HP Reverb: best VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos? Why I didn’t order it

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HP Reverb – best VR headset for 360 photos and videos

HP Reverb, the highest resolution VR headset for consumers, will be released on May 8, and will be available for $599.   (Correction: the release date was pushed back from May 6.)  With a resolution per eye of 2160 x 2160, it has more than double the resolution of even the next-highest resolution VR consumer headsets, including the Valve Index, Vive Pro, Samsung Odyssey, and Oculus Quest, which each have a per-eye resolution of 1600 x 1440.   HP Reverb could be the best VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos and I was tempted to order it but I decided not to.  Here’s why.

About Windows Mixed Reality

HP Reverb is the latest Windows Mixed Reality VR headset, which are 6DOF desktop VR headsets produced by one of several manufacturers based on a VR headset platform designed by Microsoft.  They all use inside out tracking with no external sensors, using the same tracking technology developed for the Microsoft Hololens AR headset.  They can also be used without a dedicated graphics card, in PCs that have Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics, albeit at a lower framerate.  The controllers combined the controls of an HTC Vive controller and an Oculus Touch controller, enabling WMR headsets to more easily play games for the Vive or Rift.

WMR was originally launched as a third VR headset platform to compete with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and although WMR headsets were priced aggressively, they did not sell well with either consumers or developers.  Starved of support, WMR headsets were sold at firesale prices, reaching as low as $100 in some cases.  Fortunately, WMR headsets gained SteamVR support, and today, they are the fastest growing segment of VR headsets used for SteamVR, with a solid 11% of active SteamVR users as of April 2019, according to the Steam Hardware & Software Survey.

HP Reverb

The HP Reverb is HP’s second generation WMR headset with the highest resolution per eye in a comfortable, lightweight headset with integrated headphones.

Due to its high resolution, the HP Reverb has higher hardware requirements than other WMR headsets, and require a GTX 1080 or equivalent graphics card.

Why I didn’t order the HP Reverb

With its class-leading resolution, the HP Reverb seems to be the ideal VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos, but I decided not to order it primarily because of the controller tracking.  I already have two WMR headsets: the Samsung Odyssey and Lenovo Explorer.  They are good VR headsets that are extremely easy to setup and are very convenient to use.  The headset tracking does work pretty well, even if it’s not as solid as the tracking on an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

Compatibility with SteamVR and Oculus Rift is also decent.  To use SteamVR games, you simply have to install SteamVR and the SteamVR for Windows Mixed Reality app.  You’ll be able to launch SteamVR games directly from your WMR portal.  SteamVR games I’ve tried have been completely compatible with WMR.  To use Oculus Rift games, you just have to install SteamVR and Revive.  On my system, I launch Oculus Rift games from Steam VR (instead of from the Revive panel).  I haven’t experienced any problems playing Oculus Rift games with WMR headsets except that they seem to require more resources compared to Rift games running natively.

The 6DOF controllers’ tracking also works, but the problem is that the controllers have a limited tracking area.  The controllers are tracked primarily by the two cameras on the headset that are also used for tracking the environment.   As long as the controllers stay in front of you, they can be tracked well.  However, when you move them to your side, or even behind you (as in some games that require you to reach to an imaginary backpack), the tracking is lost.

Sometimes when I’m playing Beat Saber, the controller will fail to register a hit because it momentarily disappeared off to the side.  In boxing games such as Thrill of the Fight, sometimes my virtual hand will suddenly be several feet off to the side or will disappear completely for a few moments, leaving me to fight one-handed.  Because of issues like these, I can’t recommend any WMR headset for fast-paced games.

Who is this for?

HP Reverb and other headsets are perfectly fine for more relaxed games such as Job Simulator, when a controller’s momentary disappearance from time to time will not be a problem.  And if you only intend to use the headset for viewing photos and videos (and not games), HP Reverb has the best quality display in a consumer VR headset.  It is also ideal for commercial or industrial use where high resolution is desirable.  Although I didn’t buy the HP Reverb, its high resolution is still attractive to me, and I may decide to buy a used one of these days.

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