Apple Vision Pro review: magic, until it’s not

Apple Vision Pro review: magic, until it’s not

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Apple Vision Pro is Apple's first headset computer.
  • It starts at $3,499 and is marketed as the beginning of spatial computing.
  • Apple claims it's different from VR headsets, but it functions similarly.
  • The Vision Pro has been compared to the Meta Quest 3, a $500 headset with a large game library.
  • Apple has focused on AR (augmented reality) rather than VR, but the Vision Pro is a full-fledged computer with real apps.
  • The Vision Pro has significant trade-offs, including a bulky design and the need to wear it on the face for extended periods.

Spatial computer or a VR headset? (00:02:00)

  • Apple markets the Vision Pro as a spatial computer, but it's essentially a VR headset.
  • It uses spatial tracking to create the illusion of looking through the device, but it can also display various levels of immersion.
  • The Vision Pro's hardware is impressive compared to other VR headsets, featuring magnesium, carbon fiber, and an aluminum enclosure.
  • It appears smaller in person than expected and has a familiar design language reminiscent of other Apple products.

EyeSight and front display (00:02:59)

  • The front display on the Vision Pro is a marketing feature that appears bright and shows the user's eyes to others.
  • In reality, it's a dim, low-resolution OLED covered in reflective glass, making it hard to see in normal to bright lighting.
  • There's no indication of what others see on the front display, and the eyes displayed can be creepy and off-putting.

Hardware and accessories (00:03:38)

  • The Vision Pro has various cameras, sensors, an M2 processor, and an R1 spatial co-processor under the cover glass.
  • It features a Digital Crown for volume and immersion adjustment and a camera shutter button for taking 3D photos and videos.
  • Two headbands (solo knit and dual loop) are included, both of which attach and detach magnetically.
  • Custom Zeiss lens inserts can be used for those who wear glasses.
  • The speakers provide good spatial audio but are loud and can be heard by others unless headphones are used.
  • Bluetooth headphones can be used, but AirPods Pro offer additional features like lower latency and lossless audio.
  • The Vision Pro is heavy, weighing more than an 11-inch iPad Pro and close to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
  • Apple opted for an external battery to reduce weight, but it only provides around two and a half hours of battery life.
  • The external battery means the Vision Pro's weight is front-loaded, making it uncomfortable to wear for extended periods.

Displays & field of view (00:06:38)

  • The Vision Pro uses tiny microOLED displays with high pixel density and resolution.
  • The displays are expensive and contribute significantly to the device's cost.
  • The field of view is limited, smaller than the Meta Quest 3's 110 degrees, creating a binocular-like experience.
  • There's color fringing, distortion, and vignetting around the edges of the lenses, further reducing the usable field of view.
  • Glancing to the side is not possible due to the displays not being sharp edge to edge, requiring head turns.
  • Highlights can be seen reflecting in the lenses when viewing high-contrast content.
  • These display issues are common in VR headsets, but Apple's high price point and claims of perfect reality representation create a disconnect between expectations and the actual product.

Video passthrough (latency, dynamic range, motion blur) (00:08:27)

  • Apple's video passthrough on the Vision Pro is impressive.
  • Low latency of 12 milliseconds between camera input and display output.
  • Good dynamic range, but some exposure issues in low light.
  • Motion blur and reduced sharpness in low light due to camera limitations.
  • Limited color reproduction compared to human vision.

Personas and FaceTime call with Marques Brownlee (@mkbhd) and Joanna Stern (@wsj) (00:11:41)

  • Apple's Personas feature allows users to create 3D models of themselves for video conferencing.
  • The 3D models are created by scanning the user's face and head.
  • The models are still in beta and have some limitations, such as occasional glitches and unnatural movements.
  • Spatial audio helps enhance the experience by providing directional sound.

Eye tracking (00:14:29)

  • The Vision Pro's eye tracking system is impressive and feels like a superpower at first.
  • It allows users to control the interface by looking at and tapping with their fingers.
  • However, the eye tracking can become distracting and imprecise at times.
  • The controls are designed for slightly more precise eye tracking than the system actually provides.

Hand tracking (00:16:26)

  • The Vision Pro's hand tracking system is also impressive but has limitations.
  • Cameras track the user's hands, but they must be within the cameras' field of view.
  • Hand tracking can be inconsistent and may not work well in certain situations, such as when hands are out of sight or in low light.
  • The onscreen keyboard is not practical for extended use due to its small size and imprecise input.

VisionOS (apps and window management) (00:17:41)

  • VisionOS is based on iPadOS with customizations for spatial computing.
  • It offers a wide range of features and apps, including native VisionOS apps, iPad apps, and the ability to connect a Mac.
  • VisionOS allows for free-floating window chaos, with apps from different operating systems running simultaneously.
  • Window management tools are limited, and users may need to actively manage windows to avoid clutter.

Secondary Mac display (00:19:27)

  • Mac display sharing works well.
  • Apple ecosystem tricks like Handoff and Continuity are useful.
  • Can copy in Mac and paste in vision OS.
  • Can drag the mouse off the screen to control the Vision Pro with the Mac's trackpad and keyboard.
  • Only one single 2560 by 1440 Mac display in visionOS.
  • Cannot have multiple Mac monitors floating in space.

AR & MR (00:20:22)

  • Not a lot of AR (actual interaction between physical objects in space and digital ones) in visionOS.
  • Three true AR things:
    • Connect display button above Mac for screen sharing.
    • Text preview window when typing on a Bluetooth keyboard.
    • Loading screen of "Super Fruit Ninja" (throw a strawberry at a pig running on the floor).
  • A lot of MR (mixed reality) where virtual objects float around in real space.
  • Many great VR features since the Vision Pro is fundamentally a VR headset.

Watching movies with Vision Pro (00:21:25)

  • Watching movies on the Vision Pro is enjoyable, especially in immersive theater mode.
  • Virtual environments like Mount Hood reflect colors from the screen onto the landscape.
  • Can be seen as a very expensive TV with capabilities no other TV can match.
  • True 3D movies with separate images to each eye.
  • Trade-offs:
    • Weight of the Vision Pro can be noticeable after a while.
    • No HDMI input, limited to Apple's game situation.
    • DRM can block capturing content from streaming services like Disney+.
    • Watching TV alone.
    • No real VR games or fitness apps.
    • No guardrails against VR motion sickness.

Spatial videos (00:23:18)

  • Spatial videos taken on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and watched on the Vision Pro have a ghostly white haze.
  • Can relive memories but the experience is solitary.
  • Cannot currently shoot iPhone video in spatial at both 1080p 30 fps and 4K resolution.
  • Not recommended to shoot photos with the Vision Pro cameras unless necessary.
  • Photos are 2560 by 2560 stills (about 6.5 megapixels) from the left main camera.
  • Videos are 2200 by 2200 square videos at 30 fps, slightly better than photos but still compressed.
  • Excess motion from head movement in videos and screen captures.
  • Vision Pro buyers likely own iPhones with great video capabilities, so using the phone is recommended.

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