In this article I take a look at the new Acer Windows Mixed Reality headet. With the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Microsoft introduced support for Windows Mixed Reality, which is Microsoft’s system of Virtual Reality and immersive experiences. Microsoft aren’t making their own mixed reality headsets (other than the enterprise/developer focused Hololens) and have left it to their OEM partners to bring out Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
In this review I am going to focus on the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset and I will only briefly talk about Windows 10 Mixed Reality environment and apps. If you want to know more about Windows Mixed Reality and see it in action have a look at my review of the Lenovo Windows Mixed Reality headset where I spent some time looking at the OS and apps.
Insider Out tracking
Windows Mixed Reality uses something called “Insider Out tracking” which means the headset has cameras and sensors built in to it and so you don’t need sensors placing in the room. This gives you the freedom to take your headset and PC / Laptop anywhere you want rather than having to leave it set up in a room. I use my headset with a laptop and find it very handy not having fixed in a single room. You think that it would make the headset bulky and heavy but this isn’t the case with the Acer headset as it’s light and comfortable. I frequently use the headset for a couple of hours at a time and have no issues wearing it for long periods of time. There is a dial on the headset band to adjust the size of the band, you have to spend a bit of time adjusting it so that you get it comfortable and the screen is in focus. The visor flips up so you take a look around and leave the VR world temporarily (but I enjoy it so much why would I want to leave!).
The Acer headset has two LCD displays running at 1440 x 1440 (2.89″) with 105 degrees field of view. There is a built-in 4 meter cable that has USB 3.0 and HDMI connectors on it that you connect to your PC. There is also a 3.5mm audio socket for you to connect up your own headphone/headset for audio output and input. It’s a shame Acer didn’t build in the audio components into the headset like Samsung have or at least include a headset in the box.
In the box comes the Acer headset and a pair of controllers. The controllers are a standard reference design from Microsoft and the Acer pair are exactly the same as the Lenovo ones, this is a good thing as the controllers work very well. They have a thumb stick, trackpad, trigger, Windows key, 2nd trigger and a menu button so there are plenty of options when using it apps and games. They have a ring of white LEDs on them which the headset uses to track the controllers, I found the tracking works very well. They also have motion and other sensors in them to help with the tracking so even when the controllers are out of sight they seem to work. The controllers connect to the PC via Bluetooth so make sure you have that enabled and the latest drivers installed.
If you want to check if your PC is capable of running Windows Mixed Reality download the PC Mixed Realty checker app from Microsoft.
The Cliff House
Before you jump into mixed reality you can setup a virtual boundary for your room. You walk around your space with a headset and it creates the boundary so that when you are in the immersive environment you don’t accidently walk into your wall or trip over the sofa.
One you have headset on you are immersed in the Cliff House which Microsoft’s virtual environment, think of it as the mixed reality version of the desktop. This is where you run Windows UWP apps and you can place then on the wall or floating in the home. For games and some special apps you are taken into an immersive environment where you are totally immersed in the game. You use the controllers to navigate, you move by teleporting around the home and you can walk around the house within your boundary. The design of the headsets and the teleportation method mean you don’t get motion sickness.
In the cliff house you can run any Windows UWP apps and place them on the walls or as a floating window. So you can have Microsoft Edge, Twitter, Facebook and Netflix all running at once. I find it a really good way to run multiple apps. You can even play Xbox games in Windows Mixed Reality by stream games via the Xbox app. You can also run desktop apps (see my guide) and play games like SuperHot VR and my personal favorites Fantastic Contraptions and Space Pirate Trainer. You can also watch 360 degree and 3D videos via apps like Cyberlink’s Power Media Player (see my review). Recently Stream VR support has been added so you play Stream VR games from Windows Mixed Reality. Also just updated is Minecraft VR so you can fully immerse yourself in Minecraft.
So far I have become totally addicted to Windows Mixed Reality and can’t get enough time with it. Its early days for Windows Mixed Reality, there is a lot more to come I am sure but I love it.
When selecting a Windows Mixed Reality headset you have a good select to pick from. Samsung’s headset is more expensive than the Acer one as the specs a slightly better and it includes a built in audio headset. Currently the Samsung headset isn’t available in the UK so your options are HP, Acer, Lenovo, Dell and to be honest there isn’t that much between them. The Acer headset costs £424 from places like Amazon.
Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset video review
I this video I take a look at the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset, the controllers and how it works with Windows Mixed Reality.