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Apple Vision Pro Review Roundup: First Impressions

Apple vision pro

Apple's long-awaited entry into augmented and virtual reality has arrived with the Vision Pro headset - and first impressions reveal it may launch a computing revolution still in the making. Reviews of the $3,499 "spatial computer" (dubbed by Apple) are resoundingly wowed by its technological achievements yet divided on whether its practical realities align with its expensive price tag. As the Apple Vision Pro seems poised to change how we interact with computers, we rounded up thoughts from leading journalists and influencers who've experienced the Vision Pro first-hand. Read on to see if one of tech's most anticipated new devices lives up to its game-changing promises - or remains an early-adopter novelty.

Demystifying Apple's Leap into Mixed Reality

Before examining whether the Vision Pro's splashy debut aligns with expectations, let's unpack exactly what the device aims to deliver. Apple is entering the race toward mixed reality computing with an augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headset retailing for $3,499.

The Vision Pro features dual ultra-high-resolution OLED microdisplays packing 23 million pixels per eye, offering visual fidelity surpassing most 8K TVs. Powering these jaw-dropping visuals is Apple's lightning-quick M2 computing chip also found in the latest MacBooks.

Apple Vision Pro lensesPhoto by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

This spatial computer tracks eyes and hands without external controllers for what Apple calls a "revolutionary" control scheme. The goal is enabling users to tap, pinch, drag, and otherwise manipulate apps and objects overlayed through the lenses as if touchscreens floated all around you.

Apple envisions the headset especially benefiting users working in creative fields like design, filmmaking and architecture which leverage 3D modeling. The headset also aims to transport wearers into immersive entertainment like cinema-quality movie watching or interactive gaming within environments echoing real-world spaces.

Collaborators can join these experiences remotely via FaceTime, with Apple's Persona technology even animating realistic digital avatars using the onboard cameras. Staying present with surrounding people is further aided by EyeSight - an exterior display allowing others to see your eyes.

apple vision pro personasPhoto by The Verge

In many ways, Apple is taking emerging mixed reality hardware and integrating it into its famed ecosystem. While still catering to early adopters ready to buy into this vision today, Apple is placing a $3,500 bet that the masses could someday perceive reality itself through its lenses as well. But do the actual experiences match the hype? Reviews reveal some mixed opinions.

Seeing the Future Through Apple's Lens

When it comes to displaying immersive digital content, nearly all the reviewers agreed that the Vision Pro's visual capabilities are unparalleled. UploadVR's Ian Hamilton called the headset's passthrough AR "night and day better than every other passthrough experience I've ever seen." He added the difference is like "using sunglasses for reading instead of having your prescription-corrected vision."

apple vision pro spatial computing passthroughPhoto by Scott Stein/CNET

CNET's Scott Stein marveled at how the micro-OLED displays make text crisper than his computer monitors and movies feel "larger than any TV in my house." Brian Tong went so far as to declare it the "largest, biggest and best gaming display in your house" given its expansive screen real estate.

The Verge's Nilay Patel noted that "the quality of the Vision Pro's displays is really obvious when you’re watching something." Though digressing to say, "you’re constantly being reminded that you’re looking at video on screens, and reality is a lot more interesting than that."

Interacting by Thought and Gesture

The intuitive control scheme elicited nearly unanimous praise. The Vision Pro forgoes conventional inputs like keyboards or controllers, relying on eye-tracking and hand gestures. Apple seems to have innovated the right touchless interface for spatial computing.

Mark Spoonauer of Tom's Guide lauded how the system's hand and eye tracking "just freaking works" with a simple pinch serving as the basic gesture. CNET's Stein summed up the experience as "flying all over the place but it's amazing."

Tom's Guide Apple Vision Pro GesturesPhoto by Tom's Guide

iJustine declared using the Vision Pro feels "super easy" and "truly feels like you're witnessing a miracle." However, The Verge inserting a reality check that eye and hand controls still can't match the reliability of trusty old keyboards and mice.

Sticker Shock and First-Version Foibles

For all the Vision Pro's wizardry, it comes at a cost - beyond just its price tag. Reviewers flagged several major drawbacks that undermine real-world practicality.

The Verge's Patel emphasized the weight, saying "you’re going to feel it" after a while. Apple opted for an external battery to reduce headset bulk, but attaching a "silly battery pack" compromises comfort, in his view.

Apple Vision Pro CNETPhoto by Josh Goldman/CNET

CNET's Stein also called out the lack of major entertainment apps at launch like Netflix and YouTube. Tom's Guide's Spoonauer complained about the battery pack getting in the way during intense VR sessions.

All reviewers mentioned the need for occasional breaks after 30-60 minutes before the Vision Pro's weight becomes uncomfortable. iJustine also warned that its sensory intensity can be "mentally exhausting."

Brian Tong summed up the prevailing sentiment, advising average consumers should visit an Apple store for a demo before splurging. "This is a luxury device — not priced as a headset for everyone," he assessed.

On the software side, buggy personas and hand tracking glitches revealed the Vision Pro as very much a version one product. As Next Web's Napier Lopez concluded: "It’s still more concept than must-have gadget."

A Glimpse of the Next Computing Era

For all the debate about whether Apple's headset is worth its steep entry fee, virtually every reviewer concurred on a few key points. They agreed that the Vision Pro provides a tantalizing taste of the future - with emphasis on the preview aspect.

ijustine apple vision proPhoto of Youtuber iJustine

In the words of The Verge's Nilay Patel, "it’s easy to lose track of where I am when I’m wearing the Vision Pro. And it’s thrilling." But he qualified that by noting the device spotlights "how young AR and VR still are” as everyday computing platforms.

CNET's Scott Stein similarly stated the Vision Pro "represents a series of really big tradeoffs" compared to current reality. Though even through that lens, he called it “Apple’s most exciting product in years” which shows the “art of the possible.”

While the Vision Pro divides reviewers on whether this headset actually realizes the full sweeping potential of spatial computing, all agree that Apple has moved the needle toward the next evolution in human-computer interaction. The company that mainstreamed personal computers, smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches has now set the benchmark for fusing our digital and physical worlds through augmented reality headsets.

Only time will tell whether Apple ushers mixed reality into the tech mainstream with future Vision Pro upgrades and rumored AR glasses still in development. For now, the first-generation model stands as a technological glimpse into the imminent future that not every critic believes warrants an immediate $3,500 investment. But the Vision Pro has undoubtedly advanced the state of the art and inched much closer toward the sci-fi visions of computing we've long imagined.

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References:

Hamilton, Ian. "Apple Vision Pro Hands-On: Way Ahead of Meta In Critical Ways." UploadVR, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.uploadvr.com/apple-vision-pro/.

Haselton, Todd. "Apple Vision Pro Review: The Future of Computing and Entertainment." CNBC, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2024/01/30/apple-vision-pro-review-the-future-of-computing-and-entertainment.html.

Patel, Nilay. "Apple Vision Pro Review: Not Ready for Everyday Users." The Verge, 24 Jan. 2023, https://www.theverge.com/24054862/apple-vision-pro-review-vr-ar-headset-features-price.

Stein, Scott. "Apple Vision Pro Review." CNET, 29 Jan. 2023, https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/apple-vision-pro-review-a-mind-blowing-look-at-an-unfinished-future/.

Spoonauer, Mark. "Apple Vision Pro Review." Tom's Guide, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.tomsguide.com/computing/smart-glasses/apple-vision-pro-review.

iJustine. "Apple Vision Pro - The Future Is Here!" YouTube, 28 Jan. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaWt6-xe29k.

Tong, Brian. "Apple Vision Pro Review: This Changes EVERYTHING." YouTube, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkPw6ScHyb4.


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