking, super high resolution (Xreal is stuck at 1080p) and direct OS support could be amazing for productivity. 

    Really think Apple dropped the ball on making Vision Pro a productivity device. All we get is screen mirroring from a Mac, plus iPad apps blown up to gargantuan size so you can't fit all that many in front of you at once, and then you have to awkwardly position them.. bleh. Coulda been so much cooler. 
    Great post. 
  • Reply 13 of 17

    Respite said:
    If a controlled demo was "glitchy" then colour me unimpressed.
    IN fairness, it seems that the article was careful to mention that the glasses were not glitchy, but the mirrored PC was at fault. I mean come on. It’s a PC! 

    So there were a few issues unrelated to the glasses themselves. 

    1. They were trying to do too much by mirroring the experience in a PC. 

    2. They were using a PC instead of a Mac. 

    3. It’s ASUS. Not known for the highest bar. 

    But ultimately, the glasses do pretty much everything the Vision Pro does - only in a much more liveable form factor. 

    Is it as high-fidelity? No. High spec? No. But is it the path Apple should have taken? Absolutely. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 17


    Is it as high-fidelity? No. High spec? No. But is it the path Apple should have taken? Absolutely. 
    An Apple-branded version of Xreal with retina resolution in each eye, full Mac and iPad Pro compatibility, allowing an extension of the connected device's multitasking to your entire FoV -- that would be an instant sale for me at $2k, maybe even $3k depending on the specs.
    9secondkox2
  • Reply 15 of 17
    jSnivelyjSnively Posts: 431administrator
    brianus said:


    Is it as high-fidelity? No. High spec? No. But is it the path Apple should have taken? Absolutely. 
    An Apple-branded version of Xreal with retina resolution in each eye, full Mac and iPad Pro compatibility, allowing an extension of the connected device's multitasking to your entire FoV -- that would be an instant sale for me at $2k, maybe even $3k depending on the specs.

    We'll get there eventually, but it's going to take quite a while. The 'final form' of all these headsets is basically sunglasses 
    jony0
  • Reply 16 of 17
    jSnively said:
    brianus said:


    Is it as high-fidelity? No. High spec? No. But is it the path Apple should have taken? Absolutely. 
    An Apple-branded version of Xreal with retina resolution in each eye, full Mac and iPad Pro compatibility, allowing an extension of the connected device's multitasking to your entire FoV -- that would be an instant sale for me at $2k, maybe even $3k depending on the specs.

    We'll get there eventually, but it's going to take quite a while. The 'final form' of all these headsets is basically sunglasses 
    No. Contact lenses.
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 17 of 17
    jSnively said:
    brianus said:


    Is it as high-fidelity? No. High spec? No. But is it the path Apple should have taken? Absolutely. 
    An Apple-branded version of Xreal with retina resolution in each eye, full Mac and iPad Pro compatibility, allowing an extension of the connected device's multitasking to your entire FoV -- that would be an instant sale for me at $2k, maybe even $3k depending on the specs.

    We'll get there eventually, but it's going to take quite a while. The 'final form' of all these headsets is basically sunglasses 
    No. Contact lenses.

    Yes please.  With the vision correction built in as well.
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